Women of the ELCA celebrates Katie Luther in May, remembering her not only as Martin’s wife and the mother of their six children, but also as the energetic and effective manager of all that went on at Lutherhaus—its flocks and fields, its brewery and its boarding house—and as a bold, thoughtful, faithful woman.
From her childhood, Katie was apparently destined for a quiet life as a nun in the convent led by her aunt, the abbess of Nimbschen. At the age of 16, Katie made her final vows, no doubt expecting to live out her days in the convent’s peaceful routine of prayer and contemplation.
But two years later, in 1517, something happened. A monk who taught at the nearby university tacked up a list of 95 theses on a church door where everyone could see them—and it was a sensation among the scholars and religious of the region. Katie and some of her sisters were eager to learn all they could about this new movement in the church, reading and discussing these new ideas among themselves.
After years of reading and thinking and praying, Katie and her sisters realized that they had to change their lives. They begged to be released from their vows, asking their families to take them back under their roofs, but the families refused. Then one of the women—maybe it was Katie?—had the idea to write to that monk in Wittenberg for his help.
Now that was bold. Did they realize what they were asking? The abduction of a nun—even if it was her idea—was a crime that carried a heavy penalty, especially for a monk like Martin Luther.
And yet Katie and her friends asked. Martin and his friends answered, smuggling the women away in the wee hours of Easter morning, 1523.
Before long, all the nuns were settled in Wittenberg with the husbands Martin found for them—except one. Katharina von Bora was jilted by her first choice, and after that, she said, she would have no other but Martin Luther himself. Now that was bold.
The gossips had plenty to say about the scandal of the escaped nun marrying the revolutionary monk—we can imagine—but the couple found real happiness together. And that was bold, too.
We Lutheran women love Katie Luther, not least for her boldness. She stood for the courage of her convictions, even in the face of the sternest opposition. That’s an inspiration to all of us. And her wise management of the Luther family’s resources is another inspiration. What other parts of Katie’s personality and life story do you find especially inspiring? How can we be more like her?