Margery Kempe vs. Brother Lawrence

Welcome to the big, giant, full week of sacred Saintly Sixteen action! Monday through Friday our collection of saintly souls will be scratching and clawing their way into the Elate Eight. Today we kick things off with a matchup between Margery Kempe, who easily defeated Eustace, and Brother Lawrence, who stunned St. Patrick in the opening round.

Just to keep everyone updated, on Friday Joseph visited defeat upon Elizabeth 76% to 24%. He'll join Herman of Alaska as the first two saints to achieve the Saintly Sixteen.

As you wait expectantly for another episode of Monday Madness, go cast today's vote!

Margery Kempe

Margery Kempe is only known to us through her writing, The Book of Margery Kempe. From the book, we have a plethora of quotes from her, a woman of the 14thcentury dictated her experiences and devotion to Jesus Christ to a priest.

The opening of her book, in her time, looked like this: Here begynnyth a schort tretys… wherin thei may have gret solas and comfort to hem and undyrstondyn the hy and unspecabyl mercy of ower sovereyn Savyowr Cryst Jhesu, whos name be worschepd and magnyfyed wythowten ende, that now in ower days to us unworthy deyneth to exercysen hys nobeley and hys goodnesse.

Margery’s yearning to share her faith and her deep spiritual experience in writing is an extension of her love to share her faith through words. Margery was most likely illiterate; she paid a priest to write her story. But Margery was, by her own admission, quite chatty. She was a committed evangelist. On one particular pilgrimage, her fellow pilgrims asked her to remain silent during meals.

Margery, of course, could not.

She is compelled to share about Jesus: Afterwards it happened, as this creature sat at a table with her companions, that she repeated a text of the Gospel which she had learned before with other good word, and then her companions said she had broken her undertaking. And she said, "Yes, sirs, indeed I can no longer keep this agreement with you, for I must speak of my Lord Jesus Christ, though all this world had forbidden me."

They left her there.

Evangelism, it seems, is hard sometimes.

Along with her prolific verbal evangelizing, Margery also has the gift of tears; that is, the response of wailing and crying at the sight of images of Jesus being crucified. While she is praying with the image of the Pietà, we read:  [my] mind was wholly occupied with the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the compassion of our Lady, St. Mary, by which [I] was compelled to cry out very loudly and weep very bitterly, as though she would have died.

In another instance, Margery is so moved during the Good Friday service, she weeps bitterly at the image of Jesus’ crucifixion. Her priest, troubled by her emotional spirituality, comes to silence her. She shares:  Then the lady's priest came to her, saying, 'Woman, Jesus is long since dead.' When her crying ceased, she said to the priest, 'Sir, his death is as fresh to me as if he had died this same day, and so, I think, it ought to be to you and to all Christian people.'

Margery, quirky as she was, embodied a passionate, committed faith we are fortunate to have with us in her quirky, quotable words.

--Laurie Brock

Brother Lawrence
Brother Lawrence is embarrassed. He is a self-effacing, homely, and “so ordinary you could forget about him” kind of individual. Fame and accolades and VOTES are foreign to him as usually, he is the butt of the other monks’ jokes. Brother Lawrence is known for breaking plates, not breaking records. This new-found fame in this odd thing called Lent Madness has left him a little nonplussed.

In fact, the fame is kind of counter to all his beliefs laid out in Practice in the Presence of God. Brother Lawrence sees greatness not in winning a saintly “competition” but in God alone. However, Brother Lawrence is conflicted. On the one hand, his popularity in Lent Madness is both surprising and quite nice (“likes” feel good). On the other hand, it’s very distracting to his prayer life and his belief in the simple things. Brother Lawrence confesses to God that he would very much like for you to vote for him again, but ONLY if you take to heart his teachings and ponder them and apply them in your ordinary life.

Here are Brother Lawrence’s top six lessons on living a God-centered (extra)ordinary life:

1. You need not cry very loud: He is nearer to us than we think.
2. We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.
3. We ought to propose to ourselves to become, in this life, the most perfect worshippers of God we can possibly be, as we hope to be through all eternity.
4. The more we know Him, the more we will desire to know Him. As love increases with knowledge, the more we know God, the more we will truly love Him. We will learn to love Him equally in times of distress or in times of great joy.
5. And it is not necessary to have great things to do. I turn my little omelet in the pan for the love of God.
6. He does not ask much of us, merely a thought of Him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, at other times to thank Him for the graces, past and present, He has bestowed on you, in the midst of your troubles to take solace in Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to Him.

Go. Make an omelet. Live an ordinary life with God.

-- Anna Fitch Courie

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124 comments on “Margery Kempe vs. Brother Lawrence”

  1. I am falling in love with Brother Lawrence. What a stunning rebuke to Margery Kempe and her gift of tears: "You need not cry very loud: He is nearer to us than we think."

  2. "Go. Make an omelet. Live an ordinary life with God."

    How could I vote for anyone else?

  3. I voted for Margery, though I find Lawrence easier to deal with. Even so-called “psychotics” fall under God’s love.

  4. Brother Lawrence seems the perfect saint for Social Distancing, etc. Every time I wash my hands, use hand sanitizer, work with another student through distance learning, try to comfort a friend who is upset, pray for "gig" workers or write to my representatives not to forget them, etc., etc;, I feel a little like I am living a Brother Lawrence life.

    1. I agree. We are living in a different world right now, confined to a small space with a few others (or one other or no other companion), having to develop new daily routines and cope with the lack of things we used to consider essential. Lawrence's embrace of God in the mundane and everyday life speaks to me at this time.

  5. Although my vote is for Br. Lawrence, Margery is a reminder that God meets us where we are and works in us “there”.

  6. Having just eaten my little morning omelet, I am ashamed that I made it not for the love of God but for the taste of the leftover Indian takeout with which I filled it. In a few minutes, when I join in a virtual service of Morning Prayer, “we have not loved you with our whole heart” will have special meaning.

  7. I voted for Margery because she was "nuts" for God and moaned and wailed and shrieked! Sounds like me right now. COVID-19 made me do it!

  8. Brother Lawrence is more my type. Besides, I had already resolved to make an omelette for lunch.

  9. I voted for Br. Lawrence. If he's not the patron saint of professors of Practical Theology, he should be.

  10. This was the toughest one so far this Lent. I have always liked both of these saints. But I have to admit my own personal spirituality is more in line with Brother Lawrence's quiet devotion than Margery's enthusiastic evangelism.

  11. My bracket's too "good"; I will, this year, keep meeting matchups where I voted for both of them. In balance, though, I like balance. Having known both Margery-types and Lawrence-types, I think the Lawrences reach more people because the exasperated walk away from the Margeries before they hear what they have to say. Lawrence, today. With an omelet.

    1. I like your logic, Susan. I hope Margery would be welcome at my church, but after a couple of visits, I'm sure people would be doing severe social distancing from her. Br. Lawrence on the other hand would be welcomed by all, and his wisdom and faithfulness would have a bigger positive impact on us. I love omelets, but I save them for weekends. But I can assemble some granola and fruit with God in mind.

      1. The people "in church" are already aware of the love and hope in Christ. I do think we need both types out and bringing them to "taste and see". I have always liked the expression, "we are not keepers of the aquarium, we are to be fishers of people." I'm loud, but I love Centering prayer.
        Marjery you cry and moan.
        Too bad there was no phone!
        Brother Lawrence was so humble
        In his acts he did not bumble.
        This should be an ALL Win Zone!

  12. With apologies to John Cabot. I haven’t seen your limericks for a few days, and I miss them.

    There once was a Brother named Lawrence
    Whose reaction to fame was abhorrence.
    He said don’t be loud.
    Be humble, not proud.
    God’s nearby. He gave his assurance.

    1. I love big tent Christianity - where it's okay to cry loudly, obnoxiously in ways that make the powerful uncomfortable, and it's okay to cry quietly because God is near. Their crying meant very different things ,and I'm glad we have both.

    2. My apologies and thanks to you, Renee, Robyn and Antoinette.

      Like most of us, I have been coping with our shared time of trial. My way of coping with it was by taking on a number of tasks which needed doing ASAP so people wouldn't be hurt in one way or another. I managed to do so, and in so doing, forged a new relationship with God.

      I had completed my limericks for the Round of 32, and so I regretfully said good-bye to them (and to following Lent Madness more than cursorily) for the last few days. I promise I will try to spend more time with you wacky band of pilgrims and your ribald tales going forward.

      May all of you here, your friends, colleagues, family and communities stay calm and diligently practice the difficult dance of social distancing, so that this plague passes over us and we emerge renewed, to move forward together and build a better world.

      In this jarring and frightening week
      As both TP and solace we seek,
      Brother Lawrence, I say,
      Will get my vote today
      Since I know the earth goes to the meek.

  13. It’s Brother Lawrence today. When health care providers and others on the front lines facing Covid-19 are asked to do so much, we can all our part by doing small things greatly. Stay safe and social distanced.. Call to check up on a friend or relative

  14. They are both so interesting but I have known of Margery for a long time. she is an old friend and I was compelled to vote for her. thereafter will make an omelet.

  15. Brother Lawrence so embodies the self-isolating life; but my vote went for live-it-loud Margery, who reminds us of the importance of expression, no matter how awkward it may appear to others. Sort of like a 14th-century Lizzo! We are imperfect and messy like Margery, not tidy and inward-thinking like Brother Lawrence. And one day we'll be back in that imperfect and messy (and terribly suffering) world.

    1. Jane, I love that you called Margery a 14th century Lizzo! Absolutely. I voted for her because she would not be silenced by her critics and because of her fearless evangelism.

    2. With the pandemic we've been told to wash our hands for 20 seconds. Someone has timed the Lord's Prayer and it takes 20 seconds "He doesn't ask much of us, merely the thought of Him from time to time". Of course as I'm washing my hands much more frequently I'm praying a lot more!

  16. I like Margery's chatty evangelism, but Lawrence's simple faith as well as his six lessons earns my vote yet again.

  17. I had to vote for Margery as I am a descendent of hers. I think there is much more to her than the writers here have presented. Do love Bro Lawrence, too

  18. Well, this one hits close to home, some of my very best friends, call me “Chatty Cathy”, I pray in a loving way! But, back in 2010 when I had my first of 3 brain bleeds, I was right side paralyzed, BUT, God never took my speech! So, do
    I have to go on? You are all educated people, you get my point, and who I voted for!
    I, too , tend to get very emotional and wear my feelings on my sleeves☺️But, there is a reason I am still here to tell anyone who cares to listen, GOD IS WITH US ALWAYS!
    A side note. I do have one of the original Chatty Cathy Dolls, and when Infound her after our move from our home of 51 years, just 12 mos ago, I pulled her string— she has lost her voice, so I am more determined than ever now to use mine!.

    1. You will have to watch "Toy Story 4" for its depiction of Chatty Cathy (Gabby Gabby). She's a bit . . . dominant.

    2. SharonDianne, I can be quite chatty, too, and worry that I annoy people. And I sometimes cry in church, although I am discreet and do not wail or gnash my teeth. So while I feel a kinship with Margery, it isn't over something I particularly like, so I will vote for Brother Lawrence. I have an elderly dog with congestive heart failure who only eats scrambled eggs now. I get weary of scrambling eggs, though perhaps I can think of Bro. Lawrence when I do and find in the twice-daily chore a new spirit.

    3. Love this! And I love that Margery was not afraid to express her feelings for Jesus with tears and unashamed crying. I feel similar emotions many times when singing songs about His love and sacrifice for me. I surprised myself by NOT voting for Bro. Lawrence, as previously I thought I would try to get him to the Golden Halo. But I just related to Margery today.

  19. It was Lawrence's 6th point that really nailed my vote, although I was leaning towards him all along. He was a comfort way back when, as a very recent Penn State grad, I found myself flipping burgers at Roy Rogers. All to the glory of God.

  20. Oh, wow, well played, both of you. The bloggers' write-ups today are extraordinary. "A short treatise": one can hear the priestly scribe here, or else Margery had aspirations to great learning. She seems an earnest "gossip," a garrulous, sincere woman. I voted for Brother Lawrence simply for Anna's write-up, though possibly tossing a yellow warning flag for cheekily subtweeting Margery ("You need not cry very loud: He is nearer to us than we think.") I'm not sure about the omelette; my grocery store has been stripped bare of beans, rice, canned chicken broth, toilet paper, paper towels, cheese, frozen foods, meat, and now eggs. Brother Lawrence seems to have a bit of the dealer about him: "he confesses to God that he would very much like for you to vote for him again, but ONLY if you take to heart his teachings." I hope Brother Lawrence is not the spiritual forebear of today's religious underbelly: "God will 'take me home' if you don't send $8MM now." Still, Gawker's 2009 obituary is priceless: "Oral Roberts has finally been killed by God for not raising enough money." I enjoyed both these tributes today immensely; truly the celebrity bloggers are all at the top of their game this year. For those of us in lockdown states, may we all remain safe and well, employed, and connected with a loving community. Such as this one!

    1. I took Brother Lawrence's 'cry' to be 'calling out' to God - "you don't need to call so loudly, he is closer than you think". I'm sure he would not criticize Margery...

  21. I have a tendency to always side for the underdog. The one left in the shadows or on the sidelines. I voted for Lawrence.

  22. Not only are the bloggers at the top of their game this year of the virus: So are all of you commenters! I'm treasuring each and every word you're contributing to this precious global community in Christ.

  23. In rereading the original post about Brother Lawrence, "Nicholas (Brother Lawrence) 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." I had to vote for him. One of my favorite books is "The Tree That Survived The Winter". May we all survive this winter of COVID-19.

    1. The very best part of my day is reading all these wonderful comments. And Brother Lawrence has brought ME to tears for sure. Happy ones. Hugs and love to you all.

    2. Amen, Linda! The Tree That Survived is a good reminder to have Hope even in the midst of pandemic despair. However, I love that Margery wore her heart on her sleeve (as do I!) and emoted authentically and enthusiastically to share her love for the Lord. On the other hand, I respect the quiet, awkward daily devotion of Lawrence, as we are socially isolated I am trying to seek God in small things. It's a tough one today! But a great distraction from this stressful world we're all dealing with right now. I'll keep pondering until moved to vote!

  24. I don't remember now why I picked Br. Lawrence on my bracket to move forward over Margery, but maybe it's something to do with #2: We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.

    Little things may not be noticed, at first, but they add up to a great number. May everyone find a little thing to do today with love.

    1. Amen to that, Betsey, and thank you! May all of you find eggs for omelets; the chickens aren't sick and neither are the daffodils and bluebells--and most of us. From physical distances may we continue to love eachother the more dearly. Lawrence's infinite peace is needed right now.

  25. My dear Brother Lawrence, I, too, am conflicted: you, not by your choice to be inserted into this madness; I, by "requirement" to choose you, or not. Dear Margery, I have wept on Good Friday at the passion and death of my Savior and his love. Indeed, it was the 1st time I wept in church and during my college years. I, too, share your joy at witnessing to the gospel (though not quite so exuberantly as you).
    Still, in my conflict I sense the extraordinary ordinariness of praising God in this gift of discovering and,yes. voting on Christ's everyday people who have left us inspiring witnesses. In this day's "ordinary" I choose you. Sorry, brother.