I recently read an interesting article on the rise of “online churches”. Many Evangelicals are building “churches” on the Internet, allowing people to come together for services very similar to Protestant church services. This has been a growing trend, and some Evangelicals are even replacing their participation in physical churches with online “churches”.
The article also mentions that Catholics and Orthodox are creating many online spaces for believers to “gather” together. However, neither of these two Churches will ever have an “online church”. Why? Because, simply put, “the Eucharist makes the Church”. With no Eucharist, you have no Church (and the reverse is true as well: without a Church you have no Eucharist). And since the Eucharist is, and always will be, a physical phenomenon, it is impossible to have a true “church” online.
The Church is not simply a gathering of like-minded believers, like the Elks club or the Rotary club. It is the Body of Christ and it is mystically united in the Eucharist, not simply in a common belief (in fact, our common belief is a fruit of the Eucharist). This great Sacrament is the sacrament of unity and it binds together diverse people into one physical body. As St. Paul wrote in today’s first reading, “We, though many, are one Body in Christ, and individually parts of one another.” (Romans 12:5). This unity is humanly impossible, but it is possible in the divine economy.
Catholics should have a presence in the online world and through that presence we can and should bring people closer to Christ. However, we are not a “church” online; our churches can only be found where there is the Eucharist.