According to Roman Catholicism, you can receive “spiritual communion” even when you don’t take actual, physical communion. That is, if you desire to receive the sacrament, that is almost as good as actually receiving it. I learned this seeming bit of Gnosticism from a post by Nicholas Frankovich as part of the discussion about whether or not divorced and remarried Catholics should be allowed to receive the Sacrament.
Note too, in the excerpt after the jump, that whereas Lutherans believe that the Body and Blood of Christ are given and received specifically for the forgiveness of sins, Roman Catholics believe that sinners must not receive them. More evidence that Lutherans actually have a higher view of the Sacraments than Catholics do!
From Nicholas Frankovich, Kasper the Friendly Cardinal’s Ghostly Communion | First Thoughts | First Things:
[Cardinal Walter] Kasper notes that Pope Benedict XVI emphasized that divorced and remarried Catholics have recourse to spiritual communion. Following tradition and a practice recommended by saints, I can join my spirit to the body and blood of Christ by lifting up to God my desire for Holy Communion even when I don’t consume a consecrated host. Catholics were probably more inclined to make spiritual communion before the cultural shift initiated a century ago by Pius X, who encouraged a more frequent reception of the Blessed Sacrament. At the time, most of the faithful at Mass still sat out Communion, judging themselves unworthy.In our time, Benedict XVI has suggested that the pendulum may have swung too far in the opposite direction, where the communicant not only lets go of scruples but neglects to examine his conscience seriously enough to identify any sound reasons he might have to refrain from receiving. If he discovers that he has valid reservations, he should refrain but remember that the gift of spiritual communion is still available to him. Benedict commended it in the context of an effort to balance desire for the sacrament with respect for it.
Spiritual communion is related to sacramental Communion as desire is related to its object. The relationship is close but still a relationship, not the equivalence that Kasper implies. “Spiritual communion is to be one with Christ,” he says. “But if I am one with Christ, I cannot be in a situation of grave sin. So if they [divorced and remarried Catholics] can receive spiritual communion, why not also sacramental Communion?”