Taking Kemper's Imitation of Christ literally


I am at a time in my life when I need to read this book. Its a must read but also hardcore. My only reservation is some may think we have to take the whole book literally. Examples:

Our Lord Jesus Christ himself was for not one hour of his life without suffering.”
So if I am a true follower of Christ, I should be suffering all the time?

You err if you seek any other thing but tribulations
So when I am looking for a job, I should only look for one with lots of suffering?

On the whole the book is powerful, emphasising humility and accepting our suffering. But my fear is it would be misinterpreted by some, that we should strive to look for suffering in our lives. there is enough, without looking for it. And joy is just as important in life as suffering, to my mind.


It doesn’t matter when everything is pointless.


where’s that smilie icon?
you must be lots of fun at parties……….


Don’t forget that the original audience was a monastic audience. And that he was born in 1380 and died in 1471.

So-- if you’re a true follower of Christ, you should unite your sufferings, as they come, with his sufferings, to give them merit. Otherwise, you end up with wasted sufferings.

Re: seeking anything but tribulations… what do you think life was like for someone living in the 15th c? Do you think they had a whole lot more tribulation than we did? We live better than kings did.

If you can cite your chapters, it would be helpful to read the whole thought in context. Mine is the Knox translation, which I find very readable, and a lot gets packed into a very short snippet of thought. But those are the first two ideas that come to mind— first, keep in mind the original audience’s state in life, and second, keep in mind the original audience’s existence in time.


of course you make some good points. I’m just warning newbies in today’s world that some of it is hardcore and unrealistic. and I did say I like the book and would recommend it to anyone.


I think midori has some excellent points.

And I agree that we need to see the statements in context…he packs a lot in a very short statement, but I wouldn’t just take one statement at face value without reading around it.

It’s a wonderful book…but I think you have to read with discernment, taking into consideration the time and place, like midori said.

However, if we lived with even a tenth of the humbleness that he had…we would be so much better off. I’m sure Heaven would feel much nearer.

I can’t imagine what he would think of our easy-going, complacent lives…the sloth, the gluttony, the easy convenience. Hardships definitely make you take your faith seriously.


hideous , awful, from our point of view. maybe heaven on Earth wasn’t possible then, like it is now


If I can draw advocates for this book on this thread , I’m doing a good job! :slight_smile:


Found this one:

If you will gladly bear this Cross, it will bear you, and it will bring you the end you desire, where you will never afterwards have anything to suffer. But if you bear this Cross against your will, you make a great burden for yourself, and it will be the more grievous to you, and yet it behooves you to bear it. And if it happens that you put away one cross, that is to say, one tribulation, another surely will come, perhaps heavier than the first one was.

—OK, so I can see the point here. Cooperate with your sufferings, and suffer with grace. It’s an obstacle, but you don’t fight the obstacle, or else you run the risk of the obstacle conquering you. Instead, you accept it as part of God’s will, and you try to grow from the experience, into the person you’re supposed to be. Like when we pray for patience, we don’t magically become patient-- we get a thousand opportunities to keep our temper! :stuck_out_tongue:

Do you hope to escape what no mortal man has ever yet escaped? What saint in this world has been without his cross and without some trouble? Truly, our Lord Jesus was not one hour without some sorrow and pain as long as He lived here. It behooved Him to suffer death and to rise again and so to enter into His glory. How is it, then, that you seek any other way to heaven than this plain, high way of the Corss. All the life of Christ was Cross and martyrdom; do you seek pleasure and joy? You err greatly if you seek any other thing than to suffer, for all this mortal life is full of misery and is all surrounded and marked with crosses. And the more highly a man profits in spirit, the more painful crosses he will find, for, by the firm certainty of Christ’s love, in which he daily increases, the pain of this exile daily appears to him more and more.

–I can see how this thought is connected to “For the Lord disciplines whom He loves, and He scourges every son whom He receives” as well as St. Theresa’s famous “If this is how You treat Your friends, no wonder why You have so few of them!” :slight_smile:


I’m curious which translation you’re reading? I have a little leather-bound version translated by Richard Challoner, published by TAN books.

My dad has an updated-language translation that he likes…I think it might be the one translated by Claire Fitzpatrick.


Oh my goodness. I could meditate on just this for a few months.

It’s one of those books you’re almost afraid to read because it puts the truth right in front of your stubborn face…not that I’d know anything about that. :wink:


St. paul publications (Society of Saint Paul)


of course I didn’t mention powerful verses like this. This one really applies to my life.


This beautiful book has been my constant companion for decades now. I hesitate to say this, but I often get more reward from reading it than I do from reading Sacred Scripture. And it has helped me to embrace the pains and tribulations in my own life, and to embrace Christ as I never did when simply reading the Bible and devotional literature. God bless Thomas à Kempis!


I find it fleshes out the Gospel especially. Not many books do that as well as Kempis.


Our Lord Jesus Christ himself was for not one hour of his life without suffering .”
So if I am a true follower of Christ, I should be suffering all the time?

I also believe that the Lord did not go one hour without suffering. Internally human beings go through suffering but externally it may appear that they are okay. Use Anthony Bourdain as an example. In my opinion the scope of our Savior power is limitless and the thing that hurts our Lord the Most was Sin. Could you imagine living in a world where sin surrounds you and you know each and everyone thoughts & intentions. When I try to analyze what the Lord may have been going through I can’t because personally, if the Lord did not instruct us to love one another, I could care less about someone. People disappoint me. But at the same time, if I am not mistaken , there is a chapter in the book where it states before judging others you must look at your own faults. I also ponder why was Christ life so short on earth.


This may sound disrespectful but I like to think Jesus had some humour about Him and shared a joke now and then. But I guess there wasn’t much to laugh about in those days.


I am sure Jesus had joy, and humor, and fun. It wasn’t all doom and gloom. I’m sure He continually suffered…but that wasn’t all He experienced.

What about the joy of the Lord? We’re not supposed to go around with long faces and ashes on our head all the time. The Bible says hundreds of times to “Rejoice!”

I’m sure, that despite His suffering, He had a loving and warm relationship with Mary and Joseph, his extended family, his friends and neighbors, the disciples, etc.

I can imagine Him as being so attractive…warm, friendly, loving…the kind of love that you know accepts you just as you are. I’m sure that’s why so many thousands of people flocked to see Him. I’m think He just radiated pure love and encouragement.

Obviously, yes, He was also just, honest, and forthright…think of Him putting those Pharisees in their place! Turning over the tables! Warning people about their sin!

But I guess I see both sides of Him…He is my Friend, my Brother, my Husband, my King, and My God.


I would suspect that he may have cracked a joke or two. Nothing distasteful. He was after all God in the flesh. So he may have experienced human emotions .The mystery of the Lord is fascinating. I would love to know what kind of personality Jesus had.


You can draw one right here. It is a humbly magnificent work, intimately universal and intricately simple. Inspiringly convicting. I can open to any page and be devastatingly elevated.

In the light of Christ’s sufferings, what have I ever endured? I complain about a sore knee, or a mosquito bite, or a scratch on my car. How trivial I am. And still, I sin as if there is no Christ, only me, wounding Him over and over on a daily basis.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.