In a prayer of spiritual communion, we ask ourselves what our connection with God and the sacraments is like, said Father Moisés Leal, pastor of St. Luke Parish in Woodburn. “It is a test to measure and demonstrate whether the faith we have really is strong or, on the contrary, if we live it at our convenience.”

With the outbreak of the coronavirus, public Masses in western Oregon halted in mid-March and only now are beginning, but with small groups. Many people still will be unable to attend Mass.

The church long has recognized situations in which the faithful lack access to Communion. Someone may live in a remote area far from a church, said Father Leal.

He recalls his grandmother María Eugenia in Guadalajara. She lived two and a half hours from town. But she got up early every day to pray. For her, spiritual communion was sacred.

Monsignor Gerard O’Connor, director of Divine Worship for the Archdiocese of Portland, said that when circumstances prevent one from receiving Holy Communion during Mass, it is possible to make a spiritual communion that is a source of grace.

Spiritual communion means uniting in prayer with the sacrifice of Christ and feeling his presence, says the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The catechism recognizes that it is good to cultivate a constant desire for the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, Msgr. O’Connor explained.

Spiritual communion has been established in the church for centuries and has been recommended by saints who were teachers of the spiritual life.

Saint Teresa of Avila encouraged this practice and wrote about it: “When you cannot commune or hear Mass, you can commune spiritually, which is of great benefit. The love of God will be impressed in you.”

St. Thomas Aquinas, like St. Teresa a doctor of the church, referred to spiritual communion as a burning desire to receive Jesus in loving embrace as if it had already been received.

The Archdiocese of Portland made available to the faithful the prayer for the act of Spiritual Communion, which was written by St. Alphonsus Ligouri:

“My Jesus,

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.

Amen.”

The church does not have a special formula for spiritual communion. The archdiocese has recommended the following practices:

• Perform an act of contrition to ask for forgiveness of sins and if mortal sin has been committed, make a sacramental confession as soon as possible.

• Recite a creed.

• Express the desire to be sacramentally united with Christ in the Eucharist.

• Enunciate the desire to remain united with Christ in order to be worthy of achieving the fruits that the sacramental reception of the Eucharist provides.

The archdiocese encourages the faithful who watch livestreamed Masses to offer an act of spiritual communion after Communion.

patriciam@ocp.org