Letter to Several Nuns
To the free nuns, my dear sisters in Christ, written with a friendly disposition:
Mercy and peace in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior!
Dear sisters, I have received both of your letters and am aware of your concerns. I would have answered you sooner if there had been messengers available, and I also have been very busy.
You are correct that there are two reasons for which life at the convent and vows may be forsaken: The one is where men's laws and life within the order are being forced, where there is no free choice, where it is put upon the conscience as a burden. In such cases it is time to run away, leaving the convent and all it entails behind. If this is your situation, where you are not freely choosing the cloister, where your conscience is being forced, then call your friends. Let them help you escape and, if the law allows, take care of you or provide for you. If friends and parents are unwilling to help, obtain help from other goodly people, regardless of whether your parents become angry, die or recover. For the soul's well-being and God's will are above all, as Christ says (Matth. 10:37): "Anyone who loves father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me."
However, if the sisters do allow you to leave, or at least let you freely read and hear the Word of God, then you must remain within and join them in their works, such as spinning cooking and the such, even though you have no confidence in it.
The second reason is the flesh: Though womenfolk are ashamed to admit to this, nevertheless Scripture and experience show that among many thousands there is not a one to whom God has given to remain in pure chastity. A woman has no control over herself. God has made her body to be with man, to bear children and to raise them as the words of Genesis 1:1 clearly state, as is evident by the members of the body ordered by God Himself. Therefore food and drink, sleep and wakefulness have all been created by God. Thus He has also ordered man and woman to be in marital union. Suffice it to say that no one needs to be ashamed over how God has made and created him, not having been given the high, rare mercy to do otherwise. All this you will amply learn and read and hear proper sermons about when you come out. I have abundantly dealt with these issues in the book about monastic vows, item) avoiding men's teachings, item) sermons about married life, item) in the Postil proven and established as true. If you read these, you will find enough instruction about various things, be it confession or whatever.
It is too much to write about here and not al all necessary, because I am convinced that you will leave the cloister, if one or both of these reasons pertain to you as you have written. Once there is freedom in choosing to join an order, anyone who is so inclined can join. Just so the Counsel of Bern in Switzerland has opened the most famous Cloister Kînigfelden, and any maiden can freely leave, remain or move in, and they allow her to take with her whatever she has brought in. May the Lord bless you, and pray for me.
- Written in Wittenberg, the day of Sixti Martyris 1524.
- Martinus Luther