In these days of global emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic, the bishops of many parts of the world have had to suspend the participation of the faithful in the Masses celebrated by priests. Catholics are joining many of these celebrations virtually, following priests who broadcast Masses on social media. Pope Francis is also broadcasting his Masses online and has called all the faithful who follow online to unite spiritually by making a “spiritual communion.” But what is spiritual communion? Is it really worth making spiritual communion without being able to receive the Eucharist in the celebration of Mass?
Receiving Jesus sacramentally is the greatest thing for a Catholic, because in communion we receive the Risen Lord, who is present with His body and blood, His soul and divinity. However, we are not always ready to receive Him sacramentally, either because of our sin or our lack of preparation. Or we cannot receive Him in communion because we are far from the celebration of the Church and cannot be physically present at Mass. In those moments, when we are far from that sacramental presence of the Lord, without being able to approach communion, we can instead make a spiritual communion and with the deep desire of our heart, ask the Lord to come spiritually to our soul so we can be united to Him.
Spiritual communion is, then, the practice by which a faithful Christian who has a burning desire to receive Jesus in the Eucharist worships Him, lovingly embraces Him as if truly receiving Him in communion, asking the Lord to come spiritually to the heart.
Even though spiritual communion is not the same as the real presence of sacramental communion, spiritual communion is a devotion that expands our hearts with a deep desire to experience the healing presence of Jesus. With it:
- We adore Jesus Christ present in the Eucharist
- We express our desire to receive Him with reverence and dignity
- We unite ourselves spiritually with Jesus, with our love and devotion
- We love God and receive his grace
Thus, spiritual communion is truly valuable and important, since it unites us to Jesus, widens our hearts, gives us His grace and prepares us to receive Him in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Saints and Spiritual Communion
Many saints throughout history have expressed their closeness to Jesus with spiritual communion and have witnessed the great value of this devotion. Saint Catherine of Siena, a great Italian saint recognized as a doctor of the Church because of her sanctity and wisdom, wrote in her diary that she had a vision in which the Lord showed her two chalices: one made out of gold and the other a silver one. In the vision the Lord explained to Catherine that in the golden chalice He kept her sacramental communions and in the silver chalice He kept her spiritual communions. Both communions are important to Jesus!
Padre Pio had the habit of making a spiritual communion many times a day, wishing to always be united with Jesus, in everything he did.
Saint Josemaría Escrivá had a great devotion to spiritual communion, which he learned and repeated from a young age. He later wrote to young people: “What a source of grace there is in spiritual communion! Practice it frequently and you will have greater presence of God and closer union with Him in all your actions.”
Saint Maximilian Kolbe, martyr of the Nazi persecution, insisted to continually make spiritual communion, which surely accompanied him in his last days when he was locked in the cell of the concentration camp before being executed.
Saint John Paul II was also a great defender of spiritual communion and wrote about it in his encyclicals. He spoke to young people about it in the adoration vigils of the World Youth Days that he began.
How can we make a spiritual communion?
Easy! We can do it in the presence of the Eucharist, when we visit the Blessed Sacrament or when we are at Mass and cannot receive him. Or we can do it in a moment of silence, in our house, in a pause of prayer or in a moment when we think of God while being away from Mass.
It is enough for you to ask the Lord with all your heart to come spiritually to you or to make a prayer of spiritual communion with faith. However, it can help you follow these four steps:
- Make an act of faith: Express to the Lord your faith in His merciful love and in His real presence in the Eucharist
- Make an act of love: Tell the Lord that you love Him above all things
- Express your immense desire to receive the Lord
- Invite Jesus to come spiritually to your heart
Now that we are living in a moment of having to be away from sacramental communion due to this world emergency, I invite you to discover the value of spiritual communion. That every day, and especially in the moments when you are away from Mass and experience the need for God, you do this act of faith and love, asking the Lord to give you His grace and strength. Tell Him in your spiritual communion that you would like to receive Him with the same humility and devotion with which his Blessed Mother received Him, with the spirit and fervor of the saints throughout history.
Prayers for Spiritual Communion
Prayer of Saint Alphonsus Liguori on Spiritual Communion
I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.
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.
Spiritual communion repeated by Saint Josemaría Escrivá
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 fervor of the saints.