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Books Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Prayer Reviews

Book Review: Soul of Christ: Meditations on a Timeless Prayer

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.

Soul of Christ coverThis 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.

Anima Christi prayer

Usual disclaimer: I was sent a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received.

Categories
Advent Allison Anima Christi Bible

Line by Line Prayer Reflection, Anima Christi Part XI

This is the eleventh and final of a series of posts reflecting line-by-line on the Anima Christi.

anima christi XI


That with Your saints I may praise You forever and ever. Amen

This is the culmination of the entire prayer, its raison d’etre: to praise Jesus with the saints forever.

“After this I had a vision of a great multitude which no one could count from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, ‘Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the the throne and from the Lamb!’ All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshipped God and exclaimed, ‘Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen (Revelation 7:9-12)’.”

Well halleluia! That is from the apostle John’s visions of heaven, of course, and it is ours. But not only when we physically pass on from this world to the next. Eternity doesn’t begin when we die and are with Jesus. We’re in it now in this life on earth; eternity is not bound by time. We can, and indeed are directed to, praise God with all the saints (as well as the angels and the earth) throughout our lives.

From Psalms 148 and 150:

“Praise the Lord from the heavens;
Praise Him all you angels;
Praise Him, sun and moon;
Give praise, all shining stars;
Praise the Lord you sea monsters, you animals wild and tame;
You mountains, hills, fruit trees, and cedars;
You kings of the earth, young men and women, too;
Let them all praise the Lord’s name, for His name alone is exalted majestic above earth and heaven.
Praise with blasts upon the horn, the harp and lyre.
Give praise with tambourines and dance;
Praise Him with flutes and strings and crashing cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!”

When Jesus’ followers were praising Him during the procession into Jerusalem, some of the Pharisees told Him to rebuke them and Jesus said, “I tell you, if they keep silent, then the stones will cry out!” Let’s not keep silent, shall we? Let’s have the stones join us, not do it for us! Praise is verbal affirmation of admiration. It should be heard (and apparently, loudly). It is not always easy, even though we know of the greatness of God, His salvation won at such a cost, His beauty and holiness. The final chapter of Hebrews reminds Christians that we seek the city which is to come and encourages us to “offer God a sacrifice of praise (13:15).” Sometimes, praising God is like dragging a sacrificial animal, kicking and bawling, to the altar. Our Lord accepts that kind of sacrifice, too.

All of the precious lines of this prayer of entreaty for Jesus’ sanctification, saving, washing, strengthening, hearing, etc., lead to this. “At the hour of my death, call me and bid me come unto You that with Your saints I may praise You forever and ever.” May we move through life and death praising God eternally. We are the people He has formed for Himself and we will announce His praise (Isaiah 43:21). This Advent, let us make praise a part of our devotion (maybe even with dancing and cymbals!). Let all the earth praise His Name!

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Anima Christi End of life Molly G Prayer

Line By Line Prayer Reflection: Anima Christi, Part X

This is the tenth of a series of posts reflecting line-by-line on the Anima Christi.

anima christi

As a mom of 5 kids, I am often plan ahead for things.  My older girls dance competitively, and so each week, I transport the whole family to dance class.  As I begin sending kids to their respective dance studios, I can also be found dishing out dinner in pre-made thermos containers for the others who are waiting, passing out coloring books or homework, and hooking my youngest up to her tube feed or giving seizure meds.  I often get comments on how prepared I am to have everything ready for our long nights away from home.  This is true.  I just have to be.  Whether it is school, dance, appointments, or other daily tasks, as  mom of a large family that also includes a special needs child, preparedness is just a necessity.  It’s a way of life.  This prayer got me thinking, though – am I truly prepared in the most important way? Am I properly preparing my children to be ready for God and His call? Upon reflection, these lines of the Anima Christi really speak to me about two important things – listening, and preparedness.

It is easy to get caught up in our everyday lives, schedules, and obligations and forget to listen.  We shush the children to move forward quickly, rush through dinners to get to a practice, or don’t take time to hear what others are saying so we can finish an assignment and move on to the next task.  Listening is often just ignored.  With the noisy world we live in, we forget sometimes that listening is just as important as speaking.  Actually, in our spiritual life, listening is probably more important than speaking.  We need to listen to God and what He is calling us to do in our lives.  During tough decisions, more than talk about it with 500 people, maybe we should listen for God’s peace.  During hard emotional times, rather than discuss it with multiple friends, perhaps we should listen for God’s comfort.  By doing these things, listening not only brings clarity to our lives as far as what God nudges us to do, but also helps us to be prepared.

Being prepared is so important in many aspects of our lives.  Spiritually, this is imperative, as we all know this life is temporary.  We are here only for a short while to do good, learn about God, and get ready to be with Him in heaven forever.  In the rush of planning children’s dinners to take in the car, or buying supplies ahead of time for an upcoming projects, we also need to be helping them to learn to listen to Christ.  I need to prepare them for the fact that His calling of us, is, well, unplanned.  We do not know when God will call us home, but without lessons in listening or preparing our souls the best we can, we may let other things cloud that blissful moment.

At the end, when all on this earth will be left behind, we will want clarity.  We will want peace.  And we will want comfort from fear.  What better way than to listen to God as we live each day, so when He calls us for that final time, we can remember with confidence His promise to be with us always…. “…in the hour of my death call me.  And bid me come unto thee….”

the joy of letting God speak to us

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Anima Christi Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Prayer Series

Line-by Line Prayer Reflection: Anima Christi, Part IX

This is the ninth of a series of posts reflecting line-by-line on the Anima Christi.

Anima Christi Oct reflection

“From the malicious enemy, defend me.”

Every Sunday for months now, after receiving communion, I have been slowly saying the Anima Christi prayer, savoring the words as I say them. Knowing this post was coming up, I found myself lingering on this line: From the malicious enemy defend me. Each time I pondered it and wondered what sort of reflection I could write on this.

I should not have worried. The Holy Spirit had it under control. As my family has worked through a sudden fear of the dark our three year old twins have developed, I have found myself reflecting on darkness, evil spirits, the devil, guardian angels, and the prayers we invoke during times when we feel under attack. All perfectly timed contemplations.

“From the malicious enemy …”

Although we don’t see him, the devil is always looking for ways to turn us away from God. He would like nothing more than for us to believe that God does not exist. The enemy is conniving and smart. He knows how to make evil and sin look tempting and harmless and even like innocent fun. As the prayer says, he is malicious.

Malicious is the adjective of the noun malice, which is defined as a “desire to inflict injury, harm, or suffering on another, either because of a hostile impulse or out of deep-seated meanness” (dictionary.com).

Michael Tramples Satan by Guido Reni (1636)
Michael Tramples Satan by Guido Reni (Rome, 1636)

This makes me think of how the devil uses humans in his hatred for God. All that the devil does is because of his mean-spiritedness. The Evil One hates humans because we were created by God, in his image and likeness, and then God became man, one of us, thus lifting humans to a place of importance in the heavenly Kingdom. The devil hates this and wants to get back at God. The devil delights in causing humans to fall out of God’s favor. He is Enemy Number One.

In previous lines we have asked for strength, asked Jesus to hide us, and begged Him to not let us be separated from Him. Here we identify the threat we fear. It is the devil, the evil one, the enemy.

“… defend me.”

Two simple words. It is hard to imagine the power of these two words. The devil works hard to get to us. VERY hard. He never stops. He works hard on those close to Christ and those who are striving to lead holy lives and build strong relationships with Christ. He works hardest on those that devote their lives to serving Christ, particularly our priests without whom we would not have the Eucharist. But no matter how hard Enemy Number One works, we have Jesus on our side. These two simple words carry great power. As I pray through the Anima Christi, I now find myself slowing down through this line and savoring these last two words. My heart feels at peace as they roll off my tongue.

Jesus loves us and wants us with Him. He wants to protect us like a father protects His children. He desires to come to our aid when we are threatened. The hard part for us, often, is to remember to call on Him.

“From the malicious enemy defend me.”

For me, praying through the words of this prayer each week is a gentle reminder of how much I am loved by my Heavenly Father. This line in particular brings a sense of peacefulness as I am reminded that Jesus has laid claim on my soul and all I have to do is choose to follow Him. By doing so, Jesus will defend me against the evil spirits that are working hard in the world to claim souls away from God.

I pray that we will all turn away from evil, seek solace in Christ Jesus, and be together in the Heavenly Kingdom one day.

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Anima Christi AnnMarie C.

Line-By-Line Prayer Reflection: Anima Christi, Part VIII

Anima Christi Sept reflectionThis is the eighth of a series of posts reflecting line-by-line on the Anima Christi. Suffer me not to be separated from Thee.

I have a chronic illness which is exacerbated by the foods I eat. Instead of traditional medicine, the only way this disorder can be treated is by eliminating certain foods from my life. At one particular visit, my doctor proposed an initial very strict stage of food elimination. Being used to elimination diets, , I didn’t give it a second thought. But, at the next Mass I attended, when I was on line for communion, it struck me that I shouldn’t be receiving communion in either form, for the next month or so. I made my way up to the priest, crossed my arms and received a blessing. When I got to my seat, suddenly, an overwhelming thirst came upon me, which underscored the loss I had just experienced. I began to weep, quietly, kneeling in the pew. “Oh God,” I prayed, “I feel so far from you!”

But, later, I was convicted.

Why was I so upset about not being able to receive the Eucharist when there have been plenty of times in my life that I’ve separated myself from God for other reasons?

The Lord gave us free will so that we would freely choose to love Him. We are not slaves. We are not puppets. Our free will is a gift that the Lord will not take back from us. He wants us to love Him, yes. But He wants that love to be a chosen love, a sincere love. Who among us would want anyone to love them solely out of a sense of duty or obligation? That is not a free choice. The Lord wants our hearts, but He will never force our love. He waits by, patiently, always ready to accept any love we have to give Him. He doesn’t force us, which is beautiful. Yet, we are also free to choose to turn our backs on Him; to cut ourselves off from Him through sin.

We all sin; we are fallen creatures and that is our nature. But, the Bible tells us that there are some sins that are more serious than others; some that bring spiritual death.

sinSt. John tells us that, “There is such a thing as deadly sin… All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.” (1 John 5:16-17)
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, St. Paul gives us a whole list of sins that will exclude us from the Kingdom of God. Is this because God is mean? No. He is perfect, and loving, and no creature could possibly dwell with Him that has turned his or her back on God. In Galatians 5:19-21 and Ephesians 5:3-6, St. Paul again underscores that certain people, especially the immoral, impure, greedy and those who practice idolatry cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. Idolatry can come in many forms. That thing you just can’t live without? It may be an idol for you. It may be the thing that is preventing you from living the life God created you to live.

Consider the things that may come between you and God.

What came between Adam and Eve and God? Pride. Disobedience. But, although they were no longer able to dwell with the Lord in the garden, He formulated a plan to get them back. He Himself redeemed them, and all of us.

We have a responsibility to live according to His Word. Yes, in John 3:16, it tells us that ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not die, but have eternal life. ‘

But what does it mean to believe?

Do we just make a verbal profession of our belief? Or does it extend beyond that? Through the gospel, Jesus gives us direction on this. He tells the adulteress to stop sinning. He tells the rich man to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor. He tells us to pick up our crosses and follow Him. According to Matthew 16:24-27, how we behave matters to Jesus.

forgivenessIn Matthew 5:22-24, Jesus tells us to reconcile with our brother before we approach the altar of God. Harboring unforgiveness will separate us from the Lord. He tells us this Himself, in the prayer He gave to the disciples, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Forgiveness is not a feeling, as much as it is an act of the will. We make a decision to forgive. It cuts the tie between us and the person who offended us. When we forgive, that person no longer has power over us. It doesn’t excuse what they did, it just cuts us free. Feelings may remain, but, over time, emotions will heal, especially through prayer, help from family and friends, or therapy.

Through the Church, the Lord gives us a way to reconcile with Him. Jesus clearly established a Church (see Mt 16: 18-19, 18:15-17; Ephesians 1:22, 3:10, 5:23-24, to name a few verses). He also gave priests the authority to forgive sins (see Mt 18:18 and Jn 20:22-23). We should take advantage of these avenues of grace given to us by the Lord. Making a good examination of conscience is a great way to evaluate where we are in our relationship with Him. Frequent confession helps to keep us focused on the Lord and His plan for us.

There are two sides of a coin here. We need to make sure we are not creating a separation between ourselves and God. But, at the same time, we need to try to grow closer to Him through daily mental prayer, praise and other devotions, like the rosary, which helps us to meditate on the life of Jesus. Christ is the ‘Word made flesh.’ He is the bible. Get to know Him intimately by reading Him. When we read the gospels as a whole, a picture of Jesus emerges, and we begin to get a sense of His mission, his personality.

For me, one major theme of Jesus’ teachings is hope. Some, or even many, of our actions may create a chasm between us and the Lord. But, if we strive to be like Jesus, and use Him as an example for our behavior; if we use the sacraments given to us by God, and hope in His mercy, we will see a bridge being built. And how wonderful it will be to get to the other side!