Reformation is the act or process of reforming an institution or practice. The reformation of the 16th-Century was a movement of reform against the abuses and of the practices of the Catholic Church and its hermeneutical errors ending in the establishment of the Reformed and Protestant Churches. The Christian church was referred to as Catholic before the 17th-Century. The term Roman Catholic was ascribed to emphasize its difference from the Orthodox and Protestant Church. While the Orthodox Church held on to some of the priestly tenets of the Catholic Church and Protestant Church altogether expunged them creating a different paradigm for church government.
The German monk Martin Luther was not the first to protest against the Catholic Church and its abusive, depredation and superstitious practices. It would do us well to study the forerunners to the Reformation such as the Italian Saint Francis of Assisi, French-born Peter Waldo, English Theologian John Wycliffe, and Bohemian Jan Huss. Persecuted and eventually fatally persecuted by the Churches’ inquisitions. Their blood is the seed left for harvesting by Martin Luther, John Calvin, King Henry VIII, and Huldrych Zwingli. So poignantly explained by my Teacher and Mentor Archbishop Dennis Golphin, “it’s not who starts first, it who starts best.” Martin Luther did it best when he nailed 95 Thesis in 1517 through 1555 Peace of Augsburg, which allowed for the coexistence of Catholicism and Lutheranism in Germany and the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years’ War. The key points relegated to the Reformation was the call to purity and the Bible being the sole source of authority and not the traditions.
I believe there are certain factors that come into play that consider the meaning of “best” in this particular analogy. Best would have a great relationship to timing. Bible verbiage would communicate to us fullness of time or God’s timing based upon his foreknowledge of what entities would be in place to be distinct to his purpose. Timing would include technology, cultural sociology, political unrest or sense of peace and religious relevancy. When I was a little girl in Oakwood, Texas, I watched my grandfather Levi Jackson plow the land to plant a new crop for the next season. In agricultural allegory the forerunners turned hard ground, the blood watered the seed, and the reformers provided fertilizer to produce the crop that had harvested the Protestant Movement.
Several entities were in parallel to the movement. Social casting was the structure for the 16th –Century. The monarch, nobles, and peasants. Whatever you were born into was your lot in life. There was little to no alternatives to advance if one was a peasant. The Catholic Church (Pope Leo X) targeted the nobles’ with its introduction to indulgences. Indulgences were an insurance policy that guaranteed you or family members’ immunity from hell and relief in purgatory. Since the core premises and cognizant reality for the religious community was to avoid hell escape the dangers of purgatory tenure, they paid well. This corrupt policy would pay for the lascivious life of the papacy.
There were three major entities that would assist in the turn of the religious tides that would usher in the Reformation. The economic unrest, the technology of the printing press that gave their ideas to a wider audience, and the discovery of a new world, America. Martin could do it best because these timely orchestrated events were in place.
It would do us great scholarly satisfaction to study the voices of the women of the Reformation. Martyred Ann Askew, Argula von Grumbach the first female protest writer, Elisabeth von Braunschweig who wrote a book consoling Protestant widows through the process and Marie Dentière author and prophet to Geneva who spoke out in public in taverns and the streets. Geneva eventually became the Protestant Republic.
Katharina Von Boa (1400-1552) born to an impoverished noble family was sent away to school at the age of three and eventually became a nun. In April 1523 she along with eleven others hid in a wagon and escaped from their Cistercian convent. She found solace with the family of Lucas Cranach, the Elder under the care of Martin Luther’s estate. The capital punishment for run-away nuns and those who assisted them was death.
Although she was soon courted by two men, she chose neither one, Martin Luther. Luther pondered the idea as it would please his father, annoy the Pope, cause the angels to laugh, and the devils to weep. The result was the joining of a 42-year-old former monk and a 26-year-old former nun in holy matrimony on June 13, 1525.
Their marriage was happy and affectionate. Luther wrote that he loved waking up to see pigtails on the pillow next to him. He also admired Katharina’s intellect, calling her “Doctora Lutherin.” She bore six children, ran the household, and organized the family finances. Their home was in Lutherstadt Wittenberg’s Black Monastery, the former Augustinian monastery where Luther had lived before the Reformation began.
She grew and cooked her food, used the rooms in her home as “bread-and-breakfast” for guest as a stream of income. They had six children. I found it interesting that they named one of their children Magdalena Luther. Katharina was trusted in ways unheard of for women in those days. Luther allowed her to deal with his publishers and made her his sole heir. After his death in 1546, she deeply mourned his absence. Katharina wrote, “He gave so much of himself in service not only to one town or one country but to the whole world. Yes,
my sorrow is so deep that no words can express my heartbreak, and it is humanly impossible to understand what state of mind and spirit I am in . . . I can neither eat nor drink, not even sleep . . . God knows that when I think of having lost him, I can neither talk nor write in all my suffering” (Muhlenberg, 2017)
She is considered one of the most important participants of the Reformation because of her role in helping to define Protestant family life and set the tone for clergy marriages (Secret Places, 2017). Martin Luther died in 1546 and Katharina experienced difficult financial problems without Luther’s salary as professor and pastor. Almost immediately after that, Katharina had to leave the Black Cloister on her own at the outbreak of the Schmalkaldic War, from which she fled to Magdeburg. After her return, the approach of the war forced another flight in 1547, this time to Braunschweig. In July of that year, at the close of the war, she was at last able to return to Wittenberg. After the war the buildings and lands of the monastery were desolate, and animals had been stolen or killed. Katharina was able to support herself thanks to the generosity of John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony. She remained in Wittenberg in poverty until 1552, when an outbreak of the Black Plague and a harvest failure forced her to leave the city once again. She fled to Torgau where her cart was involved in a bad accident near the city gates, seriously injuring Katharina. She died in Torgau about three months later on December 20, 1552, at the age of fifty-three (Geni, 2017).
Jeanne d’Albret was the acknowledged spiritual and political leader of the French Huguenot movement and a key figure in the French Wars of Religion. On August 8, 1555 at Pau, Jeanne and Antoine were crowned in a joint ceremony according to the rites of the Roman Catholic Church. Influenced by John Calvin teaching she was converted. After her public conversion to Calvinism in 1560, she joined the Huguenot (French Protestants) forces. During the first and second war she remained relatively neutral, but in the third war, she fled to La Rochelle, becoming the de facto leader. In addition to her religious reforms, Jeanne worked on reorganizing her kingdom. After negotiating a peace treaty with Catherine de’ Medici and arranging the marriage of her son, Henry, to Catherine’s daughter, she died suddenly in Paris (Pedia View, 2017).
Marie Dentière (1495–1561) was a Genevan Protestant reformer and theologian. Shewith such reformers as John Calvin and William Farel. In addition to her writings on the Reformation, Dentière’s writings seem to be a defense and propagation of the female perspective in the rapidly changing world.
She married Simon Robert, a young priest. Soon they left for an area outside of Geneva to preach the Reformation and had five children together. Robert died five years later in 1533, when widowed Dentière married Antoine Froment, who was at work in Geneva with Farel. Dentière’s outspokenness strongly irritated Farel and Calvin, which in turn drove a rift between them and Froment. Marie’s reformation position was ironically two-fold. In 1539, Dentière wrote an open letter to Marguerite of Navarre, sister of the King. The letter called the Epistre tres utile, or “very useful letter,” called for an expulsion of Catholic clergy from France, advocated a greater role for women in the church and criticized the foolishness of the Protestant clergy who compelled Calvin and Farel to leave Geneva. The letter was quickly suppressed due to its subversive tone in the letter (Wikipedia, 2017).
Martin Luther had no idea that his thesis which originally was a call to debate and reconsider scriptural hermeneutics and enlightening the Universal Church and its leaders to look through the lens of the Apostolic Father’s and not the translation of the Latin Vulgate. The turning point of religious and political upheaval tore away at the fabric of manipulation, power, and control. The invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg and the German translation of scripture catapulted a religious reformation that drove its underlining perspectives to social and political upheaval and change.
The Reformation birthed several doctrinal thoughts creating denominations. From it came the Lutherans, Calvinism, Puritans, Quakers, Holiness, Mennonites, Pilgrims, Huguenots, Anabaptist, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and the Orthodox Church. Today several generations can attest to church splits and protest against some doctrine, church leaders, power struggle or political orchestrated division.
While some of our denominations are conveniences to how we worship the Creator and Father, they should be understood as different forms of administration but the same Lord. Some are emotional, while others are discreet, some are animated while others are a like a calm stream. No one denomination can ascribe to the whole truth because each has a significant piece of the truth. Jesus left an expression of himself through the gifts he left in the earth. Those expressions are purposed to bring the Body of Christ into the unity of the faith (Ephesian 4:9-16).
It has been over 2,000 years since our Lord has ascended on high and is seated in Majesty (Hebrews 1:3). Let’s occupy (Luke 19:13) until his return. The gospel was held hostage for over 1200 years and was reintroduced when Martin Luther’s hunger for righteousness was fulfilled in the illumination of Roman 1:16-17. If one word can start a movement that draws us closer to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, why not be diligent in the continuum of that reformation.
Geni. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.geni.com: https://www.geni.com/people/Katharina-von-Bora/6000000002561935125
Meher, J. J., & Kanwischer, R. (2011). Human Services Concepts and Intervention Strategies – 11th Edition. Pearson.
Muhlenberg, H. M. (2017). Luther Country. Retrieved from http://www.visit-luther.com: http://www.visit-luther.com/reformation-heroes/katharina-von-bora/katharina-von-bora.html
Pedia View. (2017). Retrieved from https://pediaview.com: https://pediaview.com/openpedia/Jeanne_d%27Albret
Secret Places. (2017). Retrieved from http://secr
Wikipedia. (2017). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Denti%C3%A8re
 https://prezi.com/1u6rlh81suqm/women-of-the-reformation/; http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/influential-women-of-the-reformation.html