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Catholic Dictionary




The quality of being severe in one's demeanor or way of life. More commonly in the plural, austerities. These are vigorous forms of bodily penance that persons impose on themselves in order to bring the passions under control, expiate one's own or other people's sins, and help the spirit to more effectively respond to the will of God. Austerities are only a means to perfection and not an end in themselves. They are to be undertaken only under competent spiritual direction. (Etym. Latin austerus; from Greek austeros, harsh, severe.)