Sunday, October 31, 2004

Happy Reformation Day!

(I originally wrote this 2 years ago, but thought I'd dig it back up today)

You probably thought this would be about Halloween, huh? But I wanted to take a moment to remind us all that today is a very significant day in Christian, indeed Western, history! Let me take a moment to explain...

On October 31, 1517, in Wittenberg, Germany, Professor and Catholic Priest Martin Luther wrote 95 statements that he cared to discuss with his fellow professors and priests. Luther was upset (among other things) with the abuse of indulgences sold by the church to raise money previously to fund crusades and to fund building churches. For instance, John Tetzel was in charge of a "church building campaign" and was preaching all around Germany, "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs". This manipulation tactic infuriated Luther. As was custom, Luther posted his 95 statements on the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg -- it was like the bulletin board or a message board online (blog?) -- written in Latin (not German) so that his colleagues could discuss the issues. He wanted to talk reform in the church.

However, someone took that paper, translated it into German, and then used the new invention of the day to spread the word of the "rebellion". Gutenberg's Print Press was used to circulate the message all over Germany and soon Luther became a hero of sorts to the Germans. Luther didn't back down either. Luther preached sermons, wrote books, and printed and circulated these works using the Gutenberg press.

The church didn't like this stirring and issued an official statement from the Pope for Luther to quiet down. "A wild boar has invaded Thy vineyard" was a statement made in this document (called a papal bull) asking God to judge Luther.

Long story short, Luther continued his protest and call for reform and thus the protesting Protestants began the Reformation on their own.

Many scholars today say Luther was one of the first to really push the improvements of the print press. The technology of the day allowed Luther to spread the protesting reforms. Most, if not all, of western culture was first formed as a direct result of Luther's works -- and his works were made known because of the new technology of the day.

Enjoy today, knowing that God uses us to make a difference in this world using the tools He's given us.

PS. This post isn't intended to "Catholic bash", but there's no denying reform needed to happen in those days. And it did in two ways: The Protestant Reformation and later a Catholic Reformation under Pope Paul III (1534-1549): the Council of Trent, Spanish Jesuit Ignatius Loyola, Francis Xavier (one of the first missionaries to India and Japan founding a town for Christian converts named Nagasaki), and Matthew Ricci (first missionary to China).

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