May 5, 2011

Solace in Suffering

Thomas a Kempis was a Swiss monk who lived in the 15th century.  Solace in Suffering is a collection of writings taken out of his immensely popular Imitation of Christ.  Because these are exerts from a longer book, the chapters are short but hard-hitting, theologically.  Kempis' work is well-translated, giving the essence of his words while still being engaging and relatively easy for modern readers understand (in the past I've had difficulty digesting Medieval era books simply because the writing style is translated archaic and difficult to get into).  It's interesting to me to see just how relevant something written hundreds of years ago still is today, how Kempis addresses spiritual concerns I often see modern writers also attempting to tackle.  A few lines that stood out to me-

 You know well how to excuse and gloss over your own deeds, but you will not accept the excuses of others.  It is more just for you to accuse yourself and to excuse another.  (Yikes, is he keep an eye on me, or something?  I know I'm too often guilty of this!)
 In order to keep us humble, it is often helpful for others to know our faults and reprimand us.  (Do you take it well when someone reprimands you?  I sure don't...but I should, when it's given in loving Christian charity).
Sometimes, although spared great temptations, we are often overcome in daily little ones.  (Wow...very true, though this isn't something I've really contemplated.  I'm luckily largely free of "great temptations," but I really am overcome by this "little daily ones."  What folly it is to think ourselves "safe" because we've managed to avoid those big temptations!)
 Of what use it is to argue profoundly about the Trinity if you have no humility and consequently are displeasing to the Trinity?  In truth, sublime words do not make one holy and just.  However, a virtuous life makes one dear to God.  For my part, I would rather feel repentance than be able to define it. [emphasis mine] (I re-read this part over and was definitely one of those moments where I felt God was bonking me over the head and saying "Hey, pay attention to this!" )
 Christ was despised by people in this world.  In His greatest need He was forsaken by His acquaintances and friends in the midst of insults.  Christ was willing to suffer and to be despised- how do you dare complain of anything?  Christ had enemies and detractors- do you expect everyone to be your friends and benefactors?  How will your patience be rewarded if you have no adversity?  If you cannot endure contradiction, how can you claim to be a friend of Christ?  "If we endure, we will also reign with him" (2 Tim 2:12)  (We say this a lot, that as Christians we should expect to suffer, should expect the world to hate and mock us...yet how many of us really accept that, deep down?  Are we really okay with it, or do we try to toe a line between being Christian and being popular?  If we're not willing to truly embrace rejection and suffering for Him, then we're really no better than those that abandoned and rejected Him during the time leading up to His Passion).

I could go on and on; I could easily sit here and quote the whole book.  It's inexpensive, relatively short, and easy to read, one I definitely recommend, especially for busy moms who might not have time to sit and devour the full length Imitation of Christ.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company.

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