Brother Lawrence was born Nicholas Herman around 1610 in Herimenil,
Lorraine, a Duchy of France. His birth records were destroyed in a
fire at his parish church during the Thirty Years War, a war in
which he fought as a young soldier. It was also the war in which
he sustained a near fatal injury to his sciatic nerve. The injury
left him quite crippled and in chronic pain for the rest of his
The details of his early life are few and sketchy. However, we
know he was educated both at home and by his parish priest whose
first name was Lawrence and who was greatly admired by the young
Nicolas. He was well read and, from an early age, drawn to a
spiritual life of faith and love for God.
We also know that in the years between the abrupt end of his
duties as a soldier and his entry into monastic life, he spent a
period of time in the wilderness living like one of the early
desert fathers. Also, prior to entering the monastery, and perhaps
as preparation, he spent time as a civil servant. In his
characteristic, self deprecating way, he mentions that he was a
"footman who was clumsy and broke everything".
At mid-life he entered a newly established monastery in Paris
where he became the cook for the community which grew to over one
hundred members. After fifteen years, his duties were shifted to
the sandal repair shop but, even then, he often returned to the
busy kitchen to help out.
In times as troubled as today, Brother Lawrence, discovered, then
followed, a pure and uncomplicated way to walk continually in
God's presence. For some forty years, he lived and walked with Our
Father at his side. Yet, through his own words, we learn that
Brother Lawrence's first ten years were full of severe trials and
A gentle man of joyful spirit, Brother Lawrence shunned attention
and the limelight, knowing that outside distraction "spoils all".
It was not until after his death that a few of his letters were
collected. Joseph de Beaufort, representative and counsel to the
local archbishop, first published the letters in a small pamphlet.
The following year, in a second publication which he titled, 'The
Practice of the Presence of God', de Beaufort included, as
introductory material, the content of four conversations he had
with Brother Lawrence.
In this small book, through letters and conversations, Brother
Lawrence simply and beautifully explains how to continually walk
with God - not from the head but from the heart. Brother Lawrence
left the gift of a way of life available to anyone who seeks to
know God's peace and presence; that anyone, regardless of age or
circumstance, can practice -anywhere, anytime. Brother Lawrence
also left the gift of a direct approach to living in God's
presence that is as practical today as it was three hundred years
Brother Lawrence died in 1691, having practiced God's presence for
over forty years. His quiet death was much like his monastic life
where each day and each hour was a new beginning and a fresh
commitment to love God with all his heart.