While we remember Martin Luther as a bold theologian, we also remember him as a tender husband and father in his family. Today, our devotion is about Martin’s marriage to Katie and comes from Who Was Martin Luther?
All of us have a streak of curiosity, particularly about how famous people function in mundane situations. What does a United States president say to his wife when the two of them are merely discussing private domestic affairs? What does a pope say, should he step on a thumbtack with his bare feet? And what does a former monk, now making “daily headlines” as a result of his theological reforms, say to a former nun, when she suggests they get married?
That Luther himself would actually marry was not self-evident even though his biblical, evangelical theology was freeing many of his contemporaries to acknowledge the falsity of celibate vows made in ignorance. But finally God and three people—Katharina von Bora, Luther’s father, and the pope—persuaded him differently. Katharina, because this truly “liberated” nun was bold enough to suggest it; his father, because he never had been pleased with Martin’s decision to enter a monastery and he desired grandchildren; the pope, because Luther thought the “successor of Peter” needed a glaring confirmation of what he, Luther, had been trying to teach him on the basis of Holy Scripture. But God played the most decisive role, since Luther’s relationship with God was not abstract and theoretical, but personal and practical.
When Martin and Katharina were married at the parish church door in Wittenberg on June 27, 1525, he was age 42 and she age 26. Although they probably felt no romantic attraction for one another (Katharina actually proposed to Luther via his friend Nicholas von Amsdorf), their common devotion to a common Lord also gave them a deep commitment to each other.
Luther had a number of affectionate nicknames for his early-rising wife, like “Morningstar of Wittenberg.” He teased her by calling her “my lord.” Certainly Katharina deserved some such title, for their home, the renovated Black Cloister of the Augustinian Order in Wittenberg, would have given the ideal housewife of Proverbs 31 a run for her money. She not only ran the “extended” household, which at times numbered as many as twenty-five, but managed their own brewery, stables, fish pond, vegetable garden, and small farm as well.
On the other hand, he could, in genuine warmth, refer to her as “my rib.” In a marriage sermon based on Ephesians 5, Luther said a man should not consider his wife “a rag on which to wipe his feet; and, indeed, she was not created from a foot but from a rib in the center of man’s body, so that the man is to regard her not otherwise than his own body and flesh” (This Is Luther, 257).
She always called him “Doctor,” and used the polite form “Sie” rather than the familiar “Du.” Perhaps she was responding, tongue-in-cheek, to his “my lord.” More likely she held deep respect for one who, though her dear husband, was also uniquely singled out by the Lord to bring renewal to His church and one whom she had double reason to honor.Devotional reading is adapted from Who Was Martin Luther?, pages 49–52 © 2017 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Video is of “Luther’s Evening Prayer” © 2018 Concordia Publishing House.