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Archive for October, 2017

This week churches all over the world are celebrating the 500th anniversary of one of the most momentous times in history – The Reformation. Historians often credit the beginning of the Reformation with the nailing of his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg by Martin Luther on October 31, 1517.

Everywhere you look you can find materials with the story of Dr. Luther and many of the other Reformers. Most of these pioneering men were married to equally brave wives.

This week we will focus on the stories of the wives of two of the most famous Reformers – Martin Luther and John Calvin.

Here are their stories:

Katharine Von Bora Luther

Katherine came from a noble family of Boras. We don’t know too much about her childhood, except that her mother died when she was 5 or 6. She was then sent to a Benedictine cloister. She received a good education there, and then at age 9 or 10 she went to a Cistercian convent in Nimbschen. When she was 16, she took the nun’s veil. During her 20 years at the convent she learned self-sufficiency, discipline, religious habits, singing, and the art of prayer and reading Scripture. She learned Latin. This would prove very important in her life where God was leading her.  She was an excellent reader and somehow obtained the writings of Luther which she read. She was convinced and converted.

On Easter Sunday night in 1523, in a plan masterminded by Luther, 12 nuns escaped from the cloister with the help of a city councilor named Leonard Koppe. Abducting nuns was a capital crime, so Mr. Koppe helped them escape secretly in a fish wagon. When they got to the town where they were going, they had to marry quickly or try to work on their own. Luther helped them all to find respectable jobs or husbands. All except Katherine.

Katherine had befriended a man whom she wished to marry, but his family would not accept an ex-nun. She was heartbroken. Luther tried to match her with someone else; she refused that man.

Finally, in 1525 he decided to please his parents and irritate the pope and the devil by “getting married with the last ex-nun available in town.” Some people rejoiced in the marriage; others were scandalized. This was not just because it was Luther, but because clergy were only just beginning to get married.

Katherine and Martin had six children of their own. Sadly, two died in childhood. Katherine also cared for six or seven nieces and nephews, and four orphans, along with many others who came under her roof.

Katherine’s home was a Pastor’s and professor’s home, and she set the standard for reformer’s wives. Her convent training enabled her to help Luther run a boarding school for theology students, a hostel for visitors and occasionally her house was turned into a hospital, receiving refugees, providing meals and beds for all, and finding money to cover all the costs. She also made tasty beer.

Katherine managed to finance all of this by raising vegetables and fruit. She raised animals, fished, baked bread, and brewed beer. She increased their wealth by buying land. As an aristocrat, she understood the value of land and talked Luther into buying

two farms and two orchards.

Katherine enjoyed participating in “table talks.” She knew enough Latin and Scripture to join in, much to the annoyance of some at the table who thought her behavior inappropriate for a woman. Apparently though, Luther made no effort to stop her.
     While Katherine was submissive to her husband, it is certain that she contributed much to his ministry.  She certainly helped with his understanding of marriage, love, gender roles, and family life. Martin Luther became a model father, teaching and playing with his children. Katherine remains a model of  the ideal Christian woman.

 

Idelette de Bure Calvin

Not a lot is known about Idelette. Her first marriage was to Jean Strodeur and she had 3 children with him. He died tragically leaving her a widow to raise the children on her own.

When John Calvin decided to marry, he put together a committee in Strasburg (where he had gone in exile from Geneva) to find him a wife. Their attempts failed several times. It seemed that John might remain single.

Then John noticed Idelette, a widow with 3 children. She had a godly character. John realized that she was the widow of the former Anabaptist that he had converted. She was strong in her faith and John knew that she would make a good wife.

 

Their marriage would last nine years, though they both were frequently ill. Further complications arose from family members of his that did not like her, producing periods of family strife.

Idelette and John had two children but one child of theirs died while an infant and she miscarried another. In the process, Calvin, who spoke little of his married life, was deeply touched.

Their relationship softened his heart as a pastor. When she died, he did not remarry, though he would return to Geneva for fifteen more years of reforming work. Idelette’s contribution to the Reformation should not be underestimated. As a wife she helped John Calvin to understand many things about ministering to people that he would have otherwise missed.

 

 

 

In the next few weeks we will talk about some other godly women who contributed to the Reformation through their work with their husbands.

 

 

 

 

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This week I watched a beautiful production of the life of Lilias Trotter.

Video:
“Many Beautiful Things: The Life and Vision of Lilias Trotter:

Featuring the voices of Michelle Dockery (Downtown Abbey) and John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings and Indiana Jones)

Directed by award-winning filmmaker Laura Waters Hinson

Original Music:  Sleeping at Last

This video was released in 2015 by Oxvision and is 70 minutes long.

Available at Amazon or Vision Video.

I am going to do a full post on the life of Lilias Trotter in the near future. In the meantime, her story is beautifully told in the video. Below is the description from the video, since I could not improve on their summary.

Description (from the DVD):

Could you give up a dream to pursue your true calling? That’s exactly what Lilias Trotter did.  The documentary Many Beautiful Things shares her life story, explaining the heart-wrenching decision she made to give up comfort and potential fame in Victorian England to serve women and children in Northern Africa.

Lilias was a gifted artist who found favor in the eyes of respected art critic John Ruskin. Ruskin mentored Lilias in her artistic endeavors, seeing such potential that he claimed her work could be “immortal.”  She wrestled mightily with the decision, but eventually moved to French Algeria to share God’s love with the people there—a choice that was almost unheard of for a single woman of that time.

This artistically produced documentary uses Lilias’s paintings and journal entries to share her story. Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey) provides the voice of Lilias Trotter and John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones) portrays John Ruskin in this 70-minute documentary. The DVD also includes special features, such as “behind the scenes” with Michelle Dockery and a theatrical trailer.

 

Commentary:

I was so entranced by Lilias Trotter’s life and vision that I researched where one could find more about her including some of her drawings on the Web.

You can get a Miriam Huffman Rockness’s biography, “A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter” on Amazon.com. You can also get books containing reprints of her many inspirational drawings.

There are many places available where you can find prints of her inspirational drawings. I purchased a beautiful print on wood from:

FineArtAmerica.com

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