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... an inspirational read

Sister Paddy O’Connell believes one of the liveliest books and most accessible books on spiritual growth,

is Sleeping with Bread. She explains here why.

Sleeping with Bread

by Matthew Linn sj, Dennis Linn and Sheila Fabricant Linn

At first sight, because of the illustration on the cover, you might take this to be a child’s book. In fact it is a very clear guide to spiritual growth and how to cope with times of consolation and desolation in our lives, through the daily practice of the Ignatian awareness ‘examen’. It is presented in a lively, fresh way with numerous attractive illustrations.

The title refers to a practice that was discovered during World War 2, when thousands of refugee and orphaned children were traumatized and starving. Though many were taken into care, they could not sleep at night owing to their great fear that they would be sent away the next day without food. It was found that if they were given a piece of bread to hold in bed, they could sleep peacefully, reassured that they would have food for the next day.

The authors suggest that practising the exercises they present will give a similar sense of security and hopefulness. They are experienced retreat-givers and have helped many people to grow spiritually and find meaning and peace in their lives.

Basically, they present the method of the “examen” of St Ignatius in a creative way: Look back over the day and see what gave me life and what drained life. They say Ignatius “expected that God would speak through our deepest feelings and yearnings, what he called ‘consolation’ and ‘desolation’. Consolation is whatever helps us to connect to ourselves, others, God and the Universe. Desolation is whatever disconnects us”

In practice – and in summary- in a quiet place and at a quiet moment at the end of the day, you ask for God to help you to remember something in the day for which you are most grateful – and thank Him for that life-giving experience. Then you look back to remember something for which you are least grateful- when you were sad or angry, not loving or receptive to love. You stay with the memory…why was it so hard? And you know that God’s love fills you as you are. Then you thank God for what you have remembered and felt, in peace with Him.

There is a helpful question and answer section, dealing more fully with topics like desolation and whether we are talking and listening to God or to ourselves.

As an introduction for newcomers to the examen, or as a refresher course for those who have used it for years, this book is really excellent.

D. Linn, S. Fabricant Linn & M. Linn (1995), Sleeping with Bread. Holding what gives you life, (Mahwah/ New York. Paulist Press).

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