By Brendan Hickey
In the third week of Advent, the New Testament reading (1 Thessalonians 5:16-24) commanded us to pray with ceasing.
That’s a nice idea, but how am I supposed to do it? I have to work, drive to and from work, cook and clean and meet dozens of other commitments.
Maybe a monk could do it?
Monks typically operate some kind of business to support their monasteries, whether they’re Trappists in Belgium (brewing beer) or Cistercians in Wisconsin (former operators of Lasermonks, refilling and reselling printer and copier cartridges – they disbanded and sold their multi-million-dollar business in 2011).
Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (1614-1691) was a lay brother in a Carmelite monastery in Paris. Before that, as Nicolas Herman, he joined the army to escape poverty. He became a soldier who fought and was injured in the Thirty Years’ War, then worked as a valet before entering the priory.
He lacked the education to become a full monk and he spent most of the rest of his life working in the kitchen and repairing sandals. He, too, wondering how he could pray without ceasing, but he soon found that he had a gift for spiritual guidance.
Since then, those familiar with his book, The Practice of the Presence of God and the Spiritual Maxims have come to use the phrase “Brother Lawrence prayer” as shorthand for the devoted daily labor that is a form of prayer.
St. Peter’s in the Great Valley sees an incredible amount of busy-ness in a typical month. An incomplete list includes vestry, altar guild, choir, actors, teachers and students, brewers and drinkers, mowers and snowblowers, beekeepers, shepherds, clerical and clerics, and connections to ministries throughout the region.
We do a lot of stuff.
That’s why this book is a good choice for study.
We won’t have it for sale this time. You can buy it inexpensively or borrow it, but you don’t even have to read it to benefit from the class. Each lesson will be based on the book. Yes, there will be one homework assignment, but there are no grades and no guilt. If you miss a week, please just come back the next week.
Here’s the course schedule:
Week 1 (May 3) – Introduction to the constant conversation with God
Week 2 (May 10) – Continuation of the constant conversation with God and introduction to Lawrence’s views of sin and suffering
Week 3 (May 17) – Continuation of Week 2 and anything that has arisen for group participants so far, preview of the Spiritual Maxims
Week 4 (May 24) – Introduction to the Spiritual Maxims and conclusion, where to go from here