The fourth travel guide is a contemporary of Pascal who lived in a Carmelite monastery in Paris. Brother Lawrence (c. 1614-1691) was an obscure monk who worked in the kitchen with no fanfare or fame. After his death, one of his friends would compile a short book full of conversations and letters from Brother Lawrence. This book provides travelers with a widow into the mystical life of Brother Lawrence where menial chores became an avenue to experience the Living God. Every day was filled with the “Divine Companionship” of the Living God [2003, 70]. This “Presence of God” was to him “an applying of our spirit to God, or a realization of God as present, which is borne home to us either by the imagination or by the understanding” [2003, 77]. While the manner may have been different than what Apostle John experienced, the Living God “took shape before” [1 Jn 1:2, The Message] Brother Lawrence in everyday life.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897) is another travel guide along the experiential spirituality path that had an increasingly personal relationship with the Living God. Starting from a very young age, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus met and spoke with the Living Creator as an intimate and personal friend. In remembering her first communion at age 11, St. Thérèse writes the following:
“Oh! How sweet was the first kiss of Jesus on my soul!…It was a kiss of love. I felt myself loved, and I also said, ‘I love You, I give myself to You forever.’ There were no demands, no struggles, no sacrifices. For a long time Jesus and poor little Thérèse had been looking at each other and understanding each other…That day it was no longer a look, but a fusion” [2006, 77-78, emphasis in the original].
This intimacy with Jesus continued throughout her life. Jesus was her first and only friend whom alone she loved and pursued [2006, 221.] No one and nothing else mattered to St. Thérèse, just Jesus. It is because of this single minded focus on experiencing God that she became saint with the Roman Catholic Church a mere twenty-eight years after her death.
To be continued….
Brother Lawrence. 2003. The Practice of the Presence of God with Spiritual Maxims. Grand Rapids: Spire Books.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux. 2006. The Story of a Soul. Trans. and ed. Robert J. Edmonson. Brewster, Massachusetts: Paraclete Press.