Heroines of the faith: Ursula of Munsterberg

Ursula of Munsterberg (1491-1534), was the grand-daughter of King Georg Prodiebrad of Bohemia. Like most other nuns of the time  in Germany, she was placed into a monastery as a child. She hated the rigors of the monastic lifestyle–the night vigils and fasting–and longed to escape. She spearheaded a project to smuggle some of Luther’s books into the convent, and she, along with most of the other nuns in the convent, were affected by this Reformation “heresy.” Ursula decided to escape.

On October 6th, 1528, she and two other nuns fled by night, and never returned. She stayed for a while with the Luther family.

Ursula’s escape became a matter of political controversy. The powers that be feared her example would lead other nuns to “embrace a godless life.” Ursula defended her actions in a bold tract that clearly showed her full understanding of the difference between her old beliefs and her new understanding of Reformed beliefs.

“The only hope lies in faith. By baptism we have been received into the Kingdom of Christ.To say that the monastic vow is a second baptism and washes away sins, as we have heard from the pulpit, is blasphemy against God, as if the blood of Christ were not enough to wash away all sins. We are married to Christ, and to seek to be saved through another is adultery. The three monastic vows are the work of men’s hands.”

Photo Credit: gari.baldi via Compfight cc

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Heroines of the faith: Katherine Zell

Matthias Zell was a Catholic priest, who, after his conversion to Protestantism during the Reformation, married and was one of the first priests to be excommunicated from the Catholic church. His wife, Katherina (1497-1562) was a writer, who loved to converse about the Kingdom of God. She said of herself, “Ever since I was ten years old I have been a student and sort of church mother, much given to attending sermons. I have loved and frequented the company of learned men, and I conversed much with them, not about dancing, masquerades, and worldly pleasures but about the kingdom of God.” Those who visited her home said that she “conversed with them on theology so intelligently that they ranked her above many doctors.”

After her husband’s death, Katherine’s grief was profound, but she continued on the work. When a minister was forced to leave his church because of the retaliation against Protestantism and 150 men of his parish were evicted, Katherine looked after 80 people in the parsonage (which she had been allowed to keep) and fed 60 in her home for three weeks. She also defended  Protestantism in a letter to the people of Strasbourg. She also helped feed and clothe thousands of  refugees who fled to Strasbourg after their defeat in the Peasant’s War. When criticized once for speaking against a minister who claimed that she disturbed the peace, she replied, ““Do you call this disturbing the peace that instead of spending my time in frivolous amusements I have visited the plague-infested and carried out the dead? I have visited those in prison and under sentence of death. Often for three days and three nights I have neither eaten nor slept. I have never mounted the pulpit, but I have done more than any minister in visiting those in misery.”

Sounds like the apostle Paul’s claims, to me (1 Corinthians 4:10-13).

Katherine Zell defended her equality to a critic who suggested women should be silent in church by quoting Galatians 3:28–there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one in Christ.

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