Thursday, November 02, 2017

All Souls and Mrs. Luther

Yesterday was All Saints Day in the Christian year and while this is a commemoration in the Roman Catholic calendar we can ask, in this 500th anniversary of the Reformation, whether Martin Luther was our Protestant version of a saint. Today is All Souls, an opportunity to recognize the "faithfully departed" who may not be religious superstars yet deserve to be remembered and honoured for their Christian witness.

How about including Katherine of Bora, amongst those lesser lights? If you don't know the name, she was Frau Luther, Martin's rather unlikely wife. I mentioned earlier this week that Luther had been a monk and it seems he was content to live out his life single and celibate, despite parting company with the Roman Catholic church. Legend says that this changed with the delivery of a dozen mystery barrels to his home, which proved to be filled with an equal number of nuns who had decided to leave the convent and become Protestants. This vexed Luther, who was not prepared to set up a version of the witness protection program. Three of the women returned to the shelter of their families. Luther was instrumental in finding husbands for eight more. The twelfth, Katherine von Bora was more problematic, in that a suitable match was elusive, not to mention her conviction that she should marry Martin. Eventually they did, perhaps more of a marriage of convenience. She was 26 and he was 41.

A union of convenience appears to have blossomed into genuine love and mutual respect. They had six children so there was definitely something going on. Martin conceded that Katy was vital to the wellbeing of their home and his ministry, but also an independent person. She became an accomplished farmer, known for her cattle breeding and her brewery! Actually, the use of inexpensive hops to make beer rather than traditional herbs can arguably be traced to their enterprise, changing the practice of brewing. 

The table in their home seated up to 50 and much of the theological discussion and strategizing of the Protestant movement happened around that table as the beer flowed. Luther's Table Talk is literally a collection of his sayings at the dinner table.

So, thanks Katy! Hey, I need to thank her for persistence in marrying Luther. As a married Protestant pastor with three adult children and three grandchildren my life has been infinitely richer because of their example of married clergy. Maybe her light wasn't lesser at all.

Enough now. No more Reformation stuff.

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