Thank you to our Methodist sisters and brothers on conference in Southport for debating the possibility of Holy Communion online. To put it in their more formal terms, the Conference will “Reflect on the issues regarding the suggested practice of celebrating Holy Communion with dispersed communities via live, interactive media such as the internet or videoconferencing.” The concluding main point of the background paper puts a rather wet blanket over the idea “It is not possible theologically to recognise ‘remote communion’ as being truly the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper as this has been received in the Methodist Church.”
Hmm, maybe… but what can be done?
As I read about the Methodist worthies’ debate I remembered a couple of pages on “Spiritual Communion” in “A Manual of Catholic Devotion,” an Anglo Catholic devotional book of my teenage years (not perhaps on many Methodist shelves). For Christians unable to be present at Mass, because of their circumstances (infirmity, locality, unavailability of worship…) the manual encouraged Spiritual Communion.
This is a straightforward devotional practice for anyone. If you cannot physically be present at Mass you can pause and in imagination and prayer focus on the Mass and express ‘ardent desire’ to receive communion. St Teresa of Avila wrote that when you cannot be present at Mass “you can make a spiritual communion, which is a most beneficial practice; by it the love of God will be greatly impressed on you” And that great Patron Saint of Parish Priests, St Jean-Marie Vianney wrote “There are some who make a spiritual communion every day with blessed bread. If we are deprived of Sacramental Communion, let us replace it, as far as we can, by spiritual communion.”
St Alphonsus Ligouri’s suggested prayer at Spiritual Communion:
- My Jesus, I believe that you are in the Blessed Sacrament. I love you above all things, and I long for you in my soul. Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though you have already come, I embrace you and unite myself entirely to you; never permit me to be separated from you. Amen.
The internet, social media, image and music can help us pause in the day, focus on a celebration of the Mass, and help make an act of Spiritual Communion – an ‘ardent desire’ to receive communion. St Teresa, St Alphonsus Ligouri, St Jean-Marie Vianney and many more would encourage us in this way today, I feel sure… and perhaps, also, the Methodist Conference will.