Thomas Kelly was born into a Quaker family in Ohio in 1893. He was educated at Haverford and Harvard and acquired a reputation for outstanding scholarship. Kelly was involved in two important ministries in his early years: working with German prisoners in 1917-1918 and pastoring a Quaker community in Berlin in 1924-1925. Upon his return, he taught at Earlham College and the University of Hawaii. In 1936 he began teaching philosophy at Haverford, where he remained until his death in 1941.
While a student at Haverford, Kelly said to a professor, "I am going to make my life a miracle!" He set high standards for his life, desiring excellence in truth in all areas. Some believed that he was driven to the point of exhaustion until, in 1937, he had an experience that ended the strain and striving. His efforts were now aimed at developing an acquaintance with God, not merely acquiring knowledge about God.
Kelly was known by his colleagues as a man of genuine devotion, and his writings, in particular A Testament of Devotion and The Eternal Promise, have made a lasting impact on all who have read them. Rufus Jones said of the former book, "There are few—a very few—great devotional books...and here is a book I can recommend along with the best of the ancient ones."
Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada was born in Avila, Spain, in 1515. At the age of twenty she entered the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation. While there she battled many serious illnesses, especially between the ages of twenty-eight and thirty. She lived a very devout life at the convent and was known to have occasional supernatural experiences.
In 1555 Teresa experienced what she called a "second conversion," which changed her spiritual life decisively. She began experiencing visions more often, most notably, visions of Christ piercing her heart with a spear. Under the direction of her spiritual counselor, she began working on a project to establish new Carmelite houses that were devoted to the contemplative life. Later John of the Cross worked alongside her in this effort.
Teresa began her writing career with a spiritual autobiography, and it was quickly noticed that she had a gift for writing about the spiritual life in elegant yet simple terms. Her most famous work on prayer is Interior Castle, which she wrote following a vision. In it she describes the soul's journey from the outside of a castle and through many rooms as it strives toward the center room where the soul can unite with God completely. In the spirit of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Teresa uses allegory to describe the spiritual journey we all face, with its attendant obstacles and joys.
Christianity became the official state religion early in the 4th century, and with this new status began an unfortunate secularization of the Church. When the Christian faith was mixed with the Roman world, the world did not become Christian so much as Christians became worldly. In reaction, many earnest Christians fled to the desert and ultimately to monasteries and convents as a way of escaping the world and living a faithful life. Into this climate Benedict of Nursia arouse to bring new life to the Christian world.
Born into a good family in the Umbrian village of Nursia and educated at Rome, Benedict grew weary of the evils of the city and fled to the mountains of Subaiaco to live as a hermit. He became well known for his piety, his wisdom, and his humility. In A. D. 529 he founded a monastery on Monte Cassino, midway between Naples and Rome, and he remained there until his death.
In this monastery Benedict wrote his famous Rule, which provided a much needed accountability to the many roving prophets and hermits of the day. In The Rule Benedict gives clear, direct, and effective disciplines for living a holy life. His writings inspired an important period of renewal and are still with us today because of their wisdom and insight.