To be honest, I was never taught about Spiritual Communion as a child. It wasn’t something that came up in my children’s sacramental preparation classes either.
It wasn’t until I had watched a televised Mass that I even became acquainted with the spiritual communion prayer. The more I researched and learned about making a spiritual communion, the more deeply I felt about sharing what I had learned.
In times like these, when many of us are worshiping at home instead of attending Mass, we may feel like making a spiritual communion is the consolation prize to receiving communion. However, my research revealed that making a spiritual communion is so much more.
Spiritual Communion is an ardent desire to be in union with Christ. As Catholics, we are called to encounter Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Most commonly, we enter into communion with the Lord through the sacrament of the Eucharist.
The Catechism explains that “Holy Communion augments our union with Christ. The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus.” CCC #1391
But what if there are no Masses available to attend, as is the case during a worldwide pandemic? What about those who are not yet eligible to receive the Eucharist? In these situations, we can make a spiritual communion.
Two types of communion – Sacramental and Spiritual
In the book 7 Secrets of the Eucharist by Vinny Flynn, the final chapter focuses on spiritual communion. It begins with the quote from St. Thomas Aquinas, “The manner of receiving this sacrament is twofold, spiritual and sacramental.”
Essentially you can receive communion with some understanding of the sacrament and consume it or you can receive Christ spiritually when you have a longing to be in union with Him.
During Mass, you can receive the Eucharist both sacramentally as well as spiritually. It is actually ideal to receive both a sacramental and spiritual communion at the same time.
Christ with the Chalice
Spiritual Communion: A desire of the heart
Frequent reception of Sacramental Communion is often a desire of the heart, but not always possible. As a parent, you know that there are times when you miss Sunday Mass due to no fault of your own.
Illness of a child and pregnancy complications are just two of many legitimate reasons for missing Mass. Daily Mass can seem daunting with children in tow and though the desire exists, sacramental communion is not always possible.
That is why the Catholic Church has encouraged making a spiritual communion. In 2003 Pope Saint John Paul II wrote in his encyclical ECCLESIA DE EUCHARISTIA:
…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.”
Pope Saint John Paul II
ECCLESIA DE EUCHARISTIA
Spiritual Communion and the Saints
The practice of making a spiritual communion is a well-documented practice among the saints.
In Jesus our Eucharistic Love: Eucharistic Life Exemplified by the Saints, Fr. Stefano M. Manelli writes that Jesus told Saint Catherine of Siena how precious spiritual communion is: “The Saint was afraid that 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.”
Children, especially those waiting to make their First Holy Communion, will be pleased to know that they too can make a spiritual communion.
It may be comforting for a child to know that they don’t have to wait until their sacramental communion to be in union with Christ. My son’s First Communion has been postponed due to the pandemic, so you can imagine how excited I was to learn that my son can learn to make a spiritual communion.
One Saint started praying a spiritual communion prayer as a young boy was the founder of Opus Dei, St. Josemaria Escriva.
When he was a young boy, Josemaria attended the Barbastro school where it is assumed that he was taught how to pray a spiritual communion prayer by one of the Piarist Fathers.
When Father Jesus Sancha, a priest serving in the diocese of Teruel Spain, was doing research for an article, he remembered the catechism that helped him prepare for his own First Communion. He wondered if it had also been used by Saint Josemaria as a child.
After contacting the Piarist school in Saragossa he obtained an old copy of the catechism: Explanation of Christian Doctrine. What he discovered on page 308 was absolutely amazing. It was a familiar prayer!
This was not any prayer of course, it was a prayer that very closely resembled the Spiritual Communion prayer that the Saint prayed:
” I wish, my Lord and my God, to receive You with the purity, humility and love with which your Most Holy Mother received You, and with the fervor and spirit of the Saints.” ~ Explanation of Christian Doctrine
If your children are interested, you can read the entire article by Father Jesus Sancha about Saint Josemaria Escriva and show them pictures of the Saint as a child.
There is also an image of the spiritual communion prayer written in the Saint’s own handwriting. Here is the link to the article: Spiritual Communion: a Prayer that Traveled Around the World by Father Jesus Sancha
Several other Saints have documented their thoughts and practice of making frequent spiritual communions. In the above mentioned book by Vinny Flynn we read that both Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Maximilian Kolbe made spiritual Communions every quarter hour.
Saint Faustina’s Diary also serves as a powerful witness to her devotion to the merciful Heart of Jesus in the Eucharist. It appears that she was able to enter a continuous spiritual Communion with God.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to imitate these great Saints and learn to live in perpetual Communion with God? At the same time, we can teach our children to learn about this practice and model for them our desire to be in union with God. Anyone can make a spiritual communion!
Share this practice with brothers and sisters in Christ who are preparing to be welcomed into the Catholic faith. Although sacramental Communion is not permitted until they receive the sacraments of initiation, they can increase their desire through spiritual Communion.
This spiritual practice can lead us to turn our thoughts away from the fear and despair that dominates the news and current circumstances in the world today, and bring us to a deeper trust in Him.
Quotes from the Saints
Saint Padre Pio – “In the course of the day… call on Jesus, even in the midst of all your occupations…. He will come and will remain always united with your soul by means of His grace and His holy love.
Fly with your spirit before the tabernacle, when you cannot stand before it bodily, and there pour out the ardent longings of your soul and embrace the Beloved of souls, even more than if you had been permitted to receive Him sacramentally.”
St. Leonard of Port Maurice – “If you practice the holy exercise of spiritual Communion several times each day, within a month you will see your heart completely changed.”
St. John Vianney – “A Spiritual Communion acts on the soul as blowing does on a cinder-covered fire which was about to go out. Whenever you feel your love of God growing cold, quickly make a spiritual Communion.”
Saint Faustina – “Oh Jesus, concealed in the Host, my sweet Master and faithful Friend, how happy my soul is to have such a Friend who always keeps me company… How happy I am to be a dwelling place for you, O Lord! My heart is a temple in which you dwell continually,” Diary, 877, 139
In teaching my own children, I realized that it is easier for them to learn prayers when they can follow along on their own.
Although most televised Masses have a version of the Spiritual Communion prayer ‘on screen’ during Communion, it is not always easy for kids to read it without shoving a sibling aside or crowding around the screen (I am talking about my kids here).
The following spiritual communion prayer is the one I’ve seen used most often during televised Masses. I believe it is the one written by St. Alphonsus.
I printed the color version for the adults and teens and printed a copy in black & white for the little people in my home. In my experience, there are fewer squabbles about whose card is whose if the little people have a chance to personalize their own prayer card.
I highly recommend printing the cards double-sided on cardstock or thick paper and laminate them for durability.
Each card measures 8.5 x 11 cm (3.3 x 4.3 inches). They are completely FREE.
It is my sincere hope that these prayer cards will help your family through this difficult time. Don’t forget to encourage your children to bring it to worship when you livestream Mass during the quarantine.
I am curious, am I the only person who never grew up without learning about making a spiritual Communion? Leave a comment and let me know what your experience has been. Did you grow up praying this prayer? Do you pray a different version?
If you want to learn more about the Eucharist and Spiritual Communion, I highly recommend the following:
* A special thank you to Father Matthew Emmelkamp for his contributions to this post.