There is a biblical mandate incumbent upon every generation of Christians that the next generation hear of the “mighty acts” of God. In the annals of the Protestant Reformation are a noble band of women who yearned to see the gospel prevail and the Reformation overcome all opposition. These women have left the body of Christ a beautiful legacy of courage and faith. To help uphold this legacy and pass our Reformation heritage to the next generation, Simonetta Carr has written, “Weight of a Flame: The Passion of Olympia Morata”. It is the fifth in a series of historical fiction by P&R Publishing for young adults (particularly girls) called, “The Chosen Daughter Series” which focuses on historical women who are timeless role models.
Whether reading for pleasure or academic purposes, the story of Olympia Morata will inspire. Weight of a Flame is a well told narrative which helps to illuminate a critical time in the church’s history. Set in Italy during the early 16th-century, Olympia Morata lived in an age of great upheaval and violence for Italian Protestants. It was a time when a profession of faith in Christ alone meant a choice between compromise, death, or exile. With imagination and creativity Carr brings to life one of the most beautiful and compelling female figures of the Protestant Reformation.
Born at Ferrara in 1526, Olympia Morata is a child prodigy trained by her father, Fulvio Morata, in the classics. Having made remarkable progress in her academic studies, her fame quickly spread. At the age of fourteen she was invited by Duchess Renee of Este to be a companion and tutor to her daughter Anna. Upon arrival Olympia quickly falls into favor in a court filled with scholars. Surrounded by volumes and shelves of books, the young Olympia was in her element. It wouldn’t be long though, before signs of tension would show as the doctrines of the Reformation took hold in Ferrara in the midst of a divided court. Shortly after her father’s conversion from humanism to Protestantism he took ill and Olympia was called to leave court and nurse her ailing father. In the course he dies, leaving Olympia and his family a beautiful testimony of Christ. This is the beginning of what would be a short and painful life characterized by hard lessons and self-denial.
With an allegiance to history that is as good as any historian, Carr takes us inside the young Olympia’s world. We suffer disappointment with her upon being told her services were no longer needed at court. Our hearts flutter with excitement as Andreas Grunthler, a young physician, desires her hand in marriage. We cannot help but agree with the young couple as they discern the ominous clouds of persecution gathering around the Reformed church at Ferrara. We travel with them on an exhausting journey to Germany that is fraught with perils and dangers of all kinds. We praise God with them for His sovereignty and providential care throughout. We breathe a sigh of relief as they arrive and settle in Schweinfurt only to discover the place where they expected to find refuge would be the place of greatest danger.
In each dramatic chapter, Carr helps us absorb all the historical data while we empathize with the human qualities of our heroine. More important, we identify with the young Olympia as a Christian. The stakes are high at every turn and as conflict after conflict unfolds, the reader is challenged by the faith of this young woman who did not love her life so much as to shrink from death (Revelation 12:11).
Olympia’s last days were marked by great physical pain as she was struck with an incurable plague. Carr gives us a glimpse into the soul of a saint who, rather than despair over tragedy rejoices at the prospect of entering into eternal life. “God has measured out a definite course of life for me…brief and full of work and woe. I have almost arrived at the finish line, and then I will be with Christ forever. Why would I want to turn back to the starting gate?”
In a culture characterized by heedless self-indulgence and that extols the virtues of selfishness and ambition stands Olympia Morata, a woman whose short 29 years consisted of troubles, reproaches, persecutions, and death. Having forsaken all worldly pleasures and satisfactions for the sake of the cross, Olympia’s story encourages us to run the race marked out for us with perseverance (Hebrews 12:1). It is my pleasure to recommend this book to all readers, but particularly young women, who will find in Olympia Morata, a shining example of strength and courage. May we pass the legacy of Olympia Morata to our daughters as she faithfully followed our Lord in duty, and in glory thereafter.
You can purchase Weight of a Flame here and also explore other books in the “Chosen Daughter” series here. Additionally, the author has done the readers a great service by posting a four-part series on her blog called “Truth and Fiction” in which she discusses what is historically true and what is fiction in each chapter. Not only is this a fun thing to do while reading, but you will learn how writers of historical fiction use primary and secondary sources, and other historical data to help direct their imagination. Click to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.
Also, if you have not done so, take a moment to read my interview with Simonetta Carr here. I trust you will see that Carr’s contribution to the body is nothing short of a labor of love.
Finally, last year Heavenly Springs commemorated the Reformation with a special series called, “Women of the Reformation”. Lord willing we will do it each year. I invite you to visit Petra Hefner’s moving tribute to Olympia Morata here.