Monday 13 September 2021

The Handy Little Guide to Spiritual Communion - Michael R. Heinlein

The Handy Little Guide to Spiritual Communion
ISBN 9781681927138
eISBN 9781681927145

This is the second of the ‘Handy Little Guide’ books from Our Sunday Visitor that I have read, it is the first in eBook format and I believe the only one available digitally. This is a pity. I want to state that this is a wonderful little book or booklet. It is a great little read, and one that could read repeatedly, and with new benefits each time. Second, I really wish this that others in the ‘Handy Little’ series were available as eBooks. After having read two in the series I want to read the others but almost never pick up physical books anymore. Mainly due to my dyslexia. The chapters in this booklet are:

1 What Makes Spiritual Communion Possible?
2 Living in Communion
3 Communion When We Can’t Receive Communion
4 Spiritual Communion for Spiritual Growth
5 When We Cannot Attend Mass
6 Communion with Christ through Scripture
7 Acts of Spiritual Communion and Other Prayers

The book begins with these words:

“Catholics believe the holy Eucharist is the “source and summit” of our faith. When we receive holy Communion, we believe that we receive Jesus Christ himself, body, blood, soul, and divinity. Through the Eucharist we can be united to him in the closest way possible in this life. The innumerable gifts we receive in Communion draw us even more closely to Christ. 

Yet sometimes we are not able to receive sacramental holy Communion.”

The introduction then goes on to outline some reasons why we night not be able to take communion. Michael states:

“At times this is because of our own actions or by our own choice. When we are in the state of mortal sin, by which we turn ourselves away from God, only sacramental confession can repair the relationship. Or perhaps the regulation to fast one hour prior to receiving Communion was not observed. Sometimes people choose to fast from Communion for the purposes of spiritual growth or out of a general sense of unworthiness.

Other times, we cannot receive holy Communion through no (or little) fault of our own. For instance, we might be restricted from access to the sacraments by sickness, handicap, or food allergy, or we might live in a remote area where sacraments are celebrated intermittently. Imprisonment, emergency travel, or other outstanding complications might also limit our access to the Eucharist. Finally, in dire circumstances, such as times of war or pestilence, Catholics could be prohibited from attending Mass and unable to receive Communion even outside of Mass unless as viaticum (in danger of death).”

And the introduction ends with:

“Despite all of this, people of faith know that God does not abandon his people. Even when we cannot access the sacrament, God’s grace is not closed off. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, God “himself is not bound by his sacraments” (No. 1257). When situations prevent the reception of Communion, the Church offers remedies — one of which is making an act of spiritual communion.

Spiritual communion is a devotion for those who are unable, for whatever reason, to receive sacramental holy Communion. Any baptized Catholic can make an act of spiritual communion. There are no prescribed rituals; instead, this act of prayer has only two requirements: One must express belief in Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist, and one must have a real desire for communion with him. (For more information on how to make an act of spiritual communion, see chapter 7.)”

Some of the passages I highlighted in this volume my first read through were:

“The Eucharist provides the foundation and nourishment for each disciple’s transformation in Christ. “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor 5:17). This transformation is a continual, lifelong process. Each day we take up the call to holiness and go about doing the work of Christ in the world. The Church, therefore, encourages regular reception of holy Communion to strengthen and sustain us.”

“Communion draws me out of myself towards him, and thus also towards unity with all Christians. We become “one body,” completely joined in a single existence. Love of God and love of neighbor are now truly united: God incarnate draws us all to himself. ” (Quoting Pope Benedic XVI)

“Saint Augustine explains that our “Amen” at the time of holy Communion is our way of acknowledging our identity in Christ. We can say that same “Amen” by our lives, through our spiritual worship and spiritual communion with Christ. “You are saying ‘Amen’ to what you are: your response is a personal signature, affirming your faith. … Be a member of Christ’s body, then, so that your ‘Amen’ may ring true!” (Sermon 272).”

“Making an act of spiritual communion allows us to express our heart’s longing for the Lord and our belief in his eucharistic presence, even when we are unable to receive holy Communion.”

“It is important to remember, especially for those unable to receive holy Communion through no fault of their own, that God is always active and at work in our lives. Although he established the sacraments as the ordinary means to give us his grace, God is not bound by his sacraments (see CCC 1257). In the end, God does not expect the impossible, nor does he hold such circumstances against us.””

““Do we not often take the reception of the Blessed Sacrament too lightly?” Pope Benedict XVI pondered. “Might not this kind of spiritual fasting be of service, or even necessary, to deepen and renew our relationship to the Body of Christ?””

And most importantly:

To make an act of spiritual communion, it is important to meet three criteria:

1. We must express our faith, particularly belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
2. We must express our desire to be united sacramentally with Christ in the Eucharist.
3. We must express our desire to stay united with Christ and enjoy the fruits made available through sacramental reception of holy Communion.

These fundamental aspects are included in a variety of prayers that have become part of the tradition for use when making an act of spiritual communion.”

This is an excellent little volume. Especially after more than a year of lockdowns, closed churches, and restricted attendance. Any Catholic would benefit from reading this book. I have prayed a spiritual communion at least daily for a few years now. It is not the one that my church has instituted during the pandemic. Nor is it Saint Josemaria Escriva’s, whom I first heard about spiritual communions through. I pray the one from Saint Alphonsus Liguori. This book ends with a collection of prayers 5 different options for spiritual communion. And a few other prayers.

This is a little booklet of great value. This book can serve as an excellent reminder of the value of Spiritual Communion. Or as a starting place. I believe anyone who picks up this book and reads it will be blessed by the time and effort. It is a great booklet a wonderful series. And as stated previously, I just wish there were eBook editions for each of them. You could have them all with you all the time. For as Mike Aquilina stated, "Now we can travel with more books stored in our telephones than the ancient Egyptians kept in their vast library at Alexandria.". I strongly encourage you to give this a read.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan

Books in the Handy Little Series from OSV:
The Handy Little Guide to Adoration - Michelle Jones Schroeder
The Handy Little Guide to Confession - Michelle Jones Schroeder
The Handy Little Guide to the Holy Spirit - Michelle Schroeder
The Handy Little Guide to the Lent - Michelle Schroeder

Books by Michael R. Heinlein:
Black Catholics on the Road to Sainthood
Finding Christ in the Crisis: What the Pandemic Can Teach Us 

Picture books:
Teeny Tiny Theology Series: 
Sacred Scripture
Salvation History 
The Trinity 

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