I hate it.
I hate it even more so when I’m at Mass.
Last month I spent at week at my sister’s house. My sister and her family live in the South and when you visit in the summer, it feels as though you’re vacationing in one of the outer rings of Hell. The stereotype of the South as slow moving is true, because if it weren’t and the inhabitants of the South didn’t move at a glacial pace, they would all spontaneously combust.
On the Saturday of my visit, my sister and I decided we would go to the Vigil Mass at her parish. As we stood up for the entrance procession, I realized that one of the members of the family in front of us was a young woman wearing shorts that were scandalously short. Now, call me old fashioned, but I think your shorts should be longer than your underpants…even if it’s hot and you live in the South. Keep in mind, gentle reader; she was wearing these shorts in Mass.
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe. (Heb. 12:28)
People don’t wear what they used to wear to certain events. Now, I am not of the opinion that hats, gloves, stockings, and heels should be the expected uniform of women today, (but didn’t they look lovely when it was?) I do not think men should still wear jackets and ties to baseball games. I do; however, think men should wear jackets and ties to weddings, baptisms, funerals and the like. The fact that nowadays shorts, t-shirts, flip-flops, tank-tops and the like are all perceived as “appropriate clothing for church” bespeaks a larger problem we have in the Church today—not truly understanding what is happening each time the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered. We’ll get to that in a minute.
“God doesn’t care what I’m wearing as long as I’m at church!”
Well, He might, actually. In Exodus 3:5 we read that God said to Moses: “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Now, does that mean we should go to Mass barefoot? No. It means we are on holy ground when we are at Mass and should approach it with reverence.
Regardless, let’s say that God doesn’t care what you wear to church. Others around you do. Are these outfits okay to wear to church:
No? Ridiculous you say? Not the same thing you say? Why not?
Why? Because those outfits are completely inappropriate for the occasion.
Picture this. You’re sitting in your doctor’s office. Your doctor comes in dressed like this:
Now he informs you that you have cancer. It’s advanced. The situation is dire. He does, however, have one method of treatment which he will begin immediately.
Ridiculous, you say? Not the same thing, you say? Why not? Oh yes…because it’s inappropriate for the occasion.
What’s the occasion?
Taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church: 1385: To respond to this invitation we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment. St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. 1387: To prepare for worthy reception of this sacrament, the faithful should observe the fast required in their Church. Bodily demeanor (gestures, clothing) ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment with Christ becomes our guest. 2144: The sense of the sacred is part of the virtue of religion…
Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi.
St. John Chrysostom, among others, stated that “When Mass is being celebrated; the Sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the Divine Victim immolated on the altar.”
It was revealed to St. Mechtilde that three thousand angels from the choir of thrones are always present at every Tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved.
St. Bridget recounted: “One day when I was assisting at the Holy Sacrifice, I saw an immense number of holy angels descend and gather around the altar, contemplating the priest. They sang heavenly canticles that ravished my heart, Heaven itself seemed to be contemplating the great Sacrifice. And yet we poor mortals, blind and miserable creatures, assist at Mass with so little love, relish and respect!”
St. Jean Vianney said, “If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy.”
St. Padre Pio, said, “If we only knew how God regards this Sacrifice, we would risk our lives to be present at a single Mass.”
“Soooo, what you’re saying is that Mass isn’t just a social gathering that we fit in between everything else we’re going to do on Saturday/Sunday and that what we wear is a reflection of our reverence, attention, and devotion?” Yes. That is exactly what I’m saying. Look, there’s nothing wrong with shorts, t-shirts, or flip-flops where appropriate. There’s nothing wrong with ultra-casual in the right setting. The Mass isn’t the right setting.
So, please, remember, when you are assisting in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, YOU ARE IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD, Jesus Christ, the Saints, the Angels, the Holy Martyrs, and your fellow worshippers. Dress appropriately. Act appropriately. Don’t go up to receive Holy Communion with your keys, wallet, or sunglasses in your hands, as if the Body of Christ is just one more thing you’re going to juggle in them. (P.S., If you have gum in your mouth [which you shouldn’t] for love of God DO NOT receive Holy Communion.) You are in the presence of and receiving your Lord, your God and your Creator—act like it. Yes, the important thing is that you are at Mass but why shouldn’t you just go ahead and step it up a notch? Isn’t our Lord deserving of more?