The Anima Christi

Anima CWe continue our series of favourite prayers chosen by preachers at St Chrysostom’s. Canon Alma Servant writes on the Anima Christi

This is one of my favourite prayers in all its forms.  That is the remarkable thing: there are several versions.  The prayer, in Latin, is known as the Anima Christi.  The translation best known in English begins

‘Soul of Christ, sanctify me, Body of Christ, save me. Blood of Christ, inebriate me.’

There is a version by Cardinal Newman, and it is also known in a versified form as a hymn:

‘Soul of my Saviour, Sanctify my breast.

Body of Christ, Be though my saving guest’  (New English Hymnal 305)

That the prayer keeps being re-worked show how very much people have been attracted to it over the years, indeed centuries. I have picked a modern form by David Fleming, as I think it is the least well known, and because its language goes beyond the pictorial towards deep psychological and spiritual insights:

Jesus, may all that is you flow into me.

May your body and blood be my food and drink.

May your passion and death be my strength and life.

Jesus, with you by my side, enough has been given.

May the shelter I seek be the shadow of your cross.

Let me not run from the love which you offer,

But hold me safe from the forces of evil.

On each of my dyings shed your light and your love.

Keep calling to me until that day come, when, with your saints,

I may praise you forever.  Amen.

Those of you familiar with the devotion to the Sacred Heart will recognise the emphasis on the wounded, pierced body of the crucified Christ, from which issues blood and water, this is mirrored in the ‘broken bread and wine outpoured’ of the Mass.

We seek strength and help in the cross of Christ, and in the Holy Communion, and seek to be united with Christ in his passion and in the sacrament.

The older versions speak more directly of our own dying, and our hopes of heaven.  All of these versions seek union with Christ, and with his saints, now and for eternity.

It is particularly powerful and helpful for all of us who are not good at asking in our prayers.  It is a Christ-centred prayer, expressing human need and longing.

Do look at the different versions.  The prayer is a rich seam of devotion.

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A candle for Winnie, A candle for Keith

Winnie Johnson death

Today, 18th August, is the anniversary of the death in 2012 of Winnie Johnson.

Winnie was known throughout England as the mother of Keith Bennett, the child victim of the moors murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. Despite extensive searching Keith’s body has never been found.

Winnie campaigned tirelessly to find Keith’s grave, and it was this aspect of her life which was well known in the media. However, as we recalled at Winnie’s funeral, at St Chrysostom’s, there was much much more to Winnie. She was a woman who engaged fully with life, and was an inspiration to many. Despite the tragedy in her life she was cheerful and a direct speaker. She was a member of our congregation, regularly coming to Sunday Mass on her electric scooter and sitting right at the front. She was ever the same, cheerful and frank in her manner. The local community misses her. We miss her at church.

The leaves hanging in memory of Keith Bennett

The leaves hanging in memory of Keith bennett

The hanging behind the font in Church is in memory of Keith. He loved to collect leaves and local children drew different leaves and members of the textiles department of Manchester University made the hanging. We hope soon to have a plaque placed in church to remind us of this.

Winnie’s example encourages us to pray for, and have a heart for mothers of the world whose children have disappeared in terrible circumstances. Her example encourages us to have courage, and remain faithful and strong in the face of tragedy.

Each Sunday when she came to mass Winnie lit a candle for Keith. Two candles will burn in church today (and at Walsingham, where some St C people are on pilgrimage) – one for Keith and another for his mother, Winnie. May they both rest in peace and rise in God’s glory.

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Salve Regina: Holy Holy Queen!


The Salve Regina from the early 14th century Poissy Antiphonal

During August preachers at Sunday worship are speaking on a prayer of their choice, and encouraging us to pray the prayer.

At Benediction on the Feast of the Assumption we welcomed Fr Michael Burgess as our preacher.

Fr Michael chose to speak on the Hail Holy Queen – the Salve Regina, and at the end of Benediction we sang the Salve Regina in a metrical version (see below).

Fr Michael writes;


Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy; Hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us. And after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus: O clement, o loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

This prayer to our Lady has been at the heart of the Church’s life for over 900 years. No one is quite sure who wrote it, but it quickly became popular as a traditional ending to the day in monasteries, and prayed in churches and homes everywhere.

As we say the words today, we join that rich tradition of prayer and turn to Mary as Queen and Mother. We come to her as we would come to our own mothers, asking for love and guidance, and seeking her protection on our journey through life.

At the end of Benediction, at the close of worship for the Feast of the Assumption, we gathered at Our Lady’s statue and sang together the Salve Regina.

(And click here for a very different version of the Salve Regina on YouTube from Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg)

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Our Assumption

NonoIn this striking painting, by the French Symbolist artist Maurice Denis (1870-1943), the artist shows his daughter, ‘Nono’, crowning with flowers her mother, the artist’s wife, Marthe.

In the painting, as in much of this artist’s work, the boundary between the sacred and the everyday dissolves.

This is a family scene. The painting encourages us to ponder Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Nono, the little girl represents us, who in our generation, call Mary blessed. (Luke 1.47).

We call Mary blessed, in the Assumption (August 15th) we celebrate her entry into divine dimensions, we crown her Queen.

In the painting Nono and Marthe are painted in the same colours. We share the same humanity as the everyday peasant girl of Palestine, Mary, and, on the feast of her Assumption we dare to hope, in faith, that like her we too will share in the glory of her son’s resurrection.

Fr Ian

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See the treasures of the Church

On August 10th the Church remembers one of the most celebrated saints in the history of the Church, St Laurence. His day is unusually given a high rank – Feast rather than Memorial – in the Roman Catholic Western calendar. The current edition of Butler’s Lives of the Saints – an encyclopedia of saints – tells us; Laurence’s extraordinary fame is based mainly on fiction: on a quaint mixture of sacred irony (or sheer cheek) and miracle…

Well, good stories are instructive and inspiring, so let’s not be put off. Tradition tells us that Laurence was one of the seven deacons of Rome. When the emperor Valerian published edicts against Christinas in 257 Sixtus, the Bishop of Rome was arrested and executed. The story tells us that Laurence’s date of death was prophesied and in anticipation Laurence quickly sold the sacred vessels and gave the proceeds to the poor, widows and orphans.


Laurence distributing alms to the poor: Fra Angelico (Vatican)

The prefect of Rome called Laurence before him and demanded the treasures of the Church.

Laurence gathered ‘the blind, lame, lepers, orphans, windows etc’ and invited the prefect to inspect the Church’s real treasure.

The prefect regarded this as an insult and had Laurence tortured and killed by slowly roasting him.

The central images of the legend of Laurence have inspired individuals and the church as a whole for centuries. The power of Laurence is not only in the legend but in the holiness he has inspired.

  • Today Laurence calls Christian congregations to have courage to stand up for social justice and care for the needy.
  • Laurence challenges Christians today to question their perspectives. A wealthy church is one containing the treasures of the Church – the poor, the marginalised, the weak and forgotten.

For us at St Chrysostom’s Laurence affirms us in our ministry to support justice in our society. His example invites us to honour those among us who seek asylum, those who are victims of human trafficking, those with few resources and other underprivileged people, and rejoice in them as treasures of our Church.

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On the names of Bishops

The Names of Bishops (Silly Season post 1)

Tim Stibbs, Warden of Dalton Ellis Hall, tells the story of how, when he first arrived in Manchester, the Rector of St Chrysostom’s was James Wardle Harpur, and the churchwardens were David Percival Smith and Simon Tatton Brown. Goodness, he thought, to hold office in that church you must have to have a double barreled name!

I was reminded of this while reading the witty novel of the 1930’s High Rising by Angela Thirkell. Amy, is talking to her friend Laura about bishops, and says:

“Have you noticed another thing about the higher clergy, Laura? They always have suitable Christian names. The guardian angel of the Church of England makes men who are going to be bishops be christened Talbot Devereux, or Cyril Cyprian, and then, of course, they are bound to rise.”

Times and fashions change, and current Church of England bishops don’t quite seem to have Christian names of the form Amy has in mind. But did they really have such names in the 1930’s?

(From L to R) Bishops, St Clair, Albert, James, Herbert, St John and Frederick

(From L to R) Bishops, St Clair, Albert, James, Herbert, St John and Frederick

Let’s see, and judge for ourselves. Here are the first names of a randomly chosen set of ten diocesan bishops at the time Angela Thirkell’s book was first published (1933)

St Clair George Alfred (Bishop Donaldson of Salisbury), Herbert Hensley (Bishop Henson of Durham), Frederick Cyril Nugent (Bishop Hicks of Lincoln), Bertram (Bishop Pollock of Norwich), Albert Augustus (Bishop David of Liverpool), Cyril Forster (Bishop Garbett of Winchester), George Kennedy Allen (Bishop Bell of Chichester), St John Basil Wynne (Bishop Wilson of Bath and Wells), Frederick Sumpter Guy (Bishop Warman of Manchester), James Buchanan (Bishop Seaton of Wakefield – great uncle of the current worthy organist of St Chrysostom’s).

One can’t help thinking dear Amy had a point…

Fr Ian

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The Serenity Prayer

#Serenity prayer u uWe’re having a series of sermons on well known prayers, and preachers have been invited to write about their choice here on our church blog. This is part of this month’s focus on prayer.

Fr Chris writes about ‘the Serenity Prayer.’ 

The prayer I have chosen is one which I have prayed many times, and which is familiar to those of us in Recovery Circles – the Serenity Prayer.


God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

At first glance the prayer seems to be placatory – especially on the part of the person praying. “God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change” – this seems so passive, so still. Acceptance is something which requires submission – and yet is also so active.  The implications are immense.

How can I accept that I cannot change things? I am an adult male, I am rational, I am active – I can do most things, so surely I can change most things!

But, of course, we can’t.  There are some things which we can have no influence on.

Of course, for the addict, the one thing that cannot be changed is the addiction – physical or psychological – to the substance or activity from which one is trying to recover. There is the pull to drink, to inject, to smoke, to look at images – whatever one is trying to stop doing.

To stop doing an activity by itself is not enough.  People talk of “will power” – but whilst that can get one through a few minutes of resistance, there has also to be an activity.  Recovery is active, it is worked at, it doesn’t happen incidentally. Those of us who are addicts work at our acceptance that we cannot continue with our addiction, we do things to help us abstain.

The same is true about our Christian discipleship.  We are called to follow Jesus – that isn’t about passive tagging along behind him like some obedient puppy.  It is about action, doing, thinking, working for Jesus.

We can all do something – we can pray and we can care.  We can show that God loves us in the way that we respond to one another.

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