“Ask a Priest: What If My Kids Are Content With Online Masses?”

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Q: While we were in partial lockdown, my daughters, aged 18 and 20, were following Mass on the Internet. They found the sermons of the priest very down to earth and relevant and now prefer to carry on hearing Mass in this way. I’m constantly trying to make them understand that this can never replace being physically present in church, as Holy Communion is missed out on. My girls argue that when it comes to Communion, they are not missing anything because they can still receive Christ by making a spiritual communion. How can I reply? Please keep my family in your prayers. – S.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Your question confirms the fears of more than a few Catholics: that people accustomed to Mass online won’t be anxious to return to the pews.

You mention that you can hear Mass again, but it’s not clear whether Catholics in your area are again obliged to attend Mass (it might be optional at this point). If Mass is obligatory again, then watching online liturgies wouldn’t fulfill the Sunday obligation. (Even when public Masses are canceled, the online Masses aren’t obligatory; they are meant as a spiritual help for the faithful.)

But if Mass is obligatory again in your diocese, it sounds as though your daughters misunderstand the nature of the Mass and the duties connected with it.

Part of the importance of Mass is that it brings the faithful together as a community, a gathering. That was a meaning in the Old Testament of the Hebrew word qahal, which is translated in Greek as ekklesia, which in turn comes to us in English as Church. The link to the Greek is more evident in Spanish (iglesia) and French (église).

Christ wills to save us and gather us as one Church. Ours is not a “me and Jesus alone” religion.

And, of course, being present enables those in a state of grace to actually receive the Eucharist. If Jesus only wanted spiritual communions, he wouldn’t have bothered giving us the Eucharist.

Spiritual communions are kind of a stopgap measure for souls who can’t access the Eucharist, whether physically (they are in lockdown) or morally (they are in mortal sin).

One wonders how one of your daughters would react if her fiancé preferred to stay home on the day of their wedding and watch the nuptial Mass online.

If that scenario seems improbable, it’s not unlike what happens when people opt for online Mass rather than a live liturgy. For in the Mass Jesus himself becomes present on the altar, as an offering to God the Father and an offer to us to share in the Savior’s very body and blood.

Perhaps you might want to look for opportunities to keep open a dialogue with your daughters. It might help to have plenty of books and periodicals around that explain and defend the faith.

A book suggestion would be Vinny Flynn’s 7 Secrets of the Eucharist.

In the meantime, you might want to intensify your prayers and sacrifices for your daughters. They still need Mom’s love and guidance. They and you can count on my prayers.

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  1. Thank you for that helpful overview of the importance of attending Mass in person. It was nothing short of shocking the way our Church hierarchy rolled over to the overreaching government mandates to shut down our Churches. They gave no push back or encouragement to faithful priests who sought alternative ways to proceed. They definitely gave the impression physical presence wasn’t as important as we had been taught. Who pushed back most? Non-Catholics like our President and smaller non-denominational churches suing the government for their (and our) 1st Amendment Rights. In as little as 5 months people on the edge of leaving the Catholic Church got the final push when the Bishops locked them out and they will probably never come back. It comes down to the real reason we should be at Church our of love of God for his own sake and our wanting to demonstrate that love. A great analogy of the fiance who might prefer to watch his wedding online. It speaks to the depth of commitment and real love in our hearts.

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