NOV / DEC 2015: BY VERONICA LEIGH
Behind every great man is a great woman. Often enough these ladies go unnoticed or are forgotten. But even the smallest contributions leave their mark.
Katharine von Bora was born in 1499 and in all likelihood lost her parents at a young age. She was sent to the monastery, first for education, but then later became a nun. Years passed. Whispers of a new reformation reached even the convent she was interned at. Six miles away, Martin Luther was preaching to the common man straight from the Bible. Katharine was one of the nuns who soon came to believe that forgiveness, grace and salvation could only come directly from God. Soon she and nine other nuns no longer felt the call to serve God in a convent. They felt led to serve Him in a different capacity. Upon delivering a message to Martin Luther himself, he arranged for a rescue wagon to be sent to the convent.
The nine former-nuns huddled down in a wagon carrying barrels of herrings and managed to escape unnoticed. They were finally free to live their own lives.
Luther placed them in families and went as far as arranging marriages for the majority of them. Except for Katharine. None of her suitors… well, none of her suitors suited her. She teased Luther that she was only interested in marrying him. He had been toying with the notion of matrimony as of late. When he went to visit Katharine, he would refer to her as “my Katy.” There may not have been a grand, passionate romance between them in the beginning, but there was something there.
Accepting his offer of marriage, Luther and Katharine were wed. Luther was 42 and Katharine was 26. Life was not to be easy for the Luthers. While Martin Luther was a famous reformer, in the eyes of many he was an infamous heretic. From opposing forces, together they faced the threat of death every day. Since she had never been taught in the convent, Katharine had to learn how to run a proper household. She became a living Proverbs 31 wife. On top of that, she had to be the encourager and the strong one for a temperamental man prone to depressions and eccentricities. Somehow they balanced each other out. He liberated Katharine from a life of service and showed her there was another way to live. Half-teasing and half-respectful, Luther called her “my lord Katy.”
They had six children, one of which died young. Through all of life’s challenges, the opposition and dark times, they were able to keep faith in the Lord. Their union was considered a fine example of how a Christian marriage should operate, one complementing the other. Their lives together continued on for 21 more years. Then in February of 1546, on a trip to his birthplace to settle a dispute, Luther fell ill and died before Katharine could be brought to him. Her husband, friend and helpmate was gone. Having to flee their farm due to war and heavy taxes, the remainder of her days were spent in poverty; she and the children were supported through the generosity of others. In 1552, when another outbreak of the Black Plague struck, she was forced to leave the city of Wittenberg.
Katharine was involved in an accident at the city gates. Having been thrown from a wagon and into a body of icy water, she was carried out, her body covered in bruises. Her health never recovered. On her deathbed three months later, she was purported to say, “I will cleave to my Lord Christ as the burr to the cloth.”
From the casual observer, it may seem that Katharine had very little influence on the world. Most of what we do know of her comes from Martin Luther himself. Even so, she had the heart and ear of the man who led the Protestant Reformation. ♥
Veronica Leigh is an aspiring novelist, who lives in Indiana with her family and six furbabies. Her obsessions range from Jane Austen to the Holocaust to Once Upon a Time. She has published two short autobiographical pieces and hopes to see more in print. She also lurks on her blog.