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‘God in the kitchen’ – Ryan Galpin

I recently succumbed to the persuasion of a few friends and bought myself an air fryer. Although the purchase may have been slightly motivated by the current trend, the hope is that it will also help to reduce energy consumption and be a healthy alternative to regular frying. The only current downside is the additional washing up.

While I was wiping down the fry basket, I was reminded of a 17th century French Carmelite monk I had read about a few years ago. His name is Brother Lawrence and he is a familiar name to many due to the popularity of his published letters that make up The Practice of the Presence of God.

Brother Lawrence was not a prestigious or highly-decorated Carmelite monk. In fact, for his entire time in a monastery in Paris, he was stationed in the kitchen.

But it is in this place, amid the cooking and cleaning, that he developed his spirituality that has made The Practice of the Presence of God such a popular book.

Brother Lawrence saw the motivation behind our actions as more important than the tasks themselves. ‘We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God,’ he writes, ‘who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.’ Washing up became the personification of his spirituality. A task so normal and mundane yet, for Brother Lawrence, one that he accomplished with great love. ‘In the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several people are calling out at the same time for different things, I possess God in as great tranquillity as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.’

Brother Lawrence was so insistent on this practice that he would forgo regular prayer meetings to practice the presence in his kitchen. He had found that ‘the most excellent method of going to God was to do our normal activities.’

His spirituality perfectly encompasses the heart of Paul’s famous passage on love: ‘If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have absolute faith so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.’ (1 Corinthians 13:2). It is not the sacredness or the worldly status of the task at hand, but the motivation behind it. Brother Lawrence is not remembered for his great actions, but for the great love with which he did little things.

So whether you find yourself attending prayer meetings, visiting prison, writing emails or washing up, may the spirituality of Brother Lawrence encourage you to do it with great love. And may those small tasks become sacred moments, even if it is cleaning your new air fryer.

‘The Lord of all things made me a saint, by washing up the plates!’

Ryan Galpin is PF’s Communications Officer.

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