The Ordinary Path to Holiness


Print Edition :  The introduction to traditional Catholic spirituality, for those looking for the wisdom of the Church ...

The Ordinary Path to Holiness re-presents the treasure of Catholic spirituality.

The Ordinary Path to Holiness
by R. Thomas Richard



The vocation to holiness is real -

Jesus Christ is the way.

Our journey is to the Holy Trinity in Him.

Our path is a life worthy of His name.

The ordinary path to holiness

is a way left to us by Christ,

entrusted to His Church,

lived by the great and humble saints

of our Christian history,

and is our most important human need!

We need to find our way to Him,

to journey to holiness in Him

to find the fullness of His life as human persons.

But HOW? How do we "work out our salvation"?

What are we to expect along the journey?

The Ordinary Path to Holiness is also a book.

In this book, the way found and lived

by the great saints is described:

the way proven in the crucible

of the heroes of the Faith.

The way is walked in stages - the three stages illustrated on “The Path of Renewal” page.

Each stage of the journey has its own graces and trials; each has its own opportunities and difficulties.

Listen to an audio interview of Thomas Richard on EWTN's Bookmark, with Doug Keck, on this book! RealPlayer needed.)

To see the Table of Contents, scroll down...

This book may be ordered from:

Alba House -- Amazon -- (UK -- DE -- FR -- ES -- IT) --  Barnes & Noble -- EWTN Religious Catalogue

The first (1999) printing of       

This is a book for life-long Catholics seeking a deeper interior life...

"The Ordinary Path to Holiness will be an immense help in understanding the spiritual journey for anyone who is beginning to make progress in the spiritual life. It will also be a good review for those familiar with the Catholic literature on this important subject."

                                   Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR, Founder of The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal

"For the Catholic seeking holiness this book will open a world of spiritual treasures (the riches of Christ and His saints). After reading The Ordinary Path to Holiness, the reader will be better prepared to drink from the deep fountains of spiritual wisdom found in the teachings of the great Catholic mystics and saints."

                                                                                    Review in The Catholic Faith magazine

...and for converts to the Faith...

"Many converts struggle in the transition from their previous spiritualities into the sometimes debilitating width, depth, breadth and height of Catholic mystical spirituality. Where does one begin? I believe that this is the best summary of basic Catholic spirituality I have found yet, and therefore is a great place to begin."

                                                                Marcus Grodi, Founder of The Coming Home Network integral presentation:

"Profound and practical, The Ordinary Path to Holiness shares an approach to the spiritual life that integrates Scripture, liturgy and doctrine. This book feeds both head and heart."

                                                            Scott Hahn, Founder of Institute of Applied Biblical Studies


National Catholic Register, March 30 - April 5, 2003:
"Sanctity: It isn't just for priests and nuns anymore. This, roughly, is how the average American Catholic perceived the Second Vatican Council's teaching about the universal call to holiness. An explosion of books, periodicals, workshops and tapes on spirituality followed, often testifying more to a hunger for novelty than to an understanding of, or interest in, spiritual theology. Eclecticism (a little centering prayer, a few breathing exercises, etc.) encouraged a cafeteria-Catholicism mentality. In recent years the Vatican has had to respond to the centrifugal forces by issuing specific warnings about Eastern meditation and New Age spirituality.
It is refreshing then, to read The Ordinary Path to Holiness, a book firmly rooted in the tradition of Catholic spiritual theology. The author, R. Thomas Richard, a married layman, has 'been elsewhere; done those things: Before returning to the Church, he served as a Protestant pastor, earned a graduate degree and worked in religious education. He is a well-qualified guide for the many Catholic lay people who are unaware of the spiritual riches in their own tradition. 'Catholic spirituality... is universal ('catholic') in scope; it is truly human in subject, having God as object,' he writes. 'It has developed over many centuries, through the lived experience, holiness, and wisdom of many true saints. Catholic spirituality is wisdom learned in the crucible of divine testing and purification. It is simply Christianity, revealed to His holy ones in the experience of their life-offering.'

The great strength of this book lies in its description of sanctification as a slow and 'ordinary' spiritual development. Since the early days of the Church, homilies and treatises have noted three stages of spiritual growth: the beginners, the proficient (those making progress) and the perfect. Richard helpfully compares these stages to phases in a person's development from childhood to adulthood. 'The onset of rationality, separating infancy from childhood, is analogous to conversion and acceptance of God -- a most rational human act,' he writes. To each group God offers a 'way' of advancing. The purgative way purifies those who are just setting out on their journey to the Father. The illuminative way enlightens those who are committed to Christ so they may better understand and obey the Lord. The unitive way leads the devout soul to mystical union with the Trinity.

This 'ordinary' progress of the Christian soul is clearly presented, relying on classical works of spirituality by St. Teresa of Avila and the theological synthesis of the 20th-century Dominican Father Garrigou-Lagrange. Richard's book is at the same time up-to-date, quoting extensively from Vatican II documents and the new Catechism. In the later chapters, Richard discusses Scripture, prayer and the sacraments as means of preserving and nourishing the life of the soul. The excellent section on the Eucharist examines a wealth of New Testament passages. The pages on marriage, though inspiring, are less thorough. In a final chapter, 'Holiness in Suffering and Dying,' the author relates the anointing of the sick and everyday difficulties and crosses to the mystery of kenosis: Christ's self-emptying and sacrifice for our salvation.

Read this book and see why, if you want to grow spiritually, there's no place like the Catholic faith. Even if -- or maybe especially if -- you're just an 'ordinary' Christian."

-Michael J. Miller

--Crux of the News, January 27, 2003
"Finding God Ordinarily: While we are all born into the world, we are reborn into God's love at baptism. But it is through our ordinary seeking that we can fulfill our life's mission: To become part of a new creation, closer to God. The Ordinary Path to Holiness by convert and former college professor, R. Thomas Richard, now director of ministry formation for the Diocese of Norwich, CT, charts a way through spiritual growth that explores similarities to physical and emotional growth and explains the stages our spiritual lives go through to reach our ultimate goal. Also, by using scripture and prayer (interior thoughts and exterior actions) and the sacraments and the Mass, Christians seeking holiness can find their way from the beginning, or purgative stage, through the proficient, or illuminative stage, to the perfect, or unitive stage, while on their journey. An interesting chapter brings together the seven petitions of the traditional 'Our Father' with the interior journey of the soul written by St. Teresa of Avila."

TABLE OF CONTENTS, The Ordinary Path to Holiness (Alba House edition)

Chapter 1: Our Call to Holiness 1

Introduction 1
Living and Dying for Joy 2
The Mystery of the Cross 3
Christ our Life; Christ our Vocation 4
Christ our Perfection 4
The Ordinary Way to the Holy Life 6
Stages of Growth in Holiness 9
An Unintended Secret: Traditional Catholic Wisdom 10
Conclusion to the Chapter 12

Chapter 2: Growth in Holiness: Three Stages 17

The Traditional Stages of Spiritual Growth 17
The Traditional Catholic Spirituality 17
St Thomas and the Perfection of Charity 24
St Bernard and Four Degrees of Charity 25
The Three Stages in Scripture 28
The Parable of the Sower 31
The Word Divides Mankind: Some Hear, Some Do Not Hear 32
The Way of the Lost 34
The Way of Beginners 34
The Way of the Proficient 36
The Way of the Perfect 39
The Traditional Three Stages 40

The Purgative Way 42
The First Dark Night, and the "Second Conversion" 43
The illuminative Way The Second Dark Night, and the Unitive Way 47

Conclusion to the Chapter 49
More Teachings of Jesus about His Way 50
1. The Way is of Profound Mystery 50
2. The Grace of God is Poured into All His Church 51
3. The Generous Mercy of God Must Not Lead Us to Presumption, or to Complacency 52

Chapter 3: Growing Intimacy with Christ: Scripture 55

Listening to Holy Scripture 55
Praying Scripture 57
Catholics and the Bible 59
Brothers and Sisters in Christ 61
Return, Through a Chosen People 64
Rebuilding the Meeting Place 65
The Three Stages of the First Covenant 67
Word and Spirit in Soul Formation 70
The Spiritual Senses of Scripture 71
Listening to Scripture 74
The Beginner 74
The Proficient 75
The Perfect 77
Conclusion to the Chapter 78
Three Stages of Listening 79

Chapter 4: Growing in Holiness: Prayer 83

Growing Intimacy in Prayer 83
Prayer as Love-Communication 85
Systematic Stages of Prayer 86
Stages Within Ascetical Prayer 88

Vocal Prayer 88
Spontaneous Prayer 91
Praying the Formula Prayers of the Church 91
Meditation: Light for the Mind 92
Praying Scripture 96
Pray- Study -Pray 97
Lectio Divina 98
Affective Prayer: Warming the Heart 99
Entering Affective Prayer 101
Importance of the First Stages 102
Prayer of Simplicity 104
Entering the Prayer of Simplicity 107
Conclusions Regarding Ascetical Prayer 108
Growth in the Purgative Stage 109

The Mansions of St. Teresa 109
Mystical Prayer: The Radical Event of Contemplation 111

Transition to Mystical Prayer: The Dark Night of the Senses ..113
The Prayer of Quiet: St Teresa's Fourth Mansions 116
The Prayer of Union: St Teresa's Fifth Mansions 117
The Prayer of Conforming Union: St Teresa's Sixth Mansions 120
The Dark Night of the Spirit 120
The Prayer of Transforming Union: St Teresa's Seventh Mansions 124

Conclusion to the Chapter 126
Prayer that is Effective 127

Chapter 5: The Our Father, and the Interior Castle of St. Teresa 131

The Seven Petitions of the Our Father 131
Introduction 132
The Prayer 135
The Interior Castle: The Seven Petitions and the Seven Mansions 137

The lst Mansions -"But deliver us from evil" 138
The 2nd Mansions -"And lead us not into temptation" 139
The 3rd Mansions -" And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us" 140
The 4th Mansions -"Give us this day our daily bread" 142
The 5th Mansions -"Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" 143
The 6th Mansions -"Thy kingdom come" 145
The 7th Mansions -"Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name" 146

Conclusion to the Chapter 148

Chapter 6: Growing in Holiness: the Sacraments 151

Catholic Sacramental Life 151
Catholic Sacramental Perspective 154
Christ Our Sacrament 156
Incorporation into Christ: Baptism 159
Christ Exhorts Us: Remain in Me! 165
Sin in a Baptized Believer 166
The Strengthening in Confirmation 168
Abiding in Christ: Holy Eucharist 169
The Sacrament of Matrimony 173
Marks of Sacramental Marriage 174
Sacramental Marriage is Centered in Christ 176
A Sacramental Marriage Forms a Catholic Home 177
Conclusion to the Chapter 179

Chapter 7: Growing in Holiness: The Mass 183

The Three Stages In The Mass 183
The Mass Invites Us to Holiness 183
Sacrifice and Priesthood 186
The Threefold Movement in the Mass 187
Mystical and Liturgical Spirituality 188
Spiritual Perfection and the Mass 191
Stages in the Celebration of the Mass 193
Contemplation 195
Movements of the Spirit in the Mass 196
The First Movement of the Mass and the Purgative Stage of the Soul 197

1. The Gathering of the People 197
2. The Liturgy of the Word 199
3. The Offertory 201

The Second Movement of the Mass and the Illuminative Stage of the Soul 203

1. The Preface 203
2. The Epiclesis 203
3. The Institutional Narrative 204
4. The Anamnesis 205

The Climax of the Mass - Communion - the Final Vocation of the Soul 206

The Heavenly Liturgy, and Ministry of the Word 207
Christian Perfection, Through the Three Stages of the Liturgy 208
Conclusion to the Chapter 210

Chapter 8: Holiness in Suffering and Dying 213

The Ordinary Life of Martyrdom 213
Living and Dying in Christ 213
Stages of Dying 215
Configuration to the Son's Kenosis 217
The Kenosis of Christ 217
Christ-Encounter in Suffering 219
Suffering is Like a Sacrament 219
Scriptural Testimony 221
A Sacrament for the Suffering 224
The Precious Death of His Holy Ones 225
The Death by Love 226
The Question of the Death of Mary 231
Therese of Lisieux 234
Francis of Assisi 235
Conclusion to the Chapter 236
Mary, and Our Dying 237
The Antichrist 239

Chapter 9: Conclusion 243

Called to Holiness 243 Dark Nights 244 Stages 247


copyright 2004, 2011 - R. Thomas Richard

The Ordinary Path to Holiness

by R. Thomas Richard

              Conversion Publishing, Norwich CT

Paperback, 192 pgs, ISBN 0-9759466-1-7. Remaining inventory is still available. Email Fidelis Publications for information.

The contemporary guide to traditional Catholic spirituality, for those seeking to grow in the interior life ...

The Ordinary Path to Holiness, in digital as well as paper-and-ink versions, presents the normative process of spiritual development: the stages of the interior life.

New and Revised Digital Edition (2011): Available for

  1. Amazon Kindle and Kindle Readers*, US  (and UK  - DE - FR - ES - IT )


  1. Barnes and Noble Nook and Nook Readers*.

* Don’t have a Kindle or a Nook?  You can read this new Revised Digital Edition on your PC or Mac, as well as other digital devices, using the free “Readers” software available for download on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble sites.