Above: Paul Speratus
Image in the Public Domain
FEAST OF PAUL SPERATUS (DECEMBER 13, 1484-AUGUST 12, 1551)
German Lutheran Bishop, Liturgist, and Hymn Writer
Also known as Paul Hoffer, Paul Offer, and Paulus Speratus
Paul Speratus was an influential German Lutheran minister and liturgist.
Our saint’s name at birth (at Rothlen Castle, Ellswangen, Swabia, now in the Federal Republic of Germany) was Paul Hoffer or Paul Offer; Paulus Speratus was the Latinized version of his name. In 1502 Hoffer/Offer matriculated at the University of Freiburg (now in the Federal Republic of Germany). He studied subsequently at Paris and at various universities in Italy.
Hoffer/Offer/Speratus was a Roman Catholic priest who converted to Lutheranism. He, ordained a priest prior to 1518, became a preacher at Dinkelsbuhl, Bavaria (now the Federal Republic of Germany) in 1518. There he began to read early theological works by Martin Luther. Our saint served at Wurzburg (now in the Federal Republic of Germany) in 1519 and at Salzburg (in Austria) in 1520, but had to leave each place because of his increasingly Lutheran theology and his outspokenness about it. Speratus left for Vienna in Autumn 1520, to work on a Doctor of Divinity degree. In 1522 he had become one of the first Roman Catholic priests to marry in the sixteenth century. His wife was Anna. On January 15, 1522, our saint preached a sermon in favor of marriage and of justification by faith. The theological faculty of the University of Vienna forced him to leave and the Church excommunicated him.
Speratus, newly and fully Protestant, began the next phase of his life. He moved to Ofen (now in Hungary) briefly before relocating to Iglau, Moravia (now Jihlava, Czech Republic), where he preached at the cloister church. In 1523 King Ludwig II of Bohemia (reigned 1516-1526) incarcerated him for 12 weeks and condemned him to death. Our saint got to live, however; all he had to do was leave Moravia and never return. In 1523 Speratus went to Wittenberg (now in the Federal Republic of Germany). There he helped Luther prepare Etlich Christlich Lider (1524), the first Lutheran hymnal. Among the hymns was our saint’s text (translated into English in more recent hymnals as “Salvation Unto Us Is Come“), which Speratus wrote either in prison or shortly after his release. Our saint also translated Luther’s Formula Missae (1523) into German.
Speratus became an important figure beyond Wittenberg. In May 1525, with Luther’s help, he became the court preacher for Duke Albrecht at Konigsberg, East Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia). Our saint drew up the liturgy and canons of the Prussian Church in 1526, the same year he became the clerical commissioner, charged with ensuring adherence to them in local congregations. Then, in 1531, Speratus became the bishop of Pomerania, with his headquarters at Marienwerder (now Kwidzyn, Poland). He served in that capacity for the rest of his life.
Speratus died at Marienwerder on August 12, 1551. He was 66 years old.
Those of us who enjoy religious freedom should (A) give thanks to God for that fact and (B) refrain from trivializing the circumstances of those who lack it by confusing our minor frustrations for infringements on religious freedom. We ought to do more, of course, but we should definitely do those two things. We have the account of Paul Speratus, incarcerated, nearly executed, and ultimately exiled for being a Protestant in Moravia when the monarch was a Roman Catholic. Certainly nothing any government with jurisdiction over me does anything like that or threatens to do so, fortunately.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
OCTOBER 25, 2016 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF HERBERT STANLEY OAKELEY, COMPOSER
THE FEAST OF SAINT PROCLUS, ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE; AND SAINT RUSTICUS, BISHOP OF NARBONNE
Holy God, whose majesty surpasses all human definitions and capacity to grasp,
thank you for those (especially Paul Speratus)
who have nurtured and encouraged the reverent worship of you.
May their work inspire us to worship you in knowledge, truth, and beauty.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 Chronicles 25:1-8
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
NOVEMBER 27, 2012 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR
THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN