I've often wondered, while watching the various televised Eucharistic celebrations on EWTN (i.e. the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Eucharistic adoration, World Youth Day events, etc.), whether or not there is any connection between the reality of Christ's Real Presence that is being recorded/broadcast live and the viewer(s) who are perceiving the live broadcast.

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Lets hypothetically say that I'm flipping through TV channels and I happen to land on EWTN precisely at the moment that Fr. Mitch Pacwa is elevating the consecrated Host during the liturgy of the Eucharist. As a Catholic, I'm obligated to believe that in that situation I would be looking at a real-time image of Jesus' body, blood, soul, and divinity present on the altar. Of course there should be some sort of reverence involved, but to what extent?

I found it very interesting that during World Youth Day 2013 there were giant screens set up throughout the audience in order for everyone (3 million+) to be able to see the Eucharistic celebrations. It seems apparent to me that Catholics were able to actively participate in the WYD 2013 Eucharistic events even though they might have been a mile or two down the beach.

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I'm wanting to know what the Catholic Church officially teaches about the metaphysical relationship between Christ's actual presence on the altar, and his "presence" on the receiving end of a live broadcast. Can someone who is home bound and is unable to attend Mass/adoration adore the Host as if they were truly present? To what extent are all Catholics obliged to revere the televised Host?

It is important to understand that this question is exclusively about a live broadcast feed in real time, and not about any other type of Eucharistic image.

This is specifically a Catholic question...so please no anti-Catholic "new age iconoclasm" please.

  • I see that you want to know about the official Catholic teaching about the metaphysical relationship between Christ's actual presence on the altar and his presence on the receiving end of a live broadcast. Plus, you want to know about the obligation of a home-bound Catholic to watch the televised Mass. So, this is really what I call a "double question"; it asks two things at once.
    – Double U
    Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 1:27
  • Do you mean "Christ's real presence", not "actual presence"? As far as I know, Real Presence is a theological term.
    – Double U
    Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 1:40
  • 1
    "Real Presence" as in newadvent.org/cathen/05573a.htm. Those 2 questions share the same nature but from different angles...if you answer by providing the official Catholic teaching, then you will at the same time provide what Catholics are bound to believe...and vice versa.
    – user5286
    Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 2:07
  • 1
    Not detailed enough for an answer—but I would consider this equivalent to an icon of Christ. Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 18:10

1 Answer 1


This is the obligation for the people:

On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass. (Code of Canon Law 1247)

And the requirements of the elderly/home bound:

If participation in the eucharistic celebration becomes impossible because of the absence of a sacred minister or for another grave cause, it is strongly recommended that the faithful take part in a liturgy of the word if such a liturgy is celebrated in a parish church or other sacred place according to the prescripts of the diocesan bishop or that they devote themselves to prayer for a suitable time alone, as a family, or, as the occasion permits, in groups of families. (Code of Canon Law 1248 §2)

So the standard is, "participate unless it is impossible", and "participate", as it is used in Canon Law, would necessitate actual attendance. Televised broadcasts would certainly fulfill the recommendation in 1248 §2, but that is clearly on a subservient level and can be readily exchanged for other forms of prayer.

As to "how are we to reverence the image of the Eucharist in a televised broadcast?" well, it would seem that this would be less than the amount of reverence would be due as if you were walking by a Church and saw the elevation of the Host through an open door. It is a good thing to acknowledge that you are looking at Jesus, but you are not required to fall on your knees, or do anything at all, really. (Personally, I do the sign of the cross when passing in front of Churches)

So the long and the short: the Eucharist, as a televised image, is worthy of reverence and it is a good thing to watch Mass when you can, but it is never necessary and nothing compares to the real thing.

  • Wow. How did you get access to the Canon Law, published in 1248? Or wait, is that the page number?
    – Double U
    Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 4:05
  • @Anonymous It's the Canon number. See the online edition. Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 12:42
  • @Anonymous That's standard notation for looking up things in the Code of Canon Law (sometimes shortened to CIC# 1247). And if you see CCC#, that means "Catechism of the Catholic Church", and the number is the "paragraph" number. (Sometimes the paragraphs are just single sentences) Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 15:01
  • So, Catholics have to read the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church. How long does it take? How many pages does one copy of the book have? Is it interesting? Is it more of a law code?
    – Double U
    Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 15:50
  • @Anonymous No, you don't have to read the Catechism, it is beneficial but it isn't even intended for use by the laity. The preface basically states that it is a quick reference for theologians and clergymen. Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 5:47

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