Public Mass Ban in Italy Leads to New Focus on "Spiritual Communion"

ROME (CNS) -- Public Masses are banned throughout Italy, but literally thousands of Masses are celebrated each day and, in addition to watching them on television or computer screens, the faithful can receive "spiritual Communion."

Pope Francis, after reciting a livestreamed Angelus prayer March 15, told people, "United to Christ we are never alone, but instead form one body, of which he is the head. It is a union that is nourished with prayer and also with spiritual communion in the Eucharist, a practice that is recommended when it isn't possible to receive the sacrament."

Obviously, receiving Communion is the way to participate most fully in the Mass, but it is not always possible for everyone to receive at every Mass, nor do many Catholics in the world even have regular access to Mass.

The idea of "spiritual Communion" -- inviting Jesus into one's heart and soul when receiving the actual sacrament isn't possible -- is part of Catholic tradition.

In the 1700s, St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote a special prayer for spiritual communion: "My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament. I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you. But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul at least spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I actually receive you."