Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Origins of Lutheran Monks

Now that our family has returned from our vacation, described in my posts on Mountain Spirituality, I will soon resume the virtual tour of Lutheran monasteries.  In the meantime, I came across a brief historical note on a blog called "The Conciliar Anglican" about the origins of Lutheran monasticism.

The blog article is entitled "Ask an Anglican: What is Anglican Monasticism?" but it contains the following information about the history of Lutheran monks:

"[B]y the fifteenth century there were a large number of unofficial monastic movements. The most famous of these is the Devotio Moderna (literally ‘the Modern Devotion’, but also translatable as ‘the Modern-Day Devout’). The Devotio Moderna was primarily expressed in the Brethren of the Common Life. . . . 

For reasons that I know little about, the Roman Catholic church formally banned the Brethren of the Common Life at the Council of Trent. They lived on, however, in Lutheran lands until the nineteenth century. Martin Luther had a soft spot for them—no doubt because so much of their work consisted in educating the young, which Luther was a strong proponent of. Contrary to what is popularly assumed, the Lutherans did not formally ban monasticism; several Benedictine houses joined the Lutheran movement in the sixteenth century and still today there are Lutheran monasteries and convents. Although the Lutheran confessions were sharply critical of sixteenth-century monastic practice, they never formally rejected monasticism. I do not write this to argue that Lutheranism was somehow ‘more Catholic’ than later Protestant groups. Rather, I write this as a matter of fact: the Brethren of the Common Life were, together with the Lutheran Benedictines, part of the Lutheran tradition from pretty much the beginning."

The entire article can be read here: http://conciliaranglican.com/2013/07/08/ask-an-anglican-what-is-anglican-monasticism/


  1. You wrote: "For reasons that I know little about, the Roman Catholic church formally banned the Brethren of the Common Life at the Council of Trent." I imagine it would be easy enough to research this question on-line and find an answer.

    Instead, I'll take a guess: A monk takes a vow of Obedience -- obedience to his superior and, ultimately, I assume, to the Pope. Obviously Luther refused to obey the Pope -- when push came to shove.

    In my opinion, that was... not good. It is not the way a saint acts.

    1. Yes, but Luther and his church does not believe in the veneration of saints, so to judge him as a saint is nonsensical and insulting to him, perhaps even making some of his points for him. Luther would never want to be described as a saint. No more than Patrick would want people to celebrate his life by carousing. I could say more, but I have no intention of getting into a debate over the validity of sainthood in Christianity.

      It also sounds like the Brethren of the Common Life was having issues long before the Council which met in the mid-16th century and perhaps this was just the issue being formalized or revised in the most current context.