Martin Luther Biography, Part 4: Early Monastic Career
For a year in the monastery, Martin Luther was considered a "novice." The novitiate was a probationary period during which the other monks determined whether the novice was sincere in his desire to be a monk. The days of a novice were filled with religious exercises designed to suffuse the soul with peace. Prayers were conducted at seven specific times each day. In between prayer times, the monks were engaged in chores or study around the monastery or begging for food in the town. Due to being plagued by doubts concerning whether his monastic endeavors were truly purging him from his sin, Martin Luther began to engage in severe practices in addition to the usual austerities faced by the monks. Luther would fast: sometimes three days in a row without a crumb. He would also refuse to sleep without any blankets in the cold, and he nearly froze himself to death. Luther later testified:
I was a good monk, and I kept the rule of my order so strictly that I may say that if ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery it was I. All my brothers in the monastery who knew me will bear me out. If I had kept on any longer, I would have killed myself with vigils, prayers, readings, and other work.
Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1978), 27, 34.
Justo Gonzales, The Story of Christianity, Volume 2 (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1985), 16.