“Even in cases where it is not possible to receive sacramental communion, participation at Mass remains necessary, important, meaningful and fruitful. In such circumstances it is beneficial to cultivate a desire for full union with Christ through the practice of spiritual communion, praised by Pope John Paul II and recommended by saints who were masters of the spiritual life” (no. 55).
Further on in Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI urges Catholics to “rediscover the Eucharistic form which their lives are meant to have,” thus making of our lives “a constant self-offering to God….” (no. 72). The practice of making spiritual communions throughout the day is one way to rediscover our Eucharistic form.
In his encyclical letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Saint Pope John Paul II wrote:
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.].
According to Saint Thomas Aquinas spiritual communion consists of “an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Holy Sacrament and a loving embrace as though we had already received Him.”
A prayer of spiritual Communion with Jesus can be made in a matter of seconds and repeated often throughout the day. The prayer is highly thought of by the Church since it is indulgenced (see Manual of Indulgences, 4th Edition, p.51). To make a spiritual communion you can simply say the following prayer in a recollected manner:
“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“ (From sacredheart.com).
The prayer of spiritual communion – which may even be made without words in the yearnings of our heart – shows our deep hunger for the Eucharist; it further shows our deep desire to be united to the Eucharistic life of Christ; it shows, as well, our profound love for the Sacrament of Love!
You can make this prayer throughout the day on days when you are unable to attend daily Mass, or you can say the prayer throughout the day as preparation for your next Holy Communion at Mass. Vinny Flynn relates that “Saint Francis de Sales resolved to make a spiritual Communion at least every fifteen minutes so that he could link all the events of the day to his reception of the Eucharist at Mass” (7 Secrets of the Eucharist, pp. 85-86). Flynn relates that Saint Maximilian Kolbe also made frequent spiritual Communions (p.86).
Flynn also refrences Saint Leonard of Port Maurice, who said:
“If you practice the holy exercise of spiritual Communion several times each day, within a month you will see your heart completely changed” (7 Secrets of the Eucharist, pp. 97-98)
In his book, Jesus our Eucharistic Love, Father Stefano Manelli explains what the effects of a well made spiritual communion may produce. He says, “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.”
Two other books which highly recommend this practice of making spiritual Communions are: The Blessed Sacrament by Father Faber (beginning at p. 438), and The Blessed Eucharist by Father Muller (Chapter 11). Surely, this practice of making spiritual Communions will draw you closer to the Lord, and make you more desirous of receiving Him sacramentally at Holy Mass.
The practice of spiritual communion secures our life-long love of the Eucharist, for the Eucharist is constantly close to our heart. By this efficacious practice, our hearts are always longing to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
Spiritual communion is a great preparation for Holy Communion at Mass.
“Oh Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, please place in our hearts profound gratitude for the Holy Eucharist.”
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
Photo Attribution: This photo of Pope Benedict XVI celebrating Mass on May 11, 2007 was taken by Fabio Pozzebom/ABr and produced by Agência Brasil, a public Brazilian news agency. This file is licensed under the Creative CommonsAttribution 3.0 Brazillicense (per Wikipedia).
References: The quotes from St. Thomas Aquinas and Father Manelli were found in the Wikipedia article entitled, “Spiritual Communion.” The quote from Pope John Paul II was found in the Catholics United for the Faith internet article entitled, “Spiritual Communion.” See also Summa Theologica III, question 80, by Saint Thomas Aquinas, discussing the spiritual profit of spiritual Communions (as discussed in Flynn’s book, 7 Secrets of the Eucharist).