Thomas A Kempis: Biography

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471) was born in the village of Kempen near Düsseldorf, Germany. During his lifetime, he was usually known as Thomas a Kempen, after his birthplace. When he was a boy, he attended a school operated by the Brethren of the Common Life. He was so impressed with their spiritual ideals, they he joined the community when he finished his schooling.

The Brethren of Common Life

Thomas a Kempis lived the rest of his life in one of the communities operated by the Brethren. Although he carried out whatever tasks were assigned to him, Thomas preferred to devote his time to reflection, prayer, reading, training new brothers, and copying manuscripts. He copied the entire Bible four times. Although he was offered administrative positions in the community several times, Thomas a Kempis preferred the quiet of his own room, where he could pray, meditate, and study. The other brothers eventually recognized Thomas’s calling to meditation and writing, and they tried not to bother him with the mundane affairs of running a community.

Thomas a Kempis and the other members of the Brethren of Common Life did much to bring spiritual revival throughout the Netherlands. They brought spiritual instruction to common people, and they helped to bring about reforms in monasteries and convents. The spiritual groundwork they laid is one of the reasons why the Netherlands so eagerly embraced the Reformation and provided fertile soil for the Anabaptists.

Thomas a Kempis’ Writings

The most famous work of Thomas a Kempis is The Imitation of Christ, which has endured for over 500 years and has been translated into more languages than any other book. However, Thomas wrote several other devotional works, biographies, sermons, letters, poems, and hymns. A deep adoration of Christ runs throughout all of his works.

Thomas wrote: “When Jesus is with us, everything is well. Nothing seems difficult. However, when Jesus is absent, everything is hard. When Jesus does not speak to our heart, all other consolations are unavailing. However, if Jesus speaks but a single word, we are comforted enormously. Did not Mary rise at once from the place where she cried when Martha said, ‘The Master has come and is asking for you’? Oh, how happy is the hour when Jesus calls us from tears to joy. How dry and hard your heart is without Jesus. You are truly foolish and empty if you desire anything other than Jesus.”  © 2010

Imitation of Christ: Book Reviews

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 


Reviews of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis:

Reflects the Light of Christ

“Beyond doubt, the Imitation of Christ most perfectly reflects the light that Jesus Christ brought down from heaven to earth. It truthfully portrays the highest Christian model. When our divine Savior preached the Sermon on the Mount, He held up as the following things as the characteristics of His followers: perfect humility, poverty of spirit, purity of heart, meekness, sorrow for sin, forgiveness of injustice, and peace and joy in the midst of persecution. Nowhere else outside of the Bible do we find these teachings so incisively and persuasively taught as in this unpretentious little volume.”  F. R. Cruise

Only God Is the Source of True Peace

“As a pastor I see so many people who are miserable. They are depressed, filled with worry and have so little joy in their lives. This book speaks specifically to those problems.

In a nutshell this book says that we are miserable because we are trying to find joy in other people and in other things and everything out there will fail us and let us down. The only thing that provides true happiness, peace and contentment is God. The Imitation of Christ goes through exercises on how we can detach ourselves from worldly things to focus on God. Once we are focused solely on God and have the faith that God will provide everything we need, then we can really enjoy the world around us. Enjoy it because once we receive true happiness from God we can see how beautiful the world is and enjoy it as the gift God created it to be, instead of something that we grab onto in the hopes that it will provide us our happiness and security.” AR

This Book Changed Me

“This book changed me. It taught me to stay away from anything that will hinder my faith and to follow Jesus with all my heart and soul and mind. Even though I’m still in the process of reading it, it changes me every day. Thomas a Kempis is the most devoted person I have encountered and I pray that many more people will be changed by this inspirational book. It taught me to be all about Jesus and about nothing else.” BR

Incredibly Readable and Inspiring Book

The Imitation of Christ is one of the most widely read Christian spiritual works of all time. In the Middle Ages only the Bible had a wider readership. After you start reading it, it becomes immediately obvious why this would be the case: its approachable style and the perennial good advice that emanates from its every page make this an incredibly readable and inspiring book. The book is not strictly speaking an invitation for modeling one’s life on particular historical events in the life of Jesus. This is no “What Would Jesus Do” manual. Rather, it’s a distillation of the wisdom and teachings of Christianity as presented primarily in the Bible and the early church fathers. The result is a fascinating work of spiritual insight that has proven to have timeless practical relevance to the lives of Christians throughout the centuries.

“Whatever your Christian tradition may be, you will take a lot from this insightful and inspirational book. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in deepening their spiritual life.” BT