On Sunday our Pastor used the phrase ‘practicing the presence of God’ during his message and thoughts of Brother Lawrence popped into my mind. Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection as he is known served in a Carmelite Monastery in Paris during the seventeenth century. He did not have the education necessary to become a Cleric and served as a lay brother. Suffering with chronic pain because of a wartime sciatic injury and partially crippled he was assigned the task of cooking and cleaning the pots and doing some cobbling when necessary.
While other brothers and monks were off to their prayers brother Lawrence was in the kitchen washing the dishes. He maintained that his menial tasks were as much a devotion to God as praying and worshiping. In fact he considered that these menial tasks were his worship. And that he was as much in the presence of God at the sink as those in a beautiful chapel.
I discovered his booklet titled, The Practice of the Presence of God, in my early teens. It was compiled from his letters and conversations and published after his death. Since then millions of copies have been produced in over 100 languages and it is still in print today.
Brother Lawrence’s main message was that whilst he was devoted to his church services God can be encountered everywhere. He wrote, “The time we spend in daily duties are not different from the times of formal prayer. I enjoy God with as much tranquillity when busy at work in the kitchen – where many people frequently call upon me for various duties – as I am on my knees receiving communion.”
So, the next time you are stuck with the dishes whilst everyone else is off doing their own things remember Brother Lawrence and you can spend the time talking to God in Holy Communion.
Brother Lawrence 1614-1691