(Whenever you hear Mass and it is possible for you to do so, you should always try to receive sacramental communion. Now it is possible to receive Communion up to twice a day having heard the whole Mass. But if for some special circumstance you cannot receive Communion sacramentally, do it at least spiritually as St. Leonard teaches you here).
According to the doctrine of the Holy Council of Trent, there are three kinds of Communion: the first is merely sacramental; the second is purely spiritual; and the third is both sacramental and spiritual.
We are not dealing here with the first, which consists in actually receiving Communion sacramentally.
It is only the second, which is reduced, according to the words of the Council itself, to an ardent desire to be nourished by this heavenly Bread, united to a living faith that works through charity and makes us partakers of the fruits and graces of the Sacrament. In other words: those who cannot receive the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ sacramentally, receive it spiritually by making acts of living faith and fervent charity, with an ardent desire to unite themselves to the Sovereign Good, and by this means they dispose themselves to participate in the fruits of this Divine Sacrament.
Consider well what I am going to say in order to facilitate for you a practice that is so useful. When the priest is about to receive Communion, being with great interior and exterior recollection, modesty and composure, arouse in your heart a true sorrow for your sins, and beat your breast to signify that you recognize yourself unworthy of the grace of uniting yourself to Jesus Christ. Then exercise yourself in acts of love, of offering, of humility and others that you are accustomed to do when approaching the Sacred Table, adding to this the most ardent and fervent desire to receive Jesus Christ, who, through your love, is really and truly present in the august Sacrament. To enliven your devotion more and more, imagine that the Blessed Virgin, or your Patron Saint, presents the Sacred Host to you, and that you receive it in reality and as if you were closely embracing Jesus in your heart, and repeat once and many times in your interior these words dictated by love:
«Come my Jesus! my life and my love, come to my poor heart; come and fulfill my desires; come and sanctify my soul; come to me, most sweet Jesus! Come to me, most sweet Jesus!
Then remain in silence, contemplate your God within yourself; and as if you had really received Communion, give Him thanks and do all the acts that are customary after Holy Communion.
Be assured, beloved reader, that this spiritual Communion, so neglected by the Christians of our day, is, nevertheless, a true and very rich treasure that fills the soul with infinite goods; and, according to the opinion of many and very respected authors, among others, Father Rodriguez, in his work On Christian Perfection, spiritual Communion is so useful that it can cause the same graces and even greater graces than sacramental Communion. Indeed, although the actual reception of the Holy Eucharist produces by its nature more fruit, since, being a sacrament, it works by its own virtue; it can nevertheless happen that a soul desirous of its perfection makes spiritual Communion so humbly, with so much love and devotion, that it merits more in the eyes of God than another receiving Communion sacramentally, but with less preparation and fervor.
It is known how much this spiritual Communion pleases Jesus Christ, in that very often He has deigned to listen – by means of patent miracles – to the pious sighs of His servants, sometimes giving them sacramental Communion by His own hands, as to St. Clare of Montefalco, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Ludovina; sometimes by the hands of the Angels, as to my Seraphic Doctor St. Bonaventure, and to Bishops Honoratus and Fermin, and sometimes also by the ministry of the august Mother of God, who by her own hand gave Holy Communion to Blessed Sylvester. Such tender traits on the part of God should not astonish you, if you consider that spiritual Communion inflames souls with the fire of a holy love, unites them to God and disposes them to receive the most important graces. And is it possible that so many benefits do not make an impression on you and you always continue in your indifference and insensitivity? What excuse can you give from now on for still neglecting a practice so useful and so holy?
Resolve, then, at once to make frequent use of it, bearing in mind that spiritual Communion has the advantage over sacramental Communion in that the latter can only be received once a day (we have already said that today it is possible to receive Communion up to twice), while the former can be renewed not only at all the Masses you attend, but also at all times of the day; In a word, as often as you practice what I have just prescribed, you will make spiritual Communion, and you will enrich your soul with graces, merits and all kinds of good things.
Such is the object of this booklet: to inspire all those who read it with a holy desire to introduce into the Catholic world the pious custom of hearing Holy Mass every day with solitary piety and true devotion, always receiving Communion or making spiritual Communion.
Ah, what happiness if this could be achieved! Then we would see flourish throughout the world that admirable fervor of the happy centuries of the primitive Church when Christians received the Divine Eucharist daily by attending the Holy Sacrifice. If you are not worthy to receive God so often, at least try to hear Holy Mass every day and receive spiritual Communion there. If I succeeded in persuading you to this pious practice, I would think I had gained the whole world, and I would have the sweet satisfaction of having spent my time and my labors well.
And in order to demolish all the excuses which those who pretend to dispense themselves from attending Mass are accustomed to allege, I will give in the following chapter several examples adapted to all kinds of persons, so that all may understand that if they deprive themselves of so great a treasure, it is born either of their negligence or of their lukewarmness and repugnance to all works of piety, for whose causes bitter remorse awaits them at the hour of death.
St. Leonard of Porto Mauritius