From the vault, one of my favorites:
I suspect most Catholics don’t know the name Martin Rinkart. But this Lutheran deacon and composer left us a beautiful testament to faith and thanksgiving: he composed the hymn “Now Thank We All Our God.”
Some details about his life and times shed new light on this familiar hymn:
German pastor Martin Rinkart served in the walled town of Eilenburg during the horrors of the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648. Eilenburg became an overcrowded refuge for the surrounding area. The fugitives suffered from epidemic and famine. At the beginning of 1637, the year of the Great Pestilence, there were four ministers in Eilenburg. But one abandoned his post for healthier areas and could not be persuaded to return. Pastor Rinkhart officiated at the funerals of the other two.
As the only pastor left, he often conducted services for as many as 40 to 50 persons a day–some 4,480 in all. In May of that year, his own wife died. By the end of the year, the refugees had to be buried in trenches without services.
In the midst of that horror, Rinkart wrote “Now Thank We All Our God” for his children to say together at night. Now set to music, it remains an enduring testament of gratitude and hope. Happy Thanksgiving!