Thomas à Kempis

July 24

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 meditatively.


If Thomas had taken the Spiritual Types Test, he probably would have been a Mystic. Thomas is remembered on July 24.

Today's Reflection

Thomas à Kempis