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Dear Father,

I am writing to ask you the following question: Does spiritual communion have the same validity as the actual communion received at Mass (taking into consideration the crisis we are facing due to coronavirus)?

Thank you.

Answer from the priest


1. Spiritual communion supposedly does not have the same validity, because through the sacramental eating, i.e. the sacramental communion, the sacramental grace is also conferred.

That is the reason why the Church states that Christians should receive Holy Communion at least once a year, during the Easter period.

If spiritual communion had the same validity, then the Church would have not issued such a precept.

One must not forget what the Lord said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (Jn, 6:53).

2. Let us now take a look at Saint Thomas Aquinas’s words.

First of all he quotes the sentence of the gloss (the common sentence), which reads: “We hold that there are two ways of eating, the one sacramental, and the other spiritual” (Summa Theologiae, III, 80, 1, on the contrary).

3. He then writes: “There are two things to be considered in the receiving of this sacrament, namely, the sacrament itself, and its fruits” (Summa Theologiae, III, 80, 1).

It is now apparent that receiving merely the sacrament without its fruits, which consist of uniting to God in faith and charity, means nothing compared to receiving the Lord with mere desire but with ardent faith.

4. Therefore, when assessing the two ways of receiving Holy Communion, one needs to take into consideration the fruits, i.e. the effect.

Saint Thomas Aquinas further says: “The effect of the sacrament can be secured by every man if he receives it in desire, though not in reality.

Consequently, just as some are baptized with the Baptism of desire, through their desire of baptism, before being baptized in the Baptism of water, so likewise some eat this sacrament spiritually ere they receive it sacramentally” (ibid. reply obj. 3).

5. However if Communion is done properly, it must be said that “sacramental eating produces more fully the effect of the sacrament than does the desire thereof” (ibid. reply obj. 3).

6. Referring to the words of Jesus “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (Jn, 6:53), Saint Thomas Aquinas says: “As Augustine says, explaining John’s words, This food and this drink, namely, of His flesh and blood: He would have us understand the fellowship of His body and members, which is the Church in His predestined, and called, and justified, and glorified, His holy and believing ones.

Hence, as he says elsewhere, “No one should entertain the slightest doubt, that then every one of the faithful becomes a partaker of the body and blood of Christ, when in Baptism he is made a member of Christ’s body, nor is he deprived of his share in that body and chalice even though he depart from this world in the unity of Christ’s body, before he eats that bread and drinks of that chalice” (Summa Theologiae, III, 73, 3, reply obj. 1).

I wish you a fruitful Lent, I remember you in my prayers and I bless you.

Father Angelo

Translated by Chiara Midea