Thomas à Kempis

German canon regular

Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380 – 25 July 1471) was a German medieval Christian monk and author of The Imitation of Christ, one of the best known Christian books on devotion.

There is no creature so small and abject, that it representeth not the goodness of God.


The Imitation of Christ (c. 1418)Edit

  • O quam cito transit gloria mundi.
    • How fast passes away the glory of this world.
    • Book I, ch. 3.
    • Note: These words are used in the crowning of the pope.
  • Certe adveniente die judicii, non quæretur a nobis quid legimus, sed quid fecimus; nec quam bene diximus, sed quam religiose viximus.
    • At the Day of Judgement we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done; not how well we have spoken, but how holily we have lived.
    • Book I, ch. 3; this is part of a longer passage:
A humble knowledge of oneself is a surer road to God than a deep searching of the sciences. Yet learning itself is not to be blamed, or is the simple knowledge of anything whatsoever to be despised, for true learning is good in itself and ordained by God; but a good conscience and a holy life are always to be preferred. But because many are more eager to acquire much learning than to live well, they often go astray, and bear little or no fruit. If only such people were as diligent in the uprooting of vices and the panting of virtues as they are in the debating of problems, there would not be so many evils and scandals among the people, nor such laxity in communities. At the Day of Judgement, we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done; not how eloquently we have spoken, but how holily we have lived. Tell me, where are now all those Masters and Doctors whom you knew so well in their lifetime in the full flower of their learning? Other men now sit in their seats, and they are hardly ever called to mind. In their lifetime they seemed of great account, but now no one speaks of them.
[Humili tui cognitio, certior viam est ad Deum, quam profunda scientiae inquisitio. Non est culpanda scientia, aut quelibet simplex rei notitia, quae bona est in se considerata, et a Deo ordinat: sed preferenda est semper bona conscientia, et virtuosa vita. Quia vero plures magis student scire, quam bene vivere: ideo saepe errant, et pene nullum, vel modicum fructum ferunt. O si tanta adhiberent diligentiam ad extirpanda vitia, et virtute inferendas, sicuti ad movenda questiones: non fierent tanta mala et scandala in populo nec tanta dissolutio in cenobiis ! Certe, adveniente die judicii, non quaeretur a nobis: quid legimus, sed quid fecimus: nec quam bene diximus, sed quam religiose viximus. Dic mihi: Ubi sunt modo omnes illi Domini et Magistri, quos bene novisti, dum adhuc viverent et studiis florerent? Iam eorum praebendas alii possident: et nescio, utrum de eis recogitent. In vita sua aliquid esse videbantur, et modo de illis tacetur.]
  • Book I, ch. 3.
  • Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.
    • Book I, ch. 16.
  • Homo proponit, sed Deus disponit.
    • Man proposes, but God disposes.
    • Book I, ch. 19.
  • What canst thou see elsewhere which thou canst not see here? Behold the heaven and the earth and all the elements; for of these are all things created.
    • Book I, ch. 20.
  • It is easier not to speak a word at all than to speak more words than we should.
    • Book I, ch. 20.
  • No man ruleth safely but that he is willingly ruled.
    • Book I, ch. 20.
  • And when he is out of sight, quickly also is he out of mind.
    • Book I, ch. 23.
  • First keep the peace within yourself, then you can also bring peace to others.
    • Book II, ch. 3.
  • Love is swift, sincere, pious, pleasant, gentle, strong, patient, faithful, prudent, long-suffering, manly and never seeking her own; for whosoever a man seeketh his own, there he falleth from love.
    • Book III, ch. 5.
  • Of two evils, the less is always to be chosen.
    • Book III. ch. 12.
  • Without the Way,
    there is no going,
    Without the Truth,
    there is no knowing,
    Without the Life,
    there is no living.
    • Book III. ch. 56.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)Edit

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
  • If thou desire to profit, read with humility, simplicity, and faithfulness; nor even desire the repute of learning.
    • P. 37.
  • Whoever would fully and feelingly understand the words of Christ, must endeavor to conform his life wholly to the life of Christ.
    • P. 62.
  • A pure, sincere, and stable spirit is not distracted though it be employed in many works; for that it works all to the honor of God, and inwardly being still and quiet, seeks not itself in any thing it doth.
    • P. 124.
  • There is no creature so small and abject, that it representeth not the goodness of God.
    • P. 261.
  • He is truly great that is great in charity. He is truly great that is little in himself, and maketh no account of any height of honor. And he is truly learned that doeth the will of God, and forsaketh his own will.
    • P. 293.
  • If thou knewest the whole Bible by heart, and the sayings of all the philosophers, what would it profit thee without the love of God and without grace?
    • P. 365.
  • For they truly know their Lord in the breaking of bread, whose heart within them so vehemently burneth, whilst Thou, O blessed Jesus, dost walk and converse with them.
    • P. 372.
  • Dispose thyself to patience rather than to comfort, and to the bearing of the cross rather than to gladness.
    • P. 442.
  • If thou seek rest in this life, how wilt them then attain to the everlasting rest? Dispose not thyself for much rest, but for great patience. Seek true peace — not in earth, but in heaven; not in men, nor in any other creature, but in God alone.
    • P. 515.
  • O Lord, self-renunciation is not the work of one day, nor children's sport; yea, rather in this word is included all perfection.
    • P. 536.
  • Simplicity and purity are the two wings by which a man is lifted above all earthly things. Simplicity is in the intention — purity in the affection. Simplicity tends to God,— purity apprehends and tastes Him.
    • P. 545.
  • He that avoideth not small faults, by little and little falleth into greater.
    • P. 548.
  • Occasions of adversity best discover how great virtue or strength each one hath. For occasions do not make a man frail, but they show what he is.
    • P. 578.

Quotes aboutEdit

  • The book of Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, has long been appreciated in the East not only by virtue of its content but because of the meaning of its title. In the midst of medieval idolatry of Christ, the voice of Thomas à Kempis resounded in protest. From behind the walls of a Catholic monastery rang out a voice to clarify the Image of the Great Teacher. The very word imitation comprises a vital action. The formula — Imitation of Christ — is an achievement of daring innate in the conscious spirit that accepts all responsibility of creation. Truly, the conscious pupil dares to approach the Teacher in imitation. Such an example brought light into the musty darkness and behind the monastic walls provided the impetus to strive toward creative daring. In accordance with the groveling medieval consciousness, it would have been fitting to say, "The Worship of Christ." But the ascendant spirit dared to pronounce a call to imitation. Each step of blessed daring must be cherished as a milestone in the progress of humanity. We do not give attention to monastic utterances. Thomas had no need to climb to the stake — his task was to proclaim not the forbidden but the inspiring formula.

External linksEdit