Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Anima Christi

I'VE PRAYED THE ANIMA CHRISTI  PRAYER AFTER RECEIVING HOLY COMMUNION since I was a boy. The websites only present the Latin/English verses and perhaps something of the prayer's history but none reflect on the lines themselves. So perhaps over the next days we can think about the meaning of the lines in light of our own lives. We might be mindful that there are more than a few translations, so I've chosen the one that uses stronger, attention-getting words like inebriate and malignant. We have the phrase, "That's pretty strong language...." when someone is making an accusation or threat. So if people are used to pretty strong language, we ought not pray with soft or powerless words. The intense feelings of the heart aren't communicated with baby talk.

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 thy wounds, hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee
From the malignant enemy, defend me.
At the hour of my death, call me.
And close to you, bid me,
That with thy saints
I may may be praising thee,
forever and ever.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me

There's a difficulty in speaking about the soul because it is immaterial. My soul is the inner man; the inner woman. The soul survives our bodily death. Some people will at once disdain the idea of the soul simply on the grounds that it's not seen. The soul is that aspect of ourselves that aspires to the notion of God and God's existence. The soul is independent of our physical bodies and is what distinguishes us from animals, plants and inanimate things.

Human beings are more than just the electricity, chemicals, water and DNA that make us up. Jews speak of there being a divine spark in each person. In the Book of Genesis 2:7, when God blew his breath into Adam and Eve, God was putting something of God's self into us and not just air. This is who we are. 

Soul is that aspect of the human person which searches for meaning and holds the desire of eternal life. Indeed, all cultures from even primitive times have held some sense of immortality. Turtles, oak trees and the sand on the beach don't do that. We have high aspirations and the ability to make decisions for good or ill because we have a soul.

In my working with young people I have met many who have been taught nothing about the existence of God, let alone the characteristics of God, and yet have believed in and loved God. We might use the word infused, which means I haven't accepted someone's advertising, teaching or suggesting, but the idea or longing has come from some other inexplicable place - a place within.

On a bright afternoon I saw a young mother walking along a stream in a park with her two pre-school age children. When Mallard ducks gathered at the shore, the mom directed the children's attention saying, "Look at how the sun makes the green and  purple on the duck shiny and very beautiful." That moment of calling children to pay attention to beauty is from the soul.

Here is a picture of an old monk watering a flower that has grown up in the crevice between the building and the pavement. Indeed, that the plant is flowering so nicely might well indicate that the monk waters it regularly. To notice and to respond for the sake of life, originates in the soul.

Sanctify has to mean more than just make me holy, because those words don't  mean much to most people. Soul of Christ, sanctify me, seems to be asking that the deep and beautiful  inner life of Jesus, with all of its aspirations for the highest things, the divine things, the true things, would invade or be shared with me: that I would somehow catch who Christ is. 

John the Baptist spoke of Jesus, saying: "He must grow greater and greater, but I less and less," John 3:30. I'd suggest this means that there would be more of the authentically lived person God created me to be and increasingly less of who I think I am. That would be the outer person that I have created or learned: my MO, my style with the labels I wear, the tickets I have, the laugh or sound I affect, the knowledge I claim, my politics and teams, the brands I use, the channels I watch, the groups I belong to, the things I read, the tastes I've cultivated, the job I hold, how I vacation or use my weekends, where I shop and what I buy, what I'll do to be appreciated or acceptable.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me is a lovely prayer that might well stand on its own; a request to be evolved and changed  into someone new.


  1. Thank you for giving this prayer the exposure it deserves and for giving meaning to its words.

  2. Strong words for strong feelings. Amen!

  3. I say this prayer every night
    Karen D