How "I am the bread of life" was saved: the rest of the story

Many love it and others don't, but we almost lost it all together. Just in time for All Souls Day, The National Catholic Reporter has Sister Suzanne Toolan's story behind her hymn, "I am the bread of life."

Her memoir is here.

The song is copyrighted. The scriptural reference:

Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All whom the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day."

John 6:35-40

Comments (2)

Sister Suzanne is a still-creative music radical. I've heard her wonder at what inspired her to take a non-metrical Biblical text and set it word for word, and as she says in the NCR article, she's amazed that it turned into a song that became a movement anthem. She wrote it so the melody respects the natural rhythm of the words (part of what makes it easy to remember). Seeing other pastoral needs and opportunities, Suzanne moved on to other work - lots of it - including such a rich, early exploration of Berthier's Taize music that the Taize community itself recognized her work as enriching and extending theirs and published some of it. If Suzanne is doing an ecumenical or spiritual direction or inter-religious event, she'll probably have some brand-new music to offer it. When people make partisan claim on 'I am the Bread of Life,' treating it as an anthem for 'Biblical' faith as though that description excluded bunches of Christians, I just wish they could meet Suzanne, as open a heart and mind as any Christian we could meet anywhere.

Thanks for the insights, Donald.

Add your comments

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Reminder: At Episcopal Café, we hope to establish an ethic of transparency by requiring all contributors and commentators to make submissions under their real names. For more details see our Feedback Policy.

Advertising Space