Thomas à Kempis
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|Thomas à Kempis, C.R.S.A.|
Kempen, Prince-Archbishopric of Cologne, Holy Roman Empire
|Died||25 July 1471
Zwolle, Bishopric of Utrecht, Holy Roman Empire
|Other names||Thomas von Kempen
|Occupation||Canon Regular, author, scribe|
|Known for||The Imitation of Christ|
Thomas à Kempis, C.R.S.A. (Thomas van Kempen or Thomas Hemerken or Haemerken, litt. "small hammer"; c. 1380 – 25 July 1471) was a German canon regular of the late medieval period and the most probable author of The Imitation of Christ, which is one of the best known Christian books on devotion. His name means "Thomas of Kempen", his hometown, and in German he is known as Thomas von Kempen. He also is known by various spellings of his family name: Thomas Haemerkken; Thomas Hammerlein; Thomas Hemerken and Thomas Hämerken.
Thomas was born at the Lower Rhine town of Kempen, Germany, in the sovereign Prince-Archbishopric of Cologne about A.D. 1380. His surname was Hemerken, Kleverlandish for little hammer. His father John was a blacksmith and his mother Gertrude was a schoolmistress.
In 1392, Thomas followed his brother, Jan, to Deventer in the Bishopric of Utrecht, in order to attend the noted Latin school there. While attending this school, Thomas encountered the Brethren of the Common Life, followers of Gerard Groote's Modern Devotion. He attended school in Deventer from 1392 to 1399.
After leaving school, Thomas went to the nearby city of Zwolle to visit his brother again, after Jan had become the prior of the Monastery of Mount St. Agnes there. This community was one of the Canons Regular of the Congregation of Windesheim, founded by disciples of Groote in order to provide a way of life more in keeping with the norms of monastic life of the period. Thomas himself entered Mount St. Agnes in 1406. He was not ordained a priest, however, until almost a decade later. He became a prolific copyist and writer. Thomas received Holy Orders in 1413 and was made sub-prior of the monastery in 1429.
The monastery was disturbed for a time because of the pope's rejection of the Bishop-elect of Utrecht, Rudolf van Diepholt; otherwise, Thomas's life was a quiet one, his time being spent between devotional exercises, composition, and copying. He copied the Bible no fewer than four times, one of the copies being preserved at Darmstadt, Germany in five volumes. In its teachings he was widely read and his works abound in Biblical quotations, especially from the New Testament.
Thomas à Kempis was a copyist and writer. Kempis copied two Bibles, each in ten volumes, and books for schools. Kempis wrote the biographies of New Devotion members—Gerard Groote, Florens Randewijns, John van de Gronde, and John Brinckerinck. His important works include a series of sermons to the novices of St. Augustine Monastery, including Prayers and Meditations on the Life of Christ, Meditations on the Incarnation of Christ, Of True Compunction of Heart, Soliloquy of the Soul, Garden of Roses, Valley of Lilies, and a Life of St. Lidwina of Schiedam. Kempis's 1441 autograph manuscript of The Imitation of Christ is available in the Bibliothèque Royale in Brussels (catalog : MS 5455-61).
The following quotes are attributed to him:
- "Without the Way,
- there is no going,
- Without the Truth,
- there is no knowing,
- Without the Life,
- there is no living."
- "If thou wilt receive profit, read with humility, simplicity, and faith, and seek not at any time the fame of being learned."
- "At the Day of Judgement we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done."
- — The Imitation of Christ, Book I, ch. 3
- "For man proposes, but God disposes"
- — The Imitation of Christ, Book I, ch. 19
- "If, however, you seek Jesus in all things, you will surely find Him. "
- — The Imitation of Christ, Book II, ch. 7
- "In angello cum libello" (with slight variations), "In a little corner with a little book"
- — Shortened form of a motto often ascribed to, or associated with, Thomas a Kempis. The complete saying as reported by an early biographer is a mixture of Latin and Dutch and runs as follows: "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, sed non inveni, nisi in hoexkens ende boexkens", "I have sought everywhere for peace, but I have found it not save in nooks and in books."
A monument was dedicated to his memory in the presence of the archbishop of Utrecht in St. Michael's Church, Zwolle, on November 11, 1897. In 1964, this church closed causing his shrine to be moved to a new St. Michael's Church outside the centre of Zwolle. In 2005, this church had also closed and his shrine was moved to the Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-ten-Hemelopneming kerk (Assumption of Mary church) in the centre of Zwolle.
- Bijdragen en Mededelingen betreffende de Geschiedenis der Nederlanden, 87, p. 137.
- Kempis (2004). On the Passion of Christ according to the four evangelists. Ignatius Press,. pp. 9–12.
- William C. Creasy (2007). "Introduction". The Imitation of Christ. Mercer University Press. pp. xix–xx.
- "Vita Lidewigis". Archive.org. 2001-03-10. Retrieved 2012-03-14.
- See F.A. Wright & T.A. Sinclair, A history of later Latin literature (1931), p. 361 (). Franciscus Tolensis, Vita Thomae a Kempis, 12: "Ostenditur adhuc ejus effigies, sed admodum deformata poenèque obliterata, cum hoc insigni symbolo, In omnibus requiem quaesivi, sed non inveni, nisi in hoexkens ende boexkens: Hoc est, in abditis recessibus & libellulis." (Thomae a Kempis opera omnia, ed. Henricus Sommalius, 1759 edition, I, p. 29 ())
- This article incorporates Public Domain material from the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. VI: Innocents — Liudger, Schaff, Philip.
- Thomas à Kempis (2007), The Imitation of Christ, Filiquarian, ISBN 1-59986-979-9
- Thomas à Kempis (2005), The Imitation of Christ: A Spiritual Commentary and Reader's Guide, Ave Maria Press, ISBN 0-87061-234-4
- Thomas à Kempis (1989), William C. Creasy, ed., The Imitation of Christ, Mercer University Press, ISBN 0-86554-339-9
- Thomas à Kempis (1955), Harold C. Gardner, S.J., ed., The Imitation of Christ, Doubleday, ISBN 978-0-375-70018-7
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- Read Imitation of Christ online
- Thomas à Kempis at The Catholic Encyclopedia
- Quotes from Thomas à Kempis
- Works by Thomas à Kempis at Project Gutenberg
- Imitation of Christ in PDF
- Devotio Moderna
- Imitation of Christ in downloadable MP3