THE PRACTICE OF THE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST
XI.-THE MEANS OF AVOIDING LUKEWARMNESS AND ATTAINING PERFECTION
The fourth means of perfection, and even of perseverance in the grace of God, is frequently to receive Holy Communion, of which we have often spoken, and often declared that a soul can do nothing more pleasing to Jesus Christ than to receive Him often in the Sacrament of the Altar. St. Teresa said: “There is no better help to perfection than frequent Communion. Oh, how admirably does the Lord bring on such a soul to perfection!” And she adds that ordinarily speaking, they who communicate most frequently are found further advanced in perfection; and that there is greater spirituality in those Religious Communities where frequent Communion is the custom. For this reason it is that, as we find declared in a decree of Innocent XI, in 1679, the Holy Fathers have so highly extolled, and so much promoted, the practice of frequent and even of daily Communion. The Holy Communion, as the Council of Trent tells us, delivers us from daily faults, and preserves us from mortal sins. St. Bernard asserts that Communion represses the movements of anger and incontinence, which are the two passions that most frequently and most violently assail us. St. Thomas says that Communion defeats the suggestions of the devil. And finally, St. John Chrysostom says that Communion pours into our souls a great inclination to virtue, and a promptitude to practise it; and at the same time imparts to us a great peace, by which the path of perfection is made very sweet and easy to us. Besides, there is no Sacrament so capable of kindling Divine love in souls as the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, in which Jesus Christ bestows on us His whole Self, in order to unite us all to Himself by means of holy love. Wherefore Blessed John of Avila said: “Whoever deters souls from frequent Communion does the work of the devil.” Yes; for the devil has a great horror of this Sacrament, from which souls derive immense strength to advance in Divine love.
But a proper preparation is requisite to communicate well. The first preparation, or, in other terms, the remote preparation, to be able to go to Communion daily, or several times in the week, is, (1) To keep free from all deliberate affection to sin, that is, to sin committed, as we say, with the eyes open. (2) The practice of much mental prayer. (3) The mortification of the senses and of the passions. St. Francis of Sales teaches as follows: “Whoever has overcome the greatest part of his bad inclinations, and has arrived at a notable degree of perfection, can communicate every day.” The angelic Doctor, St. Thomas, says that anyone who knows by experience that his soul derives an increase of Divine love from Holy Communion, may communicate daily. Hence Innocent XI, in the above-mentioned decree, said that the greater or less frequency of Holy Communion must rest on the decision of the Confessor, who ought to be guided in this matter by the profit which he sees accrue to the souls under his direction. In the next place, the proximate preparation for Communion is that which is made on the morning itself of Communion, for which there is need of at least half an hour’s mental prayer.
To reap also more abundant fruit from Communion, we must make a good thanksgiving. Blessed John of Avila said that the time after Communion is “a time to gain treasures of graces”. St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi used to say that no time can be more calculated to inflame us with Divine love than the time immediately after our Communion. And St. Teresa says: “After Communion let us be careful not to lose so good an opportunity of negotiating with God. His Divine Majesty is not accustomed to pay badly for His lodging, if He meets with a good reception.”