By John Tuttle, Benedictine College
“If you pray, you are sure of saving your soul.
If you do not pray, you are just as sure to lose
your soul.” – St. Alphonsus Liguori
A personal prayer life is what keeps one’s faith life vibrant and fruitful. It is continual devotion that envigorates a Christian’s relationship with God. Since it is difficult to obtain the graces of the sacraments today, the importance of this relationship is perhaps more noticeable. While some people can dwell on the dismay this has brought with it, the faithful can see it as an invitation to strengthen their personal prayer life.
With places of silence more readily available and, in some cases, an increase in spare time, our predicament offers an ample opportunity for deepening a relationship with God through personal devotion.
Many Catholic leaders have suggested the recitation of the Rosary, a great gift bestowed on the world by our Blessed Mother. The act of Spiritual Communion is also recommended by several priests and bishops.
The 1990’s edition of the Pieta Prayer Book states, “The value of a spiritual Communion well made is enormous. We can and should make one frequently.” It outlines an elementary formula for the devotion: “Simply think on Jesus and how much He loves us and how much we love Him, then ask Our Blessed mother to ask Her Divine Son to come into our hearts. We can offer these Communions for the interest of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, noting our special intention” (31).
There are several different adaptations of the Spiritual Communion devotion that have been recorded and come recommended. This is not unique to devotions. There are also various methods of the Stations of the Cross which can be undertaken by the faithful.
A few of the individualized methods for the Stations have been composed by the likes of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Alphonsus Liguori. Today some of the Franciscan Fathers are dedicated to yet another version, and there are numerous alternate adaptations of this great prayer.
Similarly, the devotion of a Spiritual Communion comes in various forms. The three versions offered below are taken from A Collection of Indulgenced Prayers (Keystone Printing Service, Inc., 1931).
A prolific author, Alphonsus Liguori is celebrated as a Bishop and Doctor of the Church. He is also the patron of moral theologians. He not only discerned and taught the Word of God; he lived by it. Hypocrisy had no room in his way of life. Most importantly, he was a man of prayer. This first method of Spiritual Communion is attributed to him:
My Jesus, I believe that art in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love thee above all things, and in my soul I desire thee. Since now sacramentally I cannot receive thee, at least spiritually come into my soul. As now come I embrace thee, and totally I unite myself to thee: permit not that I must be separated from thee.
Another take on Spiritual Communion goes like this:
O Jesus, present here in the holy Tabernacle, I adore thee, and I desire thee. Come into my heart by thy grace, while I await thy coming in thy Sacrament.
Still another version provided by A Collection of Indulgenced Prayers is as follows:
O Jesus, I turn myself toward the holy Tabernacle, where hidden thou dwellest through love of me. I also love thee, O my God. I cannot now receive thee in Holy Communion. Meanwhile visit me by thy grace. Spiritually come into my heart: purify it, and make it like to thine own. Amen.
One common thread between the variant methods of Spiritual Communion is a simple expression of faith. A recognition and proclamation of Christ in the most Blessed Sacrament is given. The next step is an expression of love of God. And then the faithful person expresses his or her longing for Christ in that great Sacrament, which is an act of hope. With open hearts, a reception of graces is anticipated.
A Spiritual Communion is a prime example of how prayerful devotions direct us toward God. Authentic prayer showcases a realization that we are dependent on God and, what’s more, that we desire God in our lives. In humility, we seek Him and hope for his mercy and guidance.
As Alphonsus Liguori and all the hosts of saints have shown us, prayer is our communion with God. Prayer can take so many forms, but the Spiritual Communion is a beautiful example of what prayer should be communicating to God from our hearts. It is through prayer that we nurture a relationship with Christ.