Sleeping with Bread (and Dropping Stones)

In Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life (Paulist Press, 1995), Dennis, Sheila, and Matt Linn share that…

During the bombing raids of World War II, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve. The fortunate ones were rescued and placed in refugee camps where they received food and good care. But many of these children who had lost so much could not sleep at night. They feared waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food. Nothing seemed to reassure them. Finally, someone hit upon the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime. Holding their bread, these children could finally sleep in peace. All through the night the bread reminded them, “Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow.” (p. 1)

Employing the story as a way of introducing the practice which is the Examen, they continue:

For many years, we have ended each day the same way.  We light a candle, become aware of God’s loving presence, and take about five minutes of quiet while we each ask ourselves two questions:

For what moment today am I the most grateful?

For what moment today am I least grateful? (p. 5-6)

St. Ignatius (to whom this Examen is attributed) would word things a little differently:

What brought
me consolation
[i.e., an sense of
Grace and God]

What brought
me desolation
[i.e., left me bereft of
a sense of God and Grace]

Diagram from Margaret Silf,
Landmarks: An Ignatian Journey

Different words, yes, but the same intent:

  • in the spirit of a gratitude journal, there’s affirming the Goodness and God-ness of a day–and holding on to the Life I have received in the day


  • in the spirit of confession, there’s a sense of acknowledging and letting go of every “rock” and “stone” that has weighed me down and encumbered me in the race of and for and to Life (Hebrews 12:1,2)  [Here, I ponder the ways that loaves of bread and stones can often be confused with one another — as they were in the first temptation of Christ.]

When I am about the practice
(admittedly, I am still working to make it a habit),
I sleep better –
embracing Life…
dropping stones…
resting more comfortably as I hold and am held by the Bread of Life.

Yes, beneficial it is…

  • to close the day with more than the t.v.
    or some idle phone game having the last say in my day
  • to review and ponder God’s Presence throughout the day
  • to enter rest with some sense of what I need to leave behind
  • to sleep with the life-giving manna
    I want to celebrate
    and still be holding
    when the new day dawns.

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