First Published in 1868.
TAN Books and Publishers
On Spiritual Communion
WHEN a soul has once begun to practice frequent Communion, she
can no longer live without it.
Even if she were to communicate every day, it would seem too little.
She would desire, if possible, to receive Our Lord every moment. It is
the Blessed Sacrament itself which produces this effect, for such is
the sweetness of that Divine Food that they that eat it hunger still
and they that drink it thirst again. It is Our Lord Himself who excites
this desire in the hearts of the faithful, and He also has provided a
means of satisfying it. While He was yet on earth, He not only imparted
many graces to those who were near Him, but He also wrought many
miracles in behalf of those who were at a distance.
like manner, He now not only bestows many graces upon us when He
actually enters our hearts in Holy Communion, but He also imparts many
to us by means of Spiritual Communion. St. Catherine of Siena, while on
one occasion assisting at the Mass of her confessor, St. Raymund, felt
the most ardent desire to be united to Jesus Christ; but as she had
been forbidden to communicate, she did not dare to receive. Our Lord,
however, was so moved by the fervor of her love that He worked a
miracle in her favor. At that part of the Mass in which the priest
breaks the Sacred Host into three pieces, the smallest portion
disappeared from the altar, flew through the air and rested upon the
tongue of St. Catherine. St. Raymund was much disturbed at the
disappearance of the particle, but the Saint relieved his anxiety by
telling him that Our Lord Himself had been pleased to communicate her
in reward for her great desire for Holy Communion. He displays a
similar love towards everyone who has a true desire to be united to
Him. As soon as a soul ardently desires to receive Our Lord in the
Blessed Sacrament, He comes to satisfy her desire, not indeed as He did
to St. Catherine under the Sacramental species, but by the way of
Spiritual Communion. This devotion is so full of grace and consolation
that it is of the greatest importance that everyone should know how to
practice it. I will therefore say a word in explanation of it.
Spiritual Communion, according to St. Thomas, consists in an ardent
desire to receive our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament. It
is performed by making an act of faith in the presence of Jesus Christ
in the Blessed Sacrament, and then an act of love, and an act of
contrition for having offended Him. The soul then invites Him to come
and unite Himself to her and make her entirely His own; and lastly, she
thanks Him as if she had really received Him sacramentally.
The Spiritual Communion may be made in the following manner: "O my
Jesus, I firmly believe that Thou art truly and really present in the
Most Holy Sacrament. I love Thee with my whole heart, and because I
love Thee, I am sorry for having offended Thee. I long to possess Thee
within my soul, but as I cannot now receive Thee sacramentally, come at
least in spirit into my heart. I unite myself to Thee as if Thou wert
already there; never let me be separated from Thee."
The graces which are bestowed in this way are so great that they
may be likened to those which are imparted by an actual reception of
One day Our Lord Himself told St. Jane of the Cross that as often as
she communicated spiritually she received a grace similar to that which
she received from her Sacramental Communions. He also appeared to
Sister Paula Maresca, foundress of the Convent of St. Catherine of
Siena at Naples, with two vessels, one of gold and the other of silver,
and told her that in the golden vessel He preserved her Sacramental
Communions and in the silver vessel her spiritual Communions. The
Fathers of the Church go so far as to say that one who has a very great
desire for Communion, accompanied with great reverence and humility,
may sometimes receive even more graces than another who, without these
dispositions, should actually receive Our Lord in the Sacramental
species; for as the Psalmist says: "The Lord hears the desire of the
poor, and fills their hearts with good things."
The advantages of this mode of Communion are very great. To practice
it, you will not need to go to church or make a long preparation or
remain fasting; you will not need to ask the permission of your
confessor, or to seek a priest to give it to you as in Holy Communion.
Hence, the venerable Jane of the Cross used to say: "O my Lord, what an
excellent mode of receiving without being seen or remarked, without
giving trouble to my spiritual father, or depending on anyone but Thee,
who in solitude dost nourish my soul and speak to my heart."
But the chief advantage of Spiritual Communion is that it may be so
often repeated. You can receive Sacramental Communion at most but once
a day, but Spiritual Communion you may receive as often as you please.
St. Alphonsus advises one who wishes to lead a devout life to make
Spiritual Communions at his meditations, at his visits to the Blessed
Sacrament and whenever he hears Mass. But especially he should endeavor
to multiply them on the eve of his Communions because, as Father Faber
of the Society of Jesus remarks, they are most powerful means to attain
the dispositions necessary for a good Communion. The Saints were much
addicted to this devotion.
The Blessed Angela of the Cross, a Dominican nun, was accustomed to
make a hundred Spiritual Communions every day and a hundred more every
night, and she used to say: "If my confessor had not taught me this
method of communicating, I could scarcely live." If you ask how she
could make so many, I answer with St. Augustine: "Give me a lover, and
he will understand; give me a soul that loves nothing but Jesus Christ,
and she will know how to do it."