Lutherans Cite Sasse on Catholic Church

Herman Sasse (even more information here on the German Wikipedia) was a major German Lutheran theologian and contemporary of Karl Barth and Deitrich Bonhoeffer. After the Second World War, his life led him into the strange backwater of Immanuel (later Luther) Seminary in North Adelaide, South Australia. As it turns out, he is a favourite not only of Australian Lutherans, but also of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. The current president of the LCMS, Pastor Matt Harrison, is a leading expert on Sasse. He began translating Sasse’s works while he was living next door to me at the North Adelaide Seminary where he had access to many original Sasse documents.

Sasse was definitely influential in leading to my own conversion to the Catholic Church, through two of his works in English: His 1934 “Was heißt Lutherisch?” (in English “Here we stand: nature and character of the Lutheran faith”) and his “This is My Body: Luther’s Contention for the Real Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar” (1977).

Why do I mention this? Because two of our Lutheran friends on this blog, one being the aforementioned Pastor Harrison and the other being the well-beloved Pastor Weedon, have recently cited the Good Doctor Sasse in reference to the Catholic Church. From their blogs:

Pastor William Weedon citing Sasse here:

“If one asks for the secret of the vitality of the Catholic Church even in our time, one would have to admit that it is not is hierarchical organization, not its cult of saints and relics, not even, as many suppose, its traditional political astuteness that gives it its inner strength and predominance, but the fact that it celebrates the Sacrament of the Altar uninterruptedly throughout the world. This determines its whole life, even its whole theology.” — Hermann Sasse, *We Confess: The Sacraments* p. 99.

And here is Pastor Matt Harrison, El Presidente of the LCMS on his blog:

“Let no one say that prayer is self-evident. After all, we have services once or twice a Sunday. No, that prayer of the church which we find everywhere in the New Testament where the life of an ecclesia is spoken of, unfortunately, is not something self-evident. Who would maintain that prayer is offered in our Lutheran Churches today with a fervor, which even approaches that with which the church of the New Testament prayed “without ceasing?” (Acts 12:5.) Where today is Luther’s mighty praying with its visible answers? Where is the prayer of those pious people, of which Luther spoke in his explanation of the Lord’s Prayer in the Large Catechism, the prayer which in those days held the Devil back from destroying Germany in its own blood? Yea, despite all the criticism which the Reformation has directed at the mumblings of Catholic prayer and which the modern liturgical movement within the Catholic Church undertook (quite independently from an entirely different viewpoint) must we not finally ask where, in which church, prayer is being offered with more fervor and perhaps also with better training—for prayer too must be learned? Will the answer be the Catholic Church or the churches of the Reformation?” (Hermann Sasse Ecclesa Orans (Letters to Lutheran Pastors V)):

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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