Spiritual Communion

It seems like a small thing, but this story stirred something in me, and gave me hope:

More than a million young Catholics learned the hard way about a venerable Catholic tradition: “spiritual Communion” or the “Communion of desire.”

After a wild storm Aug. 20 at World Youth Day in Madrid left six people injured — including two with broken legs — Spanish police collapsed the tents where most of the unconsecrated hosts for the next morning’s Mass were being kept.

Without the hosts in the tents, organizers had 5,000 ciboriums holding 200 hosts each; they were consecrated by the pope at Mass Aug. 21 and distributed to pilgrims in the section closest to the altar.

Distributing Communion to just 100,000 people wasn’t a decision anyone took lightly, and apparently there were long discussions with World Youth Day organizers and Vatican officials trying to find a solution. In the end, it just wasn’t possible logistically to locate another 1.5 million hosts.

A couple of hours before the Mass, organizers announced that most of the people present would not be able to receive; they asked the pilgrims to offer up that sacrifice for the pope’s intentions and told them they could receive Communion later in the day at any church in Madrid.

The decision to cancel Communion for most Mass participants was reached “with the greatest pain,” Yago de la Cierva, director of World Youth Day Madrid, told reporters Aug. 21.

Whenever there is a huge crowd for a Mass, whether in St. Peter’s Square or at a World Youth Day, there always are some people unable to get to the Communion distribution point in time to receive. But in Madrid, de la Cierva said, “almost everyone” was among those not receiving.

Obviously, receiving Communion is the way to participate most fully in the Mass, but it’s 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.

You can read the rest here.

I can’t rightly say why this makes me hopeful, but it does.
It almost feels like a “training day” — a necessary lesson to impart, for those times in our not-too-distant future when the church is smaller, and persecuted, and Holy Communion is not always available to us. It just makes me feel like, yeah…the Holy Spirit is seeing to things.

Others will likely disagree.

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About Elizabeth Scalia