The Anima Christi, or Soul of Christ, prayer is one that I was completely unfamiliar with until about three years ago. At the time I was polling the ink slingers here about their favorite prayers for a post I was working on. Although it did not make the list, the Anima Christi was mentioned and what was said about it piqued my curiosity enough for me to go look it up.
Since then I have adopted this prayer as my post-communion prayer at each Mass I attend (and as my small, restless children will allow). Here at Catholic Sistas we also did a series of posts looking line-by-line at the Anima Christi. I had initially felt like this was a prayer that was well-known and I was behind the curve, but as I coordinated the series on this beautiful prayer I learned that I was not alone. I loved that we were able to introduce this prayer to so many through the series we did here.
This brings me to the book I just finished reading. Sr. Marie Paul Curley, FSP, discovered our Anima Christi series and shared with us the book she had written on the same prayer, also going line-by-line through it. Her book, Soul of Christ: Meditations on a Timeless Prayer, was a wonderful read and provided me even more insight into this now favorite prayer of mine. I could end this review right here and just tell you that you need to read this book. It is fabulous.
For those who need to know why I found this book so great …
I loved the set-up of this book. You can use this book in so many ways and it is one you can read again and again. First of all, the prayer is at the front of the book in both English and Latin and is easy to refer back to at any time. At the end of the book there is an appendix that explains how to make a Pauline hour of adoration. When I started reading the book, I read the “Invitation” (sort of the book’s foreword or introduction) and then I skipped to the Appendix before starting in on chapter 1. The appendix was helpful to read early on as it put the second half of each chapter into context. I recommend this approach if you decide to read this book (which I hope you do).
The chapters each discuss one petition from the Anima Christi prayer. Within the chapters, Sr. Marie Paul breaks down each line into smaller phrases as she explores what the words mean. She touches on Scripture, the Pauline way of life, and her own personal experiences as she brings the words more fully alive. Following this discussion, the second part of the chapter can be read one of two ways: either as continued reading from the first half, or it can be used to make an hour of Eucharistic Adoration. Sprinkled through the text are small boxes to guide you through some hymns, prayers, and questions for reflection during an hour of adoration. These adoration sections can be used either individually or as a group. I loved this aspect of the book, that it is more than just a book to read and gain understanding. It not only does that, but it also can be used in a practical way over and over again.
My copy is now full of underlinings, stars next to passages I especially liked, words I circled, and notes in the margins. I kept finding snippets of wisdom that I wanted to mark for future reference. I also appreciated that Sr. Marie Paul is succinct throughout the text. There are no heavy theological discussions that go on for pages and pages. As someone who sometimes can only steal 5 minutes here and there to read, I loved that the chapters had many short subsections so I could read a section as I had time without having to stop in the middle of a page somewhere (i.e., this is perfect for busy moms).
One of my favorite chapters was also on the petition that I often find the most comforting: “Within Your wounds, hide me.” I liked how Sr. Marie Paul talked about “hiding” as a way to “take a break” from the world around us. The emphasis in this chapter was on healing, strength, and hope. I’ve dwelt on this petition in my own prayer many times, and yet Sr. Marie Paul still helped me look at it with new eyes and find even more meaning in it. Regarding Jesus’ wounds, the author tells us:
We can find hope and healing when we respond to Christ’s invitation to enter into His wounds, contemplate His love, and allow that love to be our defense, our healing, our hope. (p. 95)
I had never considered that Jesus is inviting us into His wounds, inviting us to hide there, inviting us to find our hope and strength there. This is only a small taste of the many insights I gained while reading this book.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about this wonderful, traditional prayer of the Church, anyone who is hurting and seeking comfort and is maybe wondering where God is in your sufferings, and anyone who is seeking to deepen their relationship with Christ through the Eucharist. You will be exposed to the vulnerability of Christ in the Eucharist, you will either be introduced to Eucharistic Adoration or it will deepen your understanding of Adoraton, and you will find beauty and insight into an ancient prayer that still has the power to speak to us today. Sr. Marie Paul does an amazing job bringing the Anima Christi to life for those of us who were previously unfamiliar with this ancient and, as the title says, timeless prayer.
Soul of Christ: Meditations on a Timeless Prayer by Sr. Marie Paul Curley, FSP can be found at Pauline Books and Media.
Usual disclaimer: I was sent a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received.