“A book has but one voice, but it does not instruct everyone alike.” ― Thomas à Kempis
Thomas à Kempis lived from 1380–1471. He was an Augustinian monk and
writer. Thomas Hemerken was born in Kempen, near Düsseldorf, Germany. At
thirteen he left his home to study in Deventer under Florent Radewijns,
who had been an early disciple of Gerhard Groote, founder of the
movement called devotio moderna, or New Devotion, and of the Brethren of the Common Life in Windesheim.
In 1399 Thomas entered the Augustinian monastery of Mount St. Agnes
(Agnietenberg) where his brother Jan had just been elected prior. After
making his religious vows in 1408, Thomas was ordained a priest in 1413.
He was elected subprior of the community in 1425. His primary duty was
teacher of novices. In this capacity he produced the four treatises that
became Imitation of Christ. Except for a three-year period
when the entire monastic community went into voluntary exile, Thomas
spent the rest of his life at Mount St. Agnes.
Thomas is best known for Imitation of Christ, a book for which
he does not always get authorial credit, since the earliest manuscripts
are anonymous. While complete unanimity does not exist, most scholars
today consider Thomas the author. Imitation of Christ, probably
written between 1420 and 1427, is, next to the Bible, the most popular
of Christian classics, appealing to Protestants as well as Catholics.
Since Imitation of Christ was originally written for novices,
Thomas used simple, direct language to convey his practical advice.
Showing a keen understanding of human nature and deep insight into
psychology, he shares the spiritual truths he has gleaned from praying
the scripture (there are almost seven hundred biblical citations and
allusions), the Devotio Moderna, the writings of the church fathers, and the lives of the saints.
Thomas wisely connects Christian ideas with a Christian lifestyle,
joining theory and practice. The book has become and remained a classic
because of this practical interpretation of scripture and theology. Due
to its richness and depth, it is best read slowly, repeatedly, and
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