Brother Lawrence ( widely quoted from:see sidebar," the practice of the presence....". translation by Salvotore Sciurba ) has inspired spiritual travelers for over three hundred years. When he was eighteen years old he saw a tree in winter which was bereft of leaves or branches and looked like a dead tree. He realized that after a while, the leaves and branches will reappear, and the tree will again become alive. All, by the will of God. The tree will have flowers and fruit. This thought, this cosmic intuition, regarding God’s power, His majesty, His plan, had a profound influence on young Nicolas Herman (his original name) that never left him for the rest of his life.
Brother Lawrence invented his own path. It was not mentioned in any of the books of that time. His method was to talk to God all the time. He did not limit his conversations with God, only, during the time of meditation, but held them during his ordinary activities of daily life; cooking and repairing sandals. He was a Lay Brother (the lowest in rank) in a Discalced Carmelite monastery in Paris. Whenever, he got a moment of respite, he turned his attention, inwards, towards God. With over forty years of practice, he had developed such an expertise, that he was able to connect himself, with God, in an instant
He recommended his method, of constant conversation, to anybody who wanted to attain nearness to God. In his own words:
“In my opinion, the practice of the presence of God is the essence of spiritual life, and it seems to me that when practiced properly, you become spiritual in no time. “
Let us discuss his method a little bit. He declares in the above mentioned statement that ‘you become spiritual in no time ‘. You may become spiritual in no time but most often, you do not get peace and happiness for a long time. Almost all mystics enter a period of great sorrow and anguish, which may last for years. St John of Cross has called it the dark night of soul. Brother Lawrence was no exception. He suffered ten years of fear and suffering, last four of which were especially harsh.
What made the experience even harsher was the fact that God did not give him the smallest consolation during that period. “…. Everything was taken from him……….his life became unbearable…”
In his own words:
“It seemed to me that creatures, reason, and even God himself were against me, and that faith alone was on my side.”
What caused and what ended this dark night?
During this search for God, What were the tools at his disposal? What is this faith he talks about?
These and other questions in next installments