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My father was indifferent to religion, but my mother raised me as a member of the Anglican Church. I came to love the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England in Canada and entered wholeheartedly into its liturgy, and especially its Holy Eucharist. But as I grew into my teen years I discovered that my experience of “prayer book” religion was remarkably different from that of many of my fellow parishioners and even of my rector’s.
As an altar boy of seventeen I was serving a visiting Anglican priest one Sunday when I made a shattering discovery. As I was putting out the candles I noticed that a fair amount of the Communion bread and consecrated wine remained on the altar. I drew the priest’s attention to this and got this answer: “Well, throw the bread out to the birds and pour the wine back into the bottle.”
In shock I reported these remarks to my rector and his reply proved even more disconcerting. Without turning a hair he told me that some priests believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in Holy Communion and others did not. “And you will just have to get used to it!” A cold moment for me, if there ever was one!
I made a change. My maternal grandmother was a Catholic and I started visiting her church after school to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. One day as I was leaving Our Lady of Mercy a young priest stopped me and asked if I was a parishioner. When I told him I wasn’t, he asked what I was doing in their church. I told him I was making a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. That began a brief conversation about my religious condition and an invitation to visit the parish house some time.
When I knocked at that door a few weeks later, the rather older pastor answered it and after a few preliminaries asked if I would like to be taken through the catechism. I did, and soon discovered that Catholics did indeed believe in the Real Presence and that it was not optional.
At the end of our course in the catechism, I hesitated to commit myself to the Catholic Church. At the pastor’s urging me to “pray about it,” I decided to make a Holy Hour before the tabernacle each day for a month. For the month of May I prayed before the Blessed Sacrament with the book Visits to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Virgin Mary by St. Alphonsus de Liguori. The result? I was conditionally baptized on May 31 and received my first Holy Communion on June 1, the feast of Pentecost.
Eucharistic prayer was crucial to my becoming a Catholic. Now you know why I am more than delighted to put together a prayer book of Eucharistic devotions.
Blessed be Jesus in the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar!
William G. Storey
Primarily this book is for devout Catholics who want to spend time in adoration before Jesus in the tabernacle. And yet, we begin with the Mass, the supreme realization of the Eucharist, then prayers before and after Holy Communion, and brief visits to the Blessed Sacrament.
A passage from a book on the fullness of the Eucharistic reality helps us to understand how adoration of the Presence is related and subordinate to the Mass:
It is true that eucharistic devotions are derivative from the Mass; they developed in the Middle Ages, rather late in the Church’s history, and even now the directives the Church gives for them clearly make them subordinate to the eucharistic celebration. The Blessed Sacrament always points back to the Mass and always retains the sense of food that the bread and wine of the liturgy possess; the sacrament is there ultimately to be consumed and to nourish us. Still, it has developed its own spirituality as a variation on that of the Mass itself. A study of eucharistic presence that omitted any discussion of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament would be incomplete.1
Therefore, the adoration section of the prayer book follows the section on the Mass and Holy Communion.
We begin with brief prayers before the reserved sacrament. A larger and much more expressive seven-day set of visits to our Lord in the tabernacle takes up many pages. Then there follows an Office of the Blessed Sacrament that may be prayed in part or in whole by a single person, by two people, or by a group of adorers led by a leader.
Then there are seven holy hours before the tabernacle: one dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament and the other to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; then five holy hours for the special seasons of the church year: Advent, Christmastide, Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide.
The next section contains four novenas and triduums of prayer that we need to express ourselves before God, personally and in families and other groups: in honor of the Blessed Sacrament, to the five wounds of Jesus, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and to his Precious Blood. There follows a description of the special days in honor of the Eucharist: the Forty Hours devotion in every diocese each year, the Holy Thursday observance before the altar of reserve, and the processions and other forms of devotion on the solemnity of Corpus Christi.
Then there is a broad selection of litanies of intercession for individuals, families, and groups of adorers in church. These are rich and varied expressions of our faith that set us properly and emphatically before the Eucharistic Lord in his holy house. One of the first emphases of Eucharistic Adoration were forms of intercessory prayer—especially litanies—and they just as useful now.
Finally, there are two major forms of devotion to our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament: first, a helpful collection of traditional prayers to Mary, and then another dedicated to the Rosary before the Tabernacle, one of the most beneficial forms of prayer, combining both meditation on the chief mysteries of Christ’s life and an expressive Marian devotion that supports and favors Mary’s role in the divine economy.
It’s the Mass that Matters
The Holy Eucharist is the very center and summit of the Catholic liturgy. The Lord’s Supper on the Lord’s Day is the height of the Christian week and the heart of the Church’s worship. It is in Word and Sacrament that we encounter the Christ who teaches, inspires, transforms, and unites us more and more surely to himself and to the Christian community of believers. The fact of our Sunday Mass is what marks us as Catholic Christians and establishes us at the heart of the Communion of Saints.
“Christ has died, Christ is risen,
Christ will come again.”
“The Eucharist, as Christ’s saving presence in the community of the faithful and its spiritual food, is the most precious possession which the Church can have in her journey through history.”
Pope John Paul II (1920–2005)2
All the prayers and readings necessary for the celebration of the Mass are contained in the reformed Roman Missal of 1970. Thanks to the Second Vatican Council and its fine liturgical work, the Missal embodies the fullness of our Eucharistic tradition and renders it in our own language for our fuller understanding and celebration. This Missal also provides for Holy Communion under the forms of both bread and wine so that by receiving both we can appreciate on a deeper level Christ crucified for us and for our salvation: “Take and eat, this is my Body; take and drink, this is my Blood.”
Outside Sundays and feasts of obligation, the principal sign of our devotion to the Eucharist is attendance at daily Mass. The thirst for the divine mysteries expresses itself across the Catholic world in this manner and reveals our deep desire to satiate ourselves with the body and blood of our Savior.
In addition, thanks to the practice of reserving the Blessed Sacrament for the sick and dying, everywhere in the world Catholics can be seen at prayer in our churches outside of any liturgical celebration. The very center of such prayer is the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle; it is the repository of the true, real, and substantial body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, the focus of adoration for millions of believers across the centuries, even unto the end of time.
Five Foundational Texts of Our Liturgy
To uncover the sources of our tradition of faith and encourage us to see deeper into the theology and practice of Eucharistic piety, let us begin with five texts from our ancient tradition.
The first of these is Saint Paul the Apostle’s teaching on the Lord’s Supper; then there follows two very early descriptions of the celebration of the Holy Eucharist from the late first and the mid-second century; then there is a brief quotation from a eucharistic homily by Saint Thomas Aquinas, the prince of theologians, and finally, a hymn by Aquinas, the author of the Mass and Office of Corpus Christi, the culminating form of the Church’s teaching and worship on the Holy Eucharist.
The First Account of the Eucharist: Saint Paul, Before 65 AD
Flee from the worship of idols. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. . . . I do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink of the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. . . .
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat or drink in an unworthy manner without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.
Saint Paul the Apostle,
I Corinthians 10:14–21; 11:23–29, ca. 52 AD
Another Very Early Account: Late First Century
On the Lord’s Day, you should assemble, break bread, and celebrate the Eucharist, but first having confessed your transgressions, in order that your sacrifice may be untainted. No one who has had a quarrel with a fellow Christian should join your assembly until they have made up, so that your sacrifice may not be defiled. For this is what the Lord meant when he said: “At every place and time offer me a clean sacrifice, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the heathen” (Malachi 1:11, 14).
A Second-Century Account of Sunday Mass
On the day called Sunday there is a meeting in one place of those who live in cities or the country, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time permits. When the reader has finished, the president in a discourse urges and invites [us] to the imitation of these noble things. Then we all stand up together and offer prayers. When we have finished the prayer, bread is brought, and wine and water, and the president similarly sends up prayers and thanksgiving to the best of his ability, the congregation assents, saying its Amen; the distribution and reception of the consecrated elements by each one, takes place and they are sent to the absent by the deacons . . .
We all hold this common gathering on Sunday, since it is the first day [of the week], on which God transforming darkness and matter made the universe, and Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead on the same day.
Justin Martyr (ca. 100–ca. 165)4
St. Thomas Aquinas: The Greatest of Miracles
No other sacrament can be more wholesome. By it sins are purged away; virtues are increased; and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift. The Church offers it for both the living and the dead so that what was instituted for all might be to the advantage of all. We cannot fully express the attractiveness of this sacrament in which we taste spiritual delight at its source and in which we renew the surpassing love which Christ revealed to us in his passion. In order to impress the immensity of his love for us, at the last supper, while celebrating the Passover Meal with his disciples, Jesus instituted this sacrament as a perpetual memorial of his passion, as the fulfillment of all the Old Testament types, as the greatest of his miracles, and as a unique consolation for his physical absence.
St. Thomas Aquinas, OP (1225–1274)5
A Eucharistic Hymn of St. Thomas Aquinas
This hymn was composed by Saint Thomas Aquinas for the new feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) that was extended to the universal church by Pope Urban IV in 1264. This marvelous hymn became a theologically valuable contribution for the Mass and Office of that feast: it is sung at Vespers to both open and close the feast day and during the sacramental processions that are held outside of church on that occasion. At Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, the last two stanzas of this famous hymn (Tantum ergo) are sung just before the giving of the blessing.
The profound Eucharistic theology contained in this hymn expresses the dogma of transubstantiation in a form of poetic hymnody available to all. Thomas enshrined this beautiful and powerful hymn at the heart of both the Eucharistic celebration and of our personal piety before the tabernacle.
Hail our Savior’s glorious Body,
Which his Virgin Mother bore;
Hail the Blood, which shed for sinners,
Did a broken world restore.
Hail the sacrament most holy,
Flesh and Blood of Christ adore!
To the Virgin, for our healing,
His own Son the Father sends;
From the Father’s love proceeding
Sower, seed, and Word descends;
Wondrous life of Word incarnate
With his greatest wonder ends!
On that paschal evening see him
With the chosen twelve recline,
To the old law still obedient
In its feast of love divine;
Love divine the new law giving,
Gives himself as Bread and Wine!
By his word the Word almighty
Makes of bread his flesh indeed;
Wine becomes his very life-blood:
Faith God’s living Word must heed!
Faith alone may safely guide us
Where the senses cannot lead!
Come, adore this wondrous presence;
Bow to Christ, the source of grace!
Here is kept the ancient promise
Of God’s earthly dwelling place!
Sight is blind before God’s glory,
Faith alone may see his face!
Glory be to God the Father,
Praise to his co-equal Son,
Adoration to the Spirit,
Bond of love, in Godhead one!
Blest be God by all creation
Joyously while ages run!
St. Thomas Aquinas, OP (1225–1274)6
With these traditional texts in mind, let us examine and use the variety of expressions of the Eucharist in the life of the Church and how they can glorify God and spiritually enrich our lives.
Mass and Holy Communion
By its very name the Eucharist is the Great Thanksgiving by which we express our profound gratitude for our creation and redemption in Christ our Lord. Over the centuries private forms of preparation and thanksgiving to declare and embody our appreciation for the reception of Holy Communion have emerged, and supplementary devotions to the Mass have grown up to express our adoration for the Real Presence.
The theological point of all this is the Catholic doctrine on transubstantiation that embodies the permanently valid teaching of the famous Council of Trent (1545–1563): “After the consecration of the bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true man, is truly, really, and substantially contained in the august sacrament of the Holy Eucharist under the appearance of these sensible things [bread and wine].”7 This teaching is a mystery of faith that surpasses all human understanding and can only be taken on faith.
The prayers presented here are customary before and after Holy Communion, at home, or in church. A good preparation guarantees a good Holy Communion and a good Holy Communion inspires a fervent thanksgiving for the gift of the Eucharist.
Prayers Before Mass and Holy Communion
Blessed Angela of Foligno (ca. 1248–1309), one of the most famous Franciscan mystics of the thirteenth century, tells us why we go to Mass and receive Holy Communion.
Why should I go to this mystery [of the Eucharist]? I will tell you what I think. One should go to receive in order to be received, go pure in order to be purified, go alive in order to be enlivened, go just in order to be justified, go united and conjoined to Christ in order to be incorporated through him, with him, and in him, God uncreated and God made man, who is given in this most holy and most high mystery, through the hands of the priest. Thanks be to God always. Amen.
Blessed Angela of Foligno (ca. 1248–1309)8
What do we intend to do when we attend Mass? This intention is set forth for us in the Roman Missal.
My Intention Before Mass
I intend to celebrate Mass
in union with my parish priest,
to receive the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ
according to the rite of the holy Roman Church
to the praise of our all-powerful God
and all his assembly in the glory of heaven,
for my good and of all the good of the pilgrim Church on earth,
and for all who have asked me to pray for them
in general and in particular,
and for the good of the holy Roman Church.
May the almighty and merciful Lord
grant us joy and peace,
amendment of life,
room for true repentance,
the grace and comfort of the Holy Spirit,
and perseverance in good works. Amen.9
Receiving the Eucharistic body and blood of our Lord is the closest we shall come to Jesus in this life. Prayers before and after Communion stir up our hearts to appreciate and assimilate the divine gift.
Preface of Corpus Christi
Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
At the last supper,
as he sat at the table with the apostles,
he offered himself to you as the spotless Lamb,
the acceptable gift that gives you perfect praise.
Christ has given us this memorial of his passion
to bring us its saving power until the end of time.
In this great sacrament you feed your people
and strengthen them in holiness,
so that the family of mankind
may come to walk in the light of one faith,
in one communion of love.
We come then to this wonderful sacrament
to be fed at your table
and grow into the likeness of the risen Christ.
Roman Missal, from the preface of Corpus Christi10
A Eucharistic Offering
Lord, all things in heaven and earth are yours.
I desire to offer myself to you
in free and perpetual oblation,
so that I may forever be with you.
Lord, in simplicity of heart,
I offer myself this day to you,
to be your servant in service and sacrifice of perpetual praise.
Accept me with the oblation of your precious body,
which this day I offer you in the presence
of your holy angels, here invisibly present,
so that it may be to my salvation
and to the salvation of all people.
Thomas à Kempis (ca. 1380–1471)11
This ancient Irish prayer is the epitome of Celtic devotion.
Draw near and take the body of the Lord,
and drink the holy blood for you outpoured.
Saved by that body and that holy blood,
with souls refreshed, we render thanks to God.
Humanity is ransomed from eternal loss
by flesh and blood offered upon the cross.
Salvation’s giver, Christ, the only Son,
by his dear cross and blood the victory won.
Offered was he for greatest and for least,
himself the victim, and himself the priest.
Victims were offered by the law of old,
which in a type this heavenly mystery told.
He, Ransomer from death, and light from shade,
now gives his holy grace his saints to aid.
Approach him then with faithful hearts sincere,
and take the safeguard of salvation here.
He, that his saints in this world rules and shields,
to all believers life eternal yields;
With heavenly bread makes them that hunger whole,
gives living waters to the thirsting soul. Amen.12
Saint Anselm of Canterbury: Preparation Prayer
Saint Anselm was a foremost philosopher and theologian but also contributed to medieval piety by writing various prayers to saints and especially this prayer of preparation for Holy Communion.
Lord Jesus Christ,
by the Father’s plan and by the working of the Holy Spirit
of your own free will you died
and mercifully redeemed the world
from sin and everlasting death.
I adore and venerate you
as much as ever I can,
though my love is so cold, my devotion so poor.
Thank you for the good gift
of this your holy Body and Blood,
which I desire to receive, as cleansing from sin,
and for a defense against it.
Lord, I acknowledge that I am far from worthy
to approach and touch this sacrament;
but I trust in that mercy
which caused you to lay down your life for sinners
that they might be justified
and because you gave yourself willingly
as a holy sacrifice to the Father.
A sinner, I presume to receive these gifts
so that I may be justified by them.
I beg and pray you, therefore, merciful lover of us all,
let not that which you have given for the cleansing of sins
be unto the increase of sin,
but rather for forgiveness and protection.
Make me, O Lord, so to perceive with lips and heart
and know by faith and love,
that by virtue of this sacrament I may deserve to be
planted in the likeness of your death and resurrection
by mortifying the old man,
and by the renewal of the life of righteousness.
May I be worthy to be incorporated into your body
“which is the church,”
so that I may be your member and you may be my head,
and that I may remain in you and you in me.
Then at the Resurrection you will refashion
the body of my humiliation
according to the body of your glory,
as you promised by your holy apostle,
and I shall rejoice in you for ever
to your glory
who with the Father and the Holy Spirit
lives and reigns for ever. Amen.
St. Anselm of Canterbury (ca. 1033–1109)13
A Preparation Prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas
St. Thomas Aquinas, the great theologian, wrote two important prayers for before and after Holy Communion.
Almighty and ever-living God,
I approach the sacrament of your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
I come sick to the doctor of life,
unclean to the fountain of mercy,
blind to the radiance of eternal light,
poor and needy to the Lord of heaven and earth.
Lord, in your great generosity,
heal my sickness, wash away my defilement,
enlighten my blindness, enrich my poverty,
and clothe my nakedness.
May I receive the bread of angels,
the King of kings and Lord of lords,
with humble reverence,
with the purity and faith,
the repentance and love,
and the determined purpose
that will help to bring me to eternal salvation.
May I receive the sacrament of the Lord’s body and blood,
and its reality and power.
may I receive the body of your only-begotten Son
our Lord Jesus Christ,
from the womb of the Virgin Mary,
and so be received into his mystical body
and numbered among his members.
as on my earthly pilgrimage
I now receive your beloved Son
under the veil of a sacrament,
may I one day see him face to face in glory,
who lives and reigns with you for ever. Amen.
Attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)14
A Eucharistic Hymn of St. Thomas Aquinas
Hidden here before me, Lord, I worship you,
Hidden in these symbols, yet completely true.
Lord, my soul surrenders, longing to obey,
And in contemplation wholly faints away.
Seeing, touching, tasting: these are all deceived;
Only through the hearing can it be believed.
Nothing is more certain: Christ has told me so;
What the truth has uttered, I believe and know.
Only God was hidden when you came to die:
Human nature also here escapes the eye.
Both are my profession, both are my belief:
Bring me to the Kingdom, like the dying thief.
I am not like Thomas, who could see and touch;
Though your wounds are hidden, I believe as much.
Let me say so boldly, meaning what I say,
Loving you and trusting, now and every day.
Record of the Passion, when the Lamb was slain,
Living bread that brings us back to life again:
Feed me with your presence, make me live on you;
Let that lovely fragrance fill me through and through.
Once a nesting pelican gashed herself to blood
For the preservation of her starving brood:
Now heal me with your blood, take away my guilt:
All the world is ransomed if one drop is spilt.
Jesus, for the present seen as through a mask,
Give me what I thirst for, give me what I ask:
Let me see your glory in a blaze of light,
And instead of blindness give me, Lord, my sight. Amen.
Adoro Te devote,
attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)15
Prayers of Thanksgiving after Communion
The precious time of thanksgiving after communion should not be neglected: besides the singing of an appropriate hymn it can be most helpful to remain in recollected silence.
Pope Benedict XVI,Sacramentum Caritatis, # 50
Aquinas’s Thanksgiving after Communion
Lord, Father all-powerful and ever-living God,
I thank you,
for even though I am a sinner,
and your unprofitable servant,
you have fed me
with the precious body and blood of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
not because of my worth but out of your kindness and your mercy.
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 the Holy Spirit,
are true and perfect light,
total fulfillment, everlasting joy,
and perfect happiness to your saints.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.
Attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)16
Jesus Help Me
John Hardon, SJ, an American Jesuit spiritual director, is well known for this affective prayer.
Jesus, help me, your servant,
whom you redeemed by your precious blood:
In every need let me come to you with humble trust, saying,
~Jesus, help me.
In all my doubts, perplexities, and temptations,
~Jesus, help me.
In hours of loneliness, weariness, and trial,
~Jesus, help me.
In the failure of my plans and hopes,
~Jesus, help me.
In disappointments, troubles, and sorrows,
~Jesus, help me.
When I throw myself on your tender love
as Father and Savior,
~Jesus, help me.
When I feel impatient and my cross is heavy,
~Jesus, help me.
When I am ill and my head and hands cannot do their work,
~Jesus, help me.
Always, always, in joys or sorrows, in falls
~Jesus, help me.
John A. Hardon, SJ (1914–2000)17
Prayer Before a Crucifix
Good Jesus, friend of all,
I kneel before you hanging on the cross
and recall with sorrow and affection
your five precious wounds,
while I ponder the prophetic words
of King David your ancestor:
“They have pierced my hands and my feet.
I can count all my bones” (Psalm 22:17).
Good Jesus, crucified for me,
fix this image of yourself in my heart:
fill me with lively sentiments of faith, hope, and love,
make me truly sorry for my sins,
and utterly committed to your holy Gospel. Amen.18
Prayer to Our Redeemer
Soul of Christ make me holy.
Body of Christ make me whole.
Blood of Christ fill me with new life.
Water from Christ’s side wash me clean.
Passion of Christ make me strong.
O good Jesus listen to me.
Within your wounds hide me.
Keep me close to you.
From the enemy defend me.
At the hour of death call me,
That with all your saints,
I may praise you, for ever. Amen.19
A Prayer of Self-Dedication
Lord my God,
rescue me from myself,
and give me to you.
Take away everything that draws me from you,
and give me all those things that lead me to you;
for the sake of Christ our Lord. Amen.
Abbot Louis de Blois (1506–1566) 20
A Prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary
We turn to you for protection,
holy Mother of God.
Listen to our prayers
and help us in our needs.
Save us from every danger,
glorious and blessed Virgin.21
It is beneficial to cultivate a desire for full union with Christ through the practice of spiritual communion, praised by Pope John Paul II and recommended by saints who were masters
of the spiritual life.
Pope Benedict XVI,Sacramentum Caritatis, # 55
Spiritual communion is a valuable practice for those who cannot actually receive Holy Communion but desire to do so: people in mortal sin who wish to change their life and receive the sacrament of reconciliation; prisoners; homebound; those unable to attend Mass on occasion; those who cannot drive to church; those who want to receive Communion every day but are impeded from doing so; and the very sick and the dying who will find consolation through frequent spiritual communion.
St. Catherine of Siena on Spiritual Communion:
There are two ways in which we may communicate—actually and spiritually. To communicate spiritually is to do so by true and ardent desire, and this desire ought not to exist only at the moment of Communion, but at all times and in all places; for it is a question of feeding the soul with the food which sustains the life of grace.
St. Catherine of Siena (1347–1380)22
An Act of Spiritual Communion by St. Alphonsus:
My Jesus, I believe that you are truly present in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. I love you above all things, and 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.
St. Alphonsus de Liguori (1696–1787),
Doctor of the Church23
Prayer of the Day of the Lord:
Let us love Jesus’ body in the Eucharist. Let us love the Lord’s body in the bodies of the poor and of our brothers and sisters. The other’s weakness is that of God’s. Let us go and visit those who are alone; let us honor the Corpus Domini [Lord’s Body] by stopping in front of those who ask and by making them beautiful with love. Venerating his body, broken and poured out on the altar, will make us love the weakness of God’s body in the smallest of his brothers and sisters. Lord, welcome everyone in your kingdom of salvation. Remain with us, Lord. Amen.24
A Preparation for Holy Communion in the Home
Many people are homebound—temporarily or permanently—but a Eucharistic minister (priest, deacon, or other designated person) brings them Holy Communion so that they may share in the celebration of the Eucharistic community.
This form of prayer is meant to prepare the person to receive Communion devoutly before the Eucharistic minister arrives at the home, hospital, nursing home, hospice, or prison. It may be led by any family member or friend. In the sick person’s room, it is customary to prepare a table with a crucifix, candles, and a clean white cloth for the convenience of the Eucharistic minister.
Leader:In the name of the Father, z and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Leader:Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
All:~Blessed be his holy name, now and for ever. Amen.
The leader of prayer alternates the stanzas of the hymn with the group.
Hymn to Jesus
O Jesus, joy of loving hearts,
The fount of life and our true light,
We seek the peace your love imparts
And stand rejoicing in your sight.
Your truth unchanged has ever stood;
You save all those who heed your call;
To those who seek you, you are good,
To those who find you, all in all.
We taste you, Lord, our living bread,
And long to feast upon you still;
We drink of you, the fountainhead,
Our thirsting souls to quench and fill.
For you are restless spirit yearns,
Where’er our changing lot is cast;
Glad, when your presence we discern,
Blest when our faith can hold you fast.
O Jesus, with us ever stay;
Make all our moments calm and bright;
Oh, chase the night of sin away,
Shed o’er the world your holy light.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091–1153)25
Psalm 117 A Universal Hymn of Praise NAB
The leader of prayer begins the antiphon to the asterisk *, and recites the verses of the psalm while the group repeats the antiphon.
Antiphon Christ is victor,* Christ is ruler, Christ is Lord of all!
Praise the Lord, all you nations!
Give glory, all you peoples!
~Christ is victor, Christ is ruler, Christ is Lord of all!
The Lord’s love for us is strong;
The Lord is faithful for ever.
~Christ is victor, Christ is ruler, Christ is Lord of all!
Glory to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit:
~Christ is victor, Christ is ruler, Christ is Lord of all!
As it was in the beginning, is now,
and will be for ever. Amen.
~Christ is victor, Christ is ruler, Christ is Lord of all!
Leader:Let us pray (pause for silent prayer):
Holy, mighty, and immortal God,
glorified by the cherubim,
worshipped by the seraphim,
and adored by all the powers of heaven:
You created us in your own image
and restored and adorned us with every good gift
in Jesus-Messiah, our Lord and Savior.
Be pleased to accept our hymns of praise,
sanctify our souls and bodies,
and forgive us our transgressions;
for you are holy, O God, and we glorify you,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
now and always, and for ever and ever.
A Reading from the Holy Gospel According to St. John 6:53–58
Reader:So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live for ever.”
All:~Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
Pause for Quiet Prayer
Leader:My flesh is true food, alleluia!
All:~And my blood is true drink, alleluia!
A Litany of the Blessed Sacrament
(see pages 40-42)
The Lord’s Prayer
Leader:Let us pray as Jesus taught us:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.
Leader: Lord Jesus Christ,
you gave us the Eucharist
as the memorial of your suffering and death.
May our worship of this sacrament
of your body and blood
help us to experience the salvation
you won for us
and the peace of the kingdom
where you live with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
See also the many Eucharistic prayers on pages 2-12, which will be helpful for the sick and dying and those about to receive Viaticum (food for the journey—the journey of death).