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The Eye of the Eagle

John Donne and the Legacy of Ignatius Loyola


Francesca Knox Bugliani

John Donne’s family were committed Catholics. His two uncles were Jesuits. One of them, Jasper Heywood, was the leader of the Jesuit mission in England, while Donne’s mother was a recusant who was forced to leave the country in 1595. In this detailed and historically contextualized study, the author argues that Donne was greatly influenced in his journey from militant Roman Catholicism to ordination in the Church of England by Ignatius of Loyola’s religious ideals and in particular by his Spiritual Exercises.
The book describes the pervasive influence of the Spiritual Exercises on late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Catholicism and Protestantism. In this light, it offers a close reading of Donne’s preordination religious poems and prose with constant reference to the sermons. These works are usually read through the tinted lenses of ‘Catholicism’ or ‘Protestantism’ or other religious ‘-isms’. The reading proposed here argues instead that Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises were for Donne a means to transcend the simplistic and perilous divisions of contemporary Catholicism and Protestantism.


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Chapter Seven - Donne’s Ecclesiology -221


Chapter Seven Donne’s Ecclesiology ‘And in these walls [of the Church], to them that love Profit and Gaine, manifest thou thy selfe as a Treasure, and fill them so; To them that love Pleasure, manifest thyselfe, as Marrow and Fatnesse, and fill them so; And to them that love Preferment, manifest thy selfe, as a Kingdome, and fill them so; that so thou mayest bee all unto all; give thy selfe wholly to us all, and make us wholly thine.’ — John Donne, The Sermons This chapter argues, first, that, by the time he came to write the Essays, Donne had a clear theological view of the Church which was consistent with his sermons. It then explains the role that discretion had in Donne’s ecclesiology and assesses the originality of Donne’s ecclesiology in its historical context. Finally, it discusses the similarities between Donne’s and Ignatius’s ecclesiol- ogy and their dissimilarities with respect to the obedience to the Church and special reference to Ignatius’s ‘Rules to follow in the view of the true attitude of mind that we ought to maintain in the Church militant’.1 1 The Spanish version of Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises reads: ‘para el sentido verdadero que en la Iglesia militante debemos tener.’ 222 Chapter Seven Donne’s View of the Church Suggestions about Donne’s ecclesial loyalty are given in books and articles dealing with his life or theology.2 In particular Shami’s study of Donne’s anti-Catholicism, as found in the sermons, and Alison Shell’s and Arnold Hunt’s historical contextualization help to...

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