July 24: Thomas à Kempis, Priest, 1471

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.


About this commemoration:

Thomas à Kempis

The name of Thomas à Kempis is perhaps more widely known than
that of any other medieval Christian writer. The Imitation of Christ,
which he composed or compiled, has been translated into more
languages than any other book except the Holy Scriptures. Millions of
Christians have found in this manual a treasured and constant source
of edification.

His name was Thomas Hammerken, and he was born at Kempen in
the Duchy of Cleves about 1380. He was educated at Deventer by the
Brethren of the Common Life, and joined their order in 1399 at their
house of Mount St. Agnes in Zwolle (in the Low Countries). He took
his vows (those of the Augustinian Canons Regular) there in 1407,
was ordained a priest in 1415, and was made sub-prior in 1425. He
died on July 25, 1471.

The Order of the Brethren of the Common Life was founded by
Gerard Groote (1340–1384) at Deventer. It included both clergy and
lay members who cultivated a biblical piety of a practical rather than
speculative nature, with stress upon the inner life and the practice
of virtues. They supported themselves by copying manuscripts and
teaching. One of their most famous pupils was the humanist Erasmus.
Many have seen in them harbingers of the Reformation; but the
Brethren had little interest in the problems of the institutional Church.
Their spirituality, known as the “New Devotion” (Devotio moderna),
has influenced both Catholic and Protestant traditions of prayer and


I Holy Father, who hast nourished and strengthened thy
Church by the inspired writings of thy servant Thomas à
Kempis: Grant that we may learn from him to know what
is necessary to be known, to love what is to be loved, to
praise what highly pleaseth thee, and always to seek to
know and follow thy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

II Holy Father, you have nourished and strengthened your
Church by the inspired writings of your servant Thomas
à Kempis: Grant that we may learn from him to know
what is necessary to be known, to love what is to be loved,
to praise what highly pleases you, and always to seek to
know and follow your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Ecclesiastes 9:11–18
Ephesians 4:32–5:2
Luke 6:17–23

Psalm 33:1–5,20–21

Preface of a Saint (2)

Text from Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.


Links Related to Thomas à Kempis

“The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas à Kempis at the Cyber Library


We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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7 thoughts on “July 24: Thomas à Kempis, Priest, 1471

  1. Thanks for letting us comment on Thomas à Kempis, even though I don’t think he’s new to the calendar. I especially like this prayer of his: When God bestows Spiritual comfort, receive it with a grateful heart; but remember that it comes of God’s free gift, and not of your own merit. Do not be proud, nor over joyful, nor foolishly presumptuous; rather, be the more humble for this gift, more cautious, and more prudent in all your doings, for this hour will pass, and temptation will follow it. When comfort is withdrawn, do not immediately despair, but humbly and patiently await the will of Heaven; for God is able to restore you to a consolation even richer than before. This is nothing new or strange to those who know the ways of God, for the great Saints and Prophets of old often experienced these changes. …Indeed, the temptation that precedes is often a sign of comfort to follow. For heavenly comfort is promised to those who have been tried and tempted.”To him who overcomes,” says God, “I will give to eat of the Tree of Life.”

  2. I know that this sounds like a broken record (such a dated metaphor, I know) but the new New Testament reading is only 3 verses of Scripture. Two or three verses of Scripture just do not do justice to such a worthy commemoration as Thomas a Kempis.

    • But what powerful verses they are! I think Thomas would be pleased if we read less and reflected more on what we read.

  3. It would be difficult not to feel Thomas a Kempis belongs on the calendar.. The new reading from Ephesians is an improvement on the old onwe from Philippians. I don’t really see why the Ecclestes passage, but I suppose it’s all right

  4. I suggest a subtitle “Devotional writer, 1471”. That he was a priest is mentioned in the bio.

    Last line, second paragraph: add “in Zwolle” after “died”.

  5. I do wish there was a pronunciation guide for the names. This morning our priest murdered most of the names. I didn’t recognize most of them until I read them just now.

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