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Following Christ's Example in the World – Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (c. 1418)

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Chapter 12

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10. Set out, then, as a good and faithful servant of Christ, to bear like a man the cross of your Lord, that cross to which he was nailed for love of you. Be prepared to endure much thwarting and many a difficulty in this life of sadness; because that’s how things are going to be for you, wherever you are, that’s how you’re sure to find things, wherever you look for shelter from them. That’s the way it’s got to be; there’s no cure, no getting round the fact of trouble and sorrow; you just have to put up with them. If you long to be the Lord’s friend, to share what is his, you must drink his cup and like it. As for consolations, let God see about that; he will arrange about that kind of thing as he sees best. Your job must be to be ready to endure troubles and to reckon them the greatest of comforts; for what we suffer in this present life is nothing when we compare it with the glory to be won in the life to come, even though you alone were able to endure it all.

11. When you have reached such a point that trouble is sweet to you, something to be relished for Christ’s sake, you may reckon that all is well with you; you have found heaven on earth. But so long as suffering irks you, so long as you try to avoid it, things will go ill with you; everywhere you will be pursued by the pain you try to escape.

12. If you resolve, as you ought, to suffer and to die, things will at once go better with you and you will find peace. Even if, like St Paul, you were to be caught up to the third heaven, that would be no guarantee of your suffering no further affliction. I have yet to tell him, says Jesus, how much suffering he will have to undergo for my name’s sake.* You have still to suffer, then, if you wish to love Jesus and serve him forever.

13. If only you were worthy to suffer in some way for the name of Jesus! What great glory you would have awaiting you! How all the Saints of God would rejoice! And think how you would strengthen the spiritual life of your neighbor! All men agree in applauding patience in suffering; few are willing to suffer. You ought gladly to suffer a little for Christ’s sake; there are many who suffer far worse for worldly interests.

14. Make no mistake about it; the life you are to lead must be one of death-in-life. The more a man dies to himself, the more he begins to live to God. No one is fit to grasp heavenly things unless he resigns himself to bearing affliction for Christ’s sake. There is nothing more acceptable to God, nothing so conducive to your soul’s health in this world, than willingly to suffer for Christ’s sake. If you had the choice, you ought to choose rather to suffer affliction for Christ’s sake than to be refreshed by much comfort; that would make you resemble Christ more nearly, make you follow more closely the pattern of all the Saints. Our merit, you see, our progress in virtue, doesn’t consist of enjoying much heavenly sweetness and consolation; no, it lies in bearing heavy affliction and trouble.

15. If there had been anything better for men, more profitable for their salvation, than suffering, you may be sure that Christ, by his teaching and by his own example, would have pointed it out. But no; addressing the disciples who were following him, and all those who wish to follow him, he clearly urges them to carry the cross, when he says: If any man has a mind to come my way, let him renounce self, and take up his cross, and follow me.** So then, when we have made an end of reading and studying, this is the conclusion we should reach at last: that we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven without many trials.***

* Acts 9. 16.
** Luke 9. 23.
***Acts 14. 21.

Source of English translation (from the Latin original): Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, translated by Ronald Knox and Michael Oakley. New York: Ingatius Press, 1959, pp. 53, 55, 56-57, 58-59, 60, 66-67, 78, 81-83.

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