Spiritual Steps to take during the Coronavirus Pandemic

Many thanks to our Worthy State Chaplain for providing the following spiritual guidance during this time of uncertainty.

“Spiritual Versus Sacramental Communion”

With churches closed out of concern for the contagion of Covid-19, the coronavirus, Catholics are prevented from receiving Holy Communion. An ancient practice of the Church in such circumstances, for there have always been those who, for whatever reason, are unable to take the Sacrament, is to make an act of “spiritual communion.”

The Catholic Church distinguishes two ways in which the Body of Christ is received by the faithful.

Thomas Aquinas taught that there are two ways to receive the Eucharist:
spiritually and sacramentally. However, the Council Fathers of Trent teach three ways: spiritually alone, sacramentally alone, or spiritually and sacramentally.

Spiritual communion was defined by St. Thomas Aquinas as “an ardent desire to receive the Lord in the Holy Sacrament and a loving embrace as though we had already received Him.” This is a wonderful and practical way to unite oneself to God through prayer, expressing to God one’s desire to be united with Christ when we are unable to do so through the reception of Holy Communion.

The Roman Catholic saint, Alphonsus Liguori, taught a four-step method of making a spiritual communion.

First, to make an act of faith, the point of which is to express one’s firm belief in God’s goodness and mercy. Recitation of one of the historical creeds (Nicene Creed) would be such an act; if one is following along on the internet with a live-streamed service, saying the Creed along with those on your computer screen would be this first step. Here’s a prayer to recite every day:

Almighty God, you pour out on all who desire it the spirit of grace and of supplication: Deliver me, when I draw near to you, from coldness of heart and wanderings of mind, that with steadfast thoughts and kindled affections I may worship you in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Second, to make an act of charity reciting either a formal prayer of the Church or an extemporaneous one. The act should express our love for Christ in his church. The Prayers of the People of God (Prayers of the Faithful) are a good example of the act of love in a formal service of Holy Communion and reciting them along with a live-streamed service would fulfill this step. A shorter, private alternative would be this prayer for mission from the Daily Office of Morning Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe me in your Spirit that I, reaching forth my hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name.

Third, to make an expression of our desire to receive Christ. Here’s an wonderful example by Thomas Merton and his prayer of desire that I use weekly:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen

The fourth, to make a prayer of invitation, to invite the Lord to come into your heart spiritually. A traditional prayer adapted from the Roman Catholic tradition is this:

Lord Jesus, I believe that you are present in the Eucharist. I pledge my love above all things, and I desire to receive you into my heart. Since I cannot at this moment receive you sacramentally, so come at least spiritually into my life. I embrace you as you are already there and unite myself wholly to you.
Never permit me to be separated from you. Amen.

One can then conclude a spiritual communion with a time of silent meditation.