HomeDocumentationArticles and studiesA prayer that went round the world
Documentation

A prayer that went round the world

Fr Jesus Sancho-Bielsa

Tags: Eucharist, Holy Communion
“I wish, Lord, to receive You with the purity, humility and devotion with which Your most holy Mother received You, with the spirit and fervor of the saints.”

The spiritual communion prayer written out by St Josemaria in Spanish: Yo quisiera, Señor, recibiros con aquella pureza, humildad y devoción con que os recibió vuestra Santísima Madre, con el espíritu y el fervor de los Santos
The spiritual communion prayer written out by St Josemaria in Spanish: Yo quisiera, Señor, recibiros con aquella pureza, humildad y devoción con que os recibió vuestra Santísima Madre, con el espíritu y el fervor de los Santos
I knew that St Josemaria, the founder of Opus Dei, had been taught this prayer for spiritual communion as a child, by a religious friar, Father Manuel Laborda, who came from Saragossa and taught in Barbastro. But where did this jewel of Eucharistic devotion come from originally? Was it a prayer that was recited at that school, or had Father Laborda composed it? I found the origin of the prayer without looking for it, and the find was truly providential.

Page 308 of an old catechism
I was doing some research for an article on the Blessed Virgin Mary for Scripta de Maria, the journal of the Torreciudad Mariological Institute, when there came to my mind the catechism I had studied as a child at my local church, when preparing for my First Holy Communion. It was a well-known Spanish Catechism by Father Ramo. I thought that perhaps St Josemaria had studied the same catechism at school in Barbastro as a small boy.
The original page on which the spiritual communion prayer appears – in this version, page 239.
The original page on which the spiritual communion prayer appears – in this version, page 239.

I asked the library of the University of Navarra. They had a copy of it, and after some time they sent me a digital version. It is quite hard to read, because of its poor state of conservation. Just in case, meanwhile, I contacted the Piarist school at Alcañiz, where Father Ramo had been Rector. They suggested asking the Piarists in Saragossa, and there I obtained a copy of what was known as the Longer Catechism, whose front page reads as follows: “Explanation of Christian Doctrine. According to the method used for teaching by the Piarist Fathers. Set out in the form of a Dialogue between Master and Disciple. By Father Cayetano de San Juan Bautista, Piarist Priest.”

It was published in Pamplona in 1800 and has 357 pages. I began to read through it, and to my astonishment I found the following text on page 308, where the author invites readers to stir up their desire to receive our Lord Jesus Christ, explaining how to do so: “I would wish, O Lord, my God, to receive Thee with the purity, humility and love with which Thy most holy Mother received Thee, and with the fervor and spirit of the Saints.” Perhaps that catechetical answer turned into a spiritual communion prayer as a result of frequent teaching and repetition; or perhaps it was Father Laborda himself who made it into one. In any case, it was part of the Piarists’ heritage, and Father Laborda handed it on to St Josemaria. A further topic for research would be whether it is attributable to Father Cayetano de San Juan Bautista, or whether he got it from someone else.

The photocopy I was working with was not good quality: it had dark patches in places which made it hard to scan satisfactorily. Accordingly, I thought the best thing to do would be to copy it on the computer. That is what I have done. It was a long and difficult process, and it took me nearly two years to reconstruct that venerable catechism. I reproduced the little book electronically, conserving its appearance almost down to the last detail.

The Catechism as a source of clear ideas
Having done that, I wrote to the Prelate of Opus Dei, telling him about my find. I also thought he would love to have the complete text of the book, and I sent it to him. I remember how St Josemaria, in times of confusion in the life of the Church, recommended us to have recourse to reliable sources – the old catechisms that were so full of doctrine and devotion. He said, “God’s Church and God’s priests have been preaching the same things for twenty centuries. (...) Because, as I love to say, religion was not made by us human beings putting our hands up to vote... Take up the old catechisms! My daughters, my sons: they are a wonderful treasure! Don’t throw them away, read them! (...) And read them slowly, to preserve your children’s faith.” Now too we have a great instrument for deepening in and spreading our faith: the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its Compendium, which set out the perennial faith of the Church.

Without my looking for it, and without my knowing how, Providence led me on to the happy discovery of this old prayer, for which I am very grateful to God. I’m sure that St Josemaria had something to do with it!

Fr Jesus Sancho-Bielsa is a priest of the diocese of Teruel (Spain) and holds a doctorate in theology. He has been a professor of Greek and dogmatic theology at the Teruel Seminary, and lecturer in sacramental theology at the University of Navarra.


Related articles

Video

I'm about to make my First Holy Communion

Andreia, Brazilian, who is about to make her First Holy Communion, asked about St Josemaria's devotion to the Blessed Eucharist.

Video

The Sacraments. Reconciliation and the Blessed Eucharist

In a gathering in Peru, July 13, 1974, St Josemaria speaks about receiving the Sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist, to strengthen our relationship with God.

Documents