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Featured Book for June 2023

Practice of the Presence: A Revolutionary Translation by Carmen Acevedo Butcher

by Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (Author) Carmen Acevedo Butcher (Translator)

“Everything is possible for those who believe, even more for those who hope, still more for those who love, and most of all for those who practice and persevere in these three powerful paths.”

Since it was first published in its pocket-size 1692 edition, Brother Lawrence’s spiritual classic has remained in print, beloved by people of varying spiritual paths and religious traditions. With this new translation, award-winning translator Carmen Acevedo Butcher frees it from its centuries-long prison of dogmatic, binary language and brings fresh, inclusive treatment that readers are sure to find transformational. Brother Lawrence’s years as a humble kitchen worker at a monastery, often remaining in the shadows of his community, gave way to a spiritual life that was profound. Poor, living with a disability, lacking a formal education, enduring a time of plague and civil unrest, he found God in the depths of his soul, experiencing God’s loving presence throughout the day. His personal struggles and life-tested spiritual wisdom will resonate with contemporary readers as he invites us into a practice of Presence that is both accessible and deeply transformative.

For the first time, Brother Lawrence’s work is translated by Carmen Acevedo Butcher, a woman of color and a renowned scholar of medieval texts, who creates a dynamic, faithful translation for a new generation of readers.

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Community Questions

Community Questions from Claudia Love Mair for Practice of the Presence 

 Week 1

  1. Carmen opens Practice of the Presence with the story of how she found a book on the interstate that had likely fallen of of a vehicle, and that she hopes that if this translation ever found its way to someone that way that they would think, I've found a friend. (page 2) Name a book you feel is like a friend.
  2. In Carmen's opening story she also wished a reader who may stumble upon this translation in the midst of personal pain, “the strange gift of divine Love.” p.2. Why do you think she would she describe divine Love as strange?
  3. On page 7 Carmen introduces the practice of the Presence as flexible and portable, the Carmelite “method less method” and a micro-moment of rest with Love. What appeal do these descriptions have for you?

Week 2

  1. In the Introduction Carmen also calls this practice a daily experiment. What does the word “experiment” bring up for you?
  2. Please read Carmen’s translator’s notes from page 27-36. How can these notes connect you more deeply to the texts?
  3. The use of preferred pronouns has been polarized in contemporary society, including in religious spaces, yet Carmen employs “they/themselves/theirs” pronouns, which she asserts is the binary-surpassing, unified threeness at the center of Brother Lawrence’s lived spirituality (page 35). What is your response to the use of they/themselves/theirs pronouns for the Divine?

Week 3

  1. The spiritual maxims begin on page 46. Which one speaks to you most right now?
  2. On page 53 we find Brother Lawrence’s instructions on how to practice. Which step do you find easiest to put into practice? Which is more of a challenge?
  3. At the end of the maxims Brother Lawrence states that few people reach a degree of presence that “develops into one act that never stops.” What do you think a level of the practice of the Presence like that would look like in your life?

Week 4

  1. In the profile, Joseph of Beaufort writes that Brother Lawrence had difficulty with this prayer at first, and spent long periods of time not mindful of it (page 155). How do you return to a spiritual practice you've let slip away?
  2. Brother Lawrence said, “I flip my little omelette for the love of God.” (page 156). Make a list of the ordinary things you can do for the love of God and be transformed through.
  3. In his final years, Brother Lawrence was consumed by Love, and lamented that he had not spent more of his life sharing it. He said, “Kindness, so ancient and so new, I loved you too late! Learn from my sincere confession. I cared too little about serving Love during my early years. Devote all yours to Love.” (page 188). Brother Lawrence left us a legacy of devotion to Love. Name three ways you can honor his legacy.