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Trickle Down Spirituality? Dilemmas of the Elizabethan Jesuit Mission

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image of Nederlands Archief voor Kerkgeschiedenis / Dutch Review of Church History
For more content, see Church History and Religious Culture.

In the face of many difficulties, especially mounting opposition from the Elizabethan government, Jesuits on the mission in England and Wales had to make some hard decisions about how to allocate their limited human and financial resources. In particular, with regard to the social landscape, the missioners came to realize that the gentry were, as a whole, more open to Catholic evangelization than many other groups. Moreover, they had the prestige and material resources to lend the missioners a sizable measure of protection and outreach. Due to the hierarchical nature of early modern society, winning over the gentry usually opened many doors. This increased the possibility of confirming in their faith or converting not only the Catholic gentry's families and friends, but also their servants, tenants, and others. Overall, although this focus on the world of the gentry inevitably limited the potential scope of the mission, it probably also helped to insure its survival and at least some measure of success.


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