As a preface, I will say that I am not Catholic, nor have I ever been…in the Roman sense, anyway. 😉 My heart grieves for those following a man-crafted system of checks and balances that always leaves the penitent sinner hopelessly in debt to an illusive, exacting, and mercenary god.
Thomas a Kempis was a Catholic monk, living in the 15th century. He is most well known for his “Imitation of Christ” (actually written as a sort of handbook for monks and nuns), which is considered a classic among Christians. Kinda quirky, but I guess it’s one of those “baby with the bathwater” things.
Something strange of which I was not aware is that a’ Kempis was apparently accidentally buried alive. When his body was disinterred (presumably for canonization), splinters were found under his fingernails, and there were signs of a struggle. For this, he was reportedly denied canonization on the grounds that no real saint would behave in such a manner in the face of death. How many of you biblically-defined saints out there would not find yourselves just a bit panicky to discover you were in a box, six feet under?
Here are just the first few paragraphs of the first chapter of this work:
He who follows Me, walks not in darkness,” says the Lord. By these words of Christ we are advised to imitate His life and habits, if we wish to be truly enlightened and free from all blindness of heart. Let our chief effort, therefore, be to study the life of Jesus Christ.
The teaching of Christ is more excellent than all the advice of the saints, and he who has His spirit will find in it a hidden manna. Now, there are many who hear the Gospel often but care little for it because they have not the spirit of Christ. Yet whoever wishes to understand fully the words of Christ must try to pattern his whole life on that of Christ.
What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.
Such thoughts do make one wonder what special insight regarding the way of holiness (though perhaps not the means of holiness) can be gained in the quiet life of a monk (much the same as Brother Lawrence, who penned “Practicing the Presence of God“). Here is another thoughtful quote:
“If thou wilt receive profit, read with humility, simplicity and faith, and seek not at any time the fame of being learned.”
God knows the hearts of all. Though the Roman Catholic church is a hard task master, enslaving hearts through fear; perhaps in the end, these men were able to divorce themselves from popery and walk in the light. Love hopes all things, yes?