by Rev. Fr. Rommel Molina Arcilla
“In the twentieth century, Catholic masses are widely available through new media such as the radio and television, where the Mass could even be broadcasted live. However, throughout the decades following Vatican II, the Catholic Church has maintained that a Catholic’s duty to attend Mass during Sundays and other Days of Obligation require such person’s physical presence in the church. People who are unable to attend this responsibility because of physical ailment or some other grave limitation may be excused from doing so. Such people could watch Mass from television or hear it from the radio. However, this does not mean that doing so enables such people to fulfill their obligation. They are in fact excused from such obligation, but such obligations technically go unfulfilled even if they watched or listened to Mass on radio or television. This prevents others from considering doing the same as fulfilling their obligation. The need for presence is established in The Catechism of the Catholic Church where it asserts that a person can only become part of the celebration of Mass if he or she is able to participate with the entire community in its celebration. This obviously cannot be applied to people who just watch the Mass from television or just listen to it on the radio. Those who do so have no way of communicating with the congregation who are actually counted as attending Mass.”
Since the lockdown was enforced most churches were closed as part of the measures to avoid the spread of the dreaded corona virus or COVID-19. Priests would say mass in private and most of them would have their masses aired through television networks or via live streaming. Personally, I am not against this practice especially during this demonic period in our history. I do believe that this pandemic was not accidentally caused but rather this was hatched by Satanic leaders who are taking pleasure in destroying God’s creation instead of nurturing it and letting it grow.
Anyway, I just like to put emphasis on the fact that, during this pandemic, Catholics are excused from their obligation to physically attend the Sunday Eucharistic celebration. The article I quoted above tells it all. Watching live Mass on TV or the radio is not a substitute or a fulfillment of that obligation. Doing so will help us understand the liturgy for the day and we may even find some points for our personal reflection. But it will never mean we have fulfilled our obligation. However, watching the Mass on TV and through the internet, even if it not a fulfillment of our obligation, doesn’t mean we are committing sin because there is the dispensation given by our Church authorities during this crucial time in our lives.
Hopefully and prayerfully I really wish that this lockdown would be relaxed at least in those areas where there are no COVID-19 related cases. How I wish our lives will soon be back to normal. Yes, it is abnormal for me right now because I used to say mass in a church filled up with so many people especially when I was assigned in the city. I always appreciated those lonely and worrisome faces of people who were there because they needed the intervention of God. Somehow, it has always been my desire to, at least, show them their way to God because I know deep in my heart that our lives will only be fine if we are all walking that road that will lead us to Him, and there is no other way.
Looking back, before this pandemic, I know a lot of people go to church to attend mass simply because it is an obligation that they must fulfill as mandated by the Decalogue. Most of them grew up to Catholic families and so it became natural and spontaneous for them to go to church. Some people, aware of the presence of God in the church, are attending liturgical activities because they have a need and questions that needed answers. But what about the real commitment to partake in the Eucharistic celebrations? Is it really a part of our lives, that we really feel that emptiness inside us once we fail to go to Mass? The real presence of God is there in every Mass and we encounter Christ especially in the Holy Communion. Do we realize all these even before this COVID-19 pandemic? I believe this is something that people need to be aware of and this is the real challenge for us all.
Now, the bad news is we have closed our churches because of obvious reasons. Even if I may abide by the rule, my mind tells me that this is not the proper way to do it because closing our churches simply means driving our people away from the Church. After this pandemic, how are we going to tell those people that it is a must for everyone to be physically present in the church for the Mass on Sundays when we have prevented them from coming during the turbulent part of our history? It has been a problem for so long ago that people do not see going to the church as a personal commitment to Jesus in the Eucharist as proven by the number of those going to the church in comparison to the number of the Catholics in that particular place. In terms of the percentage, only a pinch of that Catholic population gathers to attend the Mass on Sundays. This is the real challenge and this challenge lies in front of our feet and in our hearts.