Secular asceticism is not often referred to like this. We generally speak of the secular attitude to life, but that is precisely what asceticism is - our attitude or approach to life. A secular asceticism sees the subject as all important, the individual. The object of secular life then, is what ever you choose it to be.
How different this is from Christian asceticism for whom the subject is of great dignity, the person. The object of life then, is the saving presence of Christ.
Our Holy Father is having to approach the secular ascetic first of all inside the Church. The secular mind is quite well established here. One thinks of those religious interest magazines, and all those so-called Catholic places of learning, which rather than evaluating human stuff from the perspective of the Christian life, evaluate the Christian life from the perspective of the secular mind. I'm aware of the secular ascetic in my own mind; I need a renewal of the mind.
The renewal of the Christian mind, the undoing of the secular mind, the secular attitude within the Church, is now a work in progress for the Holy Spirit and Pope Francis.
It was Bl John Paul II who, I think, saw clearly this interior dimension of the Christian life and the way in which its renewal is essential, given the context of today's secular culture. In the analysis of the Second Vatican Council (Sources of Renewal, Collins, 1980), which he wrote before being elected Pope, he said that the fundamental intention of the Council was to enrich the faith in all the baptised by an "increasingly full participation in divine truth."(p15) Asceticism, or rather a renewed asceticism, is the unspoken reality which we are seeing again in the Pontificate of Pope Francis, opening us to more than simply human categories.
We used to think of asceticism as ways of fasting and mortification, forgetting that first of all, it is the way in which we take Christ into our personal subjectivity. The new secular craze is to fill our personal subjectivity with all sorts of opinions and experiences, none of which has any power to give us new life. No, we need to open ourselves to receive and be formed by Jesus Christ. That is real asceticism! The work of the Council is very slowly coming into the experience of the Church.
I'll post more on this subject over the next few days/weeks.