Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Katie Luther: a Proverbs 31 woman

Today is Reformation day when the church traditionally commemorates Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg's castle church on October 31st, 1517. This event prompted the Protestant Reformation, through which great swathes of Christendom were turned back to the gospel of grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Martin Luther married Katharina von Bora in June 1525 and although far less is known of her life in comparison to her husband, she has much to teach us today about how to live as a Christian woman. Katharina or "Katie" as Luther called her, was born in 1499 to a family of poor Saxon nobles. Her mother died when she was just a girl and she was sent by her father to live in a convent at the age of 5. She spent her childhood here and at the age of 16, she took her vows and became a nun.

Even in the convent, Katie heard of Luther and his teachings and she and several others determined to leave their life as nuns. Luther himself heard of their desire to escape and he arranged for a merchant friend of his to transport them out of the convent in his wagon, apparently in empty fish barrels! Luther arranged marriages or employment for all the escapees except Katie, and finally married her himself in 1525.

"She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family." Proverbs 31:15

After their marriage, Katie and Martin moved into a former monastery in Wittenberg and Katie began to bring domestic order to Martin's life. Her skillful management of the various animal holdings, vegetable garden, orchard and brewery allowed her to provide for the family and she rose at 4 am each morning to attend to her duties, earning her the nickname "the morning star of Wittenberg". She and Martin had six children of their own and they also raised four orphan children. She provided hospitality for the numerous students who stayed with them and for the many visitors looking to consult with her husband.

"She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy." Proverbs 31:20

During times of sickness in the region, she allowed a hospital to be set up in their property and tended the patients herself.

She was no stranger to sorrow as two of her daughters died, one aged 8 months and another at 13 years of age. She outlived Luther by six years and after his death, was forced to flee Wittenberg with her family due to the outbreak of war. After returning to Wittenberg in 1547, she was force to leave again in 1552 due to an outbreak of the Plague, and during her journey to Torgau she was involved in an accident which left her badly injured. She died in December 1552, her last words being quoted as "I will stick to Christ as a burr to cloth".

There is no doubt that Katie's devotion to her duties as a wife freed Luther to pursue his teaching and writing, and apparently the Luthers' family life became a model of a godly home for other German families in the succeeding years.

This October 31st, when so many others are celebrating Halloween, let's thank God for the legacy of the Reformation and for the example that Katie Luther is to Christian women nearly 500 years later.

"Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." Proverbs 31:30

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