Feast Day of Thérèse of Lisieux
Any Christian “perfection” is, in fact, our ability to include, forgive, and accept our imperfection. As I’ve often said, we grow spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right. That might just be the central lesson of how spiritual growth happens, yet nothing in us wants to believe it.
Many religious people think that it’s all a merit badge system—all achievement, accomplishment, performance, and perfection. I’m convinced that Jesus’ good news is that God’s choice is always for the excluded one.
Everybody’s trying to get higher, trying to get up, up, up. While Jesus, surprise of surprises, is going down. The experience of powerlessness is where we all must begin.
We can try, at great personal sacrifice, to be perfectly righteous, a perfect friend, perfectly responsive, perfectly available, perfectly forgiving. But at the heart of our efforts must lie the knowledge that, by ourselves, we can do, heal, or correct nothing. The point is not to be perfect, but to “perfectly” leave Christ to do, heal, and correct in us what he wills.
It is in the process of embracing our imperfections that we find our truest gifts: courage, compassion, and connection.
The little way is the spirituality of imperfection; we come to God not by doing it right, but by doing it wrong.
Practicing the Presence of God
Lay brother Nicolas Herman, known as Brother Lawrence (1611–1691), lived in a Carmelite monastery outside of Paris in the seventeenth century. He is known to the world for his practical recommendations to pray in little moments throughout the day, which he called “Practice of the Presence.” As Carmen Acevedo Butcher tells in her new translation, Brother Lawrence developed an ongoing awareness of God’s love during decades of work—and prayer—in the monastery kitchen. He disliked the work, but “got used to doing everything” there “for the love of God.”  Here is how he describes this practice:
- The first way to develop presence is in living each day with great simplicity.
- The second is in great faithfulness to the practice of this presence and to this inner awareness of God in faith, always gently, humbly, and lovingly doing this without giving in to hurry or anxiety.
- Taking special care that this inner awareness, no matter how brief, precedes our activities, that it accompanies these activities from time to time, and that we finish all tasks in the same way, we gradually grow the habit. . . .
- For those beginning this practice, forming a few words interiorly is helpful, like: “My God, I am all yours,” . . . or “Love, create in me a new heart,” or any other phrases love produces on the spot. . . .
- The practice of the presence of God, although a little difficult at first, secretly achieves marvelous effects in the soul, attracting an abundance of God’s graces, and when done faithfully, it imperceptibly leads the soul to this simple awareness, to this loving view of God present everywhere. This is the most sacred, the most robust, the easiest, and the most effective form of prayer. 
 Carmen Acevedo Butcher, introduction to Practice of the Presence, by Nicolas Herman, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (Minneapolis, MN: Broadleaf Books, 2022), 9.
 Brother Lawrence, Practice of the Presence, 53–54.
Explore Further. . .
- Read about the “Christian Zen” of Brother Lawrence.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Arthur Allen, Daily Meditations 9 (detail), 2022, photograph, France, used with permission. Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 8 (detail), 2022, photograph, Spain, used with permission. Belinda Rain, Frost (detail), 1972, California, public domain. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.
This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image inspiration: We pause to appreciate the seemingly insignificant and experience the awe of the simple and unexpected.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.