Brother Lawrence vs. Patrick

One of the joys of examining the lives of the saints is observing how their lives take twists and turns that lead them to the places they are ultimately called to serve. This is the case with both Brother Lawrence, whose life was forever transformed through his experience as a soldier, and Patrick, whose early years as a slave in a foreign country changed the trajectory of his life. Through simple faith and legendary acts, the lives of these two faithful servants of Jesus begin to shine through. And yet, only one will advance to the Saintly Sixteen.

Yesterday, in the biggest margin of victory of Lent Madness 2020 to date, Joseph trounced Joshua 73% to 27% to advance to the Saintly Sixteen, where he'll face the Biblical Elizabeth. None of this gets easier as we move ever closer to the awarding of the Golden Halo.

Time to vote!

Brother Lawrence

Brother Lawrence understands troubling times. Born into poverty in Lorraine, France, around 1614 as Nicholas Herman, he joined the Army during the Thirty Years War in search of regular food and sustenance. Unfortunately, he was spiritually and physically injured by the violence of the battle. It is said that Nicholas first experienced God while staring at a dormant tree in the middle of winter. In that moment, Nicholas realized that God was present and working even in things that appeared to be dead—himself included. His contemplation reawakened his spirit, and Nicholas realized that if God could work in that tree, then God could also work within him and in much of the mundane life around him. Thus, began a journey where Brother Lawrence found God in the simplest of things.

Following his injury, Nicholas joined an upper-class household to serve as a footman. Crippled and awkward, Nicholas reported that he was a clumsy servant, ill-suited to carrying things he was most likely to break. He yearned to be a part of a community in which he could contemplate God. Consequently, he joined the Discalced Carmelite Priory in Paris where he took the name of Brother Lawrence. There he continued to serve others and was often found in the scullery, cooking and doing dishes. During this time, he began to develop his maxims for mundane living, providing the foundation for his book, The Practice of the Presence of God. Brother Lawrence’s book teaches us that even the small things in life are opportunities to pay homage to our Maker.

Brother Lawrence’s contemporaries report that he had an unworldly knack for marrying activity and contemplation. It is said that toward the end of his life, Brother Lawrence achieved living as though it were only God and himself and all his activities solely focused on God.

Brother Lawrence calls us to find God in our chores, our routines, our moments of anger and frustration. Brother Lawrence knows the pain of mental and physical injury and that God is working in the boring, the painful, and the moments we wish we could rush through. Brother Lawrence calls each of us to be fully present with God in every moment, not just those we consider as spiritual. His feast day is January 11.

Collect for Brother Lawrence
Heavenly God, we give thanks for the life and teachings of Brother Lawrence who through his actions, deeds, and words has taught us to believe in and concentrate on God’s continual attention to us that through our growing awareness of God in all things that we may come to realize our dependence on God’s very personal and continuous presence. Amen.

—Anna Fitch Courie

As a sixteen-year-old, Patrick herded sheep. He kept guard as the lambs gnawed clover from the field. Patrick took care of a lot of animals, watching for sickness, cleaning out muck, and gathering in wanderers. With all of that work, his forearms were more muscular than a few months before. He had outgrown his boyhood’s lanky frame and expanded into the body of a man.

Patrick changed in other ways as well. His heart pierced as he thought of his family and birthplace. Out in that space, Patrick felt the acute loss of all he loved. He could not escape the ache of his homesickness, and with no one else to turn to, he began to pray. A few months earlier, bandits had captured Patrick and stolen him from his home in Roman Britain. They had moved him to Ireland, where he became a slave. In his desperate captivity, without the distractions of friends or family, he began to rely on God. Patrick converted to Christianity, and his faith grew deep through his trials.

Six grueling years later, Patrick dreamed that a ship was ready for him. He escaped from his captors and returned home. While Patrick was in Britain, he continued to study Christianity and became a priest. Then Patrick had another dream. Someone delivered a letter to him with the heading, “The Voice of the Irish.” In it, the people of Ireland begged him to walk among them again. He felt deeply moved, but he also had nagging doubts about responding to the call. He didn’t have as much education as he wanted.

Though Patrick was not initially welcome in Ireland, he eventually settled in a place where his ministry flourished. He became a bishop, baptizing thousands of people and ordaining priests who started new churches. He encouraged wealthy women to become nuns and ministered to the royalty. His legends include driving snakes out of Ireland and raising thirty-three people from the dead.

Today, festivities abound in his honor on St. Patrick’s Day. In memory of the patron saint of Ireland, exuberant people parade and green beer flows. The most pervasive emblem harkens back to those grazing sheep. People pin clover to their chests, recalling how Patrick plucked the three-leafed plant from the field in order to illustrate the Trinity.

Collect for Patrick
Almighty God, in your providence you chose your servant Patrick to be the apostle to the Irish people, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of you: Grant us so to walk in that way that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

—Carol Howard Merritt


Brother Lawrence vs. Patrick

  • Brother Lawrence (57%, 4,813 Votes)
  • Patrick (43%, 3,632 Votes)

Total Voters: 8,445

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Brother Lawrence: Illustration in a book published by Fleming Revell Co., 1900. Jebulon: [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]
Patrick: Stained glass, St. Patrick Catholic Church, Junction City, Ohio. Nheyob [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]


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196 comments on “Brother Lawrence vs. Patrick”

  1. This saint, once he’d fled from that land far away
    Returned to the green hills of Ireland to stay
    In the place we still find
    With his name intertwined;
    Though early, let’s celebrate St. Patrick’s Day!

    1. This is sooo unfair. All things Irish are in my blood so it has to be Patrick!! But Lawrence was such a good guy also.

      1. I too was in the same quandary, hope my Irish ancestors can look the other way...I voted for Lawrence.

      2. I agree - I love Brother Lawrence's view, so like the later paths of Mother Teresa and Saint Therese, but the Irish heritage takes over, and I want to sing old songs and wear my green sweater and shamrock earrings!

      3. I am going against my Irish ancestors and voting for Brother Lawrence......Heaven have mercy on my soul!

    2. Oh, what a choice today of all days!
      My husband Gary had a procedure in out local,hospital, he was told, NOT CANCER, but to see his family doc in 4 weeks, thanks be to God for small miracles! I was the Catholics Irish. And my husband of almost 57 years (June 29,1963) was the Anglican Irish, so we not only married but I choose to be confirmed into the Anglican Church of Canad! Hey, my grandfather Wilfred Austen Tott was ‘Anglican’ from London England! So, I voted for Patrick☘️

  2. I am part Irish and so am quite biased. Cannot help myself. I had to vote for Patrick although very sympathetic and enthusiastic about Lawrence.

    1. I felt my heritage calling so voted for Patrick even though I truly felt Brother Lawrence should be the winner. I was actually happy to see that he's way ahead of Patrick.

  3. "God was present and working even in things that appeared to be dead". I wanted to vote for Patrick, but this changed my mind. Brother Lawrence for me!

  4. God is present in the boring, the painful, and the frustrating. Brother Lawrence it is for me today. I am guessing we will see the Irish bloque out in force today; the biggest scandal of Lent Madness took place when an Irish saint made it to the KO round. I am very tender toward the garter snakes in my garden and will not think kindly toward any wannabe saint who tries to drive them out. Also, technical aside: can one "gnaw" clover? Thank goodness God is present in the frustrating. Brother Lawrence, pray for me today during all the boring, the painful, and the frustrating. May the dormant tree in my life, and the lives of all this little company, come awake.

    1. Same here. I was all ready to vote for Patrick in order to honor one of our Celtic Saints, and he is a perennial favorite saint of mine. However after reading the bio about brother Lawrence I felt much more in need of his prayers and example at this time in my life. Finding God in the mundane, finding God in housework especially. I would much rather contemplating my navel then wash dishes. Hooray for brother Lawrence and the example he sets for us.

    2. "Brother Lawrence, pray for me today during all the boring, the painful, and the frustrating." Amen. I'm going to print this out and keep it on my desk!

    3. :))) Well, if your teeth are a bit on the old side, I think you'd be "gnawing" the clover. I believe sheep are infamous for pulling plants up by the roots, so that would take some gnawing too.

          1. Been to the site of this Saintly Man. Beautiful and and green was the land. Was so impressed by all that I saw. All I can say is. Beautiful and that is why I voted for He

    4. Very well spoken; I look forward to your posts. I am Irish, too, but voted for Brother Lawrence even so. Most of us have mundane parts to our lives; he is the example of how we can make use of the boring, the mundane and the sometimes irritating. As some of my grade-school teachers said, "Offer it up." I also admire Lawrence's ability to combine chores with contemplation; let's have more contemplative prayer, along with thoughtful action, in our world.

    1. Lovely! I hadn’t read this at 8:25 when I wrote my little comment, and with more time I might’ve said several of the other things you have, though with less grace. On my way to Morning Prayer I’m going to look more closely at the trees.

    2. Ok, that's funny! I LOVE Brother Lawrence, but Patrick gets my vote. How many enslaved children go back to the people who enslaved them to bring the LOVE of Christ. They were both obedient and found God in the every day; their every days were just different. Mine is more like Brother Lawrence, but I pray that my every day may inspire future generations -- like the generations of Irish after Patrick who preserved Christianity while it was deteriorating in the interior of the Continent.

    3. I didn’t know anyone remembered Lawrence Welk anymore! I have very fond memories of watching that show as a child.

      1. My parents loved that show, and I watched it with them. I liked the Lemmon sisters, especially the youngest, Janet. I watched it until the Beatles and Rolling Stones came along!

      2. So do I... - and as much as I enjoyed the Lawrence Welk Show... - in the scheme of "Godly" things... - he does not compare... - yet Brother Lawrence is the epitome of Christ-likeness...! Just a thought....

  5. Brother Lawrence has been an inspiration to move for years. Part Irish though I am, it’s Brother Lawrence for me!

  6. I suppose Patrick will win just for all the green beer. But Brother Lawrence's faith and insight resonate for me: the tiny green leaves of spring are from God.

  7. I am the daughter of a Lawrance and the aunt of a Patrick. Today's readings were an interesting contrast between the utterly new and the utterly known. Strangely, that made my decision easier--I voted for the saint I had never heard of before, rather than the saint whose story is so familiar as to almost be trite. Also, the image of the barren tree in the wintertime was very meaningful for me, as the barrenness of winter trees weighs heavily on my spirit as the arrival of spring seems to take far too long.

  8. Brother Lawrence had a strong pull but my Irish roots went for Patrick who returned to a place of painful memories to serve the people who had enslaved him. Plus, getting rid of snakes is a big plus too!

    1. I canceled out your vote, Debbie! When I was part of the Contemplative program, Brother Lawrence was recommended reading. If you haven't read his book, let me strongly suggest you do. What I love about Brother Lawrence is he was not a very impressive man on the surface. The other monks would make fun of him because while he found God in his chores, he still wasn't very good at them. He broke a number of dishes in his attempts to clean them. But spiritually he was on another level than most of us. If anyone came close to succeeding at constant prayer, it was him. Humble beloved Brother Lawrence, pray for us!

  9. So difficult! I can only imagine the Irish kitsch to come, and my heart leaps with the deer when I sing “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.” But my life is no legend, nor ever will rub shoulders with one. Brother Lawrence gently shows me where God waits in my sort of life, watching me as I cook and clean, run errands and find rest. No showdowns at the Hill of Tara, just a quiet “That’s good.”

  10. I saw this matchup coming early on. I am an engineer; Patrick is the patron saint of engineers, for 'engineering the snakes out of Ireland.' And I was born on his day, though I am English, not Irish. But Brother Lawrence's little book has woven its way through all my Christian life, poor though I am at Practicing the Presence. No idea what to do, which I suppose makes for good meditations all day. One minor correction: Patrick's symbol is a shamrock--a sorrel leaf, not clover--a plant of woodlands and wet places, summarizing the Emerald Isle!

  11. Brother Lawrence is a worthy personage but come on now--with names of Donahay and Devlin it should be obvious who I voted for. Erin Go Bragh! Patrick too.

  12. Brother Lawrence's philosophy of worshiping and serving God in all we do, from, the big to the little, has been in my heart for years. Not saying I'm near in holiness to him.

    1. I have never been able to muster a lot of sympathy for snakes. Our yard is full of copperheads. I’m not a fan. Almost picked up one a few years ago while pulling up weeds...

      1. Snakes are just doing what they do, just as we do. We all have our roles to play and all are important.

    2. St. Patrick was a gentleman
      Who through strategy and stealth
      Drove all the snakes from Ireland.
      Here's toasting to his health.
      But not too many toastings
      Lest you lose yourself and then
      Forget the good St. Patrick
      And see all those snakes again.

      I'm a bit concerned about anyone who can drink enough to require 90 toasts.

  13. On this one I just went with Patrick! How could I not since I’m a Patrick

  14. Although I am very partial to St Patrick and his feast day, as a fellow denizen of the scullery I am casting my vote for Brother Lawrence.

  15. Brother Lawrence's story really speaks to me, as I recover from surgery with a long recovery-12 weeks to 6 months.

    1. Donna Tartt's novel The Goldfinch is nearly 800 pages long and is supposed to be wonderful. That might fill much of those long weeks.

  16. I think that Br. Lawrence's story, his book, and his theology make God present to us everyday folks. Maybe that's why so many of us Lent Madders are drawn to him., despite our love for and allegiance to St. Patrick.

  17. Imagine my delight, when, for several days I had been consoling myself over the idea that my decision to cast my vote for Lawrence would be utterly absurd, given the widespread love for Patrick, and the close proximity of St. Patrick's Day, after voting, I see Lawrence in the lead! (Gobsmacked enough to compose a dreadful sentence, I fear!) His sweetness and simplicity in his persistent faith inspired me, and I persisted, though I do realize there is plenty of time for a groundswell to change that! As a loyal graduate of St. Lawrence U., albeit a different Lawrence, keeps me strong in my faith, today!

  18. Was so surprised to see Bro Lawrence ahead at early voting, but given my daily contribution to the mundande chores that make for a happy household i had to go with Brother Lawrence!

  19. I am of Irish Catholic heritage. I lived in France for 20 years and for a year in Alsace with frequent trips to Lorraine. So Brother Lawrence it is for me. Also because Patrick is so well known and it seems to me that Brother Lawrence deserves to be well known, too!

  20. I’ve been dreading this match-up, since I first spotted it. Kudos to Anna Fitch Courie and Carol Howard Merritt for honoring these two faithful men so very well! As much as I look forward to celebrating Patrick, my vote went to Lawrence. Next to my dad and 2016 Lent Madness Silver Halo winner, Julian of Norwich, no one has shaped my faith more than this dear brother.

  21. I vote for Brother Lawrence and hope that all those suffering from PTSD today find similar healing and solace in combining everyday work and contemplation.

    1. Do people with PTSD have an official patron saint? If not, Lawrence is perfect for the job -- in his imperfection.

  22. Patrick's story is inspiring, called to return to the people who enslaved him, but practicing the presence of God in the mundane and everyday is something I aspire to. My vote goes to Brother Lawrence.

  23. This is rough!!! I'll vote how I often do and choose the lesser known. Patrick was amazing and lovable. He just doesn't need the press. As one commenter eloquently put it, I want to hear more of Brother Lawrence's story! Finding God in the frustrating and mundane is something I could really use right now.

    One note about those snakes - Patrick himself never claimed to have banished snakes, which makes sense because 1) he was truthful, and 2) there never were native snakes in Ireland. The area was too cold for them during the Ice Age, and when the glaciers melted, they didn't manage to slither in before Ireland became an island.

    1. I have heard that the priests of the Old Gods and Old Ways had snakes tattooed on their arms. Hence driving out the snakes was a metaphor for Christianity triumphing (displacing?) the native religions.

  24. Love Brother Lawrence and am moved by the story of the dormant tree and finding God in the mundane - such a great reminder in an age of the sensational! But it IS Patrick gets the nod today! (However I will be thinking of Brother Lawrence as I go about my ordinary tasks today with a smile).