This prayer touches us on emotional and mystical levels. The words are
most sacred and, with the Spirit’s help, happily lead us into an immediate union
with Christ and, through him, with those we love, as we shall discuss later.
| Photo by Jack Wintz, O.F.M.
The Anima Christi (Soul of Christ) has been attributed
at times to St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556), but historians say that the prayer predates
Ignatius by as much as a century and-a-half. A long tradition tells us, moreover, that
it was a favorite prayer of Ignatius’. Indeed, in many cases, it has served as the
opening prayer of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. The prayer is
so sacred and sublime that it transcends all time, all centuries. We ask the Spirit to
guide us into the sacredness and hope spelled out by these ancient words:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds, hide me.
Let me never be separated from you.
From the malignant enemy, defend me.
In the hour of my death, call me,
And bid me come to you,
That with your saints I may praise you
Forever and ever. Amen.
Although there are many translations of this prayer, the wording here
is a literal translation of the original Latin. Let me share how this prayer inspires me
at this juncture of my life’s journey:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me. Jesus, risen one, let your soul,
which is as vast as the universe, invade my whole being and make me holy. Breathe your
Holy Spirit, the sanctifier, upon me just as you breathed upon the first disciples after
you rose from the dead. Set me free of sin, and fill me with the holiness that fills your
Body of Christ, save me. I open myself to your love. Embrace me
with your healing and transforming power. Jesus, this prayer moves me especially when I
say it after receiving your body and blood in holy Communion or after Mass has ended. But
the prayer is meaningful at any time. I believe you are with me always and ever standing
at my door knocking (Rv 3:20)—inviting me to open the door and enjoy a mystical union
with you, the risen one.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me. You have redeemed us, Jesus, by
your blood shed upon the cross. At the Eucharist, we receive that blood in the form of
wine. Your burning love is so overwhelming that one becomes intoxicated by the intensity
of your care for each one of us. Such love prompted St. Anthony of Padua to proclaim, “The
humanity of Christ is like the grape because it was crushed in the winepress of the cross
so that his blood flowed forth over all the earth…. How great is the charity of
the beloved! How great the love of the bridegroom for his spouse, the Church!”
Water from the side of Christ, wash me. Yes, Jesus, let the water
flowing from your side cleanse me, as did the life-giving water that flowed over me at
baptism. And this saving stream never stops flowing through me—unless I separate
myself from your love. You are the vine, I am the branch. If I remain in you, your abundant
life continues flowing into me. As St. Paul attested long ago, “I live, no longer
I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
Passion of Christ, strengthen me. It is your power, and not my
own, which heals me and makes me strong. As the psalmist says, “Unless the Lord build
the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Ps 127:1). Your strength alone is my
source of hope.
O good Jesus, hear me. Within your wounds hide me. There is something
so mystical, and dare I say intimate, Jesus, in our hiding in those holy wounds through
which we are saved. As Isaiah tells us, “by his bruises we are healed” (Is
53:5). Draw us into this most loving mystery—this sacred fountainhead of our salvation!
Let me never be separated from you. Loving savior, this expresses,
perhaps, the most central theme of Anima Christi. Keep reminding me that the best
part of prayer is not so much gaining information about you, O Jesus, as it is growing
into a more intimate love union with you. So, loving savior, hold us close to you.
From the malignant enemy, defend me. This line is similar to the
closing line of that special prayer that you yourself taught us—the Our Father: “Lead
us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.” We rely on your healing
power, O Lord, to set us free of any malignant force that might cause us to be separated
from you—from life itself.
In the hour of my death, call me, and bid me come to you, that with
your saints I may praise you forever and ever. Amen. Jesus, I need your help to reach
my final destiny in your Kingdom. Stay with me to the end—until I can join in singing
your praises with all those saved by your immense love.
No doubt you have noticed how my reflections on the Anima Christi have
strayed from the “me” and “my” vocabulary of this very personal
prayer—and I have begun to use words like “we” and “us” and “our.” The Anima
Christi is very much a prayer focused on my personal relationship with Christ. We also
know from the changes ushered into the Church by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965)
that we have come to more communal ways of celebrating the sacraments and of praying together
as Church. This in no way contradicts the importance of recognizing those times in our
lives when the Spirit calls us to more personal styles of prayer.
I have found it very fruitful in my own praying of the Anima Christi to
alternate between the personal and the communal—and I’ve heard others also
speak very favorably of doing the same. Perhaps you will find this fruitful as well. A
number of people have the prayer memorized and may say the Anima Christi first personally
in the traditional form quoted above, and afterwards in the “us” and “our” form,
so to speak, by including coworkers, family members or a sick relative, spouse or loved
one in the prayer. Thus, in the same prayer, individuals can contemplate their personal
love relationship and union with Christ and, at the same time, think lovingly of a sick
relative, dear friend or other persons in need. One might focus simply upon one special
person or, on the other hand, a whole assembly of people.
Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night or before dawn and am
unable to sleep for maybe an hour or more. I sometimes find great peace and meaning in
contemplating my union with Christ as well as with those I include in my prayer. Having
memorized the Anima Christi, I keep going through the prayer and meditating on it,
phrase by phrase, perhaps while fingering rosary beads. At times, it becomes a profound
mystical experience. This cherished experience doesn’t come from me, but from the
goodness of God. After all, the Anima Christi expresses nothing less than Christ’s
incredible love not only for me but also for any others (and all others) who come into
my consciousness. Lord Jesus, may we never be separated from you and from those we love!
respond to Friar Jims Abortion
and the Gift of Life and An
Important Word for Anyone Touched by an Abortion.
Dear Friar Jim: Thank you for your words on babies that have been
aborted. I agree with you completely. As a mother of a stillborn son, I was very upset
with a priest who said that babies who had not been baptized were in "limbo."
I spoke with the priest and told him that I was the mother of a stillborn son and the loving
God that I know would not withhold h is love for eternity from my son because he was not
born alive in order to be baptized. The priest said that he was sorry if he upset me, but
he was preaching what the Catholic Church teaches. I would love to hear your thoughts on
babies that were stillborn. Lynn
Dear Lynn: I'm so glad you wrote me. I want to assure you that you have a little
saint in heaven. No one's salvation is determined by chance (e.g., being stillborn). Your
infant was created by God to spend eternity with him and that's where he is. No theologian
teaches the existence of limbo…. As I said in my article, limbo was based on a strict
interpretation of "unless you are baptized…."
That does not apply to your infant at all. There are zillions of people who have never
been baptized who will be with God for eternity. Those in hell actually reject God because
that is what hell is: life separated from God because of rejection NOT by God but by the
sinner. So, on All Saints Day, celebrate that feast with special joy. Pray to your little
one who is with you all through your journey on earth, waiting for you someday to join
him in heaven. Friar Jim
Dear Friar Jim: I, too, suffered the guilt of several abortions
when I was in my 20s. For several years I struggled with the same guilt as the woman of
whom you wrote. During a very serious discussion with my sister-in-law regarding this guilt,
she said, "Forgiveness is like a gift, you have to open the package in order to enjoy
the gift within." That analogy spoke volumes to me, and my accepting of God's forgiveness
finally began. Thank you for your beautiful article. Chris
Dear Chris: Thanks so much for your wonderful e-mail message about your experience.
If my article brought additional peace, I'm very grateful. It's what I was hoping for.
You have those little ones with you even as they are in heaven with the Lord. Talk to them
when you have problems and struggles. They would love nothing more than to help you and
strengthen you. You are so dear to them that they can't take their eyes off you. Friar
Dear Friar Jim: Your message this month really touched my soul
and is one, although I have heard before, need to hear over and over again.
As a young man I fathered a child that was aborted. It is not often we hear of the pain
and guilt that the father feels from an abortion, but it is there. A wonderful priest shared
the very same thoughts with me and my wife as you did in this article…. (He) assured
us that our child was in heaven with God, and that we should pray to our baby and give
this child a name. His gentle care and love eased our guilt, but it is still in my heart
and mind on a daily basis.
I pray for the loving forgiveness of God for what has happened and that someday I will
see my child in heaven.
You should know that when our abortion took place we were unmarried teenagers. We are now
married for 27 years, with 3 children and a granddaughter…. WP
Dear WP: Thanks for your kind words. I rejoice with you that you had such good advice
and help at that very difficult time in your lives. Yes, the fathers are often the ones
neglected, and that is unfortunate. Men often flee responsibility, but they can't escape
it altogether. Your life is an inspiration to me. I know you are forgiven and that you
can include your little one in heaven in your life right now. Your love, I'm sure, causes
your child to experience a joy that cannot be measured. You and your wife will be in my
prayers. Friar Jim
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