Austra Reinis is Associate Professor of History of Christianity at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri.
In the Christian tradition, pastoral care to the dying has a long history. Reinis particularly explores the medieval literary genre of self-help books known as the ars moriendi, or “art of dying.” Martin Luther contributed to this genre with his Sermon on Preparing to Die (1519); dozens of Lutheran pastors, among them Wenzeslaus Linck in Nuremberg and Martin Moller in Görlitz, followed in his footsteps. All of them offered spiritual comfort to the dying in ways that addressed contemporary concerns. The recently-published The Divine Art of Dying (2014) by Karen Speerstra and Herbert Anderson heralds a long-overdue renaissance of this genre. Reinis considers how the practices of the past can inform our actions today in our increasingly secularized society.