By Daniel Finucane, SJ
The Anima Christi is a nearly 700-year-old prayer that St. Ignatius includes in the Spiritual Exercises. It is a prayer about asking for union with Christ through his body, his blood, the water from his side. It is a prayer that I have grown to love as a Jesuit.
There is one line of the prayer, however, which I always find mysterious: “within your wounds, hide me.” What does it mean to be hidden in the wounds of Christ?
Since last August, my regency assignment has been serving as a volunteer chaplain at Belize Central Prison. I encounter many wounds among the men I sit with and listen to each day. Some wounds are self-inflicted, the result of crippling addictions or bad, sometimes horrifying, choices. Other wounds are the result of childhood abuse or neglect or indifference at the hands of the judicial system. These wounds go unheeded by most at the prison, not to mention society at large. And in a tiny country like Belize, these men are truly hidden away, their woundedness unrecognized.
The second Universal Apostolic Preference calls us to walk with the marginalized. We are, as Pope Francis has recently written, to take on the “style of God,” which is to draw close, close enough that we encounter people who are wounded, resisting the urge to flee.
Where are many of those whom we call “marginalized”? They are often tucked away, in hidden places, like Belize Central Prison. It requires effort to find them, let alone make the time to grow close to them, to walk alongside them.
Jesus was clear that he is to be found in tucked away places. We know this from the myriad examples we find in the Gospels: he spent time with a man possessed, dwelling among the tombs (Mk. 5:1-20); he healed the loud, blinded Bartimaeus on the outskirts of Jericho (Mk. 10:46-52); he did not allow a Samaritan woman’s tarnished reputation to stop him from a transformative encounter with her at a well (Jn. 4:4-42).
There is a cost to this path. Jesus’ mission leads him to Calvary, where he dies almost entirely alone, abandoned. He spends so much time with those on the margins that he joins them in their fate: he is wounded by the same violence and hatred; he dies the ignoble death of a nobody.
Walking with the marginalized confronts us with the real possibility that we might join their lot and become hidden away, too.
Though it remains mysterious, I wonder if this is a desire we seek when praying the Anima Christi, when we say: “within your wounds, hide me.” During this Lent, we can pray with the second UAP by asking to be placed in Christ’s presence in this way, within the woundedness and hiddenness of men and women on the margins. And if we do, we can trust the line that follows in the Anima Christi, to reassure us in our wavering: “Permit me not to be separated from you.”
—Daniel Finucane, SJ, is a regent in Belize City, Belize. Watch his video on the second Universal Apostolic Preference on YouTube.