As Catholics living in the United States of America, most of us are used to having ready access to our Lord in the sacraments, most especially in the Eucharist, in which Jesus is truly, really present in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are now experiencing a reality which countless other Catholics around the world and throughout time have had to endure: the inability to receive Jesus in the Eucharist on a regular basis. So while we hope and pray with confidence that we will soon be able to attend, pray and participate at Mass as we are used to, in the meantime we are able to become familiar with and participate in a practice which is likewise widespread throughout the world and history: the Act of Spiritual Communion. Together with the ability to watch the Mass on tv or online — something obviously not possible until just a few decades ago — Spiritual Communion is a real way for us to express to God our desire to be united with Him.
A Spiritual Communion is simply a prayer in which we profess our belief in Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist and likewise ask Him to unite Himself to us. It’s important to be clear: praying a Spiritual Communion is not the same thing as receiving Jesus in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, we literally receive Jesus — His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity — in our bodies & souls under the appearance of bread and wine.
However, although a Spiritual Communion is not the same thing as the reception of Holy Communion, it nonetheless has great spiritual value and power, as we are inviting our Lord to dwell within us spiritually with the hope of soon doing so sacramentally. Throughout the centuries many saints have not only practiced making a Spiritual Communion themselves — even in addition to receiving Holy Communion — but they have highly extolled the practice to the faithful. To name just two, St. Teresa of Avila wrote, “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.” And Padre Pio sought to make a Spiritual Communion throughout the day in order to always remain united with Jesus in all that he did.
There is no one way to make a Spiritual Communion. It can be as short and simple as this one, prayed by Archbishop Gomez, the Archbishop of Los Angeles:
I wish, my Lord, to receive you with the purity, humility, and devotion with which your most holy Mother received you, with the spirit and fervor of the saints.
Or it can be as profound as this by St. Alphonsus de Ligouri:
I believe that You
are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,
and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment
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.
In whatever form you make a Spiritual Communion, consider following the example and counsel of the saints and pray a prayer like these at those times in which you are unable to receive our Lord in the Eucharist. And have confidence that Jesus will both hear and answer your prayer.