Today the church remembers John Donne, Priest, 1631.
"No man is an island". These oft-quoted words from John Donne are not only a terse statement of a universal truth, they also point to a perplexing dilemma in this great man's life. How could John Donne be reconciled to the baffling world in which he lived: an age struggling with change, shattered by "the new government" and even "the new religion"? He felt deeply his own responsibility to deal with these changes. He refused to retreat to an island.
Donne went through a troubled and reckless youth, characterized by cavalier gaiety on the one hand and by deep-seated anxiety on the other. His elegant poetry and the brilliance of his personality gained him many influential friends, but little success otherwise. He married, but could hardly be said to have settled down. His charming wife bore him lovely children, but peace and satisfaction did not enter his life until he took his life to the Master.
Finally, he plunged himself into the church's life with all the fervor of his cavalier days. He was ordained and, after serving as a royal chaplain and as rector of Sevenoaks, he became Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, London. There he preached many celebrated sermons. His hearers were astonished and many of their lives were profoundly changed. His works have continued to stimulate thinkers and writers into our own time.
Our prayer today comes from Donne: Keep us, Lord, so awake in the duties of our callings that we may sleep in thy peace and wake in thy glory. Amen.
Almighty God, the root and fountain of all being: Open our eyes to see, with your servant John Donne, that whatever has any being is a mirror in which we may behold thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.