An old friend today gave me a copy, leather-bound no less, of The Imitation of Christ, Classic Devotions in Today’s Language, by Thomas A. Kempis, compiled and edited by James N. Watkins. It’s amazing how excited I am to get a copy of a book I read fifty-five years ago. The book is a Christian classic. I read a earlier version while a student at Immaculata Seminary in 1962 and 1963.
The devotional classic, second only to the Bible in sales, was written anonymously in Latin in the Netherlands. Thomas Haemmerlein (1380– 1471), better known as Thomas à Kempis, is generally credited as the author/ editor, but purposely avoided claiming its authorship. The hand-copied manuscripts of the book were first circulated as early as 1420, with its first publication in English in 1696. Through the centuries, the book has been recommended by such diverse leaders as John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, and Thomas Merton, the popular twentieth-century author and Catholic monk. The Jesuits, a Catholic order of priests and brothers, honored the book. Their founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola, was inspired by The Imitation of Christ to formulate his own Spiritual Exercises. The book has been published as more than six thousand editions in more than fifty languages.
I am excited for several reasons. I vaguely recall how inspiring the reading was back in high school. I look forward to being re-inspired. I am also excited because I have reached a relatively dry period in my writing life. I immediately formulated a plan to read the latest version and bombard readers with my thoughts as I go through it a second time after fifty-five years. I look forward to seeing what I may have learned, and may have forgotten, in the interim.
The latest edition is broken into 90 readings, so this could take a while. I hope you will follow and get a little something out of my experience. Got to go now. Time to start re-reading.