When Mass is unavailable, reach out for spiritual communion

Posted on Mar 15, 2020

It has been a very surreal Sunday, as we are unable to attend Mass. The tween and I read the Sunday Mass readings, prayed some of the Mass prayers (except those for the priest, of course), and prayed spiritual communion prayers this morning. Then I followed along with Relevant Radio’s noon Central Mass online.

I had written up a spiritual communion post yesterday, but I managed to botch the posting, so I’m going to try it again here.

Even without these unusual circumstances, when bishops are either lifting the obligation of Sunday Mass and/or suspending public Masses, the practice of spiritual communion is a worthwhile habit. Abbot Jerome Kodell of Subiaco Abbey writes:

What is spiritual communion? St. Thomas Aquinas described it as “an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the most holy sacrament and lovingly embrace him” at a time or in circumstances when we cannot receive him in sacramental Communion.

The Catechism of the Council of Trent devoted a special section to spiritual communion in its program of renewal in the late 16th century. In the past, instruction manuals gave as the most familiar situation, the need of a mother to stay home from Sunday Mass to care for a sick child, thereby missing the opportunity for Communion.

In such cases, the mother could make an act of spiritual communion, uniting herself with the Mass in her parish church and receive the spiritual benefit of Communion.

Saints over the centuries have found great value in this act, Philip Kosloski reminds us:

Countless saints incorporated this type of prayer into their daily lives, not being satisfied with receiving Jesus in the Eucharist once a week or even once a day. Making an act of spiritual communion for them was an essential part of life and drew them closer to God on a daily basis.

St. Josemaria Escriva encouraged everyone to make a spiritual communion as often as they could, “What a source of grace there is in spiritual communion! Practice it frequently and you’ll have greater presence of God and closer union with him in all your actions.”

Padre Pio also had a habit of making a spiritual communion throughout the day outside of the celebration of Mass. He desired to be always united with Jesus Christ in everything he did.

And, Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur writes:

St. Catherine of Siena also testified to the value of spiritual Communion. “She had begun to question whether her spiritual Communions had any real value compared to sacramental Communion. Suddenly she saw Christ holding two chalices. ‘In this golden chalice I put your sacramental communions. In this silver chalice I put your spiritual communions. Both chalices are quite pleasing to me.’” In 2003, Pope John Paul II wrote 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.].

Beyond this age of coronavirus, Fagnant-MacArthur continues:

A spiritual Communion can be of value to anyone who desires a deeper union with Christ. It can be made at any time of the day or night. It is especially appropriate for those who find themselves unable to physically receive the Eucharist. For example, those who are not yet Catholic, those who have been away from the Church for a long time and who have not yet made a good confession, those who are living in a state of serious sin, as well as those who are sick or housebound.

(Patti Armstrong and Marge Fenelon also write about this excellent practice in the National Catholic Register.)

Here’s the most common Act of Spiritual Communion prayer, credited to St. Alphonsus Liguori:

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.

If you’re able to visit an adoration chapel during this time, praying this before the Blessed Sacrament is particularly powerful. If not, several perpetual adoration chapels worldwide offer online adoration.

Our Lady of Good Health, pray for us.