What of people who, through no fault of their own, cannot celebrate Mass? What is the role of the celebration of Mass through mass media? This section is titled, “Radio and television,” but today, sixteen years later, we can ask about streaming video and audio online. It’s not just about real-time broadcasts, but something people can experience anytime.
Pope John Paul II offers the “preference” for praying with the texts of the day–the Lectionary as well as the prayers of the Mass. Also, the cultivation of a desire for the Eucharist:
54. Finally, the faithful who, because of sickness, disability or some other serious cause, are prevented from taking part, should as best they can unite themselves with the celebration of Sunday Mass from afar, preferably by means of the readings and prayers for that day from the Missal, as well as through their desire for the Eucharist.(Cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon 1248, 2; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Sacerdotium Ministeriale (6 August 1983), III: AAS 75 (1983), 1007) In many countries, radio and television make it possible to join in the Eucharistic celebration broadcast from some sacred place.(Cf. Pontifical Commission for Social Communications, Instruction Communio et Progressio(23 May 1971), 150-152; 157: AAS 63 (1971), 645-646; 647) Clearly, this kind of broadcast does not in itself fulfill the Sunday obligation, which requires participation in the fraternal assembly gathered in one place, where Eucharistic communion can be received. But for those who cannot take part in the Eucharist and who are therefore excused from the obligation, radio and television are a precious help, especially if accompanied by the generous service of extraordinary ministers who bring the Eucharist to the sick, also bringing them the greeting and solidarity of the whole community. Sunday Mass thus produces rich fruits for these Christians too, and they are truly enabled to experience Sunday as “the Lord’s Day” and “the Church’s day”.
Summing up, a believer cannot fulfill the Sunday obligation (DD 46-49) from a distance mediated by audio and/or video. But communications media can be of assistance to some, especially if the community provides a ministry of physical presence to supplement personal prayer and the engagement of modern media of communications.