What impact did the Protestant Reformation have upon Martin Luther personally? Did he ever marry? Did he have children? Did he die a natural death, or like many other Reformers, did his enemies eventually execute him?
Martin never expected to marry. As a monk, he took a vow of celibacy. However, upon his excommunication by the Roman Catholic Church because of his writings and teachings against the church, his vow of celibacy was no longer in force.
Yet, Martin was still hesitant to marry. He was a fugitive from the church and expected to be arrested and executed at a moment’s notice. He believed it would be unfair for a woman to commit to a marriage under those conditions. But true love has a way of changing a man’s mind.
Martin wasn’t the only monk, or nun for that matter, to leave the Catholic Church and to eventually commit to marriage. Many men and women, who respectively left the monasteries and cloisters, were getting married and establishing their own homes. So Martin became involved in helping former nuns find husbands or homes. One such woman was Katherine von Bora.
While it was not love at first sight, they became increasingly committed to each other. Luther’s parents encouraged him to marry Katie. They became betrothed, or engaged, on June 13, 1525. On June 27, fourteen days later, they had a public ceremony. Martin and Katie believed that their marriage and family would provide a model for other couples in ministry. Theirs was a union of mutual respect and blessing. They were together for twenty-one years.
While Martin served the Lord in preaching and teaching, Katie ran the home. She took care of the family finances along with looking after her husband and his frequent bouts with gout, insomnia, hemorrhoids, constipation, dizziness and ringing in the ears. She brewed her own beer, which she gave to Martin to help him sleep.
The Luther’s home was open to university students and friends who would stop by for dinner and a drink. Conversations would eventually turn to theology. The records of these discussions are available today as Table Talk, or The Table Talk of Martin Luther, among other similar titles.
The Luther’s were blessed with six children. These included eldest son, Hans, along with Elizabeth, Magdalena, Martin, Paul, and Margaretha. Two of their daughters died in infancy. They also raised four orphaned children along with providing shelter for numerous others. It was Magdalena’s death, at the age of fourteen that resulted in one of Martin’s greatest sorrows. She died in his arms. His grief over her death was more than compensated by the knowledge she was with Jesus Christ, her Savior.
Martin Luther would preach his last sermon in his hometown of Eisleben on February 15, 1546. His text was Matthew 11:25-26, “25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”
Following his thirty-five minute sermon, Martin remarked that he was too weak to continue. He walked across the street to his room, where he became sick and died three days later.
His funeral in Wittenberg was held with crowds lining the streets along the funeral procession. He was buried in the Castle Church, the same church where he had nailed his Ninety-Five Thesis twenty-nine years earlier. Luther’s tombstone reads as follows: “Here is buried the body of the Doctor of Sacred Theology, Martin Luther, who died in the year of Christ 1546, on February 18th, in his hometown Eisleben.” Katie would die four years later in 1550.
Pastor Erwin Lutzer writes, “Martin and Katie taught us not only how to live and love but also how to die. In the end, both humbly bowed to accept God’s will in all things, including the inevitability of death. Even today their example of love and hard-won partnership is an inspiration to us all.”
Soli deo Gloria!