Happy Birthday, Katie Luther!
By Rebecca DeGarmeaux
Today is the day that history records as Katharina Von Bora Luther’s birthday.
Who exactly was Katie Luther and why do we want to be counted as her sisters?
In many ways Katie was a very ordinary woman who lived a very ordinary life. As best as we can tell, she was born January 29, 1499 to Hans and Katharina von Bora near the town of Lippendorf near Leipzig, Germany. When she was five years old, her mother died. Her father remarried soon after and, at about the same time, Katie was sent to live in a convent in Brehna. At the age of ten she was moved to the convent at Nimbschen, near Grimma, where two of her aunts were nuns. At the age of 16, she took vows and became a nun herself. Up to his point she knew no other life.
One of Katie’s friends in the convent was Magdalena von Staupitz, the sister of Johann von Staupitz, Luther’s friend and mentor. It is very likely that it was through this connection that Katie first read Luther’s writings. On Easter Eve, April 4, 1523, Katie, Magdalena, and ten of their friends escaped from the convent with the help of Luther’s friend Leonhard Koppe. Two years later, on June 13, 1525, Katie married Martin Luther, making her one of the most famous pastor’s wives in history.
Katie never set out to make history, nor do I think that she would have seen the way she lived her life and extraordinary. Her main “job” in the Luther household was what we would today call a stay at home mom, with the usual chores of cooking, cleaning, and raising her children. Martin put her in charge of the household expenses because he realized she was a better money manager than he was. To earn extra income, she kept boarders, usually University students, who paid for their room and meals. She also convinced Martin to help her buy several properties, including her family’s farm, so that she could raise some of the food her family needed.
The fact that she also ran a boarding house, tended to the ill in Wittenberg when the plague came through, and was a constant hostess to not only Martin’s regular “Table Talk” guests but also friends and visitors from all around Europe, did not seem to phase her.
Although Martin admitted that he did not love Katie when he married her, he grew to have not only a great love, but also a great respect for her. Her gave her many titles including “Lord” and “Doctor” to show this love and respect – and maybe also tease her just a little bit. Their marriage was a model of Christian marriage which sustained them through six childbirths, a miscarriage, and the death of two daughters. It also strengthened them when all of the political and theological forces in Europe seemed against them.
Of course, the main strength in their marriage was their faith in Christ as their Savior. Katie clung to this faith throughout her life to her death in 1552, six years after Martin’s death.
This is why she was so amazing and why we should be proud and also humbled to be her sisters. She did not live her life looking for fame and glory. Instead, she used the gifts that God had given her to do her best to care for her family. She put her faith in her Savior and strove to do his will. May we strive to fill the vocations that God has given us and always turn to Him as well.