The Imitation of Christ
Thomas a Kempis was a German who became a canon regular of the late medieval period in the Netherlands, and the author of The Imitation of Christ, one of the most popular and best known Christian books on devotion.
Have you ever read a book where, you knew it was great, but you procrastinated for years to read it, and upon finally reading it, it totally surpassed the great expectations you put on it? Well that was my experience with The Imitation of Christ. I’m tempted to excitedly drown this review in positive superlatives, but I’ll try to control myself.
Of all of the books I’ve read on the spiritual life, this is right at the top of the list. This book is so good, that it is a tremendous disservice to read more than a couple of its short chapters a night. The value of it is so extraordinary, and it hits you so hard, that you simply want to meditate on these short passages for the rest of the night. Reading something like 20-30 pages would dilute your absorption of the treasures inside this book.
As a result, it took me about a month to finish this book. A couple months later, I decided I didn’t absorb nearly enough, so I read the book again. And I intend to read the book every time I renew my Total Consecration (This was on the shortlist of books recommended for mental preparation for your Consecration, and rightfully so).
Basically, this book acts as a huge examination of conscience. All the vanity you possess, all your outward judgmental gazes, all your contempt for other people, is rightfully called out in this book. Thomas a Kempis flips the whole thing around: Turn your gaze toward YOU, judge YOURSELF harder, have contempt for YOUR worldliness. Learn how to detach yourself from all worldly things which includes your pride, ego, material wealth, honors, and appetites, and this will give you an inner peace. As we learn from this book, this is the nuts and bolts of the interior life.
If your goal in this life is to be a saint, then this is one of the books you absolutely must read!
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