By Cindy Wooden – Catholic News Service
ROME — Public Masses are banned throughout Italy, but literally thousands of Masses are celebrated each day and, in addition to watching them on television or computer screens, the faithful can receive “spiritual Communion.” Pope Francis, after reciting a livestreamed Angelus prayer March 15, told people, “United to Christ we are never alone, but instead form one body, of which he is the head. It is a union that is nourished with prayer and also with spiritual communion in the Eucharist, a practice that is recommended when it isn’t possible to receive the sacrament.”
Obviously, receiving Communion is the way to participate most fully in the Mass, but it is not always possible for everyone to receive at every Mass, nor do many Catholics in the world even have regular access to Mass. The idea of “spiritual Communion”, inviting Jesus into one’s heart and soul when receiving the actual sacrament isn’t possible, is part of Catholic tradition. In the 1700s, St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote a special prayer for spiritual communion: “My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament. I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you. But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul at least spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I actually receive you.”
Auxiliary Bishop Paolo Ricciardi of Rome, writing in the Vatican newspaper March 11, said, “This month all priests will continue to celebrate Masses and even if they cannot participate, Christians will continue to carry into the world the grace of years of abundance to face these weeks of famine.” The bishop prayed that acts of only spiritual Communion would help people “joyfully rediscover all of the good that the Eucharist has given us from the day of our first Communion.” “Let us increase our desire to receive it again … with a renewed awareness of encountering the living Christ with joy on our faces and in our hearts — and not with those faces we sometimes see at Mass,” he said, and “with a commitment to beginning again from the Eucharist to give life to the world.”
In countries where Catholics can and do receive the sacrament frequently, they do not hear the term “spiritual Communion” very often, but it has been mentioned even in recent church documents. The Vatican’s preparatory document for the 2012 International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin said those who cannot receive the Eucharist can have spiritual Communion, declaring their desire to receiving the Eucharist and uniting “their suffering of that moment with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.” The working document for the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist in 2005 addressed the idea of offering up the sacrifice of being unable to receive Communion. It said: “Spiritual Communion, for example, is always possible for elderly persons and the sick who cannot go to church. In manifesting their love for the Eucharist, they participate in the communion of saints with great spiritual benefit for themselves and the church. By offering their sufferings to God, the church is enriched.”
In “Sacramentum Caritatis,” the document Pope Benedict XVI issued in 2007 reflecting on the synod, he cautioned people against thinking they had “a right or even an obligation” to receive the Eucharist every time they went to Mass. “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,” Pope Benedict wrote.
Prayer for Protection in Pandemic by Pope Francis seeks Our Lady’s Intercession
O Mary, you always brighten our path as a sign of salvation and of hope. We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick, who, at the Cross, took part in Jesus’ pain while remaining steadfast in faith. O loving Mother, you know what we need, and we are confident you will provide for us as at Cana in Galilee. Intercede for us with your Son Jesus, the Divine Physician, for those who have fallen ill, for those who are vulnerable, and for those who have died. Intercede also for those charged with protecting the health and safety of others and for those who are tending to the sick and seeking a cure. Help us, O Mother of Divine Love, to conform to the will of the Father and to do as we are told by Jesus, who took upon himself our sufferings and carried our sorrows, so as to lead us, through the Cross, to the glory of the Resurrection. Amen. Under thy protection we seek refuge, O Holy Mother of God. In our needs, despise not our petitions, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.