I have taken advantage of this opportunity to share with you the experience of one of our friars1 concerning the admirable effects and continual help he receives from the practice of the presence of God; we can both benefit from it.
You will see that his principal concern throughout the more than forty years2 he has been in religious life has been always to be with God, and to do, say, or think nothing that could displease him. He has no other interest than the pure love of God who deserves infinitely more besides. He is now so accustomed to this divine presence that he receives constant help in every situation. His soul has been enjoying continual inner consolations for about thirty years. Sometimes they are so intense he is forced to do childish things in order to control them and keep them from showing outwardly. This behavior makes him look more foolish than holy!
If occasionally he becomes too forgetful of this divine presence, God makes himself known immediately in his soul to call him back to himself; this often happens when he is most engaged in his activities.3 He responds with complete fidelity to this inner call: either by lifting up his heart toward God, by gently and lovingly turning inward, or by a few words that love formulates during these encounters, for example: “My God, I am all yours; Lord, fashion me according to your heart.” It seems to him, in fact, that this God of love, satisfied with these few words, falls back to sleep and rests in the depths and center of his soul. These experiences make him so certain that God is always in the depths of his soul that he has no doubts about it, no matter what he may do or what may happen. […]
He often complains of our blindness and cries out ceaselessly that we deserve sympathy for settling for so little. “God,” he says, “has infinite treasures to give us, yet we are satisfied with a bit of perceptible devotion that passes in an instant.” He complains that “we are blind since we bind God’s hands in this way and halt the abundant flow of his graces; yet when God finds a soul penetrated by an intense faith he pours out his graces in abundance. This torrent of his grace, impeded from running its ordinary course, expands impetuously and abundantly once it has found an outlet.”
Yes, sometimes we stop this torrent by our lack of appreciation for it. We must not stop it any longer, dear Mother; we must turn inward, break through the dam, let grace come forth, and make up for lost time. We have so little time left to live. Death is at our heels, so be on guard:4 death comes only once!…
Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection
Letter 1 to a nun
From Paris, 1 June 1682
1 Biographer and editor Conrad De Meester, O.C.D. indicates that “the Discalced Carmelite friar referred to here is obviously Lawrence himself, as the contents of the letter confirm.”
2 On the date Brother Lawrence wrote to the nun, he had spent exactly 41 years, 10.5 months in religious life, according to De Meester.
3 Despite the fact that Brother Lawrence was 72 years old when he wrote this letter, De Meester reminds us that Brother Lawrence evidently was still quite active in the life of his monastic community in Paris.
4 Nearly five years later, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection died at the age of 77 in the Discalced Carmelite friars’ monastery on Rue de Vaugirard in Paris, 12 February 1691. We have published an excerpt from Joseph de Beaufort’s eulogy that gives an account of his final illness and holy death.
Lawrence of the Resurrection, B; De Meester, C 1994, Writings and Conversations on the Practice of the Presence of God, translated from the French by Salvatore Sciurba, OCD, ICS Publications, Washington DC.