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Boston Catholic Journal - Critical Catholic Commentary in the Twilight of Reason


The Practice of the Presence of


The Rule of a Holy Life

Brother Lawrence


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The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite lay brother who lived and died in 17th century Paris is a spiritual classic, or rather, a classic in Catholic spirituality. It is an unpretentious work, beautiful in its simplicity and utterly ingenuous in purpose: to bring the soul to an awareness of the reality of the presence of God in the simplest, humblest life, and through the simplest and humblest of activities. It is not an enchiridion to the spiritual life, much as we find in the works of Saint John of the Cross, Saint Ignatius Loyola, or even Saint Francis de Sales. There is nothing rigorous and systematic, and nothing in the way of philosophical and theological speculation. That is to say, it is decidedly not a speculative work steeped in the arcana of late medieval metaphysics. Neither is it an apologetic work, defending Catholic doctrine, and most decidedly it is not a theodicy of any sort. It is — pre-eminently — a narrative, written, in fact, reluctantly and in great humility. This is its tremendous appeal. It is, if we listen carefully, a conversation between the soul and its Beloved: God. Shorn of any pretence it brings to us a humble love of God that expresses itself even in the simplest act of lifting of a piece of straw from the earth — as a token of its love for God. We have much to learn here, and in the simplest terms imaginable.

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Scio opera tua ... quia modicum habes virtutem, et servasti verbum Meum, nec non negasti Nomen Meum 
I know your works ... that you have but little power, and yet you have kept My word, and have not denied My Name. (Apocalypse 3.8)


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