Spiritual Communion and Dispensation

Guidance from the University of Portland // Campus Ministry
March 17, 2020 - Feast of St. Patrick, Bishop

Dear University of Portland Community, 

     On March 16, 2020, Archbishop Sample suspended the celebration of all public Masses in the Archdiocese of Portland.  In doing so, he provided the Faithful with a dispensation from their obligation to attend Sunday Mass and Holy Days of Obligation until April 14.  These efforts will hopefully help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that has been declared a global pandemic. 

     In these times, some questions may arise surrounding the dispensation of the Sunday obligation, what it means, are we cut off from Jesus, how does it affect the Church, and what does it mean for us as a community of faith?  Campus Ministry hopes to offer some thoughts and answers in this space.

     First, when the Archbishop dispenses someone from their obligation, he does so in accord with Canon Law, the law that governs the Church.  Each of us, as Catholics, is obliged to attend Mass on Sundays, unless that obligation is lifted. The local bishop has the authority, in pastorally difficult circumstances, to lift the need for folks to attend Mass on Sundays.  This is what Archbishop Sample has done.  Therefore, it is not a sin to miss Mass on Sundays for the time being. 

     It also does not mean that there will be no Masses celebrated in the archdiocese.  In fact, priests are still going to be celebrating Mass daily!  We, in Campus Ministry, are working on ways to share those Masses with the public via streaming online.  More information will be forthcoming as the plans are made and logistics settled.  We will encourage all those who watch the Masses that are streamed to participate as they would at a regular Mass in which they are in attendance.

     Also, the Archbishop has encouraged the priests to hold the Faithful in prayer at these Masses, so that the Faithful may be supported in this difficult time.  It’s important to remember that each celebration of Mass is a participation in the one sacrifice of Jesus that he offered on the Cross.  We are united in a powerful way with that suffering that Jesus experienced, and we share in the joy and hope that is present in his Resurrection from the dead. 

     While the cessation of public Masses for the time being means that the Faithful will not be able to receive the Lord in the Eucharist, the Church provides for this with what is called Spiritual Communion.  Spiritual Communion is a form of prayer that unites our prayers with the prayers of the Church in a way that invites Jesus spiritually into our very beings.  As we receive Jesus physically in the Eucharist, a spiritual communion invites Jesus to enter our bodies in a spiritual manner.

     This means, that, despite not being able to participate in a public celebration of the Mass, the Faithful are still united, as one people, as one Church, and as one community.  Through a prayer of Spiritual Communion, sincerely offered, we are united to Christ in his suffering, death, and Resurrection.  While not ultimately a substitute for the celebration of Mass, in such times as these, a Spiritual Communion can help fill the longing for the presence of the Lord Jesus in our lives. 

     Know of our prayers for you in Campus Ministry.  Although we may be physically separated now, our closeness is expressed in prayer and support for one another.  Know that we are here for you, should you need to check-in or ask questions.  Our website is an invaluable resource, and it is where we will be posting new information and opportunities for prayer. 

     As we continue in these days of separation, let’s hold each other in prayer, keeping in mind those who are sick and suffering.  As we pray, we remember our campus community, those still here and those who have traveled away.  May the Lord Jesus, through the intercession of Mary, His Holy Mother, keep us safe and be near to us.  In the words of Blessed Basil Moreau, C.S.C. as he founded his religious community of Holy Cross – “Ave Crux, Spes Unica: Hail the Cross, our Only Hope!” 

In Christ,
The Campus Ministry Team
(Fr. Jim, Mo, Annie, Theresa, Alex, Veronicca, and Fr. Tim)


A Prayer of Spiritual Communion

My Jesus,
I believe that You
are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,
and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment
receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You.