Who said that the smallest spiritual progress of a religious merits more than that of a thousand laymen?

I seem to remember it was by or about St. Teresa of Ávila.

  • That's funny. Does it mean the spiritual progress of a religious is so difficult?
    – Grasper
    Aug 2, 2022 at 15:02
  • @Grasper '. . . the righteous scarcely be saved . . .' 1 Peter 4:18.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 2, 2022 at 15:30
  • @Grasper No, not that it's more difficult but that it's more meritorious.
    – Geremia
    Aug 2, 2022 at 18:12

1 Answer 1


St. Alphonsus of Liguori

Religious vs. seculars

Abbot Gilbert says that the meanest work of a religious is more meritorious in the sight of God than the most heroic action of a secular.* St. Bernard asserts that if a person in the world did the fourth part of what is ordinarily done by religious, she would be venerated as a saint.
*“Quod infirmum est in vobis, fortius est sæcularibus.” In Cant. s
†“Credo nullum hie esse qui, si quartam partem, eorum quæ facit, in sæculo actitaret, non adoraretur ut sanctus.” In Ps. xc. s. 4.
True Spouse of Jesus Christ ch. 2 (EPUB ref:828.8)

The enemy labors more to gain one religious than a hundred seculars.
ibid. ch. 13 (EPUB ref:839.65)

Priests vs. seculars

The conversion of a priest is more glorious to God than that of a hundred seculars; for no layman, though he be a saint, can perform the good works peculiar to the priestly office.
The Life of Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori ch. 24 (EPUB ref:1726.14)

Be attentive, dearly beloved priests, for the devils tempt one priest more than a hundred seculars; because a priest that is lost brings with him many seculars to hell.
Dignity and Duties of the Priest pt. 1, ch. 4 (EPUB ref:862.20)

They desire the fall of one priest more ardently than that of a hundred seculars; as well because the victory over a priest is a far greater triumph than a victory over a layman, as because a priest that falls brings many others with him to perdition.
Dignity and Duties of the Priest pt. 1, ch. 5 (EPUB ref:863.18)

Also, kings vs. missions:

Have as many missions as you please, but if I gain one sovereign, I shall regard the conquest as worth more than a thousand missions; for the good a monarch can effect who is touched by the grace of God, could not be effected by a thousand missions.
The Life of Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori ch. 24 (EPUB ref:1767.7)

  • That would indicate a huge difference between "laymen" and "secular" correct? This makes sense since an act of a "religious" is an act of faith whereas the secular act, no matter how good seeming, is not of faith and is therefore sin. Priests over seculars makes less sense as it is God who gifts believers to particular offices. Aug 6, 2022 at 20:45
  • I knew it had to be St. Alphonsus! I thought the answer would've been on papastronsay.com/FSSR/vocation/index.php but it wasn't, surprisingly.
    – user54757
    Aug 6, 2022 at 22:00
  • 1
    @MikeBorden "layman" and "secular" are synonymous. In this case it does not mean "atheist/non-Christian". It does mean "non-religious" but in the sense of not having taken the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
    – user54757
    Aug 6, 2022 at 22:04
  • @SupportiveDante Yes, he's the doctor of vocations.
    – Geremia
    Aug 7, 2022 at 5:38
  • 4
    @SupportiveDante "'layman' and 'secular' are synonymous." Not exactly. Lay means "not a priest". Secular means "in the world (sæculo)"—i.e., not a religious. A religious is one belonging to a religious order—i.e., one bound by vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience living in accordance with one of the Church's four approved rules. Thus, there can be lay religious, priestly religious, secular priests, and lay seculars (but not religious seculars or lay priests, which are contradictions in terms).
    – Geremia
    Aug 7, 2022 at 21:10

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .