Richard Whitford's A Work for Householders constructs a model of household governance organized around the contemplative life of the lay householder and his pastoral command over his familia. A Work for Householder's companion text, A Daily Exercise of Death, centers on willed self-negation, teaching the householder monastic ascetic practices that emphasize rejection of the world and direct obedience to God. Together the manuals, which circulated widely during England's violent 1530s, work to interrupt the absorption of the Christian pastorate by secular state power. They do this by describing the household as a distinct locus of spiritual counsel, a self-enclosed unit that has only generalized interactions with other sites of religious authority. Lay piety in these texts does not aim to shelter its audience from the turmoil of surrounding events. Instead, the contemplative turn in Whitford's compilation explicitly absorbs the political, using it as fodder for potentially activist and resistant praxes.

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