by Saint Alphonsus Liguori
CHAPTER 4: CHARITY DEALETH NOT PERVERSELY, PART 3
(Charitas non agit perperam.)
4. Frequent Communion.
The fourth means of perfection, and even of perseverance in the grace of God, is frequently to receive the Holy Communion, of which we have already spoken in the Introduction, §II., page 275 [not part of this presentation ----- Web Master], where we affirmed that a soul can do nothing more pleasing to Jesus Christ than to receive Him often in the Sacrament of the Altar. St. Teresa said: "There is no better help to perfection than frequent Communion: oh, how admirably does the Lord bring such a soul to perfection!" And she adds, that, ordinarily speaking, they who communicate most frequently are found further advanced in perfection; and that there is greater spirituality in those communities where frequent Communion is the custom. For this reason it is that, as we find declared in a decree of Pius X, in 1905, the holy Fathers have so highly extolled, and so much promoted, the practice of frequent and even of daily Communion. Holy Communion, as the Council of Trent tells us, delivers us from daily faults, and preserves us from mortal ones. St. Bernard [In Cœna D.s.l.] asserts that Communion represses the movements of anger and incontinence, which are the two passions that most frequently and most violently assail us. St. Thomas says, [P. 3. q. 79. a. 6.] that Communion defeats the suggestions of the devil. And finally, St. John Chrysostom says, that Communion pours into our souls a great inclination to virtue, and a promptitude to practice it; and at the same time imparts to us a great peace, by which the path of perfection is made very sweet and easy to us. Besides, there is no Sacrament so capable of kindling the Divine love in souls as the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, in which Jesus Christ bestows on us His whole self, in order to unite us all to Himself by means of holy love. Wherefore the Venerable Father John of Avila said: "Whoever deters souls from frequent Communion does the work of the devil." Yes; for the devil has a great horror of this Sacrament, from which souls derive immense strength to advance in Divine love.
*But a suitable preparation is most useful to communicate well. The first preparation, or, in other terms, the remote preparation, to derive the greatest profit from frequent and daily Communion, is: 1. To keep free from all deliberate affection to sin---that is, to sin committed, as we say, with open eyes. 2. The practice of much mental prayer. 3. The mortification of the senses and of the passions. 4. Although it is most expedient that those who communicate frequently or daily should be free from venial sins, at least from such as are fully deliberate, and from any affection thereto, nevertheless it is sufficient that they be free from mortal sin, with the purpose of never sinning mortally in future; and, if they have this sincere purpose, it is impossible but that daily communicants should gradually emancipate themselves from even venial sins, and from all affection thereto. 5. That the practice of frequent and daily Communion may be carried out with greater prudence and more abundant merit, the confessor's advice should be asked. Confessors, however, are to be careful not to dissuade anyone from frequent and daily Communion, provided that he is in a state of grace and approaches with a right intention." [Decree of Pius X.] In the next place, the proximate preparation for Communion is that which is made on the morning itself of Communion, for which it is recommended to make at least half an hour of mental prayer.
To reap also more abundant fruit from Communion, we should make a fervent thanksgiving. Father John of Avila said that the time after Communion is "a time to gain treasures of graces." St. Mary Magdalene of Pazzi used to say that no time can be more calculated to inflame us with Divine love than the time immediately after our Communion. And St. Teresa says: "After Communion let us be careful not to lose so good an opportunity of negotiating with God. His Divine majesty is not accustomed to pay badly for His lodging, if He meets with a good reception." [Way of Perfection, ch. 35.]
There are certain pusillanimous souls, who, on being exhorted to communicate more frequently, reply: "But I am not worthy." But, do you not know, that the more you refrain from Communion, the more unworthy you become of it? Because, deprived of Holy Communion, you will have less strength, and will commit many faults. Well, then, obey your director, when he tells you to go: venial faults do not forbid Holy Communion: besides, among your failings, the greatest would be not to obey when your spiritual Father bids you communicate.
"But in my past life I was very bad." And I reply, that you must know, that he who is weakest has most need of the physician and of medicine. Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is our physician and medicine as well. St. Ambrose said: "I, who am always sinning, have always need of medicine." [De Sacram. 1. 4, c. 6.] You will then say, perhaps: "But my confessor does not tell me to communicate oftener." If, then, he does not tell you to do so, ask his advice. "It would seem to be pride." It would be pride if you should wish to communicate because you consider yourself entirely worthy, or better than others. This heavenly bread requires hunger. Jesus loves to be desired, says a devout author: "He thirsts to be thirsted for." [Tetr. Sent. 37.] And what a thought is this: "Today I have communicated, and tomorrow I have to communicate." Oh, how such a reflection keeps the soul attentive to avoid all defects and to do the will of God! "But I have no devotion." If you mean sensible devotion, it is not necessary, neither does God always grant it even to His most beloved souls. It is enough for you to have the devotion of a will determined to belong wholly to God, and to make progress in His Divine love. John Gerson says, [Sup. Magn. tr. 9, p. 3.] that he who abstains from Communion because he does not feel that devotion which he would like to feel, acts like a man who does not approach the fire because he does not feel warm.
"But why do so few souls approach the Divine Banquet frequently or daily?
Some, unhappily, are prevented by mortal sin which separates them from Him Who 'is the life.' It is with good reason that they recognize themselves unworthy of Holy Communion, since to communicate in such a state would be horrible sacrilege.
Others live in grace; but, absorbed in the things of earth, loving our Lord but little, they prefer to remain in their tepidity, they do not desire to become more fervent by approaching often, still less every day, to the Flame of Love, which is Jesus Christ!
Others, in fine, love Him and would be happy to receive Him often, even daily, in the Sacrament, and ever to increase in His love. But they dare not do so because of certain prejudices and vain fears, which prevent their approach to the Holy Table."
O timid, fearful souls, why not despise these fears and prejudices, and give heed to the voice of the Church? [S. Antoni, Vain Fears, pp. 10-11.]
It will be found likewise to contribute very much to keep fervor alive in the soul, often to make a spiritual Communion, so much recommended by the Council of Trent, [Sess. xiii. cap: 8.] which exhorts all the faithful to practice it. The spiritual Communion, as St. Thomas says, [P. 3, q. 79, a. 1.] consists in an ardent desire to receive Jesus Christ in the Holy Sacrament; and therefore the Saints were careful to make it several times in the day. The method of making it is this: "My Jesus, I believe that Thou art really present in the Most Holy. Sacrament. I love Thee, and I desire Thee; come to my soul. I embrace Thee; and I beseech Thee never to allow me to be separated from Thee again." Or more briefly thus: "My Jesus, come to me; I desire Thee; I embrace Thee; let us remain ever united together." This spiritual Communion may be practiced several times a day: when we make our prayer, when we make our visit to the Blessed Sacrament, and especially when we attend Mass at the moment of the priest's Communion. The Dominican Sister Blessed Angela of the Cross said: "If my confessor had not taught me this method of communicating spiritually several times a day, I should not have trusted myself to live."