Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
From the fourth century on, monasteries, monks, ascetics were a normal part of Christian life within the church. As empires invaded, nations rose and fell, these monks were the agents by which Christianity was sustained and was transmitted through time.
One of the distinctive things about monks (in comparison to 21st century American Christianity) was the idea of asceticism, the renouncement of oneself from pleasure as a part of Christian living. They would live minimally, in community, pray twenty times a day even throughout the night, and do some crazy and wild things to withhold themselves pleasure.
This type of Christianity is foreign to us, of course. And we would probably find those types of practices superfluous and unnecessary today.
But I do wonder if there is a place for asceticism in the church today. Jesus did after all say to “deny oneself” as a means of following him. These monks, by the way, were often miracle workers, spiritual giants, and hardcore missionaries (many of them). Americans are… well, self-interested.