Saturday, March 31, 2012

March 31, 2012

They believed it was for a reason.

The suffering. The hardships. Countless deaths in the family. The fear of being uprooted, jailed, and burned. The constant jeering. The accusations of heresy. The Huguenots refused to die. Their bodies could not withstand the final insults, but their souls --- those great and glorious souls of the Protestant martyrs --- sought eternal life. In this way they could not be destroyed.

There were many Scripture verses to which early Protestants could look for assurance. It seemed there was an answer for everything in God's Word. When the persecution was too much to bear, they must have sought comfort in Matthew 5:10, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

There were verses that expressed the hardships of oppression and how they must be handled, such as 1 Corinthians 4:12-13, "We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted; we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world -- right up to this moment."

There were also verses that expressed the melancholia and longing that these godly but all-too-human men and women of faith must have felt daily. David's Psalms, so beloved in the Huguenot tradition, served very well to show their anguish and yet highlight their determination. Psalm 119:86-87 reads, "All your commands are trustworthy; help me, for I am being persecuted without cause. They almost wiped me from the earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts."

The Huguenots understood that their pain was part of a greater plan, that the "Refiner's fire" would use persecution to turn them into examples of Christian longsuffering, patience, and steadfast faith. They did not complain; they became resourceful. When death was unavoidable, they went forth to trade the beast of intolerance and persecution for the Lion of Judah.

In the end, their spiritual treasures far surpassed anything the world might have had to offer.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Friday, March 30, 2012

March 30, 2012

Humbling Glory

This has been a week of pilgrimage for me. I recently traveled to Fort Caroline and to the site of the Matanzas massacre while on a jaunt through Florida, and I was greatly sobered by both visits. As references to the Huguenots and their sacrifices are few in St. Augustine --- and usually biased --- I was ready for a positive experience.

Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Augustine, Florida

Then I visited the Memorial Presbyterian Church. Located at 32 Sevilla Street in the "Victorian" section of St. Augustine, it was a testament to the Protestant faith and how, even with such a horrid beginning in this New World, it refused to die. This church, darkened handsomely by mahogany pews and lightened beautifully by blue-domed ceilings and a variety of stained glass windows, was begun in the 1880s by St. Augustine's Henry Flagler, the "Grandfather of Modern Tourism."

Inside Memorial Presbyterian Church

But what touched me was not even the fact that there was a church in St. Augustine that held very similar beliefs to the Huguenots', that this was their triumph in a deeply spiritual way. I looked up, and there on a banner was the Huguenot Cross. Beautiful. Vibrant. Bold. Just as "the body they may kill, but the truth abideth still," as A Mighty Fortress is Our God proudly states, the Huguenot spirit was brutally crushed but still lives eternal.

Pilgrimages are full of profound sadnesses and beauties of every caliber.

Stained glass beauty

The Huguenot Cross,  a symbol of triumph in a New World where Protestantism once warranted death

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Thursday, March 29, 2012

March 29, 2012

Fort Caroline Pilgrimage

I waited nearly a decade to visit Fort Caroline, the place where French Protestant Huguenots attempted to establish a stronghold in the New World and were mercilessly crushed just a year later. I pored over travelers' photos until I could imagine walking through the gates. I memorized every detail of the National Park Service's reconstructed Fort Caroline. I felt it was a calling, a Protestant pilgrimage that I could make not only for myself but also for my ancestors and for the victims who awoke to cold Spanish steel on the morning of September 20, 1565.

Fort Caroline seen from a nearby dock

I visited Fort Caroline near Jacksonville, Florida, this last Tuesday, March 27th. I walked the mosquito-infested trails. I enjoyed the cool breezes and rustic dirt paths. But then I saw it. The sign read, "Fort exhibit closed," and something about being sorry for the inconvenience. "Inconvenience" was not the word. I was numb. Shocked. I had come to Fort Caroline after planning such an event for years. I could not understand the odds. I walked around the outside of the fort walls and felt tears in my eyes. I was crushed.

Fort Caroline gate showing the current construction

But now I am finally starting to understand. The Huguenots came to "La Floride" desperately seeking religious freedom, wealth, happiness, and God. They strove so hard. They plotted and planned and dreamed, but they were never allowed to reach the life they struggled for so acutely. They could almost touch it. It was just outside their grasp. But their colony --- and their right to life --- was so brutally crushed that one cannot grasp the pathos of the situation. Like the Huguenots, I had planned and plotted and wanted so badly to come to La Caroline, but just when it was within my reach, my plans were changed, rearranged, and distorted. In a way, allowing me to emphatize with the ill-fated Huguenots of La Caroline and understand their pain meant more spiritually than a problem-free trip ever could have.

My pilgrimage taught me a great deal more than I knew.

16th century French armor at Fort Caroline's visitor center

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

March 27, 2012

Fourteen miles from St. Augustine, Florida:

A warm, sweet-smelling breeze rolled across the old wooden boardwalk, and a heart-swelling thrill of anticipation filled my spirit as I started off on the path. I had waited years for this moment. I felt it was what I was meant to do. I read Scripture readings in French, a silent almost-chant as I walked along with great purpose. As I walked along, I went further into the wilds of Florida. The path meandered left and right but was surprisingly easy to follow. The weather was pleasant, with a soft breeze breaking up the forecast of sunburn. 

Boardwalk trail leading to the site of the Matanzas massacre of 1565

As I drew closer to the Matanzas massacre markers, I felt led to them. I knew when I would round the next corner and see the site I had dreamed of visiting ever since I first heard the story of the Huguenot martyrs. And there they were. It was a surreal feeling to see those elusive markers face-to-face, to stand where I had only seen strangers’ photos. I closed my eyes. It was a lonely, windswept place, full of overhanging fauna, accented by palmettos, shut out from the world in the midst of the Matanzas nature trail.

"The Massacre at Matanzas," marker along the Fort Matanzas nature trail

I spoke the Lord’s Prayer in French. Slowly. Silently. Purposefully. Then I took out a small black-and-silver cross I had purchased just for the occasion. I said a silent benediction over the cross. When I finally left the markers, the cross remained behind. Just to the right of the markers was a platform that eased out across smooth white sand dunes and the inlet beyond. This was the spot. This was where over two hundred men were massacred for their Protestant beliefs and French nationality. I felt overwhelmed. It was as if the crime had been done against me, against my ancestors, against my fellow believers. I even scanned the sand to see if any splash of redness might remain. Physically, no. But emotionally, the entire place buzzed with the essence of something left behind.

I may have left Matanzas. But Matanzas will never leave me.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Monday, March 26, 2012

March 26, 2012

For my post today, something to make you think:

"Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all," Romans 4:16.

So what does it mean? No beating yourself up over being perfect, though followers of Christ should attempt Christlikeness as closely as possible. No worrying over salvation. No "business deals" to try to "make yourself right" with God. Salvation is attainable simply by grace, through faith.

God's Word contains beautiful truths, indeed.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Sunday, March 25, 2012

March 25, 2012

As I was preparing for my Protestant pilgrimage to Fort Caroline and the Matanzas massacre site in Florida, I was awe-struck to find a hymn by Martin Luther that completely summed up the strength,  unshakable faith, and posthumous example of those who gave their lives.

"Flung to the Heedless Winds"
Written by Martin Luther, translated by John A. Messenger
Flung to the heedless winds
Or on the waters cast,
The martyrs' ashes, watched,
Shall gathered be at last.
And from that scattered dust,
Around us and abroad,
Shall spring a plenteous seed
Of witnesses for God.
The Father hath received
Their latest living breath,
And vain is Satan's boast
Of victory in their death.
Still, still, though dead, they speak,
And, trumpet-tongued, proclaim
To many a wakening land
The one availing Name.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Saturday, March 24, 2012

March 24, 2012

What is faith? Faith is not just believing. Faith is having perfect assurance as you languish on a burning stake that you will be received into glory. Faith is being roused in the middle of the night in the midst of a massacre and knowing that even as the blood flows around you, you are being held in the palm of God’s hand. Faith is trusting that you will see another sunrise even as you and your family are fleeing your home, your country and the only world you have ever known. Faith is never fearing even when your beliefs are maligned, ridiculed, and denigrated, because you know you carry the truth.

Our Protestant ancestors understood that kind of perfect, unshakable faith. The French Huguenots who were stripped of their cultural identity and chased to the New World understood it. The German Lutherans who came to America in droves during the 18th century with nothing but a few personal items and their steadfast love of Scripture understood it. And we should strive to understand it as well.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Friday, March 23, 2012

March 23, 2012

In referring to Martin Luther as the Father of the Protestant Reformation, we sometimes forget Philipp Melanchthon, a second German reformer whose contributions were quite striking. Most Protestants know the name but might not have a solid idea of what exactly Melanchthon accomplished. First of all, Melanchthon was not even the name he was born with. He was christened Philipp Schwartzerdt, "black earth," in 1497. This made him over thirteen years younger than Luther. He and Martin Luther shared many theological ideas such as the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith, and, like Luther, he was in disagreement with many of the established Catholic teachings.
So who was Philipp Schwartzerdt-turned-Melanchthon? He was born in Bretten, Germany, and his father worked for Philip, Count Palatine. Like many boys of the era, he was hurried away to learn Latin and other important classes when he reached a "proper" age (in this case, he was only ten). Germans were often looked down upon despite their firm grasp of classical knowledge, and it was considered ideal that Philipp should take the name "Melanchthon," with meant "black earth" in Greek. At the age of nineteen he became an avid student of theology. He was handy as a teacher of the Roman classics and he further expounded his knowledge on such subjects. Eventually he was invited to the University of Wittenberg. Here he met Martin Luther face-to-face . . . and soon discovered they would have a great deal in common.

Philipp Melanchton as he looked in 1526

Their backgrounds could not have been more different. Melanchthon was born to a fairly well-off family and sent to school to become an expert in theology and Greek and Latin grammar, while Luther was born to a hard-working family, expected to become a lawyer and yet joined an Augustinian monastery until his discovery of "the just shall live by faith" caused him to break free. The men had very different personalities. But they shared this newfound "Protestant" faith (though the term was not yet coined) and together they would protect it.
In 1520, at the age of twenty-three, Melanchthon wed Katharina Krapp. Her family was of high standing in Wittenberg. I wonder if it was an arranged marriage as so many were in the sixteenth century. One of Philipp Melanchthon’s most important projects was the Augsburg Confession, which laid out the tenets of Lutheranism and paved the way for Protestant thought in Germany and beyond. It is believed that he had a strong hand in its construction. Around this time Luther and Melanchthon suffered a few fallings-out, and though their faith remained united, there were various points and situations on which they disagreed.
It is believed in some circles that Melanchthon was a bitterer adversary of Catholicism than Martin Luther, most likely judging from the strong stance he took against the Roman doctrine of the day. Did he know he was living in a time of prophecy? For the world was beginning to pay notice to this newfound Christian faith and to realize that for the first time in over a thousand years, there were men, scholars no less, who upheld a new belief system. The bloodshed, however, was yet to come.  
One of Philipp Melanchthon’s greatest arguments was against those who had a differing view of Communion. This was made worse by John Calvin’s ideas that Christ was not literally present in the bread and wine and instead Communion was taken only as a symbol. Lutherans have historically believed in the "Real Presence," a stance between Catholic transubstantiation and Calvinist symbolism, and so Melanchthon and Calvin could never reconcile such differences.
Some of Melanchthon’s last thoughts were penned in a letter and read: "Thou shalt be delivered from sins, and be freed from the acrimony and fury of theologians," a tongue-in-cheek admittance of how his life had become so full of argument and debate. Philipp Melanchthon died of a fever in 1560 at the age of sixty-three. He showed no fear of things unknown and up until the last moment was occupied with Scripture studies. When he was asked what he might want or need, Melanchthon’s answer was "Nothing but heaven."
He had a great eternal security in the faith he had grown and established with Martin Luther. Unafraid of accusations of heresy or of doctrinal differences, he simply believed. He was a Christian and a Reformer of the highest caliber. Even in such uncertain times when death was around every corner and the powers that be threatened to choke off the first buds of the Protestant faith, he held to his tenets and refused to let go. This morning I received a "verse of the day," James 1:12, that greatly reminded me of Melanchthon and his dogged persistence in following the truth: "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him."

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Thursday, March 22, 2012

March 22, 2012

This is a poem I wrote to observe the Matanzas massacres that occurred fourteen miles south of St. Augustine, Florida in September and October 1565. It is written from the point of view of one of the French martyrs.

"Ne Jamais Oblier"

Wisps of spirit, cleverly hidden;
Amidst the sea-grasses they rise;
Broken snatches of an old tongue;
Beautiful and prophetic.

Psalms from blood-drenched hearts;
Whispered in the morning;
Echoing across unforgiving time;
Memories of injustice.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted”;
To deny truth is worse than death;
Proudly raising eyes to cold steel;
Wracked with numbing fear.

Blood flowing o’er the sands;
Slaughter in paradise;
Waves breaking, gulls crying;
Drowning out the silent cries.

Forgotten, crawling soundlessly;
Scratched eternal in reddened sands
Are words of painful martyrdom;
Ne jamais oublier, never forget.

No crime committed;
Roman doctrines duly disavowed;
Souls ripped forth with cruelty;
For upholding God’s pure Word.

October breeze upon my brow;
Flush with life and youth;
Heart a battleground of conflicts;
Waiting for the sword to fall.

Desperately straining for life;
Meeting only with darkness;
“Renounce your errors!”
Sweet Jesus, receive me.

Still the whispering sea-oats rise;
Fresh breezes roll nonchalantly
As if hatred never reigned here;
Ignorant of lingering grief.

Only birds and water dwellers
Witness blood-red tides
Feel uneasy silence reigning
As silent screams echo.

Land of growth and promise;
Vessel of blessed freedom;
Cruelly sanctified with blood
Defiled forever.

Faith never disavowed;
Bravely declared as fate spoke;
Fear and courage hand in hand;
Disbelief . . . then darkness.

A cold passage of centuries;
Names lost in dusty memory;
Reigning in the place of lost souls;
Honor and regret is due them.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March 21, 2012

So what exactly is the Book of Concord? That’s what I wondered. I had always ascribed to Lutheran teachings fairly closely, but I never heard the name until about two years ago. So I did some research and discovered that the Book of Concord is the gold mine of my belief system, the first book after the Bible that holds the key to the Lutheran Church’s doctrine. It was written in 1580, a time when the world had exploded into a frenzy of religious fervor. One of the men at her helm was Martin Chemnitz, an eminent Lutheran theologian.

So what does the Book of Concord hold? Lutherans believe it to be in perfect harmony with the teachings found in the Bible. In the book, it is stated that Scripture alone is the basis for Christian belief. Sola Scriptura. A defiant stance in a time of absolutism and bloodshed. The Apostles’ Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the Nicene Creed, the three creeds with which every Christian, no matter their denomination, identifies, are included.

Cover of the Book of Concord in German, 1580

The inclusion of Martin Luther’s Large and Small Catechisms allowed the Book of Concord to carry on his legacy even after his death in 1546.  The Small Catechism is invaluable for its inclusion of the Ten Commandments. The commandments were presented in such a way that children were encouraged to ask questions and further understand each one. The Augsburg Confession (see my post of February 28), and other writings by Philipp Melanchthon are found in the Book of Concord as well.

The Augsburg Confession was, in many ways, a defiant yet beautiful expression of the Protestant mode of faith, especially risky to outline in the late sixteenth century, and its insertion in the Book of Concord immediately skyrocketed the book to the realms of greatness. To this day, it is an invaluable resource to those professing faith in the Lutheran Church.

In closing, I wanted to include the Nicene Creed in its stunning beauty.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spake by the Prophets. And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.


(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March 20, 2012

Last night I dreamed of England in the sixteenth century, presumably around the time of Mary I (known as “Bloody Mary” not without reason). In this dream, a circle of women were discovered to profess the Protestant faith. They stood and steadfastly waited for their captors to break down the doors, and it was inspiring the see the lion-like spirit with which they awaited their execution. They were not absent of fear . . . it was visible in their eyes, and there was much trembling . . . but to betray their faith was not an option. When I woke, I was reminded of the story of Anne Askew.

Anne was an amazing woman. Born in England about 1521, as a young woman she had suffered the contemporary discomfort of marrying a man of her father’s choosing, a man she did not love. This man also happened to be firmly opposed to Protestantism. Anne would not compromise her faith. This was an era of martyrs and lions, people who lived on the edge and would do anything simply to uphold their beliefs, no matter how dangerous. Anne Askew was no exception.

Around this time Anne became a “gospeler,” the English name for a person who had memorized an unbelievable amount of Scripture and could pull out whichever verses were most suitable for the moment. Anne took to London next, handing out literature. The only problem was that Protestant materials were forbidden at the time. Yet that knowledge did not stop her. She continued to hand out books until she was imprisoned. Despite escaping, she did not stop winning souls to the Protestant faith and was soon apprehended again. Her fervor was well-noted by friends and enemies alike.

Anne stood up to torture like the lioness of a woman she was. She undoubtedly drew her strength from the Lion of Judah. Around this time there were many legal and religious cogs turning in English government, and Anne was caught in the crossfire and forced to name names. As per her valiant and dogged nature, she refused. Also --- and for this reason in particular, I admire her immensely --- instead of simply answering questions, which would have been brave enough in the face of torture, she provided clever and soul-searching responses that proved she really knew what she was talking about.

When questioned about Communion and forced to answer if it entailed an actual transformation into Christ’s body and blood, she answered, “Christ’s meaning in this passage . . . is similar to the meaning of those other places of Scripture, ‘I am the door’, ‘I am the vine’, ‘Behold the Lamb of God’, ‘That rock was Christ’, and other such references to Himself. You are not in these texts to take Christ for the material thing which He is signified by, for then you will make Him a very door, a vine, a lamb, a stone, quite contrary to the Holy Ghost’s meaning. All these indeed do signify Christ, even as the bread signifies His body in that place.”

In June 1546, after yet another imprisonment, Anne Askew was hurried to the White Tower, part of the Tower of London complex. She was taken to a torture device known as the rack in the attempts that she would give up the names of her fellow Protestants. Refusing, she was forced to endure the horrific punishment that followed. Every time she fell unconscious, she was roused and then tortured into unconsciousness once more. Hour after hour she struggled against the horrendous pain. Finally the torture ceased.

At the ripe old age of twenty-six, Anne was sentenced to be burned at the stake. A bishop read from Scripture in the hopes of throwing a life-giving rope to those on “death row.” Anne hung on his every word, but she still had the strength and audacity to correct him whenever she perceived his words as being contrary to the truth set forth in the Bible. Thus she went to her martyrdom with her spirit untarnished. The date was July 16, 1546. Never once had Anne Askew abandoned her faith or implicated her Protestant companions. At the stake she remained silent for an amazing length of time, even though the pain must have been beyond imagining.

Even in death she was a survivor. She had survived attempts to tear her from the Protestant faith that was the bedrock of her life. She had survived the evil intent of men chosen to torture her in the infamous White Tower. She had survived those who said she could not possibly know truth, and even her enemies duly noted her steadfast conviction. Even in defeat, she bore the triumph.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Monday, March 19, 2012

March 19, 2012

Jacques le Moyne de Morgues was a young man when it all began . . . far too young to experience the sort of heartache he would endure in the years to come. He was an artist, nurturing aesthetic sensibilities. A New World full of unsurpassed beauty must have seemed like heaven to a man talented with a paintbrush. Having been born somewhere around 1533 and likely having been exposed to Calvinism --- and thus to persecution from detractors --- his entire life, the idea of La Floride as a Protestant refuge must have been beautiful indeed.

Soon after the French fleet arrived in Florida, le Moyne got to work. It must have been an amazing feeling to finally step off the roiling death-trap of a ship and into the tropical wilderness. Le Moyne trotted off with his paints and canvases and found a spot where his view might remain unhindered. In those few days of freedom, he must have felt peace that few can explain. Le Moyne’s paintbrush was quite prolific. He immortalized rites and rituals of the local Timucua Indians and drew maps whenever a new route was established. It was what he had been born to do.

All good things must come to an end, le Moyne soon discovered. Yet it is doubtful that he ever imagined how bloody the end could be. In his narrative, he states that after an Atlantic hurricane had ravaged Fort Caroline, he attempted to get some sleep early in the morning of September 20, 1565. No sooner had he begun to relax when a troop of Spanish conquistadors broke through the fort and began slaughtering the men who stumbled out of their beds to find the cause of the commotion. If le Moyne had not previously believed in guardian angels, he surely did now, for he stated that he was directly in view of the soldiers and yet for some reason they did him no harm.

In these days, if anyone sees their companions killed or witnesses some other horrid tragedy, help and counsel is forthcoming. Yet in the bloody, no-holds-barred days of the sixteenth century, it was every man for himself. Mental anguish was the order of the day. Horrified, le Moyne saw his friends dying one by one. By the grace of God he managed to escape. The boat he took back to Europe was flimsy and barely survived the journey. It was a tragic ending to a foolhardy dream. Le Moyne was a survivor, but he most assuredly suffered survivor’s guilt to the end of his days.

Jacques le Moyne de Morgues' sketch of the voyage

Luckily, after returning to France and later moving to England, Jacques le Moyne de Morgues managed to pick up the pieces of his shattered life. He returned to painting and became well-known at court. As we often think of artists as sensitive and caring people, I wonder how his soul must have been tormented by the sights he saw and the insecurity of the times in which he lived.

To le Moyne, the idea of “religious freedom” was just a beautiful fantasy in an ugly world. In his day and age there was no way he could have contemplated such a thing . . . Huguenots were prime targets for death and destruction. His short-lived exploration of such a utopia had ended horrifically, furthering the idea that there was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide . . .

. . . except in the arms of Christ.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Sunday, March 18, 2012

March 18, 2012

Pilgrimage Part Two

A few days ago I mentioned that I will be traveling to Matanzas Inlet near St. Augustine, Florida to make a “pilgrimage” of sorts to the place where nearly 250 French Protestants were martyred for their faith and for upholding the French flag. Yet there is a part two to my pilgrimage. I will also be visiting Fort Caroline, the ill-fated Huguenot haven and French base where many more men lost their lives during the Spanish raid of September 20, 1565.

My goal is this: I want to see, to feel, to experience. I want to close my eyes and imagine the scene so I might memorialize the innocents who met their deaths with a fortitude and steadfastness in faith that I can barely begin to imagine. I want to walk slowly and smell the same air and feel the same warmth and see the same scenery of palm and forest and river that the French saw and revered during their scant days of freedom. Though the current Fort Caroline is a reconstruction (unfortunately, it does not stand at the site of the original fort, as that location has been lost) it still stands as a symbol.

Fort Caroline is indeed a symbol of the first Protestant stronghold in the New World. Despite its gut-wrenching fate, it remains as the oldest Protestant “pilgrimage” site in America, and that is exactly why I am visiting. Maybe I will say a prayer. Or I might just take a few moments to remember and honor those who barely had time to register their plight before their souls were cleaved from their bodies. I have always been the sort who wishes I could know the name of every man who died, but I do know that, just as in the horrendous Saint Bartholomew's Day massacre and every other persecution, God knows their names. And that is a comfort that can never be described.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Saturday, March 17, 2012

March 17, 2012

There are many old church songs we would consider “Protestant hymns,” ballads that call to mind the faith of our fathers. Yet it is a bit more difficult to find contemporary Christian music that clearly states our position. Grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone. Is there such a song that so heartily outlines the tenets for which our ancestors proudly put their lives on the line, the tenets we still embrace with steadfastness and assurance?

I was overjoyed to find such a song, and its lyrics revitalized me with the spirit of the Reformation:

(Sung by Brian Littrell)

(Written by Andrew Shawn Craig and Donald Koch)

In Christ alone will I glory
Though I could pride myself in battles won
For I’ve been blessed beyond measure
And by His strength alone I'll overcome
Oh, I could stop and count successes like diamonds in my hands
But those trophies could not equal to the grace by which I stand

In Christ alone
I place my trust
And find my glory in the power of the cross
In every victory
Let it be said of me
My source of strength
My source of hope
Is Christ alone

In Christ alone do I glory
For only by His grace I am redeemed
For only His tender mercy
Could reach beyond my weakness to my need
And now I seek no greater honor in just to know Him more
And to count my gains but losses to the glory of my Lord

In Christ alone
I place my trust
And find my glory in the power of the cross
In every victory
Let it be said of me
My source of strength
My source of hope
Is Christ alone

It doesn’t get much simpler than that. I imagine that even Luther and Calvin, as much as they might have differed on varying doctrines and had differing opinions regarding their current issues, might agree on the strength, truth, and power of this song.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Friday, March 16, 2012

March 16, 2012

I remember when I first heard the story of the Matanzas massacre. I was on my first trip to St. Augustine, Florida, merrily imbibing a variety of tourist stories as I rode around town on the famous Old Town Trolleys. When we were ambling alongside a beautiful crystal-clear bay full of sailboats, the tour guide said this bay was called ‘Matanzas,’ Spanish for ‘slaughters.’ Not the sort of cheery story we’d been hearing. Then she somberly told the story of the French Huguenots who were captured at an inlet fourteen miles south of St. Augustine and put to death because they would not recant their Protestant beliefs.

Stop. Hold the presses.

These were people like me. I’d found it difficult to relate to the Catholic sites that seem to proliferate in St. Augustine due to its Spanish history, and now when I finally heard a story of courageous Protestants, it was a gory tale of death and betrayal. I felt a sudden connection to these men who shared my faith. At the time, doctrinal differences between my Lutheranism and their Calvinism did not matter. They still do not. These were Christians who, like me, believed in faith alone, Scripture alone, grace alone.

I forgot the story for a couple of years. In 2005, a History Channel documentary detailing the conquest of America was released. There was a reenactment of the Matanzas massacre in the "Southeast" portion of the documentary. I saw discrepancies. That this did not happen like that, that particular scene would have been impossible, etc. I was on fire for the story again. I went to Matanzas Inlet on my next trip to St. Augustine, but I could not find the spot. My interest --- and need to witness --- grew. I had a close and personal connection to these martyrs. I wanted to honor them somehow. I wanted to prove they were not forgotten.

Fast forward a few years. There is a constant buzzing in my mind telling me that I am meant to lift up the story of these unknown men. I felt the same sort of connection and solidarity one might feel when researching distant ancestors. I was not going to get out of this one. And I had no desire to. As I saw the lack of documentation regarding the men of Matanzas, I grew more determined. I nearly fizzled out the Internet’s search capacities looking for any photos, any mention of what I might find when I finally went to Matanzas. I found a few photos. Nothing spectacular. But enough to see that the site had been hopelessly hidden.

St. Augustine has a slew of markers detailing every little thing that happened in the city’s long and colorful history. Johnny Weissmuller trained here, railroad baron Henry Flagler slept here, that sort of thing. I remember that very well. But my research proved that it was not the case where Matanzas was concerned. To mark a massacre where nearly 250 Protestants were killed for their beliefs, there is apparently one unassuming state sign over the inlet bridge. There are two small markers, one a billboard type, one a small stone plaque, hidden behind a boardwalk railing at the massacre site. Not exactly the sort of thing people know to look for.

So I decided to make a pilgrimage. I (attempted to) learn some Scripture verses in French. I prepared myself spiritually, and I felt more strongly than ever as if I was meant to remember these forgotten men. I will soon be leaving, and I am admittedly nervous. I have no idea how it will go. It might be pouring rain . . . there might be a plethora of people walking the Matanzas nature trails were the massacre site is located. But one thing is certain: Even if this "pilgrimage" does not go exactly how I planned, I will feel as if I am witnessing simply by being there, remembering, honoring, and vindicating.

I want to close with Revelation 12:11, a verse that always reminds me of these Frenchmen and their sacrifice: "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death."

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Thursday, March 15, 2012

March 15, 2012

There are few European cathedrals that have a very Protestant history, but in Geneva, the stronghold of Reformed Christianity throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, there is such a place. It is known as St. Pierre’s Cathedral. If you are lucky to visit this beautiful church – or if, like me, you prefer to armchair travel – you will probably notice that the façade is much more modern. It was constructed in the mid 1750s. Yet behind that classical façade is a building that dates back to about 1310. It was already two hundred and twenty-five years old when John Calvin’s booming voice first echoed in its cavernous interior.
So why is St. Pierre’s of Geneva such a piece of Reformation history? Its story is quite intriguing. It witnessed about three rather uneventful centuries as a Catholic place of worship before Calvinist thought began swirling around Geneva. In 1536, this grand cathedral was purchased by Protestants and dedicated as a Reformed church. Keeping to Scriptural demands that graven images be removed, John Calvin’s supporters exiled the church’s ornamentation. St. Pierre’s became a great cavernous space where only the Spirit of God might dwell.
St. Pierre’s (Peter’s) became the antithesis of another St. Peter’s, that in Rome. While Catholic faithful would flock to the Vatican, the beleaguered but burgeoning spirit of Protestantism would find refuge at Geneva, the ‘Protestant Rome,’ as many saw it. Visitors might have thought it strange that such a grand structure, created in a mishmash of styles that reflected the changing centuries over which it was built, might appear so grand on the outside and yet relatively bland on the inside. For despite the typical tall, arched rooms with buttressed arched ceilings and tall rounded windows, St. Pierre’s was unnervingly simple.
But that was the point. Calvinism was setting a new standard for cathedrals. Throughout history, cathedrals were, of a necessity, stacked full of colors, details, and features. Protestantism believed such things were unnecessary. God desired his children to worship uncluttered. He wanted their minds to remain on the life-giving words pouring forth from the pulpit. Thus, St. Pierre’s became a symbol.
In my armchair travels I have discovered that one of the things you can see at the cathedral is the Chaise de Calvin, Calvin’s chair. True to his austerity, the chair is a simple wooden construction, narrowly- backed, with high, spindly arms and a broad, flat seat. It is amazing to think that one of the Reformers who shaped the Protestant world so immensely should have sat on this very chair. Yet Calvin --- and Luther, and most of the Reformers --- would discourage such a thought. They wanted their message to be only about the Gospel, the hope it would bring, and the behavior Christians should employ.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March 14, 2012

Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms
It was the year 1521, and Martin Luther was a man who understood fear. He had been looking over his shoulder since he first published his "95 Theses" in 1517. He still refused to heed the apprehension that must have dogged his spirit. He continued to talk, to write, to proclaim, to give the expression of religious freedom to men and women who had had no idea that such a thing could exist.
Yet the Diet of Worms was another matter altogether. Luther was about to be called out for his inflammatory actions. His accusers wanted him to recant. They wanted to know what fire he had in his soul that he was unafraid to speak out against the abuses of the day, that he might be willing to single-handedly reform the Church. (As of yet, there was no such thing as a "Lutheran" religion --- that would come later, and would not be at Martin Luther’s hand).
Luther came to the Diet expecting the worst. In 1520 he had received the Exsurge Domine (an official "bull" or document decrying the 95 Theses). To receive such a document from the pope was rarely a good sign. Many men would have "repented" heartily. But not Luther. He had as much love for the Exsurge Domine as the pope, the bishops, and the cardinals had for his "heretical" writings. He refused to recant. When the Diet of Worms was convened, he was expected to be in attendance.
It was a frozen January day when long-robed theologians, court officials, and Holy Roman Emperor Charles himself first arrived at the house of debate. The Diet would languish for months. During this time, Luther came to Worms and defended himself twice. The first time was in April. It must have buoyed his spirits to see how warmly people received him. He rode high on their acceptance and realized that, for people to be responding in such an enthusiastic manner, he must never give up the fight. But he had already known that. Martin Luther was not the sort of man to give up on anything.
He arrived at the Diet and went to work. Imagine what a position he was in! In this one microcosm, it was the Catholic Church versus Martin Luther. A later portrait shows him in simple brown-robed humility, arm outstretched as he exclaimed and gesticulated in a way that was far from humble. Perhaps the scene was not quite so dramatic. However it happened, there is no question that the room was charged with emotion. This was where the Emperor could make or break the first buds of the Protestant Reformation. If Luther recanted, disavowed his books, and repented of his "errors," he would go free, and the new "reform" he taught would lie dead.

Martin Luther standing firm at the Diet of Worms, 1521
Yet he did not recant. He requested another meeting, saying he needed more time. The pressure must have been immense. I imagine he was not fazed, but rather cautious . . . he likely understood that he was setting things into motion that could never be reversed, and he wanted to make sure he approached it properly. Tensions rose higher as Luther was repeatedly hammered with accusations. Finally he said "Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen."

Was there deafening silence? Were there cries of indignation? Shouts of affirmation? Could you hear a pin drop as the cogs of the Reformation began to turn slowly but surely? Whatever the outcome, Martin Luther had done what he came to do. Just before starting for home, he declared, in his simple way that somehow spoke volumes, "I am finished."

Fallout was inevitable. At the end of May, Emperor Charles slammed Luther with the Edict of Worms, part of which stated: "For this reason we forbid anyone from this time forward to dare, either by words or by deeds, to receive, defend, sustain, or favor the said Martin Luther." No holds barred. But, now that the Reformation had begun her birth pangs, she would not cease until the Five Solas --- faith alone, Scripture alone, Christ alone, grace alone, for the glory of God alone --- became well-established in Protestant hearts and minds. This was one small victory. Martin Luther did not back down. He never did. He knew what he wanted and went for it.
He wanted religious freedom. He wanted truth. He wanted pureness of faith. He would risk death and dishonor to get the word out to the people, and he did so with wit, temper, and unshakable conviction in his God and his faith. The Diet of Worms did not faze him. Instead, he allowed the experience to reaffirm the truths he had already been mulling over. He did not back down even as the Emperor sat in kingly splendor before him. He triumphed through truth, showing strength of will that could have only come from God.
Amen and amen.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 13, 2012

Peace That Passeth Understanding

There it was in the middle of a busy morning: a hint of the Divine. I was readying myself for a fun vacation day in St. Augustine, Florida, thinking about the sights I would soon see, itching to play tourist. Then I heard the distant church bells. I stopped whatever mundane task I was enacting and simply *listened*. And later that morning, as I stood just outside the walls of a massive seventeenth century Spanish fortress, I heard them again.

There is something innately beautiful about church bells. It reminds us we are part of the family of believers; we feel drawn, and we experience feelings of closure and peace. As a Protestant Christian who comes from a long line of men and women who shared my faith, I was in awe of the quiet delight that washed over my soul as I paused to listen. Then I remembered what a beautiful sound these church bells must have been in early America, a tangible symbol of religious freedom. In Europe secret church meetings meant that outward signs of faith were utterly forbidden. In America churches boldly proclaimed their message.

I realize how lucky I am --- and my ancestors were --- that America welcomed Protestant Christians who had no haven in their own continent. I hope that whenever I take my next trip, I will have the privilege of hearing church bells once more. There is no better time for peace and reflection than during the hectic busyness of travel.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Monday, March 12, 2012

March 12, 2012

Rene de Laudonniere, New World explorer

Rene de Goulaine de Laudonniere was either a very lucky man or a very unlucky one depending on which part of his life story one chooses to ponder. He was born into a noble family sometime around the year 1529, and though history is silent on when his family might have converted to Calvinism, it was likely when Rene was very young. The Huguenot doctrines first became popular in the 1530s. He must have been accustomed to maritime ventures from childhood, having been born in the city of Poitou, which borders the ocean.

History is also silent on Rene de Laudonniere’s youthful adventures. He comes sharply into focus in 1562, the year he was chosen to accompany Jean Ribault on Admiral Gaspard de Coligny’s life-changing expedition to the New World. Together with Ribault, Laudonniere named their newly-christened territory in Parris Island, South Carolina, ‘Charlesfort’ after their king Charles the Ninth.

In 1564 Laudonniere had the chance to prove himself on a solo mission. This time he explored ‘La Floride’ in a place that would someday be called Jacksonville. He threw up a fortification named Fort Caroline, also named after the king. It soon became apparent that Laudonniere did not have the leadership skills necessary to shield La Caroline from open rebellion. Colonists bent on munity grew tired of eking out a barely-sustainable living. They threatened Laudonniere and compelled him to sign a document giving them the right to sail out and harass Spanish shipping. This decision meant the death of many.

In August of 1565, Jean Ribault, fresh out of an English prison after being falsely accused of spying and likely horrified by stories of how things were going at Fort Caroline, hurriedly sailed to ‘La Floride’ to relieve Laudonniere of his position. We imagine there was some sort of confrontation and that hard feelings were inevitable. Up until this point one might be tempted to think of Rene de Laudonniere as unlucky. Though the following events might continue that thought, he was decidedly lucky in the long run.

The morning of September 20th, 1565, soaked and battered yet decidedly calmer after a recent hurricane, dawned with the scent of blood in the air. Spanish adventurers broke their way through La Caroline. Stoked high on religious intolerance and hatred for any sort of competition, they began slaughtering the majority of La Caroline’s sleep-drowsed men. Women and children were taken into captivity. It was only by God’s grace that Rene de Laudonniere managed to flee the men who were actively seeking his life.

Laudonniere had been suffering with a fever, something that must have affected his mood greatly and perhaps filled him with despair and a sense of helplessness. Yet he managed to evade his captors. He was indeed lucky . . . he escaped. Most did not. Laudonniere took a ship back to France. Nearly all of the men of La Caroline would meet their fates by hanging or by sword. Jean Ribault and his sea-bound adventurers would be slain by cold steel as well.

Laudonniere’s nightmares were likely forged in these moments. Here was a man delirious and full of fever, dressed only in a nightshirt, watching his companions being slaughtered. He saw his beloved New World bastion of Protestantism flying the Spanish flag so hated by any loyal Frenchman of the time. Yet he pressed on, for there was nothing else to do. Jean Ribault and the able-bodied men of La Caroline had set sail for the very new Spanish colony of San Agustin. Laudonniere had no way to know of the ensuing shipwreck.

He endured a harrowing sea journey that ended in Wales. He was forced to find his way as best he could, eventually telling his story to the French court. But they were unsympathetic. Laudonniere’s peers painted him in a bad light. To make matters worse, news of the Matanzas massacre were starting to come to light. Laudonniere saw he had dodged a bullet. It was a miracle that he had been too ill to join the fleet and that he had refused to consent to such a bold venture. He very easily could have claimed the same fate.

Discouraged and wracked with horror over the things he had seen, he blended into anonymity, engaging in activities still hidden from all but those who knew him then. In 1572, having escaped the St. Bartholomew’s massacre, he was working as a mariner once more. I imagine his adventures were much tamer this time around. Now a mature man of about forty-three, he was likely still haunted by the images he saw at La Caroline.

Rene de Laudonniere passed away in 1574. What terrors haunted him in those final days, no one knows. Perhaps he had managed to push away the grief and live a normal life. Perhaps he married and had a family. We know he continued living in France, so we can deduce that he was fiercely patriotic. Any Huguenot who had the chance to settle in nearby countries such as Protestant England and yet remained in France must have had an intense --- and deadly --- love of their country. Or perhaps he simply could not imagine being apart from the land of his birth.

Laudonniere broke the silence when his memoirs were posthumously published. His book hit the shelves of ye olde print shops in the late 1580s, and in death he told the stories he could not bear to tell in life.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Sunday, March 11, 2012

March 11, 2012

Whenever I study the Protestant Reformation, the changes that were wrought never cease to amaze me. For over one thousand years there was one church, one faith, one doctrine (with the exception of Eastern Orthodox; I’m speaking of the bulk of Europe). Then all of a sudden, due to the invention of the printing press, the courage to be different, and the strength of teachers who weren’t afraid to teach something contrary to the norm, there was another choice. Something new. Something that was very liberating for very many people. Christians dared to believe another doctrine for the first time in over a millennium, and suddenly there were two major branches of Christianity vying for control in Europe.
I have always been interested in the sixteenth century for this very reason. What must it have been like when Martin Luther had his “light-bulb moment”? When all of a sudden, new thought was much-sought-after? When “newborn” Protestants could read the Bible in their own language and weep for joy at the prospect of studying Scripture whenever the desire might seize them? Though due to the extreme bloodshed and volatility I would not dare envy those living in that era, it must have been an amazing time to be alive.

Long live the Reformation! May we still be "bitten" by that spirit today, and ride in the wake of the Reformers, proclaiming the ideas and the unshakable faith our ancestors claimed!

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Saturday, March 10, 2012

March 10, 2012

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, the story of the nearly 250 French Huguenots who were martyred on Florida’s beautiful shores in 1565, so close to their dream of religious freedom, has always been very close to my heart. It has inspired me to write, and also to find stories, songs, and poems that relate to their tragic situation. Recently I discovered an old hymn by Isaac Watts, "Am I A Soldier of the Cross?" written in the 1720s, that beautifully sums up the faith and courage of these forgotten men:

By Isaac Watts

Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His Name?

Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?

Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?

Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord.
I'll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.

Thy saints in all this glorious war
Shall conquer, though they die;
They see the triumph from afar,
By faith's discerning eye.

When that illustrious day shall rise,
And all Thy armies shine
In robes of victory through the skies,
The glory shall be Thine.

Rest in peace, Matanzas martyrs.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Friday, March 9, 2012

March 09, 2012

Admiral Gaspard de Coligny: A Life in Brief

In the 16th century, the Protestant Huguenots were in desperate need of a representative with enough connection to the royal family to provide some measure of security. Luckily, they were represented from the 1550s onward by a lion of a man named Gaspard de Coligny. Not only was he an advisor to King Charles the Ninth at one point , but he was also an unabashed Huguenot, standing firmly for Protestant principles and attempting to find better lives for his co-religionists in a day when showing such pride was both difficult and dangerous.

Coligny was born 1519 at Chatillon-sur-Loing, France. He soon proved himself an able soldier and eventually took Charlotte de Laval as a wife. In 1552 he proudly received the title of Admiral. Sometime in the 1550s he was converted to Protestantism and became a champion for the cause. He fought proudly in the Wars of Religion for the Huguenot side. It was under his influence that a Huguenot colony in Rio de Janeiro was attempted and later destroyed. He also commissioned Jean Ribault and Rene de Goulaine de Laudonniere to travel to “la Nouveau Monde,” the New World. They founded Charlesfort in 1562 and Fort Caroline in 1564.

It must have saddened Admiral Coligny immensely to see that these places, meant as a religious haven for his beleaguered Huguenots, came to such sorry ends. Charlesfort was abandoned at the founding of La Caroline. La Caroline, in turn, was ravaged by the Spanish, and most of the men met a horrible end during the siege and immediately afterwards. Those who had started out aboard ship were shipwrecked and subsequently massacred by Spanish soldiers.

Admiral Gaspard de Coligny with a
tellingly pensive expression, circa 1568

Gaspard de Coligny was known for his integrity, courage, discretion, and forethought, a man greatly admired by his supporters. He was well-liked on the battlefield. Yet he had his fair share of enemies. He did what few others had the authority to do . . . he stepped up to the plate and lobbied for religious equality in a time when Protestant lives meant very little. He was unafraid to stand up for his fellow Huguenots’ rights. 

He married his second wife, Jacqueline de Montbel, in 1571. It was around this time that he rose in the ranks to become a mentor to King Charles. He urged Charles to consider more freedoms for French Protestants, a fact which Catherine de’Medici, Charles’ manipulative mother and former regent, found disturbing. Gaspard de Coligny valiantly pushed forward in his demands. He longed for a land of tolerance. It was not to be. His subsequent death was tragic in so many ways and illustrated the rampant violence of the times.

The travesty began on the 22nd of August, 1572. There were many Huguenots in Paris who had come to witness the marriage of Princess “Margot” de Valois to the King of Navarre, Henri. Coligny was the victim of a botched assassination attempt soon after. Judging by the fact that King Charles showed a great amount of concern over Coligny’s condition, it is unlikely he personally demanded the attempt. On the 24th of August a great slaughter known as the Saint Bartholomew’s Day massacre --- a memory which still haunts Protestant hearts and souls --- took place.

Coligny was in his nightclothes. He met his attackers at the door with the quiet martyr spirit of a man who was unafraid to die for his faith and had indeed expected it for quite some time. Perhaps at the moment of his death, he thought of the Huguenot martyrs of the New World and wondered at the irony of showing such solidarity with them. He refused to plead for his life. He retained the same dignified spirit he had always championed, and he was killed for his efforts. Coligny’s body underwent horrific desecration. Thus ended the mortal existence of a man who had dared to reach for religious freedom for his people, who had dared to be openly Protestant in a world quite hostile to his faith.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Thursday, March 8, 2012

March 08, 2012

Scripture is full of amazing, outstanding verses that unbind the soul and loosen the imagination. What is so powerful about Ephesians 2:8? “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.’ These are powerful words. They were immensely important to the early Reformers; so important, in fact, that the majority of early Protestants, including my ancestors, were willing to die for them. To them, Ephesians 2:8 symbolized their entire faith and shaped a set of beliefs that would continue to gain ground throughout the centuries. These beliefs were an important part of the “Five Solas” by which the Reformation was characterized.

With this in mind, I found a stunning sterling silver bracelet on that perfectly symbolized this simple yet life-changing and soul-affirming verse. Its delicate etching reads “Saved By Grace Alone Through Faith Alone In Christ Alone. Ephesians 2:8.” I did not expect to find a piece of jewelry that could so beautifully and heart-wrenchingly sum up not only what I believe but what my ancestors lived for, fought for, and would have willingly died for as well. It is a powerful testimony to the ongoing chain of faith I am proud to continue.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March 07, 2012

Germany’s Protestant Union and the Start of the Thirty Years’ War

There are some wars we will never forget, yet there are some that receive very little attention. One of these was the Thirty Years’ War that ravaged parts of Europe to such a degree that the inhabitants likely thought the world was ending. What exactly started the Thirty Years’ War and what were they fighting for? As could be expected in the 17th century, a time of great religious unrest, the war largely concerned the clash between Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists. As always, however, land grabs were also involved.

For the most part, German Lutherans had been lucky. They were allowed to hold their land of choice. Catholics claimed those same rights to their own territory. Yet the Calvinists, rapidly growing in number, were unsatisfied with their own representation. As was often the case in those times, religious squabbles soon escalated into a full-blown war. It was the consensus that at this time in history the Protestant cause, still only a century old, was rather vulnerable. Then came the Protestant Union.

This union, formed by the princes of Wurttemberg, Palatinate, Brandenburg, and other German states, was created so ‘ordinary’ Protestants might have protection for their land and their families. The Protestant Union was seen as necessary after the year 1607, when the Roman Catholic faith was favored in certain territories. Maximilian I, Duke of Bavaria, decreed during the next year that the Peace of Augsburg could not be rehabilitated unless Lutherans gave back whatever land they had taken from the Catholics. Obviously there would be little agreement on either side. Adding the Calvinists and their own needs to the mix made for an explosive situation.

The Protestant Union may have put many of its members at ease, but it also meant the subsequent formation of the Catholic League, pitting Germans against their brothers and neighbors in an even more striking way. It seemed as though Germany was on the verge of a series of ‘Wars of Religion,’ the likes of which France has already seen and from which she would never recover. The Protestant Union was further destabilized by conflict between Calvinists and Lutherans and by the absence of key princes such as the Elector of Saxony.

The year was now 1619. Enter Frederick V of the Palatinate . . . the Protestant Union looked upon him with a wary eye. When Ferdinand II (the Holy Roman Emperor, whose rights trumped that of territorial princes) decided to hand over Frederick’s land and part of the Palatinate to the Catholic Maximilian, the Protestant Union took a rather unexpected action. They agreed to the terms of the Treaty of Ulm in July of 1620, which brought temporary peace between the Protestant Union and the Catholic League.

Does that sound like the end of the story? The Protestant Union had one more year. It was disbanded during 1621 and soon became a sad memory. However, many historical events --- the Thirty Years’ War were still going strong. It was fought in phases described below.

---The Bohemian Phase, which began in 1618 and ended in 1621, pitting the Bohemians against the Catholic Habsburgs

---The Palatinate Phase, which ended in 1624 and involved Frederick V and his followers struggling to take back the Palatinate from the Catholic League

---The Danish Phase, which ended in 1630 and saw opposition between Habsburg and a new coalition of France, the Netherlands, and England

---The Swedish Phase, lasting until 1634 and encompassing the Lutheran Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden’s grab for territory, which was ill-contested even by members of his own faith, as he relied heavily on French support

---The French Phase, lasting until 1648, during which time Germany’s Protestant rulers laid down their arms and --- perhaps somewhat reluctantly --- promised the Holy Roman Emperor an end to war

---The Peace of Westphalia, signed in October 1648, when the armies were set at rest.

None of this served to bring true peace, however. The seventeenth century was a time of uncertainty and dread. Without the Protestant Union, no matter how brief it existed, Germany’s Lutherans and Calvinists must have felt a sense of wariness. After all, they had reason to be afraid . . . the French Wars of Religion had ended only decades before, and tales of the bloody St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre were still on Protestant minds. Germany suffered heavily during the Thirty Years’ War. Everything lay barren. Homes, crops, entire regions were destroyed beyond comprehension.

It was a very good lesson in the virtues of religious tolerance.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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