Martin Luther, the monk who changed the world

Martin Luther

The monk Martin Luther just wanted to discuss the problems that he saw in the Catholic Church. But what happened in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517, would forever change Germany, Europe, and the rest of the Christian world. To understand the earthquake that triggered his 95 theses, it is necessary to go back to the time in which he lived.

In the late Middle Ages and Early Modern Ages, the Christian faith was dominated by the Roman Catholic Church. The dogmas and norms of the Church directed the lives of the people, who saw God as a critical figure who never let a mistake go unpunished.

Unexplained events, such as personal tragedies, bad harvests, or even wars, were often seen as consequences of witchcraft or the acts of people who had made a pact with the devil. When someone was suspected of having entered into such an arrangement, they were usually burned at the stake.

Martin Luther was born into a mining family in 1483. In 1501 he began his studies at the University of Erfurt. Four years later, he completed his master’s degree and began studying law.

Then something changed Luther’s life. In July 1505 he was caught in a storm and was struck by lightning. Faced with the prospect of death, he feared that he would have to face God unprepared, so he invoked Santa Ana, the patroness of the miners, and decided to become a monk.

Less than two weeks later, Luther knocked on the door of an Augustinian cloister in Erfurt and asked to be accepted into the order.

Martin Luther, the monk who changed the religion

His life as a monk

Driven by the search for a merciful God and the fear of missing life after death, Luther saw the opportunity to experience a full life within the walls of the monastery.

From the beginning, the young monk showed himself to be a visibly obedient disciple. He fasted and prayed for six hours a day; he meditated and reflected. Later, Luther would write the following about his life in the cloister: “If someone got into heaven as a monk, I wanted to get there too.”

When he had not yet been in the monastery for two years, Luther became a priest. It was the year 1507 and theological teaching was at the center of his studies.

First experience with the sale of indulgences

In 1510, Luther was sent to Rome on a mission for the Augustinian order. This trip would end up being fundamental in his life. At that time the Curia was going through financial difficulties caused by the expensive construction of St. Peter’s Basilica. To raise money, church leaders introduced the sale of indulgences. The forgiveness of sins could be achieved in two ways: either by doing the right thing, or by paying the Church.

The price of forgiveness was set according to income, and even those who had died could be rescued from the flames of hell if their relatives paid a few coins.

The search for God’s acceptance

In 1512, Luther obtained his doctorate in theology and became a professor at the University of Wittenberg. At that time he was already highly respected by his colleagues and superiors. Despite this, he kept wondering what to do to gain acceptance from God. No ritual or norm of the Church was able to answer that question.

He continued to fervently read the Bible and was especially drawn to the apostle Paul’s letter to the young Roman church, in which he justified the blood of Jesus Christ. The theologian gradually understood what would end up being the nucleus of the Reformation: God is not only a just judge, but also a father who loves the people he created himself and who sent his son to overcome sin, which is what separates him. to the men of God.

Reading the Bible, Luther discovered that anyone who believes in God and his son Jesus Christ receives the free gift of justification before the Almighty. The monk had finally found the answer to his question. Salvation is achieved by divine grace and only through faith.

Luther’s famous 95 theses

In October 1517, Luther planned a debate on the practice of selling indulgences. As no one participated in the discussion, he decided to send his theses directly to Cardinal Alberto de Bandeburgo, elector and archbishop of Mainz. At the same time, he is said to have nailed his 95 theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, which at the time served as a kind of billboard.

The move sparked a debate that shook the foundations of the Church. With the help of the relatively newly invented printing press, Martin Luther was able to spread his message quickly.

October 31, 2017 will mark the 500th anniversary of the publication of the Questioning of the Power and Efficacy of Luther’s Indulgences. Until then there will be exhibitions and events to celebrate the event that led to the Reformation and the birth of Protestantism.