Book Talk Tuesday, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 2, Chapter 20

Book Talk Tuesday, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 2, Chapter 20

CHAPTER XX. Of Frequent Communion.

IT is said that Mithridates, King of Pontus, who invented the poison
called after him, mithridate, so thoroughly impregnated his system with
it, that when eventually he tried to poison himself to avoid becoming
the Romans’ slave, he never could succeed. The Saviour instituted the
most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, really containing His Body and
His Blood, in order that they who eat it might live for ever. And
therefore whosoever receives it frequently and devoutly, so strengthens
the health and life of his soul, that it is hardly possible for him to
be poisoned by any evil desires. We cannot be fed by that Living Flesh
and hold to the affections of death; and just as our first parents
could not die in Paradise, because of the Tree of Life which God had
placed therein, so this Sacrament of Life makes spiritual death
impossible. The most fragile, easily spoilt fruits, such as cherries,
apricots, and strawberries, can be kept all the year by being preserved
in sugar or honey; so what wonder if our hearts, frail and weakly as
they are, are kept from the corruption of sin when they are preserved
in the sweetness (“sweeter than honey and the honeycomb”) of the
Incorruptible Body and Blood of the Son of God. O my daughter, those
Christians who are lost will indeed have no answer to give when the
Just Judge sets before them that they have voluntarily died the
spiritual death, since it was so easy for them to have preserved life
and health, by eating His Body which He gave them for that very end.
“Miserable men!” He will say, “wherefore would ye die, with the Bread
of Life itself in your hands?”

As to daily Communion, I neither commend nor condemn it; but with
respect to communicating every Sunday, I counsel and exhort every one
to do so, providing the mind has no attachment to sin. So says S.
Augustine, and with him I neither find fault nor unconditionally
commend daily Communion, leaving that matter to the discretion of every
person’s own spiritual Guide; as the requisite dispositions for such
frequent Communion are too delicate for one to advise it
indiscriminately. On the other hand, these very special dispositions
may be found in sundry devout souls, and therefore it would not be well
to discourage everybody. It is a subject which must be dealt with
according to each individual mind; it were imprudent to advise such
frequent Communion to all, while, on the other hand, it would be
presumptuous to blame any one for it, especially if he therein follows
the advice of some wise director. Saint Catherine of Sienna, when
blamed for her frequent Communions, under the plea that Saint Augustine
neither commended nor condemned daily Communion, replied gently, “Well,
then, since Saint Augustine does not condemn it, neither, I pray you,
do you condemn it, and I shall be content.” But Saint Augustine
earnestly exhorts all to communicate every Sunday. And as I presume, my
daughter, that you have no attachment either to mortal or venial sins,
you are in the condition which Saint Augustine requires; and if your
spiritual Father approves, you may profitably communicate more
frequently. Nevertheless, there are various hindrances which may arise,
not so much from yourself, as from those among whom you live, which may
lead a wise director to tell you not to communicate so often. For
instance, if you are in a position of subjection, and those whom you
are bound to obey should be so ignorant or so prejudiced, as to be
uneasy at your frequent Communions, all things considered, it may be
well to show consideration for their weakness, and to make your
Communion fortnightly; only, of course, where there is no possible way
of overcoming the difficulty otherwise. But one cannot give any general
rule on such a point, each person must follow the advice of their own
spiritual Guide; only this much I will say, that monthly Communions are
the very fewest which any one seeking to serve God devoutly can make.

If you are discreet, neither father nor mother, husband nor wife, will
ever hinder you from communicating frequently, and that because on the
day of your Communion you will give good heed always to be more than
usually gentle and amiable towards them, doing all you can to please
them, so that they are not likely to prevent your doing a thing which
in nowise inconveniences themselves, unless they were most particularly
unreasonable and perverse, in which case, as I have said, your Director
might advise you to yield. There is nothing in the married life to
hinder frequent Communion. Most certainly the Christians of the
Primitive Church communicated daily, whether married or single. Neither
is any malady a necessary impediment, except, indeed, anything
producing constant sickness.

Those who communicate weekly must be free from mortal sin, and also
from any attachment to venial sin, and they should feel a great desire
for Communion; but for daily Communion people should furthermore have
conquered most of their inclinations to evil, and no one should
practise it without the advice of their spiritual Guide.