19 May 2012

What to wear to church

As the temperatures warm, the annual debate as to appropriate clothing for church will likely crop up - or perhaps already has - in parishes and congregations across the country.

Most pastors will, sadly, say nothing, accepting to the platitude that "God's just happy that they're here."  Given Jesus' words about the wedding garment (Matthew 22:12), I don't think that's true.

I like to suggest that we should not wear to church what we might wear to bed or to the beach.  It seems simply enough, really.  Perhaps you are going to the beach after church; I'm sure the church has a restroom in which you can change afterwards; if not, the beach surely does, or a gas station on the way.

Over at Adam's Ale, Father Valencheck offers his own thoughts on the subject:
On the other hand are those who know and can dress better for Mass. The idea that God loves me “as I am and so should you” is an inherently selfish one. It is not about you. It is about us. And part of being “us” is showing respect to those around you. The reason we dress up for a potential employer or the judge at our trial is because it shows respect for that person and a willingness to be part of the goings on. We do not expect them to “take me for who I am,” an absolutely ridiculous thing to do.
So what to do? There was a group of young people in Cleveland that thought people should be dressed up for the opera. Instead of passing edicts they went out, got very nice clothes, and started setting the bar higher themselves. So the first step is to take care of self and family first. Show that it is possible to survive for an hour or so in the summer in one’s Sunday best. 
The second is to not too quickly take others to task who look like they are rather going to a beach party. The reason we hear of no clothing disputes with Jesus is that he first got to know people and then invited them higher. Imagine the difference in these examples: 1) The look of “how dare you dress like that” and the loud whisper to another saying, “how could s/he come dressed to Mass like THAT?” or 2) Getting to know someone and saying, “Next Sunday we are going out to breakfast after Mass. Why don’t we all get dressed up and go out together?” [more]

8 comments:

  1. When I was a teenager, I literally had zero sense that what I was wearing to church was inappropriate. I am ashamed now when I think of it but I'm not too hard on my younger self because I know how clueless I was. I wore a mini skirt to my Confirmation. No one guided me. No one corrected me. Ever. And I was surrounded by those who dressed as I did. I honestly would have chosen something else if someone would have said something because I was sensitive to the input of others. Awareness came slowly and certainly not until I had fully embraced a life in Christ. I am glad that my fellow Christians were generous with me in this and guided me gently. I am sometimes shocked by what some people will wear to mass, but I am also careful to remember my own extreme ignorance at that age. Parents really need to step up and lovingly counsel their children in these matters.

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    1. Yes, most it certainly is done out of ignorance, but most of the parents can't lovingly counsel their children in this regard because, unfortunately, many of them dress the same as their children.

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    2. Yes, that does seem to be at the heart of the problem! I forgot in my previous comment to thank you for commenting on the issue. Now that the warmer weather has arrived (finally) to our area, the cringeworthy ensembles are already being paraded down the aisles. I wish I could cover the gals up... instead, we fervently practice custody of the eyes. lol.

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  2. As I was driving to the evening mass tonight , I was thinking about your post. I have come to Catholicism from Anglicanism. One major difference I have often noticed in the worship between the two, is the difference in the music (I will tie it in, lol). The Catholic church I attend sings music from the late 70's and 80's. There are some from the 90's and 2000 also. I do not think the hymnal has many old hymns at all. So here we have this music that is not majestic, not very reverent, not full of doctrine, just a weak watered down kumbaya type of music. This type of music reflects on certain generational things and this is related to how we dress. Some things have been watered down and this watering down influences our attitudes which in turn affects the way we dress. On the other hand, when I go to our Cathedral, the music is majestic in fitting with the splendor of the Cathedral. Shouldn't our music reflect the splendor of the God we worship? This too would carry over to the whole idea of dress. I just get the feeling , at times, that things have been dumbed down which affects the attitude of dress.

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  3. Father, didn't you post on this at some time in the past, maybe three or four years ago? Seems to me it was right before you were about to move to Virden and Girard. A month or two back I went searching for that post (a post in which, if memory serves me, you asked for objections that people might raise against what you were saying, and you were going to respond to those objections if you had time). Anyway, I went googling for it and couldn't find it. But maybe it was someone else's blog I'm recalling; middle age is taking a toll on my memory!

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    1. Is this the one you have in mind?:

      http://dzehnle.blogspot.com/2010/08/persistent-and-universal-problem.html

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  4. Yeah, maybe that was it. Thanks, Father.

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