“To dress or not to dress; that is the question!”

A perennial question people ask a pastor is: “Father, can’t you do something to get people to dress properly for Mass?” I share the concern of people who are upset by the overly casual attire some people wear to Mass. Yes, the Mass is the most solemn event of our lives, and by its nature it dictates that we should dress with respect for the sacredness of the mysteries we celebrate. At the same time, we come to the Lord with our lives as they are, and no one should expect us to dress in tuxedos and evening gowns for Mass. Somewhere in between is where I believe the happy medium lies. No one may stand at the doors of a church and play the clothing police. There have been a few instances in past parishes where I have spoken privately to someone who was in an almost scandalous state of undress for Mass or to parents with children who actually entered Mass wearing T-shirts with grossly inappropriate images or messages on them. Guess what the outcome was? I got both barrels of the shotgun aimed right at me! Some people get violent when you ask them very kindly to dress properly for Mass. At any rate, I’m willing to address the issue again. I appeal to people’s common sense and respect for the Mass. I encourage everyone to take a moment before coming to Mass to ask yourself if the clothing you are wearing is appropriate for Mass. Does it matter? I believe it does. When we choose different clothing for an event from what we would wear to the supermarket, it tells us that something important is going on there that deserves our respect. If someone came to a formal wedding in shorts and a tank top, I think the bride and groom would be offended. If you were invited to dinner with the President of the United States, you would certainly dress appropriately. Well, we are coming to Mass to sit down to dinner with none other than the Lord Jesus Himself. Does that not deserve our respect? While we may not be required to wear our absolute best clothing possible to Mass (although we used to when I was a child), we certainly should make sure the clothing we are wearing is not also our worst, as sometimes seems to be the case. I do recommend people wear long pants and have their shoulders covered – just like is requires for visits to the churches in Rome – and certainly to avoid beach ware. Throwing a beach wrap over a swimsuit is not appropriate clothing for Mass, nor is anything that would reveal too much of your body to others. (Mass is not a place we go to be sexy!) I do recommend that parents teach their children from an early age to dress properly for Mass, as that will help instill a habit within them that they may end up retaining. I’m confident that within all of us is a basic common sense that will tell us what is appropriate and what is not. Remember why we are here – to join with Christ as He offers Himself to the Father in an un-bloody sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins – and make sure our clothing is consistent with that dignity.

One thought on ““To dress or not to dress; that is the question!”

  1. Tom says:

    Hi Father. Carmen and I agree. Something needs to be taught to the parents, at least. We can’t figure out where it all went wrong. lol. I suppose, all we can do is show by example, and hope something catches on.

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