Today the church remembers a simple, humble saint who dedicated his existence to prayer and presence: Brother Lawrence, Mystic and Monk.
Brother Lawrence was born in the early 17th Century in Lorraine, France. We do not know much about his childhood, other than to say that he received very little schooling. He served a stint in the army, but one day had a mystical vision that gave him a new direction.
While gazing at a stark tree in the middle of a French winter, Brother Lawrence received an overwhelming feeling of grace and a deep sense that God was present. He saw in that moment that he, like that tree, was waiting for God’s blooming in his life…which could happen at any moment.
Brother Lawrence took this experience and went off to Paris, joining the Carmelite monastery there as a lay brother.
He was given the base tasks of caring for the monastery, but in his repetitive work he found an avenue to integrate spirituality into every mop swing, every dish scrub, and every menial task given him. He began what he called the “practice of the presence of God.”
He devoted each small task to the Divine, turning every moment into an opportunity for prayer.
Brother Lawrence is a reminder for me, and can be for the whole church, that the small, simple things when done faithfully are a gift to the Divine and to the world.
In fact, I’d go further to say that small, simple communities of faith, parishes, churches, embody Brother Lawrence best when they do their small bit with great attention and devotion.
-historical bits gleaned from Claiborne and Wilson-Hartgrove’s A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals