Where I am, in the Cupboard Under The Stairs, the local county has decreed that gatherings of 250 or more, including religious events, are banned. You can still go to nearly every other sort of place, but not church if there are 250 people. Fine or imprisonment! I suppose if there were a few hundred people showing up for Mass, some would have to be turned away. For my part, I would say, “I’ll say Mass for you who are here at the scheduled time and, after the church clears out, I’ll say Mass again for any remaining.” Maybe that would work.
However, this could mean that quite a few people don’t get to Mass at all. They are in most places now dispensed by the local bishop. Check locally. Remember also: Nemo ad impossibilia tenetur… no one is held to the impossible.
Still, people want to go to Mass. They want also the graces of hearing Mass, participating, and also, possibility, receiving Communion.
There are times when it is not possible to receive Communion or one does not choose to receive, but could. St. Thomas Aquinas taught that you can gain great graces through a Spiritual Communion.
I’ll remind you that it is not obligatory to go to Communion at every Mass, even when you attend Mass to fulfill your Sunday Obligations. It is only obligatory for Catholics to receive once per year, which in 99.999999% of the time, that means also making a good confession. If you know you should not go to Communion, go to confession, be truly sorry for your sins, make a firm purpose of amendment and straighten up. Then you can also go to Communion again.
Except when you can’t.
This pandemic thing might get to a point where people aren’t allowed to go out or churches are forced by the state to be closed.
Then you have the option of making a Spiritual Communion.
When might you make a Spiritual Communion?
St. Teresa of Avila 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.”
St. Jean Vianney said: ” If we are deprived of Sacramental Communion, let us replace it, as far as we can, by spiritual communion, which we can make every moment; for we ought to have always a burning desire to receive the good God. Communion is to the soul like blowing a fire that is beginning to go out, but that has still plenty of hot embers; we blow, and the fire burns again.”
St. Thomas Aquinas distinguished the physical and spiritual reception of the Eucharist, and described Spiritual Communion as, “an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the most holy sacrament and lovingly embrace him”.
St. Leonard of Port Maurice said: “If you practice the holy exercise of spiritual Communion several times each day, within a month you will see your heart completely changed.”
Benedict XVI recommended making Spiritual Communions in Sacramentum caritatis:
“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”.
The 16th c. was a time of terrible religious upheaval, war, and plague. The Catechism of the Council of Trent has pointers about Spiritual Communion as part of that Council’s objective to renew the Faith and hold fast against all hellish challenger.
How do you make a Spiritual Communion?
Start with an Examination of Conscience and, perhaps, the Sacrament of Penance.
Since the effects of a good Spiritual Communion can be as much or greater than a regular, physical Communion, it is clear that you must be in the state of grace.
Therefore, you must know what your state of soul is. That’s accomplished through a good examination of consciences. Go to confession if you uncover something serious.
I would also recommend beforehand an act that would remit venial sign, too. You might use Holy Water in blessing yourself and say the Our Father.
Repeat with some frequency.
If we want to get good at something in this earthly plane, such as karate, playing the piano, baking or carpentry, we have to practice it. Repetitio est mater discendi. Repetita iuvant.
I repeat. If you want to be a good painter or a good pool player, you have to practice. How much more true is that in the spiritual life when the Enemy wants you distracted and even agitated or demoralized.
Perhaps this time of COVID-19 will turn out to turn out spiritual warriors, spiritual Communicants who, in the state of grace, and unflappable, go about their business with the great advantages a Spiritual Communion can bring.
A few formulae for a Spiritual Communion. Sometimes it is best to start with something in which there is, for certain, no error.
St. Alphonsus Liguori:
“My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the most Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot now 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. Amen.”
Rafael Merry del Val:
At Thy feet, O my Jesus, I prostrate myself and I offer Thee repentance of my contrite heart, which is humbled in its nothingness and in Thy holy presence. I adore Thee in the Sacrament of Thy love, the ineffable Eucharist. I desire to receive Thee into the poor dwelling that my heart offers Thee. While waiting for the happiness of sacramental communion, I wish to possess Thee in spirit. Come to me, O my Jesus, since I, for my part, am coming to Thee! May Thy love embrace my whole being in life and in death. I believe in Thee, I hope in Thee, I love Thee. Amen.
As I cannot this day enjoy the happiness of assisting at the holy Mysteries, O my God! I transport myself in spirit at the foot of Thine altar; I unite with the Church, which by the hands of the priest, offers Thee Thine adorable Son in the Holy Sacrifice; I offer myself with Him, by Him, and in His Name. I adore, I praise, and thank Thee, imploring Thy mercy, invoking Thine assistance, and presenting Thee the homage I owe Thee as my Creator, the love due to Thee as my Savior.
Apply to my soul, I beseech Thee, O merciful Jesus, Thine infinite merits; apply them also to those for whom I particularly wish to pray. I desire to communicate spiritually, that Thy Blood may purify, Thy Flesh strengthen, and Thy Spirit sanctify me. May I never forget that Thou, my divine Redeemer, hast died for me; may I die to all that is not Thee, that hereafter I may live eternally with Thee. Amen.
O Immaculate Queen of Heaven and Earth, Mother of God and Mediatrix of every grace: I believe that Thy dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, is truly, really, and substantially contained in the Most Blessed Sacrament. I love Him above all things and I long to receive Him into my heart. Since I cannot now receive Him sacramentally, be so good as to place Him spiritually in my soul. O my Jesus, I embrace Thee as One who has already come, and I unite myself entirely to Thee. Never permit me to be separated from Thee. Amen.
Making a Spiritual Communion doesn’t take a lot of time. People around you might not have a clue that you are at it. Also, it can be done anywhere, at work, when you are at home taking care of someone who is ill, during a walk, in church before the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle or exposed, at Mass in time of contagion when Communion is not distributed or when you choose not to go for any reason, at home because you cannot get up and go out, in the hospital, in prison, in quarantine, on the International Space Station, during boot camp, etc.
And think about what a great preparation making Spiritual Communion is for making a physical good Communion!