Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott

I, a former Lutheran, think all readers of the Fishwrap should pay special attention to this post I picked up from Fr. Longenecker.

These … what do you call them.. incongruities? … exist in order to make irony redundant.

This, friends, is where the liberal agenda will take Catholics.

In celebration of Reformation Day I thought readers might like this photograph of the heirs of Luther:

That would be Lutheran bishop of Stockholm Eva Brunne on the left. Eva is in a ‘registered and blessed’ homosexual partnership. She and her ‘partner’ have a child conceived through artificial insemination.

I remember how in seminary I was forced, over my objections and with realistic threats of expulsion from the faculty, to go to a Lutheran church on reformation and sing as part of a choir “A mighty fortress is our God”.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Lighter fare, Our Catholic Identity and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. contrarian says:

    Yeesh. Nice outfits.

    In fairness to Luther, I think that these folk are his heirs just as Stalin is the heir of Marx. In other words….not so much.

    As a former Lutheran myself, I think we Catholics should be careful with revisionist histories. :)

  2. Phillip says:

    ‘I remember how in seminary I was forced, over my objections and with realistic threats of expulsion from the faculty, to go to a Lutheran church on reformation and sing as part of a choir “A mighty fortress is our God”.’

    Sad. Equally sad that my first thought upon reading this was, “Still beats being forced to sing ‘Gather Us In.'”

  3. Mundabor says:

    Well at least the music is beautiful, I think the only merit of the man were actually his achievement as composer and linguist.

    I wonder how many members the “Lutheran diocese of Stockholm” has.


  4. James Joseph says:


    So many times I’ve wanted to rip those pages out of the hymnal; especially the Calvinist victory dance song celebrating the murder of Catholics in battle.

  5. markomalley says:

    I remember how in seminary I was forced, over my objections and with realistic threats of expulsion from the faculty, to go to a Lutheran church on reformation and sing as part of a choir “A mighty fortress is our God”.

    That is a really sad state of affairs.

  6. Supertradmum says:

    It is the nature of Protestantism “to protest” and those who follow such a creed, will continue to protest, against God, against His Church, and against Nature.

  7. Phil_NL says:

    I think we can excuse father for singing off-key on that occasion…. or did you manage to resist that temptation? (I wouldn’t, that’s for sure!)

  8. Brooklyn says:

    As you say, Father, this is where the liberal agenda in Catholicism would like to take us. Thank God, He will never permit it!

  9. JonPatrick says:

    I have to admit I have always liked that hymn, if only current Catholic worship (as found in most parishes) had anything equal to it. I attended a non-denominational somewhat protestant private school as a child, and every morning at our assembly we would sing a hymn and recite the Lord’s prayer, AMFIOG was a common selection. It was also one of the few things I learned to play on a keyboard, being in the key of C without those annoying sharps and flats that complicate everything :)

  10. puma19 says:

    good heavens….all those saints gone before us, the martyrs and others must weep before the gates of heaven at this picture. That a so-called ‘bishop’ can live in a same sex relationship and be a ‘leader’ of a christian community just beggars belief. Did the early Church suffer and preach for this? This must be the total travesty of the Gospel. How anyone could believe this is what Jesus died and rose for. The Cross is a contradiction for the world. That a woman could ever be ‘ordained’ as a bishop just goes against all that the Church preaches and teaches. I guess that one day all will be revealed.
    This really is the meaning of ‘shock and awe’.

  11. Precentrix says:


    Lutheranism is an established cult in Sweden – like Anglicanism in England – so the diocese of Stockholm will have a lot of members. However, most of them probably don’t go to church…

  12. amylpav22 says:

    I remember how in seminary I was forced, over my objections and with realistic threats of expulsion from the faculty, to go to a Lutheran church on reformation and sing as part of a choir “A mighty fortress is our God”.


    Seriously? What a complete and total abuse of faculty authority.

  13. robtbrown says:

    They must have put down their trick or treat bags before the picture was taken.

  14. LaudemGloriae says:

    @robtbrown: LOL!

  15. Jeremiah says:

    @Mundabor: I’m going to have to disagree. His greatest merit was that he still loved Mary. As I recall, he once said, “The surest sign of salvation in a soul is the love of Mary.”

    Also, @Phillip, Gather Us In has nothing on Anthem. My pastor HATES that song, and immediately before the opening rites at a student Mass (so that Mass hadn’t started yet), he proceeded to tell us so. Quote: “I have two degrees in theology and have no idea what this song means.” Epic.

  16. Supertradmum says:
    2 November 2011 at 3:43 am
    It is the nature of Protestantism “to protest” and those who follow such a creed, will continue to protest, against God, against His Church, and against Nature.

    I think this would be the perfect quote for starting earnest conversation and friendly debate at the normally very dull ‘Churches Together’ tea morning. I suspect it wouldn’t remain dull for long. It may even get quite lively…


  17. jamie r says:

    I’m pretty sure the only thing NCR readers would see wrong with that picture is that they’re wearing miters and holding croziers, both symbols of patriarchal hegemony. They’d also wonder why they sing hymns that are about God instead of about us.

  18. TNCath says:

    Given the dramatic drop in Lutherans over the years, perhaps a better hymn to sing on Reformation Day might be “Song Long, Farewell” from The Sound of Music.

  19. robtbrown says:

    contrarian says:

    In fairness to Luther, I think that these folk are his heirs just as Stalin is the heir of Marx. In other words….not so much.

    As a former Lutheran myself, I think we Catholics should be careful with revisionist histories. :)

    It’s hardly revisionist. Luther’s theology is very inconsistent. He introduces a heavy principle of subjectivism in his theology, then arbitrarily decides when not to use it.

  20. Kerry says:

    Doh! What a pic! I was expecting the “hairs” of Luther.

  21. Jon says:

    Although my parents were touched by grace (as in the converting kind) before I was born, my extended family is Missouri Synod Lutheran.

    As for Luther’s greatest merit, since he didn’t believe in Mary as intercessor, and he didn’t write the music – Bach did that – I’d say that his greatest merit lies in the fact he liked beer. A lot. And despite the fact he cooked up Sola Fide on a visit to the outhouse, how can you knock a guy for that?

  22. Mariana says:


    1 084 265, which is 64% of the inhabitants, according to the diocese’s pages.

  23. Mariana says:

    As a former Lutheran myself, I am astounded at Father’s having been made to go to a Lutheran service, but Ein’ feste Burg ist under Gott is a simply wonderful work,

    And though this world, with devils filled,
    should threaten to undo us,
    we will not fear, for God hath willed
    his truth to triumph through us.
    The Prince of Darkness grim,
    we tremble not for him;
    his rage we can endure,
    for lo, his doom is sure;
    one little word shall fell him.

  24. moconnor says:

    @Jon, Actually Luther was a very competent musician who held Josquin as the prince of composers. He is credited with “A Mighty Fortress” – you should hear the catchy syncopated original – and for adapting many Catholic chants as new chorales. Bach came along about 3 centuries later and used much of Luther’s raw material.

  25. AnnAsher says:

    It always strikes me how those in protest against the Church go on to imitate her in appearance, liturgy, etc. Why not be original if they are intent on rejecting the Church? That photo is disturbing. Not only because they imitate the dress of Bishops – but because they wear it badly.

  26. pm125 says:

    500 years of confusion.
    All along the years, the rock of St. Peter being the orientation point for all of it.
    Jesus gave the guide of the Great Commandment to support His Father’s Ten Commandments.
    The first part of both is the part that tips the scale of truth when travesties pop up in reaction to man’s denial of God’s simple truths of life.
    To begin with, these outragers need to see that without the Church Jesus established, they couldn’t define their reason for being.

  27. Mariana says:

    As a former Lutheran – the think THEY are THE church. The thinking is that after a few hundred years after being established, the Catholic Church went completely off the rails and that THEY have re-established the real church. THEY are the original, WE are superstitious and backward.

  28. William says:

    Yesterday, at All Saint’s Day Mass, we all sang “Shall We Gather at the River.” Diocese of Superior in Wisconsin –go figure!

  29. amenamen says:

    A home video of young Lutherans in training to become Lutheran bishops:
    Notice the proportion of Bopeeps to sheep.

  30. contrarian says:

    While it is unfortunate (to say the least) that you were made to sing in the choir of the Lutheran church while in sem (that’s crazy!), I find it ironic that such a hymn would never be sung at my local Catholic church, as its about sin, death, and the devil. The Catholic church I currently attend believes in neither the first nor third of this horrible trifecta.

    And look. My only point in my earlier comment is that the ‘It’s all because of Luther’ and ‘It all started with Luther’ memes are silly and lazy. If we are going to perpetuate easy causal stories, we can at least have courtesy to replace Luther with Zwingli. And anyway. We Catholics do ourselves no service by painting Luther as a lone maniac arbitrarily and without any reason whatsoever, sticking it to the rosy and peachy Catholic Church–one which was, at the time, run by the Medici Mafia.
    (For starters, how about the folks at New Advent update their silly 1960’s pop-Freudian-analysis entry on Luther.)
    That is all. :)

  31. ajbasso says:

    Not fair! the “ladies” have way better crosiers than most Catholic bishops. The fellow in the middle looks more like what I see.

  32. Vallamnius says:

    Please! I’m converting from Church of Sweden (CoS) so I don’t have to run in to them anymore (and I honestly thought F. Z’s blog would be the last place I would see them). Eh, well actually I’m converting because I believe the Catholic Church to be the true church, but not being associated to them anymore is a BIG bonus.

    Well homosexual women dressing up as bishops is far from the worst of crazy stuff going on in CoS. CoS is not the state church of Sweden anymore but it is still run by a ‘church parliament’ controlled by the major political parties in Sweden. They can change doctrine without limitation. They could theoretically abolish the Bible as a part of CoS’s faith, or even decide that CoS should become a muslim ‘church’ . And all the “bishops” can do is veto such decisions once – if they wanted to.
    And they (the politicians) are much more concerned with ideological observance than basic christian doctrine.

    There is also a lot of secret reporting on “dissidents” going on. I’ve heard of men (yes, only men with a ‘conservative’ mind) who have been studying to become ministers who suddenly have been denied ordination without being told why the bishop has changed his mind, only to hear from other sources afterwards that someone had been saying they were opposed to women ordination or something else deemed anathema.

    At the most recent meeting with CoS’s “parliament” they decided to make it obligatory for all ministers, under threat of defrocking, to accept and being ready to perform same sex marriage ceremonies.

    Well, I could keep on writing about CoS craziness all night long, but I’d rather spend the evening looking forward to my conversion date.

  33. irishgirl says:

    robtbrown-I’ll DOUBLE that LOL! Talk about ugly vestmens!
    I remember singing ‘A Mighty Fortress’ more than a few times at Mass. It’s got a good tune, anyway.
    I don’t know if anyone here has heard of Omer Westerdorf [spelling on last name?]. He messed around with the words of the hymn, putting a modern spin with words such as, ‘The guns and nuclear might/stand withered in His sight’. I always rolled my eyes when I saw that printed in the hymnal!
    Martin Luther knew nothing about nukes!
    Wow, Father Z, you were threatened with expulsion from the seminary? Yikes! Well, good thing that you stuck to your guns!

  34. Vallamnius says:

    By the way. The catholic hymn book in Sweden is a result of an ecumenical (as in other churches than the catholic and orthodox) cooperation to make the hymn books less expensive. The first 325 hymns is therefore the mutual in several of the different denominations hymn books in Sweden.

    As a result the catholic hymn book has “Vår Gud är oss en väldig borg” (“A mighty fortress is our God”), but on the other hand, the lutherans have got Blessed John Henry Newmans conversion hymn “Led, milda ljus” ( “Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom”) in theirs. :-)

  35. albinus1 says:

    Bach came along about 3 centuries later and used much of Luther’s raw material.

    More like 1-1/2 to 2 centuries. Bach was born in 1685 (as were Ha”ndel and Scarlatti).

    Yesterday, at All Saint’s Day Mass, we all sang “Shall We Gather at the River.” Diocese of Superior in Wisconsin –go figure!

    At our parish in Waco, Texas too! Weird!

  36. Mary Jane says:

    This is just gross!!

  37. Cathy says:

    Odd, the only thought that came to my mind was the scene and song from the Wizard of Oz, “We Represent the Lollipop Guild”.

  38. Charlotte Allen says:

    I’m fascinated by the angle of the lady-bishops’ miters. The man-bishop wears his miter straight up and down in traditional fashion. But the lady-bishops have pushed their miters back so as to frame their hair and faces. It’s exactly the same difference as in the ways that men and women wear berets. Men: straight up and down so the beret crosses the forehead. Women: pushed back so as to show off the hair.
    I must say that I love “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Didn’t Luther also write “Away in a Manger,” or is that just a legend? And don’t forget Heinrich Schutz, another great Lutheran composer. And as for Luther and beer, it was his wife, the ex-nun Katharina von Bora, who did the brewing. Isn’t it strange when a monk and a nun marry? I suppose that they have lots of tales from the cloister to share.

  39. Joseph-Mary says:

    I do not know aobut Luther ‘loving’ Mary but I know he HATED Catholics, especially bishops and priests and is quoted from a writing from 1520 that folks should wash their hands in their (Catholic clergy) blood. And that happened because a civil war ensued and a quarter million people died because of Luther’s revolt which was in no way a ‘reform’.

  40. Widukind says:

    Here is something interesting that I came across a while back:

    The Month: Volume 130 – Page 351-ff
    Did Luther Compose the Tune “Ein Feste Burg”? by W.H. Grattan Flood

    But the strongest proof of all is that which is clearly brought out by Dr. Joseph Gotzen in the fourth (posthumous) volume of Baumker’s Das Katholische deutsche Kirchenlied in seinen Singweisen (Freiburg im Breisgau, 1912). The origin of “Ein feste Burg” which Baumker at first traced to three phrases from an old plain chant Mass is now more definitely traced to a hymn, ” Sponsa Dei speciosa,” composed for the feast of St. Margaret, and which is to be found in Hugo von Reutlingen’s Flores musicae omnis cantus Gregoriani, printed at Strasburg in 1488, when Luther was five years of age. Even a cursory glance at the tune of ” Sponsa Dei speciosa” will convince the most sceptical of its identity with the tune “lifted” by Luther….

  41. contrarian says:

    As a fellow Catholic to a fellow Catholic, I’m wondering: do you *really* believe this version of how things all went down?

    Reading this thread, I feel like I’m reading a Bizarro-World Howard Zinn.

  42. BobP says:

    They look more like chess pieces than anything else.

  43. Alice says:

    I’m not sure what your point is. Most early Lutheran hymns are based on plain chant and I have never heard anyone claim otherwise. Borrowing a tune and using it for one’s own purposes was common practice for centuries in both sacred and secular music. That Herr Doctor Luther chose to do so shows that he understood the importance of plain chant a lot better than many Catholics, then or now.

  44. Luvadoxi says:

    @James Joseph at 12:59 a.m.–which song is that? As a former Calvinist I’m dying to know (so I don’t accidentally sing it when attending my former ecclesial communion with my husband)!

  45. Martial Artist says:

    What is this, the principal virtual meeting hall for former Lutheran converts to Catholicism? Me, too. I was raised LCMS, but became Episcopalian by age 25, and finally saw the light in late 2008, just before my 63rd birthday, entering RCIA in September of that year. I still love many of the German Lutheran hymns, particularly those that have been approved by the Church.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  46. Martial Artist says:


    “That is all,” aye.
    But you forgot the martial doxology, to wit, “Carry on!” Or its alternative “As you were!”

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  47. Martial Artist says:


    It is Omer Westendorf.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  48. Laura R. says:

    It would be interesting to know what Luther himself would say if he could see this picture. I’m pretty sure he would be appalled. But then, if you insist on putting the Bible into the hands of everyone and teaching them to interpret it for themselves, you just might come out with some very unintended consequences.

  49. StabatMater says:

    No deep theologcial thoughts here. My first thought after only a glimpse of the picture was that they look like the scarecrow, tin man, and lion from the Wizard of Oz. Sad!

  50. dnicoll says:

    Ugh. I thought these people were sola scriptura? I’d love to know which scripture! When I was a Baptist I once did a sermon on what happens when you start ignoring the bits you don’t like – you end up with no Bible at all. This is where the Anglicans are going. Just wait for the first openly lesbian Archbishop of Canterbury. Some would see that as a triumph. Thank God for the Church of Rome.

  51. JohnW says:

    Make believe priests! They are not priest and cannot confect the Sacraments. Plain and simple.

  52. Clinton says:

    “… with realistic threats of expulsion from faculty…”

    We have not been experiencing a drought of vocations for the last 40 years. Rather, it’s been
    a drought of ordinations, and that is because of seminary faculty like the ones Fr. Z dealt
    with. It is frightening to think of the number of vocations that have been sabotaged by seminary
    gatekeepers over the past few decades.

  53. joecct77 says:

    For years as a kid I watched “Davey & Goliath”. Liked the theme song. Loved the show.
    Never knew, until the 70’s when we got the “new music” at church, that it was “A Mighty Fortress”.

  54. twsumrall says:

    @Martial Artist — It must be. I left the LC-MS when I was 19, and was confirmed as a Catholic at 21 (I’m 22 now) with a couple years between in the Anglican Church (both ECUSA and ACNA).

    I love “A Mighty Fortress”, as well as other *approved* Lutheran hymns, like [LCMS Prof] Martin Franzmann’s “Thy Strong Word”.

    And echoing the many other commenters, it drastically beats the crap music I had to deal with last night at our cathedral parish in West Texas.

  55. Widukind says:

    Alice –
    What is my point?
    It is the very thing that you are stating!
    Contrary to Lutheran Midrash, Luther really never composed anything – that his tunes
    all have Catholic antecedents (and which may then be the reason those hymns are appealing).
    I find it puzzling how many people really think that all the early Lutheran hymns have there origin in Luther – that he was some kind of amazing composer, coming forth with something so radically

  56. jhayes says:

    I like “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” and had it sung as the recessional at my father’s funeral mass (in our Catholic Church). The Catholic version changes some of the lyrics in the contentious parts.

  57. James Joseph says:

    So much said about Luither…

    …folks you only have to be nice because he is a priest forever like Melchezidech, and who knows maybe he’ll get out of Purgatory some day… maybe.

    I certainly wouldn’t want an eternity foaming at the mouth with my feet behind my head, flinging poo like a monkey and barking at an imaginary devil in my bowels.

    (Realise I am charitable, in hoping he is heaven along with John Wayne Gacy, Osama bin Laden, and all those other serial-killers with three names, here calling the heresiarch quite possibly insane rather than well… malevolent. Truly, truly, the muddleheaded priest, should have paid more attention to the context of Psalm LI and rather than taking himself divinely appointed with infallibility.)

  58. Mundabor says:

    As far as I know, Eine Feste Burg Ist Unser Gott is really composed by and attributed to Martin Luther himself, I mean the melody. Wikipedia says (for what is worth) that he composed it between 1527 and 1529. This famous melody has then been re-taken and used as inspiration by others, besides Bach I would mention Mendelssohn in the fourth movement of his great fifth symphony, dedicated – alas – to the Heresy of Luther on the 300th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession.


  59. David2 says:

    (For starters, how about the folks at New Advent update their silly 1960?s pop-Freudian-analysis entry on Luther.)

    Isn’t the New Advent article from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913?

    Moreover, Luther’s prescriptions for dealing with the “Jewish Problem” read very much like what was actually implemented in his homeland and exported to much of Europe between 1933 and 1945.

    Just saying.

  60. Supertradmum says:

    Just a warning, the Catholic Encyclopedia was infiltrated by Modernists very early on (including dubious interpretations of the then new science of psychology, sociology and even political interpretations which are slanted), and I have found several glaring errors, as well as Modernist slants in some articles. It is not, by any means, “infallible” and should only be used in connection with other commentaries and documents. In recent times, I have found that the website manager, whose name I forget, is very open to corrections and amendments of all sorts, if one is uncomfortable with something, as years ago, a wicca advertisement popped up on the site and the manager was grateful to know and took it down. How is got there is another question. That, of course, is a separate problem. But, I would not use the Catholic Encyclopedia as a primary text.

  61. irishgirl says:

    Martial Artist /Keith-thanks for the correct spelling of Omer Westendorf’s name. I wasn’t quite sure.
    Still, he messed around with hymn words, and not just on ‘A Mighty Fortress’!

  62. Emilio III says:

    A few years ago the Jesuits were leaving our parish and the bishop came to celebrate the feast of St Ignatius (which fell on a Sunday) as a solemnity in order to thank them for their long service. Our (Episcopalian) music director had that hymn prominently featured. That one about which St Ignatius said “that song has sent more souls to Hell than all the heretic theologians who ever lived”.

Comments are closed.