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Spiritual Communion

There are many weekdays when we cannot get to Holy Mass. We don't have to, but some really would love to be able to go. Sundays, and on Holidays of Obligation, Catholics attend Holy Mass. That is our Faith and our Obligation. But on other days, although Our Lord always invites us, sometimes we just have no time, or in my case, I am often too lazy. I admit it. Why should I lie to God when He already knows the answer? I hope you are honest when you meet the Lord in prayer, there really cannot be another way.

Frequently, I listen to the Holy Mass on EWTN. Thank God we have such a beautiful channel. It is a supurb spiritual resource! And, if you listen carefully, a voice (female) reads the following prayer as Communion begins:

"My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart.  I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.  Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen." (St. Alphonsus Liguori, 18th Century prayer)

The basis of this practice was explained by Pope John Paul II in his encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia:

In the Eucharist, "unlike any other sacrament, the mystery [of communion] is so perfect that it brings us to the heights of every good thing: Here is the ultimate goal of every human desire, because here we attain God and God joins himself to us in the most perfect union."

Precisely for this reason it is good to cultivate in our hearts a constant desire for the sacrament of the Eucharist. This was the origin of the practice of "spiritual communion," which has happily been established in the Church for centuries and recommended by saints who were masters of the spiritual life. St. Teresa of Jesus wrote: "When you do not receive communion and you do not attend Mass, you can make a spiritual communion, which is a most beneficial practice; by it the love of God will be greatly impressed on you" [The Way of Perfection, Ch. 35.].1 .

Thus, the passionate desire for God, whom the saints have seen as the Sole Satisfier, and who in the Eucharist is the "summit and source of the Christian life", is at the root of this practice. The experience of St. Padre Pio illustrates the compelling desire felt by the saints in the face of the drawing and attracting power of God's love: “My heart feels as if it were being drawn by a superior force each morning just before uniting with Him in the Blessed Sacrament. I have such a thirst and hunger before receiving Him that it's a wonder I don't die of anxiety. I was hardly able to reach the Divine Prisoner in order to celebrate Mass. When Mass ended I remained with Jesus to render Him thanks. My thirst and hunger do not diminish after I have received Him in the Blessed Sacrament, but rather, increase steadily. Oh, how sweet was the conversation I held with Paradise this morning. The heart of Jesus and my own, if you will pardon the expression, fused. They were no longer two hearts beating but only one. My heart disappeared as if it were a drop in the ocean.”

St. Jean-Marie Vianney compared spiritual communion to blowing on fire and embers that are starting to go out in order to make them burn again: “There are some who make a spiritual communion every day with blessed bread. If we are deprived of Sacramental Communion, let us replace it, as far as we can, by spiritual communion, which we can make every moment; for we ought to have always a burning desire to receive the good God. Communion is to the soul like blowing a fire that is beginning to go out, but that has still plenty of hot embers; we blow, and the fire burns again. After the reception of the Sacraments, when we feel ourselves slacken in the love of God, let us have recourse at once to spiritual communion. When we cannot go to the church, let us turn towards the tabernacle; no wall can shut us out from the good God.”

St. Josemaria Escriva taught spiritual communions improve presence of God: "What a source of grace there is in spiritual Communion! Practise it frequently and you'll have more presence of God and closer union with him in your life." He also taught: "Do not neglect to say, “Jesus, I love you”, and make one spiritual communion, at least, each day, in atonement for all the profanations and sacrileges he suffers because he wants to be with us."

He wants to be with us!

According to Catholic theologians, the value of a spiritual communion can be as great as Holy Communion itself. "Spiritual Communion, as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Alphonsus Liguori teach, produces effects similar to Sacramental Communion, according to the dispositions with which it is made, the greater or less earnestness with which Jesus is desired, and the greater or less love with which Jesus is welcomed and given due attention," stated Father Stefano Manelli, O.F.M. Conv., S.T.D., in his book Jesus our Eucharistic Love.

"A special advantage of Spiritual Communion is that we can make it as often as we like — even hundreds of times a day — when we like — even late at night — and wherever we like — even in a desert, or up in an airplane," Fr. Stefano continued.

It also specifically mentions this Act of Spiritual Communion, which was recommended by St. Alphonsus Ligouri:

"My Jesus, I believe that you are in the Blessed Sacrament. I love you above all things, and I long for you in my soul. Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though you have already come, I embrace you and unite myself entirely to you; never permit me to be separated from you. Amen."

 

Fred Schaeffer, OFS
July 16, 2011

 

 

 

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Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis

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