Today’s “The Imitation of Christ” Book One Chapter X Of avoiding superfluity of words

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by
The Imitation of Christ: Book 1 Chapter 9: Of obedience and subjection

Book One Chapter X Of avoiding superfluity of words

Fly as much as possible the tumult of men; for the treating of worldly affairs is a great hindrance, even though they be discoursed of with a simple intention. For we are too easily contaminated and ensnared with vanity.

I would that many a time I had kept silence, and not been in company.

Why are we so fond of speaking and talking idly together, when yet we seldom return to silence without some wound to conscience?

The reason why we are so fond of talking is, that we seek consolation from one another by much discoursing together; and we wish to lighten our heart, wearied with various thoughts.

And we are very fond of speaking and thinking of those things we very much love or wish for, or that we feel are a contradiction to us.

But, alas, it is often vainly and to no purpose; for this outward consolation is no small hindrance to the interior and divine consolation.

Therefore we must watch and pray, lest the time pass away without fruit.

If thou hast leave to speak, and it is expedient, speak those things that may edify.

Evil custom and negligence about our spiritual advancement, contribute much to the unguardedness’ of our tongue.

But devout conferences upon spiritual things are no small help to spiritual progress – especially where persons of congenial mind and spirit are associated together in God.

Practical Reflections

“Watch and pray” is the simple means which Jesus Christ prescribes to enable a Christian to resist temptation, to avoid sin, and secure his salvation. To speak little to creatures and much to God, to renounce useless and curious conversations, to speak only what is good or necessary, is an excellent method of becoming an interior man, of preserving purity of heart and peace of conscience, and of becoming entirely united to God.

A soul which gives itself through the sense to creatures, and lives not an interior life, but amuses itself with trifles, is not at all in a state to relish the things of God, or to apply to prayer or recollection, which are so useful and so necessary for salvation. “Why”, says St Augustine, “why does thou, O dissipated and wandering soul, seek content in created objects, in the goods and pleasures of life? Seek within thyself, by recollection, the only true and sovereign good who is there, and who alone can satisfy thy desires.


Give me, O God, that spirit of interior recollection which will make me attentive to Thy holy Will and faithful to Thy graces.

Grant that the remembrance of Thy awful presence may remind me continually of Thy blessed life and conversation, and effectually control me during my earthly pilgrimage.

I am weary, O God, of living an exile from Thy presence, and of being so little affected by the consideration of Thy majesty as to do nothing to please Thee. What can I find in heaven or on earth that is comparable to Thee?

Thou art the God of my heart; grant that I may be ever sensible of Thy presence, and desire only the happiness of pleasing Thee, in time, that Thou mayest be my portion for eternity. Amen

“Turn to the Lord with all your heart, forsake this sorry world, and your soul will find rest.”

Thomas Kempis

​Thomas à Kempis

’That gentle and anxious Augustian’ as one of his translators called him [1]

Thomas à Kempis (1379-1471) was born in the town of Kempen along the Rhine, within the Holy Roman Empire, now part of modern Germany. His family name, Hemerken (meaning little hammer), reflected his father’s trade as a blacksmith. His mother was a school mistress.

At the age of twelve, while learning Latin in Deventer, Thomas became familiar with the Brethren of the Common Life, a lay monastic community founded eighteen years earlier by Geert Groote and Floris Radewyns. The pair had been the catalyst for a widespread spiritual renewal, known as the Devotio Moderna (Modern-Day Devout), calling for a rediscovery of the simple apostolic faith. In 1406, after leaving school, Thomas followed his brother Jan into the Augustinian monastery of Mount St. Agnes, a Brethren congregation in the nearby city of Zwolle. Except for a brief exile, Thomas spent the remainder of his long life there.

In an age of clerical corruption, the Brethren devoted themselves to holiness, challenging laity and priests alike with their authentic piety. They founded schools, served the poor, taught the Scriptures and copied manuscripts. As Thomas was educated, he spent most of his time in the latter exercises and personally copied the Bible no fewer than four times.[2]

 In the course of instructing novices, he wrote four booklets which were later combined and published anonymously in 1418 under the title of the first: On the Imitation of Christ. Its central themes are devotion to God, humility, contempt of the world, and meditation on the sufferings of Christ. The work also serves as a brief manual on the monastic life—especially a kind of interior monasticism, unconcerned with outward appearances, but rather with ‘the transformation of one’s way of life’. [3]

The success of the Imitation was both immediate and enduring so that by the 18th century no book, apart from the Bible, had been translated into more languages. [4]

 It remains to this day perhaps the most widely read Christian devotional and a classic expression of the Devotio Moderna. Thomas authored many other works including biographies on de Groote and Radewijns (who was his spiritual father).

As Thomas’ reputation grew many sought him for spiritual guidance, but he avoided all visitors as far as courtesy would allow. The conversation for which he longed best is described in the 2nd chapter of book three of the Imitation. Toward the close of his life, he wrote, ‘I have sought rest everywhere, but I have found it nowhere except in a little corner with a little book.'[5]

Thomas died at the venerable age of 92. The Brethren remembered him as a ‘kind man, in love with Christ, a comforter to those in temptation and trouble’.[6]

A statue of Thomas à Kempis at his home town of Kempen. An ironic tribute to a man who ‘loved to be unknown’

1. E. M. Blaiklock, Introduction to The Imitation of Christ (1979), Hodder and Stoughton, p102. Vincent Sculley, Thomas à Kempis, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 14 (1912) Robert Appleton Company.
3. Greg Peters, Imitating Christ, Christian History: Medieval lay mystics, Issue 127, p27.4. von Habsburg, Catholic and Protestant Translations of the Imitatio Christi, 1425-1650 (2011), Ashgate.
5. The Imitation of Christ, (1974) J. M. Dent & Sons, London, p12.
6. Chronicle of Mount St Agnes, ch. 30.

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