Brother Lawrence (1611-1691) began life as Nicholas Herman, born to peasant parents in Lorraine, France. He joined the army as a young man, guaranteed of his meals and a small pay. He had a spiritual experience during this time when he had looked at a barren tree in the winter with no leaves or fruit and the awareness of the expanse of God’s grace came to him. A love for God was born in him in that instant.
An injury was the cause for his retiring from the army and he later entered the Carmelite monastery in Paris with the name of Brother Lawrence. He worked in the kitchen doing the many tedious chores of cleaning and cooking, and amidst this work, his spirituality deepened.
Much of the information we have about Brother Lawrence came from the Abbe de Beaufort, the envoy of Cardinal DeNoailles. Brother Lawrence had come to the attention of the cardinal and Beaufort went out to learn more about him. In 1666, Brother Lawrence had four interviews with the Cardinal’s envoy, explaining his way of life and what led up to it.
These interviews and several page of Maxims which were found after Brother Lawrence died, contain the whole of Brother Lawrence’s message.
Everything he did was for the love of God. It didn’t matter how unimportant it might seem to be – he was doing it for God. He said, “I began to live as if there were no one but God and me in the world.”