July 1, 2021 • 6 min
Of frequent Communion
It is said that Mithridates, King of Pontus, having invented a drink called by his own name, so strengthened his body thereby, that afterwards, although he endeavoured to poison himself to avoid falling under the servitude of the Romans, he could not. In order that we should live for ever, our Saviour has instituted the most adorable sacrament of the Eucharist, which contains really his flesh and his blood.
Whosoever, therefore, frequently eateth thereof with devotion, so effectually strengthens the health of his soul that it is almost impossible he should be poisoned by any kind of evil affection; for we cannot live by this flesh of life and at the same time die of the death of sin.
Thus, as men, dwelling in the terrestrial paradise, might have avoided corporal death, by feeding on the fruit of the tree of life which God hath planted therein, so they may also avoid spiritual death by feeding on this sacrament of life.
If the most tender fruits, and such as are most subject to corruption, as cherries, strawberries, and apricots can be easily preserved the whole year with sugar or honey, why should not our hearts, however frail and weak, be preserved from the corruption of sin, when seasoned and sweetened with the incorruptible flesh and blood of the son of God.
What reply shall reprobate Christians be able to make when the just Judge shall upbraid them with their folly, or rather madness, in having involved themselves in eternal death, when it was so easy to have maintained themselves in spiritual life and health, by feeding on his body, which He has left them for that intention. “Miserable wretches!” He will say, “why did you die, having the fruit of life at your command?”
“To receive the holy Communion every day,” says St. Augustin, “I neither recommend nor dissuade from: but to communicate every Sunday I persuade and exhort every one, provided his soul be without any affection to sin.”
With the same holy doctor of the Church I neither absolutely condemn, nor do I approve of the practice of communicating daily, but leave it to the discretion of the spiritual father of him who desires advice on this point. As the disposition required for daily communion is not found in everyone, it is not prudent to recommend it generally to all; and as it may be found perfect in many human souls, it is not advisable to dissuade generally from it, but leave it to be regulated by the consideration of the inward state of each individual. Wherefore, as it would be imprudent to advise everyone, without distinction, to such frequent communion, so it would be imprudent also to blame anyone for it, especially it he followed the advice of a prudent director. When daily communion was objected to in the case of St. Catharine of Sienna, she returned this modest and graceful answer: “Since St. Augustin blamed it not, I pray you not to blame it and I shall be content with your silence.”
But as St. Augustin, Philothea, strenuously exhorts us to communicate every Sunday, comply with his advice as far as you may be able; for, since I suppose you have no affection to either mortal or venial sin, you are in that disposition which St. Augustin requires; nay, in a more excellent degree, since you have not only an aversion to commit sin but do not even retain in you an affection to sin, so that, should your spiritual father think it proper, you may profitably communicate still more frequently than every Sunday.
However, many lawful impediments may occur, not, perhaps, on your own part but on the part of those with whom you live, which may occasion a discreet director to advise you not to communicate so often. For example: if you live in a state of subjection to persons, who are so ill-instructed or capricious as to be troubled or disquieted at seeing you communicate so frequently, it would, in such a case, be advisable to yield to their humour, and communicate but once a fortnight; but this is only to be understood when you can by no means remove the difficulty. As there can be no general rule prescribed in this case, we must act according to the advice of our spiritual director; though I may say with assurance that the distance between the days for communicating for such as desire to serve God devoutly should not exceed a month.
If you act with prudence, neither father, mother, husband, nor wife, will prevent you from communicating often, for if, on the day of your communion, you are not less diligent in the discharge of your duties, and even acquit yourself of them with more cheerfulness and alacrity, be they ever so irksome, there can be no likelihood that they should seek to prevent you from an exercise in which they find no kind of inconvenience, except they should be of a spirit extremely narrow and unreasonable; and in that case, as I have said already, your director will advise you to yield somewhat to them.
As for bodily diseases, there are none which can be a lawful impediment to this holy devotion, excepting those which provoke to frequent vomiting.
To communicate every eight days, it is requisite that one should be free from mortal sin, and without any affection to mortal sin, and to have, moreover, a great desire of communicating; but to communicate every day, it is necessary we should overcome the greatest part of our evil inclinations, and that it should be by the advice of our spiritual director.
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