Catholic Apologetics #12
Open up an older prayer book and you may stumble upon an “Act of Spiritual Communion” Prayer on its pages. I ran across one many years ago, and I then ordered the same prayer on a laminated holy card from an online holy card vendor. I keep that card in my Missal and during the weekdays when I am not able to go to Holy Mass, I try to watch a live broadcast of the Traditional Mass over the Internet. And when the time for Communion comes, I recite the prayer which goes as follows:
“My Jesus, I firmly believe that Thou art present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. I love Thee above all things and desire Thee in my soul. Since I cannot now receive Thee under the sacramental veil, I beseech Thee, with a heart full of love and longing, to come spiritually into my soul. (Pause to inflame your heart with desire and love for God.) As though Thou wert already there, I embrace Thee and unite myself wholly to Thee; permit not that I should ever be separated from Thee. Amen.”
What is an Act of Spiritual Communion?
A spiritual communion is not the actual physical reception of the Eucharistic Host which we do so when we approach the Communion Rail at Holy Mass. A spiritual communion is a devotion that we can perform on our own whether we are at Mass and not receiving the Eucharist sacramentally or if we are anywhere else. We may make an Act of Spiritual Communion while watching a broadcast of the Mass on the Internet or even in our morning or evening prayers.
As His Holiness Pope Pius XII wrote in Mediator Dei, we may make this pious devotion in any place and at any time so long as we do so with “renewed faith, reverence, humility and in complete trust in the goodness of the divine Redeemer,” and so long as we are “united to Him in the spirit of the most ardent charity.” As a result, through a spiritual communion, we embrace Our Lord as if we receive Him sacramentally. As a result, only those in the state of grace should make an Act of Spiritual Communion.
Requirements for an Act of Spiritual Communion
Ferdinand Cartwright Ewer, in the 1878 work “A Manual of Instruction for Classes Preparing for First Communion,” enumerated four requirements as set down by the Church for those who wish to make a profitable Act of Spiritual Communion:
- 1st – Repentance
- 2nd – Firm belief that Christ died for them.
- 3rd – Remembrance of the benefits coming from Christ’s Sacrifice
- 4th – Thankfulness
As a result, to make a truly profitable Act of Spiritual Communion, we must prepare for this Act, say an Act of Spiritual Communion, and then speak to Our Lord with the same spirit as if we had just received Him at Holy Mass. An Act of Spiritual Communion should not be treated as just one of our many daily prayers. It must be treated as an altogether unique prayer just as Holy Communion is the most august of all Sacraments!
Difference Between Spiritual and Sacramental Communions
Ferdinand Cartwright Ewer addresses the difference between Spiritual Communions and Sacramental Communions by quoting T.T. Carter:
“Spiritual Communion has more the purpose of sustaining the life that is already in us, than of adding fresh powers, or enlarging the endowments of the Divine Presence.”
Ewer continues expounding on this distinction by further stating the following analogy:
“Our Soul is, as it were, like some dark room, while in the next room is a burning lamp. In Spiritual Communion it is as though we opened the door of our room to let the light from the lamp stream in. In Sacramental Communion, it is as though we bore the lamp itself in. In Sacramental Communion, the Lord Himself enters our willing souls to take possession of them; but in Spiritual Communion the soul goes forth in the exercise of faith, hope, and love to lay hold of Christ.”
The Merits of Spiritual Communions
Despite this distinction, we should not neglect the opportunity to make daily Acts of Spiritual Communion when we are not able to be present at the august Sacrifice of the Holy Mass. Josemaria Escriva said, “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.” And St. Padre Pio also frequently made acts of spiritual communion throughout the day.
If we have not been in the habit of making Acts of Spiritual Communion, let us make this change in our daily life so that we can closer unite ourselves with the Lord and the Mass. And if we have frequently made these Acts before, let us examine ourselves to ensure we meet the four necessary requirements to make a truly fruitful Act of Spiritual Communion.
May Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament be praised, adored, and loved at every moment in all the Tabernacles of the world even to the end of time. Amen.
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