Spiritual Communion

o salutaris hostia
“Spiritual Communion is the reserve of Eucharistic Life and Love always available for lovers of the Eucharistic Jesus. By means of Spiritual Communion the loving desires are satisfied of the soul that wants to be united with Jesus, its dear Bridegroom. Spiritual Communion is a union of love between the soul and Jesus in the Host. This union is spiritual but nonetheless real, more real than than between the soul and the body, ‘because the soul lives more where it loves than where it lives,’ says St. John of the Cross. As is evident, Spiritual Communion assumes that we have faith 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 Blessed Sacrament. I love Thee above all things, and I desire to possess Thee within my soul, Since I cannot now receive Thee sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. (Pause.) I embrace Thee as being already there and unite myself wholly to Thee. Never, never permit me to be separated from Thee. Amen.’ Spiritual Communion, as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Alphonsus Liguori teach, 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. A special advantage of Spiritual Communion is that we can make it as often as we like–even hundreds of times a day–when we like–even late at night–and wherever we like–even in a desert, or up in an airplane. It is fitting to make a Spiritual Communion especially when we are attending Holy Mass and cannot receive Our Lord sacramentally. While the priest is receiving his Holy Communion, our soul should share in it by inviting Jesus into our heart. In this way every Holy Mass we hear is a complete one, with the Offertory, the sacrificial Consecration, and Holy Communion. 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 ciboriums, and said, ‘In this golden ciborium I put your Sacramental Communions. In this silver ciborium I put your Spiritual Communions. Both ciboriums are quite pleasing to Me.’ And once Jesus said to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, when she was absorbed in addressing yearning sighs to Him in the tabernacle, ‘I love so much a soul’s desire to receive Me, that I hasten to it each time it summons Me by its yearnings.’ It is not hard to see how much Spiritual Communion has been loved by the Saints. Spiritual Communion at least partly satisfied that ardent desire to be united to their Beloved. Jesus Himself said, ‘Abide in Me and I in you.’ (John 15:4). And Spiritual Communion helps us stay united to Jesus, even when we are far from a Church. There was no other way to appease the fond yearning that burned in the hearts of the Saints. ‘O God, my whole soul longs for You. As a deer for running water, my whole soul thirsts for God.’ (Ps. 42:2). This is the loving sigh of the Saints. St. Catherine of Genoa exclaimed, ‘O dear Spouse (of my soul), I so strongly crave the joy of being with Thee, that it seems to me that if I were dead, I would come to life in order to receive Thee in Holy Communion.’ Blessed Agatha of the Cross felt such an acute yearning to live always united to Jesus in the Eucharist, that she remarked, ‘If the Confessor had not taught me to make Spiritual Communion, I could not have lived.’ For St. Mary Frances of the Five Wounds, likewise, Spiritual Communion was the only relief from the acute pain she felt when shut up at home far from her beloved Lord, especially when she was not allowed to receive Sacramental Communion. At such a time she went out on the terrace of her home and, looking at the Church, she tearfully sighed, ‘Happy are they who have received Thee today in the Blessed Sacrament, O Jesus. Blessed are the walls of the Church that guard my Jesus. Blessed are the priests, who are always near the most lovable Jesus.’ Spiritual Communion alone was able to satisfy her a little. Here is one of the counsels which Padre Pio of Pietrelcina gave to one of his spiritual daughters: ‘In the course of the day, when it is not permitted to you to do otherwise, call Jesus, even in the midst of all your occupations, with a resigned sigh of the soul and He will come and will remain always united with your soul by means of His grace and His holy love. Make a spiritual flight before the Tabernacle, when you cannot go there with your body, and there pour out the ardent desires of your spirit and embrace the Beloved of souls, better than if it had been permitted to you to receive Him sacramentally.’ Let us, too, profit by this great gift. During the times that we suffer trial or feel abandoned, for example, what can be more valuable to us than the company of our Sacramental Lord by means of Spiritual Communion? This holy practice can work with ease to fill our days with acts and sentiments of love, and can make us live in an embrace of love that depends just on our often renewing it so that we scarcely ever interrupt it. St. Angela Merici was extremely fond of Spiritual Communion. Not only did she make it often and exhort others to do it, but she chose to leave it as an inheritance to her daughters, so that they might practice it ever afterwards. What shall we say of St. Francis de Sales? Does not his whole life seem like a chain of Spiritual Communions? He made a resolution to make a Spiritual Communion at least every quarter of an hour. Saint Maximilian M. Kolbe had the same resolve from the time of his youth. The Servant of God, Andrew Baltrami, has left us a short page of his personal diary, which is a little program for a life lived in uninterrupted Spiritual Communion with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. These are his words: ‘Wherever I may be I will often think of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I will fix my thoughts on the holy Tabernacle–even when I happen to wake up at night–adoring Him from where I am, calling to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, offering up to Him the action I am performing. I will install one telegraph cable from my study to the Church, another from my bedroom, and a third from our refectory; and as often as I can, I will send messages of love to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.’ What a stream of divine affections must have passed over those precious cables! The Saints were eager to make use of these and similar holy means in order to find an outlet for their overflowing hearts; for they never felt they had gone far enough in their endeavor to love. ‘The more I love Thee, the less I love Thee,’ exclaimed St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, ‘because I would like to love Thee more, but I cannot. Oh enlarge, enlarge my heart.’ When St. Roch spent five years in prison because he had been judged to be a dangerous vagabond, in his cell he kept his eyes ever fixed at the window, praying in the meantime. The guard asked, ‘What are you looking at?’ The Saint answered, ‘I am looking at the tower of the parish church.’ The tower reminded him of a church, a tabernacle, and the Eucharistic Jesus, inseparably joined to his heart. The holy Cure of Ars said to his flock, ‘At the sight of a church tower you can say: Jesus is there, for there a priest has celebrated Mass.’ Blessed Louis Guanella, when he was traveling by train with pilgrimages to the various shrines, used to always advise pilgrims to turn their minds and hearts to Jesus every time they saw a church tower from the carriage window, ‘Every bell tower,’ he would say, ‘indicates a church, where there is a Tabernacle, where Mass is said, and where Jesus stays.’ Let us take a lesson from the Saints. They would like to pass on some spark of the love burning in their hearts. Let us undertake to make many Spiritual Communions, especially during the busiest moments of the day. Then soon the fire of love will enter us. For something very consoling that St. Leonard of Port Maurice assures us of, is this: ‘If you practice the holy exercise of Spiritual Communion a good many times each day, within a month you will see yourself completely changed.’ Hardly a month–clear enough, is it not?”
— JESUS OUR EUCHARISTIC LOVE  by  Fr. Stefano Manelli, O. F. M. Conv., S. T. D.
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