Martin Luther dedicated himself to monastic life, devoting himself to fasting, long hours in prayer, pilgrimage, and frequent confession. He would later remark, “If anyone could have gained heaven as a monk, then I would certainly have done so.”
Luther described this period of his life as one of deep spiritual despair. He said, “I lost touch with Christ the Savior and Comforter, and made of him the jailer and hangman of my poor soul.”
Johann von Staupitz, his superior, pointed Luther’s mind away from continual reflection upon his sins toward the merits of Christ. He taught that true repentance does not involve self-inflicted penances and punishments but rather a change of heart.
In 1507, he was ordained to the priesthood, and in 1508 von Staupitz, first dean of the newly founded University of Wittenberg, sent for Luther, to teach theology. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Biblical studies on 9 March 1508, and another Bachelor’s degree in the Sentences by Peter Lombard in 1509.
On 19 October 1512, he was awarded his Doctor of Theology and, on 21 October 1512, was received into the senate of the theological faculty of the University of Wittenberg, having been called to the position of Doctor in Bible. He spent the rest of his career in this position at the University of Wittenberg.