I first discovered ‘The Imitation of Christ’ when a beat up paperback copy was left in the back of our parish, free for the taking. I’m a sucker for free books, and not knowing anything about what kind of book it was, except religious, I took it home. It quickly became a favorite of mine, and I read straight through it, folding corners multiple times. As someone who was starting to dig into the deeper parts of my faith after coverting about five years prior, the straight forward and sometimes harsh (to modern sensibilities) tone of Thomas à Kempis’ book was actually the push I needed to examine the state of my private spiritual life, and what did I want it to be. I was beginning to see that the Catholic Church required a deeper level of sacrifice that I originally realized. At that point in my life, I eagerly drank up Imitation, and probably felt pretty good about myself and that I wasn’t put off by talk of death, hell or turning away from the world. I was ready to forsake all!
But then, SMA entered my life, twice, and I got angry with God for a long time. Any time I tried to read the words of Kempis, I became enraged because watching my children suffer wasn’t what I thought they or our family deserved. I could find no comfort in the chapters, and instead thought each page was calling me a failure because I couldn’t joyfully accept the medical hurdle thrust across my path and continue to praise God a lá Job.
But I’ve grown a lot since then. 2015 was a year of huge spiritual growth in some regards (in others, I’m still working) and earlier this year, I picked up a copy of Imitation and started reading through the pages again for the first time in probably seven years.
Written over several years in the early 15th century, ‘The Imitation of Christ’ encompasses four books that encourage the reader to turn away from worldly distractions, seek the will of God in all things, and keep Holy Communion at the center of their lives. Finally, once again I was able to find peace, rather than turmoil, in the lessons laid out, many in a back and forth type dialogue between Christ and His disciple.
It was only then that I noticed, or perhaps I’d noticed before but forgotten, a retreat that was outlined at the very back of the book, behind a few pages of prayers. This retreat detailed which chapters to read over four days, to prepare to receive Holy Communion. The only drawback was you had to flip back and forth. The thought struck me, wouldn’t it be great to have the retreat typed up so you wouldn’t have to keep going back and forth, and to make ‘The Imitation of Christ’ accessible to people who might not pick it up otherwise? I foolishly thought this would be a quick project. It was not. However, I believe the hours of typing, writing, and editing have paid off.
The result is a short retreat that pretty much anyone can squeeze into her busy schedule. No need to run off to a monastery or secluded cabin (though that would be nice!) ‘A Worthy Reception’ spreads 30 short chapters (less then 120 pages) over four days with a brief introduction to each day that sets the theme. Some of the language may seem old-fashioned, but I’ve worked hard with two translations to make the readings flow and easy to understand. Don’t be scared to stretch yourself a bit. There’s no shortage of religious books up for grabs nowadays, but for centuries ‘The Imitation of Christ’ was the most popular book next to the bible. Aren’t you curious to know why it has such staying power amongst laymen and saints?
Now’s your chance. Order your printed copy or Kindle copy today, or try to win a free copy in the giveaway below! And if you like it, please leave a review for me over on the Amazon page. I’ll also have copies with me when I speak at the IHM National Conference in Virginia later this month. I’d love to sign one for you!