Young People Remember the Reformation
The following articles were prepared by young members of the Sunnyside Orthodox Christian Reformed Church Washington, USA for their annual commemorating of the 16th century Reformation. Many papers were written and this is a selection included in the October ‘Trumpet’ to share “the wonderful works of God” in history with everyone.
1] HERE I STAND
by Samuel L. Casbon, aged 12
One of the most important events of the German Reformation was Luther’s appearance before the Diet of Worms. Upon arrival in Worms he was faced with much hostility He was asked to recant but refused. His famous words spoken there have made a lasting mark on the world.
A papal bull dated June 1520, was issued declaring that Luther was a heretic. Luther responded by burning a copy of it publicly. As a result of the burning of the papal bull Luther was ordered to appear at the Diet of Worms. His friends tried to stop him from going, but he would not listen. He said, “If there are as many devils in Worms as tiles on a house top, I will still go there.”
On the 16th of April, 1521, Luther arrived in Worms. Thousands crowded the streets to get a glimpse of the man who single-handedly challenged all the power of the Roman Catholic Church. Some people thought he was the devil in the body of a human. All states where Roman Catholicism held sway looked down with cold eyes of hatred on Luther. Even Henry VIII of England engaged himself in writing a book to condemn Luther’s teachings.
At the entrance of the conference hall stood a famous army commander who said, ” My poor monk, my poor monk, you are on your way to make such a stand as I and many of my knights have never done in our toughest battles. If your are sure of your cause, then forward in the Name of God, and be of good courage-God will not forsake you.” 206 persons of rank attended Luther’s trial. Johann Von Eck, who was the Presiding Officer, opened by asking Luther if he was the author of the writings displayed before him; and also asked Luther to retract the doctrines contained in his books of which the church disapproved. Luther acknowledged that he was the author of the writings but asked for time to consider whether he could in good conscience retract his doctrines. Dr. Eck adjourned the proceedings until the next day.
April 29th may have been the greatest day of Luther’s entire life. Luther was again put to the question. Luther replied, “Unless I am convicted by testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear arguments that I am in error – for popes and councils have often erred and contradicted themselves – I cannot withdraw, for I am subject to the Scriptures I have quoted; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. It is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against one’s conscience. Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise. So help me God.” These words caused a great measure of pandemonium. Dr. Eck tried to make himself heard as he warned Luther that the counsels of the church were a much better guide to the truth than one’s conscience.
After Luther burned the papal bull he was summoned to the Diet of Worms. When Luther and some of his friends arrived in Worms they received a lot of attention from the masses. At the Diet they brought his writings to him and asked him to deny them. On the second day of Luther’s trial he was again put to the question and he soundly refused to deny his conscience. Luther’s words, “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise. So help me God,” have gone down in history.
2] A WONDERFUL PAIR
by Rachel Jo, aged 8
In 1525, Luther believed it was time for him to marry. His choice of wife was Catherine Von Bora, who was an escaped nun. Knowing his subsequent home would give him much joy, Luther looked forward to the marriage. Because his parents, Hans and Greta, could attend the wedding, Luther was very happy, especially because his parents believed in the truths that Luther publicised.
Luther called his wife “dear rib” according to Genesis two, verse twenty-one where God made Eve out of Adam’s rib. Luther was generous almost to fault. With the numerous publications he wrote, Martin Luther could have been extremely rich. There was always a ready market for his writings in North and West Europe. But the reformer did not look for his reward in gold or want much. In fact, he received a meagre salary and was very liberal with his money. He gave extensive amounts of money to the poor, who were poorer than he. Luther often lacked money for himself and his family’s needs, but his new wife helped him to be more careful in managing his household. She even started raising pigs, and made a small fishpond for the good of their home.
Martin and Catherine Luther were truly happy. Luther described Catherine as a pious, faithful, and devoted wife. She cared for Luther’s health and his general well-being. Once, before he was married, Luther did not make his bed for a whole year and it was mildewed with perspiration. Luther said, “I was tired out.” Another time, Luther fell on his bed without even knowing it! Luther’s marriage in 1525 was wonderful, for the reformer needed domestic reforming.
3] KATHERINE VON BORA
by Jessica Van Dyken, aged 9
At the age of ten, Katherine von Bora was placed in a house of a religious order for nuns likely because she lost her parents. The house was at Nimptch, a town of Saxony. There the nuns led a hidden, monotonous life.
Around the age of thirteen, Katherine began to hear about Dr. Martin Luther. She heard about all his brave doings and astonishing doctrines. In fact he delivered a sermon from the Bible – an unheard of thing! Most meetings for worship in those days were nothing but processions or groups of singers. Seldom was a sermon heard.
When Katherine was seventeen Dr. Luther had come as near to their house as Grimma, which was six miles away. One of the nuns, Magdalene von Staupitz had obtained some of Luther’s writings and eagerly received the Reformed doctrines. She gradually and secretly persuaded eight nuns to her way of thinking. Katherine was one of these.
Slowly the nuns became unhappy with their life in the convent. They wanted to leave. But how?
Magdalene von Staupitz made a suggestion. She would write to Dr. Luther to help them. The eight nuns agreed to this and thought it a bold suggestion. The message reached Dr. Luther. Their request was not in vain. Luther sent a man, Koppe, with two bold friends to rescue the nine nuns. Meanwhile, Luther pledged himself to provide for them. Though they had to travel for six miles through Catholic country, the nuns, crouching behind barrels of herrings, were not discovered. Katherine was placed with the family of Philip Reichenbach, burgomaster and town clerk, where she was treated kindly. Living there two years she became a valuable and happy member of the household.
At least two suitors courted her, but she refused them. Katherine had a natural dignity around her which Luther at first mistook for pride. Finally Martin Luther, to the surprise of many, married Katherine von Bora. They were as poor as church mice. During the first years, they lived in a deserted monastery.
In 1540 Martin bought a farm at Zolsdorf The farm produce helped the Luthers greatly. The garden produced cabbage, peas, beans, melons, and cucumbers. Katie also looked after an orchard outside the village in which they grew apples, grapes, pears, nuts, and peaches. There was also fish from the pond and poultry and cows from the barnyard. Martin Luther was very proud of Katie’s farming and teasingly called her, “My lord Katie.”
Martin and Katie had six children of whom one died at the age of 14. They also raised up six nephews and nieces. At times orphans found a kind and loving home. Katherine took good care of Martin. She nursed him with herbs and comforted him when he was unhappy. Sometimes she sent for his friend Justus Jonas. His lively chatter usually cheered him up.
Martin died in 1546 in the same village where he was born and baptized. A sorrowful Katherine was a widow for seven years. On a journey to Torgauw, Katie fell from the wagon into a lake. She was badly bruised and did not recover, but died three months later. Her last words were, “I will cleave to my Lord Christ as the burr to the cloth.”
4] FREDRICK THE WISE
by Jarrett Rice, aged 11
Fredrick the Wise was born 1463 at Hartenfers Castle, Torgau. Fredrick the Wise liked learning so much he changed Wittenberg his residence into a university. In 1502 Martin Luther became a professor at the University.
Fredrick the Wise was a good Catholic but was against the power of the pope in Germany. He thought the papal church needed changing. Fredrick was important to the Reformation because he was responsible for insuring that Luther be heard before the Diet of Worms. Also, Fredrick said Luther was unfairly accused. So after the Diet of Worms, Fredrick hid Luther away at his castle in Wartburg.
Fredrick died unmarried on May 1525 at a hunting lodge in Lochau. He was sixty-two years old. Fredrick the Wise’s contribution to the Reformation may seem small, but he perhaps saved Martin Luther’s life, a life which did great good towards the Reformation.
5] HOW DESIDERIUS ERASMUS CONTRIBUTED TO THE REFORMATION
by Laken Top, aged 13
Consisting of few facts and much speculation, little is actually known of the early life of Erasmus. Born on October 27, probably in the year 1466, in Rotterdam, Holland, Desiderius Erasmus Roterdamus was, most likely, born out of wedlock. From these humble beginnings, he went on to become a humanist and theologian. Educated in a series of monastic and semi-monastic schools, he received the best education available. Although later reflection caused Erasmus to consider his education a conspiracy to trap him in a monastic life, there is no evidence to support his theory. He took his vows and was admitted to the priesthood. The year was 1492. Ironically, monasticism was Erasmus’ chief objection in his lifelong assault on the Roman Catholic Church. Though the facts of his death are certain, July 12, 1536, Erasmus continues to fascinate and cause speculation.
Desiring to achieve a higher level of education, Erasmus went to study theology at the University of Paris in 1495. Quickly finding university life dull and distasteful, he departed. France, Germany, Switzerland, and England became the centres of his activity. While travelling through Europe, Erasmus made acquaintances with many notorious scholars and politicians. He also met Martin Luther. Criticized by many men who were hostile to religious and literary progress, the cause to which Erasmus was devoting his life, he felt persecuted. Seeking kindness and hospitality, Erasmus fled to Basal, Switzerland for refuge. During this time, he was ordered to return to the monastery, but he requested and received a dispensation from the pope, granting his request, and allowing him to remain in the world.
Renowned and admired throughout Europe, Erasmus was a prominent, vocal scholar. Attending numerous debates, he was involved in many discussions concerning the state of the Church. Efficiently putting his education to use, Erasmus used his learning to purify the corrupt doctrine of the Church, and to liberalise the institutes of Christianity However, he was not satisfied. Erasmus conceived of himself as a preacher of righteousness. In order to regenerate Europe, Erasmus believed that sound learning must be applied to the affairs of church and state. While at first his life seems full of contradictions, it is this conviction that gives it consistency Throughout his life Erasmus remained aloof from entangling obligations. He was the center of the literary movement of his time, and his advice was eagerly sought and followed.
At the end of his life, Erasmus was at odds with both Protestants and Roman Catholics. His last years were embittered by controversies with those who had seemed his friends. Although he had great respect for Luther, he could not bring himself to agree completely with his philosophy. When Basel reformed in 1529, he departed. Apparently, he found it easier to maintain his neutrality under Roman Catholic conditions. All this time however, his literary activity continued unabated.
Again returning to Switzerland in 1535, Erasmus found himself among his truest, lifelong friends. There he died. Erasmus was never held accountable for his opinions by the Church. Posthumously, his books were honoured by being placed on the Roman Catholic index of prohibited books, and his name has generally had an evil sound in Roman Catholic circles. Devoted to sound Christianity and the restoration of learning, Erasmus spent his life writing, debating, and raising awareness for his cause. Lacking Luther’s conviction that the Roman Catholic Church was beyond reform, he couldn’t break with the church. When accused with having “laid the egg that Luther hatched”, Erasmus confessed he had “expected an entirely different type of bird.”
A COMMENT FROM GENEVA
“When Dr. Martin Luther, and other persons . . . were beginning to reprove the grosser abuses of the Pope, they scarcely had the slightest relish for pure Christianity; but after that the Pope had thundered against them, and cast them out of the Roman synagogue by terrific bulls, Christ stretched out His hand, and made Himself fully known to them.” [Comment on John 9:35].
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