Southern California actress Laurel Kelsh Jones brought Martin Luther’s wife, “Katie” to life in the sanctuary of Napa Valley Lutheran Church on the afternoon of Oct. 8.
Clothed in Renaissance dress, Jones declared to the 30 mostly elderly attendees, “This is the day the Lord has made! Not bad for 507 years old, is it?”
She colorfully described incidents in Katie’s life, such as her time in a convent, saying, “I’ll tell you how I got into the habit” and “we prayed and we prayed and we prayed.” Katie told of secretly reading Martin Luther’s pamphlets in her cell and being smuggled out of the convent on Easter eve in empty herring barrels.
Finally, she passionately spoke of her courtship and marriage to Martin Luther. She said, “He was 42, I was 26. He was an ex-monk; I was an ex-nun. … We had six kids in eight years.”
When Jones ended the performance, she said, “You’ve had a Martin Luther in your life. Think about your Martin Luther, who loves you unconditionally. … I know it’s not cool to be Lutheran. Shouldn’t you go to the non-denominational church? Luther transformed the foundation of all Christianity. … God put you here for a reason. God chose you, is that not wonderful?”
The audience applauded enthusiastically. Afterwards, at the pie social, Jones answered questions and passed out “Reformation red” pencils.
Jones has played Katie Luther for a decade, performing at nearly 30 churches a year. Originally, her pastor asked her to do a 15-minute sermon called “The Reformation according to Katie.” Now, she has sold 650 recordings of her hour long, one-woman show.
In an interview, she said, “God is working through me. … Incredible things have happened in my life because of Katie. Blessings continue to unfold. What (Martin and Katherine Luther) did for the Christian Church is astounding.”
Jones described the Luthers’ marriage, saying, “Katie felt there was something she needed to do; something was missing. She had too many unanswered questions. How she and Martin came together could only be God-inspired because they didn’t start as lovers, but with respect. Martin and Katie had a marriage of our day; they enjoyed sexual relations, they desperately loved their children, they were a working father and working mother, they taught their children at home.” She said they were “partners in the Gospel and in life.”
On the Reformation, she observed, “Martin wasn’t out to destroy the Church, but restore the Church and go back to basics. In the Catholic Church, Mother Mary still has a prominent position, you have to go through the saints; in Protestantism, you go directly to Jesus. (In the Catholic Church) there are certain prayers, using Rosary beads, and following specific liturgies; it’s more formulated and scripted. Every Protestant church is different, more free. Everybody wants freedom, that’s what we have with God.”
You would think that she would know of Martin Luther’s devotion to Mary such as one of his sermons when he preached "[She is the] highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ . . . She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures." Martin Luther also believed in the Communion of Saints. The Mass Luther celebrated in the church he created was essentially the Mass with some changes. I wonder if she knows about the growing number of Protestants and especially Lutherans who pray the Rosary?
What I find interesting is the thought of how every church being different is seen as a good thing. That what the doctrine one church holds is dismissed by another. Or even the doctrines two churches might share will have radically different interpretations. Jesus prayed that they may be one, not that they may be divided. On my way into the Church it was my introduction to the variance of Protestant theology and how on Protestant radio I listened to the doctrines changed from hour to hour depending on who was preaching. Not that the message preached from those in the Church is always consistent, but it isn’t hard to discover whether they preached what the Church taught or not. I can easily understand a Lutheran defending Lutheranism and the Reformation, just not a defense of all of the splits and calling them freedom.