by Irene Rowland MS,NCC,LPC
For those who are used to regular church attendance and frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist, it is troubling to not be currently able to physically partake in this sacrament. In some parishes, in-person Masses have resumed although there are many restrictions. For those who fall into the vulnerable category, because of age or health, the wait to return continues.
Spiritual Communion has been in place in the Catholic Church long before the coronavirus arrived. It is just as real and viable as receiving Communion in person. Although Spiritual Communion may not feel authentic to some people, relying on just feelings isn’t always truthful. There are those who also don’t believe in the physical presence of Christ in the consecrated host either, but believers are those being addressed in this article, which includes those who believe in a very small mustard seed kind of way.
Appreciate the Spiritual Communion Prayer
The Spiritual Communion prayer that is used when attending Mass online has also been used by many of the faithful on their own, in other times outside of Mass. Consider slowly savoring the words and their meaning each time it is prayed.
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.
Be Creative in Making Spiritual Communion
During our current unusual circumstances, it is common to hear of the sadness surrounding not being able to receive Communion in person.
Some have been creative about the solutions to their longing to be physically closer to Jesus present in the Eucharist. They have driven to their church parking lot in order to sit in their car to pray and worship the Lord knowing that inside the church there awaits the tabernacle with the consecrated host. Many report that it’s a time of solace and reverence.
These excursions to a location physically closer to Holy Communion must make God smile. Since we serve a great big awesome God, He must love all the ways we find to connect with Him in both traditional and non-traditional ways. Despite a thirst for physical communion, one can still participate in spiritual communion.
Social distancing, in order to protect health, has certainly engendered some creative, out of the box thoughts and actions. Here are some thoughts that may or may not be theologically sound, but metaphorically and psychologically could have some merit.
God is interested in the intentions of one’s heart. Scripture states that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, which means people are living tabernacles. When Communion is received, the power does not diminish over time since His light remains in all who have partaken of this gift.
When people have interactions with others, they can choose to concentrate on the beauty of their goodness and Christ living in them, however stifled or hidden that may have become. A person may desecrate their temple and ignore Christ within them, but the fact remains that He is still there.
Discover God’s Presence in Creation and in Others
When people recognize God’s presence in another, through a warm smile or a caring act of kindness, perhaps that’s a form of spiritual communion. This might be a good time to actively look for the treasure of these sparks of God living in us and through us.
The Lord’s handiwork can literally be noticed everywhere. He is the Master Artist who is clearly seen in all of creation, from gorgeous sunsets to the sweet little details of a tiny animal. Human beings are His masterpiece, of course, intricately and wonderfully made. Is not the recognition and thankfulness for His loving touch in one’s life a form of Spiritual Communion?
This idea could be looked at in a whimsical, Dr. Seuss kind of way…there’s Spiritual Communion here, there’s Spiritual Communion there, there’s Spiritual Communion everywhere, and actually you can see it anywhere, you can see it in a glance, you can even see it in a spontaneous dance, you can see it in a smile across the social distancing aisle, you can see it while blowing bubbles while trying to forget your troubles, just for fun you can look for it every day, because we’re always in the presence of the Son no matter what comes our way, so let’s notice Him in each other, even in your bratty brother or your mean mother, and remember that He is our only unconditional lover. Hopefully that was as fun to read as it was to think up!!
Just as a child will delight in chasing bubbles all over the yard, people could chase His presence everywhere they roam, physically or in their thoughts, and can find Him and delight in Him also. An added benefit to this mindset is the boost to one’s mental health from the cultivation of positivity. A person’s healthy emotional outlook can have a ripple effect of uplifting one’s loved ones also!
Take an Online Pilgrimage
Some people are especially missing the social aspect of church and miss their church friends. We were created for connection and psychologically we can do that more easily and more deeply when in each other’s actual presence.
Maybe part of missing being with other parishioners is missing seeing God alive in others and witnessing all the ways they minister to each other by being His hands and feet. Mother Teresa spoke of Jesus thirsting for His people and of them thirsting for Him. These challenging times give the opportunity to experience both social communion and spiritual communion in different ways.
Admittedly, the definition of spiritual communion is broadened here and some poetic license is being taken in order to remind that God reaches hearts in a multitude of ways. During these times of attempting to flatten the curve of the pandemic by quarantining, there are some unique spiritual opportunities.
Perhaps one has never participated in Eucharistic adoration. There are currently avenues to do that online through live streaming. People can immerse themselves in cultural and geographic diversity by attending Mass online in any part of the country and even in countries all over the world. It is emotionally healing to remember that we are not alone and are part of the whole body of Christ. Here’s a wonderful link in order to explore and enjoy hopping from church to church for a banquet of blessings.
A person can sing, kneel, pray and show reverence from home, whether wearing their Sunday best or in their jeans and slippers. Some parents are requiring their children to wear whatever they would typically wear to Mass, instead of their play clothes, for their attendance at online Mass, in order to help signal that this is a special time, even if they are sitting in their living room.
We experience a feeling of well-being when we celebrate occasions and we can certainly both attend Mass and celebrate Mass together.
Combine Spiritual and Social Communion
Here are some further musings on ways to combine spiritual and social communion. Many are going for more walks than usual during this time of slowing down and sheltering in place. What a joy at the end of a workday to walk through their neighborhood, breathing in fresh air and the scent of flowers. This time of year typically would include the sweet scent of roses and gardenias blooming. It’s a perfect time to pray.
One could also be praying for blessings for those who live in each of the houses that they notice along the walk. As people drive past, along with waving, one could consider also praying for a hedge of protection for them and their families. People can allow COVID-19 and all the negative that comes with it to dictate their outlook or they can rise above and concentrate on creative ways to bring blessing out of the circumstances.
A beautiful example of this was recently depicted in a poignant photo of a man in a nursing home who was sitting in a wheelchair. He was looking out of a window that had a tic-tac-toe game in progress drawn on it. On the other side of the window was his grandson enjoying the game with him during his visit. What a beautiful example of both social and spiritual communion.
During this unprecedented time, choose to be intentional about creating some good memories that eventually, one day in the near future, can be looked back on fondly. Be safe and be well!!