I don’t have many mystic inclinations, so I was surprised when I stood within the ruins of Marienthron, the Cistercian cloister in Nimbschen (Germany) where Katharina von Bora lived as a young nun. I felt a real connection with Katie in that place. There her faith was shaped, and then challenged, as she read Martin Luther’s writings that sparked the Reformation. Because she agreed with Luther, she stole away from that place, under cloak of darkness, willing to risk her life for leaving a religious order. Talk about taking risks on account of the Gospel!
On this Saturday, 512 years ago, Katharina von Bora was born. She was only 10 when she first entered Marienthron. It would be 14 years before she would flee the cloister. As a young woman at Marienthron did she dream about her future days? I can’t imagine she could have fully envisioned the woman we know she became. Did she see herself as a wife, mother, farmer, healer, brewmaster, innkeeper, confidant? Could she have imagined the public ridicule and criticism that would accompany her marriage?
There’s much about Katie that I admire. She overcame adversity as a child. She became educated. She bucked a religious system that offered few opportunities for women. She took risks on account of the Gospel. She stood her ground despite ridicule and criticism. She cared for those in need. She wasn’t shy in offering her opinion. She was a frugal entrepreneur.
We make a lot of fuss about Katharina von Bora Luther today, and for due reason, I believe. I think, however, that Katie would be a bit embarrassed by all the attention. At the same time, I think she’d be honored that Women of the ELCA seeks to raise up new leaders that emulate Katie’s life of faith. That’s a birthday legacy worth celebrating!
Who’s the bold woman in your life that could be supported by Women of the ELCA and its varied ministries? Make a gift today in her honor to the Katharina von Bora Luther Fund. Your gift will help Women of the ELCA raise up new leaders inspired by Katie.
Linda Post Bushkofsky is executive director of Women of the ELCA. A resource she wrote, Katharina von Bora Luther: A Bold Life of Faith, is available as a free downloadable PDF.