Without being able to attend Mass during the pandemic I really miss Mass and Communion. They tell us to make a Spiritual Communion. What exactly is this?
As its name suggests, Spiritual Communion is a prayer expressing the desire to receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. A Spiritual Communion can be said not only when one is unable to receive sacramental Communion but also in preparation for sacramental Communion. Thus, one might say the prayer at night in preparation for Communion the following day, or on waking, or in the church itself before receiving Communion.
The origin of ‘Spiritual Communion’
Pope St John Paul II recommended this practice in his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia: “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. Saint 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; EE, n. 34).
‘When you do not receive Communion and you do not attend Mass, you can make a Spiritual Communion’
Interestingly, Pope John Paul in that same encyclical spoke of Our Lady herself doing this in preparation for Our Lord’s death on the cross and for her reception of Communion from the apostles: “In her daily preparation for Calvary, Mary experienced a kind of ‘anticipated Eucharist’ – one might say a ‘Spiritual Communion’ – of desire and of oblation, which would culminate in her union with her Son in his passion, and then find expression after Easter by her partaking in the Eucharist which the Apostles celebrated as the memorial of that passion” (EE, n. 56).
St John Vianney compared Spiritual Communion with blowing on embers to rekindle the fire: “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” (The Spirit of the Curé of Ars).
What other Saints taught us about ‘Spiritual Communion’
More recently St Josemaría Escrivá wrote: “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” (The Way, 540). And also: “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” (Furrow, 689).
St Josemaría gave us the wording for a Spiritual Communion which he had learned from the Piarist Fathers when he made his first Communion and which is now used by people all over the world: “I wish, my Lord, to receive you with the purity, humility and devotion with which your most holy Mother received you, with the spirit and fervour of the saints.”
Another popular Spiritual Communion is that of 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.”
Benefits of ‘Spiritual Communion’
As regards the benefits of Spiritual Communion, Fr Stefano Manelli, OFM Conv., STD, in his book Jesus our Eucharistic Love, writes: “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.” What is more, the Vatican’s Enchiridion of Indulgences (1968) indicates that “an act of Spiritual Communion, according to any pious formula, is enriched with a partial indulgence” (n. 15).