This year, on October 31st we will have the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. I keep seeing signs saying that we will be celebrating this anniversary. To me, I can’t celebrate this. It reminds me of when an old friend of mine decided to have a party celebrating the one year anniversary of his divorce from his wife. I could not fathom celebrating the fact that these two people who had loved each other and had forged a beautiful life together with four children decided that they could not work out their differences but decided to split apart. I had seen the damage that this divorce did to each of them as well as to their children. How could I celebrate this? I feel the same way about the Protestant Reformation. How can I celebrate the fact that the Church that Jesus had called to be ONE had divided? Jesus prays in John 17: “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” That prayer for unity suffered a massive blow beginning on October 31st, 1517. I lament that.
You need to understand that even though I am proud to be Catholic and consider it to be the ONE Church founded by Jesus; I do have a great love for my Protestant brothers and sisters. I grew up as a Protestant (Methodist) before I converted to the Catholic faith. I give thanks to God for all that He showed me as a Methodist. I was given a Trinitarian baptism (not all Protestant Churches do this) and was taught to love God and to love the scriptures as a Methodist. Even today I pray and share faith experiences with my Protestant brothers and sisters. The Vatican II document, Decree On Ecumenism keeps referring to our Protestant brothers and sisters as “separated brethren”. We need to see that there is still a connection between us. However, the sense of unity is gone. I have seen estimates varying between 33,000 and 51,000 as to the number of “Christian” denominations. It seems that whenever one pastor disagrees with another as to the correct interpretation of scripture or how to live out that interpretation, they start a new church. This is so very sad and so far away from what Jesus and the scriptures call us to. Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:10 says, “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” We certainly do not have that in Christianity today. I am thankful that the Catholic Church lives out that Unity throughout the four corners of the world.
When Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses, he had very legitimate gripes against what the Church was doing. Most of this was due to the fact that the Church was building Saint Peter’s in Rome and it was a costly undertaking. The Church started to sell indulgences and Martin Luther’s gripes were mostly about this and the power of the Pope and the existence of Purgatory. Martin Luther even removed seven books from the Bible that had been accepted from the beginning, and by every Church council, because they taught about the doctrine of Purgatory and praying for the deceased. These books are still missing from most Protestant Bibles. Luther also wanted to remove Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation because they did not go along with his thoughts on grace and works. Fortunately these still remain in the Protestant Bible.
It doesn’t appear that Martin Luther really wanted to break the Church apart. However, that is exactly what happened. The Catholic Church responded with its own reforms to deal with the abuses, but it came too late. Others joined Martin Luther in professing other ideas about how scriptures were to be interpreted and these “reformers” started several different religions. Unfortunately, not only was unity lost, but many of these churches gave up the sacraments, sacramentals, Saints, Mary, Apostolic succession of Holy Orders and a central Magisterium that the Catholic Church kept. These new religions ignored what the Church had been doing from the very beginning. It is interesting that today many Protestants (especially many ordained ministers) are coming home to the Catholic Church as a result of their study of Church history and the early Church fathers. The numbers doing this are staggering (see the Coming Home Network at http://www.chnetwork.org).
Instead of Celebrating this 500th Anniversary, I lament it. I feel bad that so many people today are really in love with God and have committed their lives to Him, but don’t have the Sacraments to help them and don’t have Mary to be with them. Even Martin Luther was upset at the reformers who lost these things.
Here are some quotes of Martin Luther about the Blessed Virgin Mary (taken from Church Pop https://churchpop.com/2017/03/07/5-surprising-quotes-from-martin-luther-on-the-blessed-virgin-mary/) :
1) Mary has no equal among creation
“She became the Mother of God, in which work so many and such great good things are bestowed on her as pass man’s understanding. For on this there follows all honor, all blessedness, and her unique place in the whole of mankind, among which she has no equal, namely, that she had a child by the Father in heaven, and such a Child….
“Hence men have crowded all her glory into a single word, calling her the Mother of God…. None can say of her nor announce to her greater things, even though he had as many tongues as the earth possesses flowers and blades of grass: the sky, stars; and the sea, grains of sand. It needs to be pondered in the heart what it means to be the Mother of God.”
2) Mary was without sin
“God has formed the soul and body of the Virgin Mary full of the Holy Spirit, so that she is without all sins, for she has conceived and borne the Lord Jesus.”
3) Mary was a perpetual virgin
“Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary’s virginal womb… This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that. […] Christ… was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him.”
4) On the veneration of Mary
“The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart.”
5) Mary is the mother of all Christians
“Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us even though it was Christ alone who reposed on her knees… If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is, we ought also to be and all that he has ought to be ours, and his mother is also our mother.”
6) You can never honor Mary enough
“[Mary 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.”
And Martin Luther said the following about the Eucharist (taken from Bread From Heaven : https://bfhu.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/martin-luther-on-the-real-presence/)
Who, but the devil, has granted such license of wresting the words of the holy Scripture? Who ever read in the Scriptures, that my body is the same as the sign of my body? or, that is is the same as it signifies? What language in the world ever spoke so? It is only then the devil, that imposes upon us by these fanatical men. Not one of the Fathers of the Church, though so numerous, ever spoke as the Sacramentarians: not one of them ever said, It is only bread and wine; or, the body and blood of Christ is not there present.
Surely, it is not credible, nor possible, since they often speak, and repeat their sentiments, that they should never (if they thought so) not so much as once, say, or let slip these words: It is bread only; or the body of Christ is not there, especially it being of great importance, that men should not be deceived. Certainly, in so many Fathers, and in so many writings, the negative might at least be found in one of them, had they thought the body and blood of Christ were not really present: but they are all of them unanimous.”
I pray that someday all Christians may be one and experience the fullness of the Sacraments, the presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the unifying force of the Magisterium. May we continue the prayer of Jesus, “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” May we truly be ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH (Nicene Creed, 325 ad). Until then, I will lament our disunity.
Note: the Catholic Church is the only institution in History that has lasted 2,000 plus years. I know that Satan would love to destroy the Church, but so far he has only wounded it (several times). I trust in the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:18 when He said, “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”