Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

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Written by Peter Langbroek
They hung on his words, the plain garbed villagers of Ferraro, as he preached. The young man, Fanino, preached with zeal and love as they had never felt in their local priest. What he preached they'd never heard with such clarity; surely he spoke the truth. They admired his sacrifice, for where he preached was not behind a pulpit, but behind a barred window of his prison cell. The crowd loved him. They were baffled, even angry, that he was in prison.

Fanino had heard of the teachings of Luther, in northern Germany, and was persuaded they were Biblical. With a newly translated Italian Bible, he traveled the countryside preaching wherever and to whomever he met. Then he was arrested. His mother and wife cried, begging him to stop preaching. He agreed and asked for mercy from the priest.

But guilt plagued him. He remembered Jesus' words: "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I deny before my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32,33). What loss, he thought, to forsake God for the sake of men. Fanino took his Bible and preached again, only to be arrested in the territory of Ercole d'Este, belonging to the duke of Ferraro.

There stood Fanino, his face barely seen behind the bars, and there stood the crowd with pity on their faces. Standing out among the crowd were some brightly dressed noblewomen. One of them, had some clothes, wine, and food. "Poor Fanino! Why should he die?" she thought. Fanino stopped speaking. She came forward, then reached out to give him her gifts. "Thank you," replied Fanino. They smiled and looked at each other. Then she walked away.

Who was this woman? Her name was Renee of France, a woman of nobility; in fact, a princess of the king, King Louis XII. She, like Fanino, had heard of the teachings of Luther. When she was young, her mother died, and she was left in the care of Madame de Souboise, a godly woman from England who owned a copy of Wycliffe's Bible. She taught young Renee the truths of Scripture which she never forgot and always believed.

Renee knew full well the hatred against Luther's teachings. She witnessed the arrests of many. She knew the Roman Catholic Church inside out: its teachings and the corruption within the church. At times, she and her husband even visited the Pope. To be a Lutheran was dangerous, she knew, and to entertain them at your home raised suspicion. Renee of France surely knew; for she was the wife of the Duke of Ferraro, Ercole d'Este, the man who arrested Fanino.

The duke, a fiercely loyal Catholic, was embarrassed by his wife's beliefs, and tried to crush her spirits, imprison her Lutheran friends, and force her to worship in the Catholic way. The pressure she felt was immense, so much that she gave in to her husband's wishes. But she begged the duke to release "poor Fanino." She wrote to her nephew the king and the cardinal not to kill him. They didn't listen. Fanino was killed by hanging on August 22, 1550.

During the Reformation these two people, Renee of France and Fanino, were typical of that time in France and Italy,. There was no place so fiercely against the Reformation as southern Europe, where thousands died or suffered for their faith--men and women of all ages and ranks, a common citizen like Fanino and a noblewoman like Renee. Yes, many gave in to the pressures of death and hatred they received from friends and family. But many sorely regretted their weakness, and confessed their faith again.

Renee stands out in history as a woman who lived among Catholic friends and family in rich and were in powerful positions. She saw firsthand the persecutions. Bravely, she invited Reformers into her home. One Reformer, whom she invited in 1536, a young man from Paris, was none other than John Calvin, who stayed some months. There he wrote the first edition of a book we know as Calvin's Institutes. For years, Calvin wrote to Renee from Geneva and sent friends and ministers to visit her home. Later, in 1563, Calvin wrote her, praising her for the hospitality she showed to many persecuted, fleeing Protestants. He called her home "The Hotel of the Lord."

Children, as we remember the Reformation, many lessons strike us, particularly when we read the words of Jesus in Matthew 10, words which many Protestants recalled at that time. First, there is the cost of following Christ as His disciple. Many knew the sacrifice they had to pay for speaking the truths of God's Word, and many knew that some of their greatest enemies were within their own homes, as Jesus: "And a man's foes shall be they of his own household" (Matthew 10:36).

Second, there are the rewards and pleasure of God to those who show hospitality and loyal friendship to the children of God. Jesus promised: "He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward" Matthew 10:40-42).

Are you willing to lose your life and friends for following Jesus? That is a cost of discipleship you may have to take. What about your home? Can it be called "The Hotel of the Lord," keeping company with all kinds of people, a home that is faithful to the words of Jesus Christ? Are you helpful in creating a place where people can feel they are in the presence of a godly family? These questions force us to consider the cost and rejoice in the rewards that have been given to such people as Fanino and Renee of France.

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