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Reconsidering 'Consideration' with Robert Persons
(Taylor and Francis, 2019)
Robert Persons’s revision of his popular First Booke of the Christian Exercise, appertayning to Resolution (1582) entailed a reconsideration of the crucial term consideration. In the first edition, consideration was presented as a motive for amendment of life, the driving force for making one’s resolution to serve God in earnest. Much of the inspiration for this approach came from the Dominican writer Luis de Granada, although the argument is closely related to the first week of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. Seeking to provide a more comprehensive guide to Christian devotion, Persons in his revised, expanded version, A Christian Directorie (1585), drew more extensively on St Bernard of Clairvaux’s twelfth-century treatise De Consideratione, which enjoyed considerable popularity in the Reformation era and was particularly valued by Pope Gregory XIII (reigned 1572–1585). The meaning of the term consideration was now extended to a settled, lifelong discipline of interrogating one’s life and actions.
Rehabilitating Robert Persons: Then and Now
Robert Persons (1546–1610) is a radically ambivalent figure in English Reformation history. In the Jesuit tradition, he is honoured as superior of the first English mission, in which he succoured and defended the English Catholic community both by his publications and by his pastoral oversight. But he was virulently attacked in his own day by the Elizabethan authorities, by Protestant patriots and by secular Catholic priests engaged in the Archpriest Controversy. Later, Protestant historiography, particularly in the nineteenth century, perpetuated the ‘black legend’ of Jesuit cunning, equivocation and treachery, while anti-Jesuit Catholic historians argued that Persons’s political militancy was a betrayal of his priestly vocation. The development of early-modern Catholic studies as an independent field of research has allowed for a more balanced picture to emerge.