Saturday, December 16, 2017

Martin Mosebach on being named 'Martin' for Martin Luther by his Lutheran father and for St. Martin of Tours by his Catholic mother

For the record, I was first introduced to Martin Mosebach, whose writings I've come to admire very much, by reading his book, The Heresy of Formlessness, published by Ignatius Press in 2006. I just read the present account of how he came to be named "Martin" in a book commemorating the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther and his 'Reformation.' To their credit, the Lutheran editors of the massive tome included this contribution by a Catholic author, Mosebach, who had some things to say by way of criticism of Luther's career and work, and yet in a way that was not unappreciative of the impact Luther left on the world. Hence, I was glad to find online the present piece by Martin Mosebach, "On Luther, in Trepidation" at a website called Salubriousity, which should probably be spelled "Salubriosity" (without the 'u'), posted December 10, 2017. Here's the opening paragraph:
My Christian name was chosen for me in the spirit of ecumenical compromise. My mother, who was not a fervent Catholic, but who could never have imagined abandoning the Catholic Church, voted for Martin, after Saint Martin of Tours, who was especially venerated in her native city of Cologne, above all in the splendid Romanesque Great Saint Martin Church (Gross Sankt Martin) -- with the accent on the second syllable of Martin! My Protestant father was contemplating paying homage to Martin Luther, but my mother ensured that I was baptised in the hospital immediately upon my arrival, despite the fact that (or because) my father was not there -- she clearly preferred not to risk becoming embroiled in any denominational debates. According to family legend I screamed dreadfully throughout the proceedings. 'No wonder, if he's called Martin,' remarked my father, who only met me once I was already a baptised Catholic. But it was the Roman legionnaire born in Pannonia, the hermit monk in Italy, the bishop in Roman Gaul and the visitor to the imperial court in Trier who would colour my life, not the German Doctor Martinus. It was through the figure of St Martin of Tours, one of the founding fathers of the Western world, that the universal Roman church of the first millennium won my heart. As I steadily increased my knowledge of church history, one thing above all -- puzzled me about the other Martin, the great reformer: how could one profess Christianity without Rome and Constantinople, without the liturgy and the music of the first thousand years, without the monastic traditions from Egypt, without St Benedict, St Francis or St Dominic, without Romanesque basilicas and the Gothic cathedrals of France? How could one call oneself a Christian without the legacy of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Athens? Wasn't that an ahistorical Christianity, dreamt up in the provinces in order to keep a tight rein on any links to the opulence of the past and the no less opulent present-day cultures of lands beyond Germany? In Luther's day the Popes were integrating new continents into the Church, even as he was setting about cutting off a large part of Germany from the main currents of civilisation. Read more >>

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