We are obliged to attend Mass each Sunday and on every other Holy Day
of Obligation. Sometimes, though, we just can't be there. One's own
sickness or the obligations to care for a sick person 1, having given birth within the past 6 weeks,
dangerous weather and other safety hazards, not being able to find a
way there, the moral impossibility of attending a given Mass (e.g.,
because of heresies uttered from the pulpit, liturgical abuses, etc.)
-- life happens.
And sometimes, there is no Mass readily-enough available. The rule of
thumb concerning Mass availability is that if one is required to travel
more than an hour to reach a Mass, one is not guilty of sin by not
There is no guilt in missing Mass in these sorts of circumstances;
mortal sin always requires not only grave matter and knowledge, but
consent of the will, and God never demands of us the impossible.
In all these sorts of situations in which we're unable to attend Mass
on Sunday, we are encouraged to make what is known as a
"spiritual Communion," an act expressing what was described by St.
Thomas Aquinas as "an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Most Holy
Sacrament and in lovingly embracing Him." In a spiritual Communion, we,
with contrite, humble hearts, ask our Lord to come to us in the same
way He would if we were able to receive the Sacrament. This can be done
as often as one likes, informally in one's own words or through one of
the traditional prayers which appear below.
What is the value of this practice? The graces received may be
as great as -- or greater than -- those received by some people in the
actual Sacrament. Though, of course, the Sacrament itself is inherently
greater, our disposition toward the Sacrament
affect whether and how we receive its fruits. A metaphor that might
make the point: imagine a
woman who is unable to be with her husband but who desires him as
contrasted with a woman who has her husband's presence but doesn't care
for him. Which husband would be more apt to pour out his love for his
How to Receive Spiritual Communion
St. Leonard of
Port-Maurice offers this advice for receiving Spiritual Communion:
In order to
facilitate a practice of such great excellence, ponder what I have to
say. When the priest is about to give himself Communion in holy Mass,
do you, keeping composed externally and internally, excite in your
heart an act of true contrition, and humbly striking your breast, in
token that you acknowledge yourself unworthy of so great a grace, make
all those acts of love, of self-surrender, of humility, and the rest,
which you are accustomed to make when you communicate sacramentally,
and then desire with a lively longing to receive your good Jesus,
veiled in the sacrament for your benefit. And to kindle your devotion,
imagine that most holy Mary, or some saint, your holy advocate, is
holding forth to you the sacred particle; figure yourself receiving it,
and then, embracing Jesus in your heart, reply to Him, over and over
again, with interior words prompted by love: “Come, Jesus, my Beloved,
come within this my poor heart; come and satiate my desires; come and
sanctify my soul; come, most sweet Jesus, come!” This said, be still;
contemplate your good God within you, and, as if you really had
communicated, adore Him, thank Him, and perform all those interior acts
to which you are accustomed after sacramental Communion.
Here is a choice
of a few different formal prayers to pray while following St. Leonard's
advice, though you can pray in your own words, if you prefer:
Act of Spiritual
by St. Alphonsus Liguori (A.D. 1696-1787)
My Jesus, I
believe that Thou art present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love Thee
above all things and I desire Thee in my soul. Since I cannot now
receive Thee sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As
though thou wert already there, I embrace Thee and unite myself wholly
to Thee; permit not that I should ever be separated from Thee.
Act of Spiritual
Queen of Heaven and Earth, Mother of God and Mediatrix of every grace:
I believe that Thy dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, is truly,
really, and substantially contained in the Most Blessed Sacrament. I
love Him above all things and I long to receive Him into my heart.
Since I cannot now receive Him sacramentally, be so good as to place
Him spiritually in my soul.
O my Jesus, I embrace Thee as One who has already come, and I unite
myself entirely to Thee. Never permit me to be separated from Thee.
Act of Spiritual
As I cannot this
day enjoy the happiness of assisting at the holy Mysteries, O my God! I
transport myself in spirit at the foot of Thine altar; I unite with the
Church, which by the hands of the priest, offers Thee Thine adorable
Son in the Holy Sacrifice; I offer myself with Him, by Him, and in His
Name. I adore, I praise, and thank Thee, imploring Thy mercy, invoking
Thine assistance, and presenting Thee the homage I owe Thee as my
Creator, the love due to Thee as my Savior.
Apply to my soul, I beseech Thee, O merciful Jesus, Thine infinite
merits; apply them also to those for whom I particularly wish to pray.
I desire to communicate spiritually, that Thy Blood may purify, Thy
Flesh strengthen, and Thy Spirit sanctify me. May I never forget that
Thou, my divine Redeemer, hast died for me; may I die to all that is
not Thee, that hereafter I may live eternally with Thee. Amen.
1 If someone is bedridden
and unable to get to Church to receive the Eucharist over a long period
of time -- especially during Eastertide -- but this person is also not
in need of Unction, ask your priest to pay
him a sick call.