15 August 2010

A persistent and universal problem

While I was perusing various status updates from friends on Facebook, this one caught my attention:

I'm all for bringing your small children to church, but please make them leave their plastic hammers in the car!
It reminds me of what I wrote for my bulletin column this week:

Because the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the public worship of the Church, we should seek to do all that we can to not be a distraction to the prayers of another person. Too often we are tempted to approach the worship of God in a casual manner, thinking, “It’s enough that I am here.”

Will God, who demands that we take up our crosses and follow after him, really be pleased with such a thought? Does not the One who gave himself entirely to us, holding nothing back, not desire - and deserve - the same from us? In the end, it comes down to the depth of our love, both our love of God and our love of neighbor. Such love is demonstrated by the manner of our clothing and by our behavior in a church.

The Psalmist sings that we are to adore the Lord in holy attire, meaning that we are to enter God’s presence wearing clothing that reflects the dignity of the One whose presence we are entering (see Psalm 96:9, RSV). Monsignor Charles Pope, a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, recently put it this way:

Clothes say something about what we think, what we value. They also influence how we behave and feel. That our culture has become so casual about everything says something about us. I cannot exactly articulate it but it seems to say, “nothing is really all that important.” But that is not true. Going to God’s house IS important. Being ministered to by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is astounding. Casual attire in these circumstances is simply inappropriate if we really think about what we are doing, where we are going and who it is we will meet. It does not necessarily follow that we must wear tuxedos and formal gowns. But decent semi-formal attire seems wholly appropriate. Sunday is special, God’s House is special. Some things really ARE important and our clothing and demeanor ought to reflect this truth.
When considering what to wear to Mass, we ought not to wear what we might also wear to bed or to the beach; the old maxim of our “Sunday best” should still guide what we wear.

Some will argue that they cannot dress up a little for Mass because they must go to work immediately after, or that they are going to a sporting event or a picnic or some other such thing. While they may indeed be going off to such and such a place, this is not a good reason not to dress appropriately for the Holy Mass. There are restrooms in our churches and halls that may be used for changing if need be and most every destination also has a restroom we can change in.

The Holy Mass is not about our convenience, but about the worship of God. In every celebration of the Eucharist we encounter the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Let our clothing and demeanor reflect this reality. If we dress modestly and with some dignity, if we act respectfully and quietly, we give honor to God and do not cause a distraction to the prayer of others.

I wish also to remind parents of young children that if toys are brought to Mass to keep the attention of little ones, that quiet toys should be brought; toys that make noise – such as trucks and cars –can distract the prayer of others. Also, if snacks must be brought, please be certain to pick up what your child drops in honor of the dignity of the house of the Lord.

Let each of us, then, seek not to distract others from a moment of quiet and humble prayer as we seek to approach the Lord always in reverence and in love.
Thankfully, no pounding of hammers prompted my words.


  1. Not to mention, the toys can be turned into projectile toys that hurt people in the pews. I've been hit and seen others hit with flying objects!
    I'll stop using HI as an excuse and stop wearing jeans (I always wear a nice blouse/shirt that covers my shoulders and doesn't expose too much below the neckline) . . . but the jeans have no place at Mass. I have nice skirts/dresses/trousers.

    God bless you!

  2. Anonymous12:11 PM

    Perhaps the hammers can be used for heretics?