BLTC Press Titles


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Letters on the Aesthetical Education of Man

Friedrich Schiller


Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross


Novalis Including Hymns to the Night

Novalis, George MacDonald, Thomas Carlyle


The Characters of Theophrastus

Theophrastus


Martin Luther

by Elsie Singmaster

Excerpt:

More difficult to bear than the protests of his , friends was the anger of his father, who, whatever might be his opinion of the monks, had meant his boy for a different career and to that end had made so many sacrifices.

But stronger than paternal commands and the pleas and scoffing of his friends was the need of Martin's soul for peace. If the natural desires of a young man, who knew himself to possess a good mind and qualities of heart which made him sought after by many, caused him to cast any longing glances backward, his thoughts were soon turned once more to the assurance of salvation which he expected ere long to feel. The world was behind him, shut out forever by the closing of the monastery door, but soon the blessed light of heaven would beam upon him.

The monastery of the Augustinians was the best of the cloisters in Erfurt, and in selecting it Martin acted with characteristic good sense. Its monks were the preachers of Erfurt; they bore a good reputation and were esteemed for their good works among the needy.

Luther rendered the most exact obedience to his superiors and to the rules of the order. His days and nights from dawn to dark and from dark to dawn were laid out for him; so many hours for labor, so many for prayer, so many — or so few! — for sleep. The chief object of the training of the year of novitiate was the cultivation of obedience and humility. A monk must learn, first of all, that he had ceased to have a will of his own. Among the tasks which were assigned to the newcomer were the sweeping and cleaning of the convent, and, most humiliating of all, that of begging. The young graduate of the university, who had been so much admired and from whom so much had been expected, went through the streets of Erfurt with a sack on his shoulders, waiting humbly at doors which had hitherto opened to him as an honored guest. It is probable that he considered this task a small price to pay for the boon which he was seeking, and that he rejoiced in each pang which, conquered, brought him nearer to his goal. To his university which had been so proud of him the humiliation was intolerable, and its officials besought that he might be sent to beg elsewhere than in the city streets. To his superiors within the convent his learning was at once a source of pride and a reason for additional discipline. He must be taught that his achievements were as nothing.

At any time during the first year he might have left the monastery without a stain upon his honor. It is certain that there was no lack of persuasion to such a course. The friends who had so entreated him, the father who thought of him with angry grief, all did their best to call him back before it was too late. But all was without avail. No peace had as yet visited his heart, but to turn back would make certain the eternal loss of his soul. In the autumn of 1506, he became a member of the Augustinian Order, and promised to live until death in poverty, obedience, and chastity.

In the monasteries there were many varieties of men and many varieties of occupation. The Church used for her purposes all the various talents of her sons. There were monks who swept and scrubbed and dug gardens; there were those with musical talent who had in charge the elaborate and beautiful service; there were those whose gift for teaching was put to use in the monastery schools and in the universities; there were scholars who had for many years guarded and venerated learning which otherwise would have been lost; there were priests who admonished the people and administered the sacraments.

Having trained the novice in humility and patience and having admitted him to full fellowship with their order, Luther's superiors now resolved upon his ordination to the priesthood, which took place in February, 1507. On May 2 of the same year he celebrated his first mass.


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