Luther to Enter Rome Again

A newspaper man entered a civic center where he noted there was a convention of Catholic brothers going on.  The reporter was not a particularly religious man, but he had always wondered what these fellas actually did.  So, going up to a man in a robe, he asked for a tour.  The monk was only too glad to do so.  The friar said – To your right are the Franciscans.  They give themselves to prayer.  To your left are the Augustinians. They give themselves to education.  Straight ahead are the Benedictines.  They give themselves to charity.  But when it comes to humility, our order is number one!”

In the year 1511 Martin Luther and a fellow monk were sent to Rome to carry out some business for the Augustinian Order of which they were a part.  Each  was given ten gold florins (coins) to take care of their needs.  The two traveled on foot, finding food and lodging in various monasteries along the way.  At each stop, Luther was bothered by the luxurious living, loose morals, and spiritual indifference he saw among many of his brothers.  Nevertheless, he held high expectations for Rome itself.  And when the papal capital first came into view he shouted, “Hail, holy Rome!” as ecstatically as a Jewish pilgrim catching his first glimpse of Jerusalem.  But over the next month, the more Luther saw of the city, the more his reverence for Rome turned to loathing; for he found here among the priests even greater examples of luxurious living, loose morals, and spiritual indifference than he had ever seen among the monks back in the monasteries.

Now, within the city itself is a large staircase called the  Scala Sancta (Holy Stairs) which are a set of twenty-eight marbled steps said to be the very same ones Jesus ascended on as he made his way up to stand before Pilate.  (According to Catholicism, Saint Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, had them transferred from Jerusalem to Rome back in the fourth century.)  Since then, popes have promised forgiveness of sins to all who climb them on their knees and saying prayers each step of the way.  Martin Luther himself got halfway up the staircase and then stopped as the verse, The just shall live by faith, came powerfully charging into his soul.  He then immediately got off his knees, turned, descended the steps, and went back home to start the Protestant Reformation.  Luther never returned to the city again and as he left he uttered – “If there is a hell, Rome is built over it.”  Eventually, the Catholic Church excommunicated him, burned him in effigy, put a contract out on his life, and consigned both his body and soul to hell, never ever to be forgiven.

Today, Italy has 60 million people, with 59.5 million Catholic and 500,000 Protestant.  But in celebration of the 500th anniversary of Luther leaving Rome and starting the Reformation, reps of the Protestants approached the mayor requesting that a lovely fountain spot in the center of the city be renamed Martin Luther Square.  The mayor checked with the Vatican, and the Pope, in the spirit of continuing ecumenical talks, gave his blessing.  Who would have ever thought!

The bottom line?  According to biblical prophecy one day all Catholics, Protestants, and Evangelicals will be joined together as one religion and this is another step in that direction.  In the meantime, poor Martin Luther has been returned to the place he never wanted to be again.