In all my years of Catholic schooling, I’m sure I was taught about the Reformation in my history or religion classes, but I don’t remember those classes at all. However, what I do remember vividly is walking into a Lutheran church one October years ago and experiencing my first Reformation Sunday celebration.

All of it was new to me—the red clergy vestments, the red geraniums displayed on the altar, the sea of red clothing worn by congregants to commemorate the day.

The pastor preached on Martin Luther, the devout Catholic monk who was exhausted by trying desperately to earn his way into heaven through good works. (As an earnest young Catholic, I related to this 15th-century priest right away.) Luther knew that penance, fasting, and prayer weren’t enough to get him into heaven. Although he didn’t set out to start a schism, nonetheless he questioned the emphasis on good works (and indulgences) over God’s freely given gift of grace and in so doing changed the church.

For Luther, discovering that the church was minoring in grace and majoring in works changed his life. It changed mine, too. This month, as the church celebrates the 500th anniversary of Luther’s brave-hearted reform, I’m reflecting on the many ways his Reformation has impacted my personal faith.

1. Questioning is good.

Despite being a rather feisty and independent Italian woman in most areas of my life, it never occurred to me to question the Catholic church until I was gently prompted by my loving Protestant boyfriend. We took a journey deep into the Bible to dig for answers to questions and to understand the traditions, practices, and precepts that I had always taken for granted. I was a happily devout Catholic and ...

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