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Who is Thomas Kempis and why?

by Thomas Kempis
Ignorance of scripture, is ignorance of Christ.”

- St. Jerome


Who is Thomas Kempis?

I've read a lot of Christian, albeit, primarily Catholic books. But the one book that stands out as the one book I would keep, if only allowed to keep one, is Thomas Kempis’ “Imitation of Christ.” Have you heard of Thomas? He was a remarkable man.

  • The book was written anonymously in Latin in the Netherlands c. 1418–1427and Thomas à Kempis is generally accepted as the author. Several sources of authority, including members of his own order, name Kempis as the author, and various contemporary manuscripts, including one autograph codex, bear his name

  • Sir Thomas More, England's famous lord chancellor under Henry VIII (and subject of the film A Man for All Seasons) said it was one of the three books everybody ought to own. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, read a chapter a day from it and regularly gave away copies as gifts. Methodist founder John Wesley said it was the best summary of the Christian life he had ever read.

  • Thomas spent his time between devotional exercises in writing and in copying manuscripts. He copied the Bible no fewer than four times, one of the copies being preserved at Darmstadt, Germany, in five volumes. In its teachings he was widely read and his works abound with biblical quotations, especially from the New Testament. (my emphasis)

  • Saint Augustine viewed the imitation of Christ as the fundamental purpose of Christian life, and as a remedy for the imitation of the sins of Adam. Saint Francis of Assisi believed in the physical as well as the spiritual imitation of Christ, and advocated a path of poverty and preaching like Jesus who was poor at birth in the manger and died naked on the cross. The theme of imitation of Christ existed in all phases of Byzantine theology, and in the 14th-century book Life in Christ Nicholas Cabasilas viewed "living one's own personal life" in Christ as the fundamental Christian virtue. (my emphasis)

  • Thomas himself entered Mount St. Agnes in 1406. He was not ordained a priest, however, until almost a decade later. He became a prolific copyist and writer. Thomas received Holy Orders in 1413 and was made sub-prior of the monastery in 1429

Impressive, yes? However, his writing is unique in the way he writes with humility and a tone of softness. From the first page, I was hooked. This book has helped me in ways that even my family doesn't understand.


Why Thomas Kempis?

You see, there was a time in my life where I was vain. For years my goal is to have people see the Jesus in me. No, not be Jesus, but live my laugh with charity, compassion. Vanity is indirectly related to humility as it leads to sin, most likely mixed with pride. I had picked up "Imitation of Christ" a few years ago. I loved it. But I never went back to it. So, after recovering from a nasty back surgery in October, 2022, I picked it back up and found myself noting the daylights out of it. After completing it, I contemplated what I should do with the knowledge I garnered. How do I, effectively, deliver the message of the book to others?

I have blogged since 2017, but my writing became too, how shall I say, preachy. I'm not clergy, simply a layperson. I'm not an intellectual nor scholar. What I became after a March, 2012 Epiphany was humble... a virtue I had prayed for, for years. This is why "Imitation of Christ" had such an influence on me.

I began publishing on the site... In the spirit of our Lord, I am tough on Catholics. I spent years studying the Catholic Church. I had parents who couldn't answer my what and why questions. I questioned many things about Mother Church but never left. I could never leave the Holy Eucharist. For example, to the 70% of Catholics who do not believe in the True Presence of our Lord in the Eucharist, who do not believe in doctrine like the existence of Purgatory and to those who wish not to honor Our Lady in Heaven... what's your problem? I will challenge you.

The Catholic Church is the One True Church. Even Google gets it. When challenged all I do is ask them to Google "who founded the Catholic Church". Of course, Jesus Christ. My wisdom told me, if the ONLY infallible man who has ever walked this earth founded a church. that is the one I want to be a part of. Every other faith is founded by fallible men.

I defend my Mother Church by explaining things, with conviction that even some Catholics have issues with, like:

  • Why confession to a priest?

  • Why go to Holy Adoration?

  • Why pray the Rosary?

  • Why honor Blessed Virgin Mary?

  • Why do we pray to dead people (saints - which are in fact very much alive)?

I will admit, Mother Church is in chaos. I understand obedience to Pope Francis, but find some things he says confusing and ambiguous. Other clergy who undermine the Deposit of Faith and border on heresy allow me to pray as hard for them as I can. We all should. And that's the advice Kempis shared with his brothers and how we must approach our daily lives... with humility and charity.

The posts that follow will be composed of Holy Scripture, "Imitation of Christ", .and how they relate to living my life. I will ensure I limit my opinions.

God Bless you!!

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Judson Carroll
Judson Carroll

This was very interesting. It has been on my "to read" list for years... it is at the top now.


Deacon Schwerdt
Deacon Schwerdt

I would like to know what John Wesley thought of Book IV, which is all about the Blessed Sacrament. I doubt he believed in transubstantiation.

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