What Does the Reformation Mean for Us?
A Roundtable Discussion
Moving Beyond Disagreements
Amelia Schroeder   |   all discussants

I grew up in a family that has been Catholic for generations. My Catholic education began in preschool. Over the next few years, I learned my prayers and Bible stories and received my sacraments. As I grew older, I became more interested in my faith and wished to discuss it on a deeper level. I was fortunate to continue to Catholic high school where I learned about modern church teachings and discussed the Bible more thoroughly than in grade school. One of my favorite theology courses in high school was Catholic Church history. It is impossible to fit so much history into only one semester, let alone discuss the interconnectedness of the historical events. The Reformation was but a small chapter in my studies. Little did I know that I would be attending a Lutheran school during the 500th anniversary of that very Reformation.

Valparaiso University has a distinct Christian identity while being inclusive and welcoming to all. Here, I can interact with individuals from various cultural and religious backgrounds, something that was lacking in my seemingly homogenous childhood. Valpo has a long history of dialogue among diverse populations. Last spring when I saw that there was a Catholic Reformation course, I jumped at the opportunity to take it. I had learned a little about the reforming activities of Catholics after the Protestant Reformation. It always seemed that this Catholic Reformation was reactive, a way to combat what Luther proclaimed in his Ninety-Five Theses. On the contrary, the Catholics had started to reform their teachings hundreds of years before Luther came center stage.

The late Middle Ages and early modern period were a time of change that created a tumultuous society and this unrest spread to the Church. Many individuals saw that the Church was not living up to its original purpose and were determined to fix the issues. Most of the dissatisfactions stemmed from behaviors of the clergy. Benefices, revenue producing property attached to ecclesiastical offices, were often sold. Greed abounded when it came to indulgences. Additionally, not all clergy kept the rule of celibacy, often having numerous children.

Various reform movements came about to negate these behaviors. St. Francis of Assisi practiced the vita apostolica, or apostolic life. Members of this movement lived a simple lifestyle similar to that of Jesus’ apostles. These individuals humbled themselves by living in poverty. Moreover, a monk named Thomas à Kempis wrote an exceptionally influential work, The Imitation of Christ, which calls for piety, humility, and obedience. This work, which proclaims the importance of personal prayer and meditation, remains popular today.

By the time Luther observed that the Church was not changing its ways, many had already gradually pushed the Church to become better. Luther’s intention was not to split from the Church but to reform it like those before him. When Pope Francis recently discussed the Reformation at a religious gathering, he said, “The church was not a role model. There was corruption, there was worldliness, there was greed and lust for power. He [Luther] protested against this. And he was an intelligent man.” Many of Luther’s concerns in the Ninety-Five Theses have been addressed in contemporary Catholicism.

Ever since Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation, there have been differences in dogma between the Catholics and the Protestants. Vatican II promoted increased ecumenical dialogue which has broadened understanding and acceptance over the years. Even now, fifty-two years after Vatican II, the church is striving for better communication among all. In fact, to kick off this 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Pope Francis gathered with Lutheran leaders last year in Lund, Sweden, to celebrate a prayer service. The day focused on coming closer to each another by remembering our commonalities instead of concentrating on our differences. Closer to home, there was a meeting in Chicago in March of this year among Catholic and Lutheran leaders. They signed a joint statement declaring that Catholics and Lutherans would continue to pursue dialogue and remain committed to work for the poor and victims of injustice. Pope Francis put it perfectly in his dialogue at Lund. He said, “We have the opportunity to mend a critical moment of our history by moving beyond the controversies and disagreements that have often prevented us from understanding one another.”

Lutherans and Catholics should continue to see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ while respecting the religious or non-religious beliefs of others. VU does a great job of this. As a Catholic at a Lutheran university, I do not feel out of place, and I thoroughly enjoy our diversity. 

Amelia Schroeder is a student at Valparaiso University from Joliet, Illinois. She will graduate in 2018 with a degree in health science and plans to complete the master’s portion of the five-year physician assistant program. 


Read more from other Roundtable participants:

Brian T. Johnson: Setting the Stage
Ronald K. Rittgers: Loving the Unlovely
Alissa Kretzmann: An Encounter with Grace
David King: Freedom Under the Cross
Nura Esther Zaki: Honoring Our Heritage
David Rojas Martínez: The Chapel of the Resurrection as a Pilgrimage Site
Katie Benjamin: Screwups and Saints
Thomas Albert Howard: Remembering the Reformation and the Problem of Christian Disunity 


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