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Friday, June 14, 2013

A Prayer that Stands the Test of Time...

For me, one of the greatest gifts of the Catholic Church, besides its lineage to Christ and the Apostles, the Sacraments, the Communion of Saints and its God-given authority, is its spirituality. 

Nice gift!
For nearly two thousand years, the Apostles, Church Fathers, Doctors and a plethora of saints (not to mention sinners) have reflected, prayed, meditated and written about the mysteries of God and shared that wisdom with the world.  (I love that word; plethora.  It always reminds me of El Guapo's question to Rodrigo in Three Amigos, "Do u no wat a plethora ees?")

It is mind boggling to think of the millions of texts, books, documents, reflections and prayers that have been preserved, since the 1st Century, including some that were considered inspired before the cannon of the Bible was assembled in the late 4th century, that have captured the thoughts and insights of popes, bishops, priests, religious and laity alike, many of which are kept today at the Vatican library and can be accessed through the internet!

One of those prayers, the Anima Christi, or Soul of Christ, which is believed to have been penned in the 14th century by Pope John XXII, is one of my favorite.

The prayer gained widespread recognition a couple of centuries later, when St. Ignatius of Loyola, who was a Spanish knight and nobleman before renouncing his wealth and position to become a priest and follow in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi, and eventually founding the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits, of which, ironically, Pope Francis (who took the name of St. Francis) is the first in the order to be selected pope, used it as part of his "Spiritual Exercises."

The exercises have been used as part of St. Ignatius' silent retreat by the Jesuits, other religious and laity (including me several years ago) ever since.

However, it wasn't until recently that I was reintroduced to the prayer when I noticed it in the back of our church missal.  I have been using it, as St. Ignatius intended, as a prayer I recite before getting up to receive the Lord in Holy Communion.  It goes:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me;
Body of Christ, save me;
Blood of Christ, inebriate me;
Water from Christ's side, wash me;
Passion of Christ, strengthen me;
O good Jesus, hear me;
Within Your wounds conceal me;
Separated from you, never let me be;
From the evil one, protect me;
In the hour of my death, call me;
And close to you, bid me;
That with your saints, I may be, praising your forever and ever.

Lip balm?
Needless to say, although this might be a stretch (and anytime you mix Hollywood with prayer, it might be!), since I already mentioned it, when I ride into my sunset one day, as Lucky, Dusty and Ned did after defeating El Guapo and bringing peace to Santo Poco, I can only hope that the Anima Christi is on my lips, as it has probably been on the lips of many saints and faithful riding into the eternal sunset and sunrise of life over the past seven hundred years...

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