The Practice of Spiritual Communion

Spiritual Communion, according St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Alphonsus de Liguori, 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.

The effects of a Sacrament can be received by desire, although in such a case the Sacrament is not received physically. Just as some are baptised by a Baptism of fire, as they had the desire for Baptism before they were baptised in water, so some receive the Eucharist spiritually before they eat sacramentally…Nevertheless sacramental eating is not devoid of meaning: because the actual reception of the Sacrament brings with it a fuller effect than receiving the Sacrament through desire alone. (St. Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologica III, Q.80, a.1, obj.3.)

Jesus Himself told St. Catherine of Siena in a vision how precious a spiritual Communion is.  The Saint was afraid that a spiritual Communion was nothing compared to a sacramental Communion.  In the vision, Our Lord held up two chalices, and said, “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.”

If you practice the holy exercise of Spiritual Communion a good many times each day, within a month you will see yourself completely changed. (St Leonard of Port Maurice)

The Eucharist (is) the culmination of all the sacraments in perfecting our communion with God the Father by identification with His only-begotten Son through the working of the Holy Spirit. With discerning faith a distinguished writer of the Byzantine tradition (Nicholas Cabasilias) voiced this truth : 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. Saint Teresa of Jesus wrote in ‘The Way of Perfection’ : “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. –(Blessed Pope John Paul the Great, Ecclesia De Eucharistia 34b.)

Spiritual Communion assumes that we believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the tabernacle.  It implies that we would like sacramental Communion, and it demands a gratitude for Jesus’ gift of this Sacrament.  All this is expressed simply and briefly in the formula of St. Alphonsus:

“My Jesus, I believe that You are really present in the most Holy Sacrament.  I love You above all things, and I desire to possess You within my soul.  Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. (Pause)

I embrace You as being already there and unite myself wholly to You.  Never, never permit me to be separated from You.  Amen.”

From the Jesus Our Eucharistic Love by Fr. Stefano Manelli, FI

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