Assistance at Mass


In 1903 Pope St. Pius X inaugurated a century of emphasis on "actual participation" at Mass -- the actuosa participatio famously reiterated by Vatican II -- when he wrote:


"The Holy Mass is a prayer itself, even the highest prayer that exists. It is the Sacrifice, dedicated by our Redeemer at the Cross, and repeated every day on the Altar. If you wish to hear Mass as it should be heard, you must follow with eye, heart, and mouth all that happens at the Altar. Further, you must pray with the Priest the holy words said by him. You have to associate your heart with the holy feelings which are contained in these words and in this manner you ought to follow all that happens on the Altar. When acting in this way, you have prayed Holy Mass."


With a missal in hand as you view a telecast of a Mass, you can pray the Mass in this same way. As you would if physically present (though not, of course, satisfying any Sunday or holy day obligation to attend Mass).


Spiritual Communion


When we view a Mass that we cannot attend, we can make what is known as a "spiritual Communion", an act expressing what was described by St. Thomas Aquinas as "an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament and in lovingly embracing Him." In a spiritual Communion, we, with contrite, humble hearts, ask our Lord to come to us in the same way He would if we were able to receive the Sacrament physically.


Some Catholic authorities teach that the graces received by spiritual communion can equal (or in some cases even exceed) those received from the actual Sacrament by someone who is physically present. Though, of course, the Sacrament itself is inherently greater, our disposition toward the Sacrament can greatly affect the extent to which we actually receive its fruits in our soul.


How to Receive Spiritual Communion


St. Leonard of Port-Maurice offers this advice for receiving Spiritual Communion:


In order to facilitate a practice of such great excellence, ponder what I have to say. When the priest is about to give himself Communion in holy Mass, do you, keeping composed externally and internally, excite in your heart an act of true contrition, and humbly striking your breast, in token that you acknowledge yourself unworthy of so great a grace, make all those acts of love, of self-surrender, of humility, and the rest, which you are accustomed to make when you communicate sacramentally, and then desire with a lively longing to receive your good Jesus, veiled in the sacrament for your benefit. And to kindle your devotion, imagine that most holy Mary, or some saint, your holy advocate, is holding forth to you the sacred particle; figure yourself receiving it, and then, embracing Jesus in your heart, reply to Him, over and over again, with interior words prompted by love: “Come, Jesus, my Beloved, come within this my poor heart; come and satiate my desires; come and sanctify my soul; come, most sweet Jesus, come!” This said, be still; contemplate your good God within you, and, as if you really had communicated, adore Him, thank Him, and perform all those interior acts to which you are accustomed after sacramental Communion.


You can make an act of spiritual communion (as below) at the same time as those present at the Mass are receiving holy communion sacramentally. Though you can use your own words, many people say those recommended by St. Alphonus Liguori:


Act of Spiritual Communion

My Jesus, I believe that Thou art truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
I love Thee above all things, and I desire to receive Thee into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive Thee sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. 

I embrace Thee as being already there, and unite myself wholly to Thee. 

Never, never permit me to be separated from Thee.

Jesus, my sweet love, wound and inflame this heart of mine, so that it may be always and all on fire for Thee.



Just as many people say the Anima Christi immediately after sacramental Communion, so too can you say it after spiritual communion.


The Anima Christi

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from Christ's side, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee.
From the malicious enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me.
And bid me come unto Thee.
That I may praise Thee with Thy saints and with Thy angels.
Forever and ever. Amen


Or the following prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas while the celebrant is completing the ablutions:


Prayer of Thanksgiving after Holy Communion

Lord, Father all-powerful and ever-living God, I thank You, for even though I am a sinner, your unprofitable servant, not because of my worth but in the kindness of your mercy, You have fed me with the Precious Body & Blood of Your Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that this Holy Communion may not bring me condemnation and punishment but forgiveness and salvation. 


May it be a helmet of faith and a shield of good will. May it purify me from evil ways and put an end to my evil passions. May it bring me charity and patience, humility and obedience, and growth in the power to do good. May it be my strong defense against all my enemies, visible and invisible, and the perfect calming of all my evil impulses, bodily and spiritual. May it unite me more closely to you, the One true God, and lead me safely through death to everlasting happiness with You.


And I pray that You will lead me, a sinner, to the banquet where you, with Your Son and holy Spirit, are true and perfect light, total fulfillment, everlasting joy, gladness without end, and perfect happiness to your saints. grant this through Christ our Lord, Amen.