On Spiritual Communion

S.-alfonso-1.gifDeacon Fritz Bauerschmidt has an excellent piece on the merits of the Act of Spiritual Communion, a prayer authored by Saint Alphonsus Liguori and used in my parish, archdiocese, and many places during this time of pandemic. I appreciated his roots in Saint Thomas Aquinas in drawing out further meaning from the experience of being unable to receive the Eucharist. He notes complaints about the prayer, which I think are good to consider. He suggests a connection to the desire for Communion with a larger, wider aspect of the Church, namely the bonds of union between all the members of Christ’s Body as well as looking forward to an eventual union in the Reign of God to come.

I think his conclusion is wise:

Of course, not every prayer has to say every possible thing. And since the Eucharistic liturgy itself is replete with ecclesial and eschatological language, I don’t think any great harm is done by using St. Alphonsus’s prayer as written. Indeed, I rather think that it could likely do great good for those who feel sorely deprived of sacramental communion.

When I recall various criticisms, bans, disinvites, and the like from hard-core Catholics, even a few bishops, it strikes me that nobody really has a perfect bead all the time on expressing the Christian faith. Inaccurate theology in a song or hymn is a problem on one level. Something in the category of not-wrong-but-could-be-worded-better sounds a lot like the objections to the Spiritual Communion prayer. It’s not the Catechism Complete. But other aspects of liturgy and theology cover the not-wrong well enough.

As for me, I don’t have the text memorized, nor do I have it in front of me when I play at livestreamed Mass. The priest alone says it in the gathering-of-eight in which I serve. I focus on the prayer of the Mass, and the participation I can actualize. This prayer doesn’t help me. I also choose not to receive the Eucharist. Our diocesan guidelines allow for the reception of Communion after liturgy, but for personal reasons I decline this as well.

As for the author’s “update” of the prayer, I liked this aspiration:

I desire to receive You into my soul,
to be in communion with Your body, the Church,
and to feast at the Lamb’s sacred banquet in the new creation.

And this petition:

Never permit me to be separated from You,
build up the bonds of charity among your people,
and bring us all to the feast of heaven.

But as he said, not every Church utterance has to say it all.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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