Commemoration of Johann Staupitz, Luther’s Father Confessor
Johann von Staupitz (ca. 1469–1524), was vicar-general of the Augustinian Order in Germany and friend of Martin Luther, was born in Saxony. He studied at the universities in Leipzig and Cologne and served on the faculty at Cologne. In 1503 he was called by Frederick the Wise to serve as dean of the theological faculty at the newly founded University of Wittenberg. There he encouraged Luther to attain a doctorate in theology and appointed Luther as his successor to professor of Bible. During Luther’s early struggles to understand God’s grace, it was Staupitz who counseled Luther to focus on Christ and not on himself.
Was Staupitz ever “converted” to Luther’s views? It is debatable. His last letter to Luther that we have, from 1524, laments the disunity of the Church brought about by the Reformation. On the other hand, his books on predestination, faith, and love were placed on the Index of Prohibited Books. So, his personal beliefs and convictions remain somewhat unclear, though there is no doubt that he was supportive of Luther’s general emphases and shared many of Luther’s concerns about the state of the Church.
Staupitz “motto verse” from the Scriptures was Psalm “I am yours, save me.” (Psalm 119:94), a text he shared and pressed on Luther when the young monk was despairing of God’s grace.