They say behind every successful man is…. a surprised mother-in-law (or something like that….). And the mother-in-law of the sixteenth century church reformer Martin Luther would have been quite surprised by the marriage to her daughter Katharina. The reason for Katharina’s mother’s surprise was that her new son-in-law Martin was a monk who had taken a vow of chastity early in his career… and her daughter Katharina was a nun!
Martin and Katharina first met when Martin helped Katharina and eleven of her fellow nuns escape their monastery in barrels normally used for transporting fish. Two years later (presumably enough time for the smell from the barrels to disappear from Katharina!) they were married in the German town of Wittenberg. The Luthers went on to raise six of their own children, adopt four others, and enjoy over twenty years of a contented home.
In the lead up to their marriage in 1525 some of Martin’s colleagues thought their wedding was a terrible idea. It’s not that they thought Martin and Katharina were ill-suited, but that the marriage might distract from the Reformation. The reforming of the christian church in Europe had gained significant traction during the eight years since Martin had first knocked a document of his theological discussion points into the local church door. Despite the church’s traditional prohibition of clerical marriage having almost no biblical foundation some within the Reformation movement felt the proposed marriage would be a scandalous diversion.
But marry they did – and it may well be one of Martin Luther’s most successful personal decisions. “Katy” (as Martin would call her) immediately began to manage the family’s affairs. She farmed, bred and sold cattle, ran a boarding home for students, and operated a hospital. Mrs. Luther’s business initiatives provided significant income for the family during those turbulent times of the early Reformation. Katharina was an organised, resourceful, and godly woman whose contribution to the Reformation was not simply in supporting her husband but also to the wider community.
They say that behind every successful man is… a successful woman. And Martin Luther’s prayerful decision to marry a nun who escaped her monastery in a fish-barrel was indeed a blessed success.
Want to read more inspirational stories of faith? Click here to read the incredible story of how a rural monk unexpectedly closed down the violence of the Roman coloseum.
About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a Christian minister residing on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.