May 29, 2007

Steppin' Out

I'm continuing the fashion rampage I began here and continued here.

Altar Servers: Don't you feel honored to serve at the altar of the Lord? You should. Now, will you PLEASE were nice trousers and appropriate enclosed shoes?

I have lost track of the numbers of times I have seen altar servers, both girls and boys, robed very nicely (server attire can vary pretty dramatically which is why I just say, robed, here) and then you look down and it's "Hey, a pair of Heely Atomics with the skates! Great, for skating across the sanctuary or the ambulatory!" or "Look, it's a pair of Hello Kitty flip-flops like I had in grade school!"

Or, maybe the footwear is subtle and very nice but there is a frayed pair of jeans hanging down above it or, worse, a bare leg.

Parents, what are you thinking?

Or, the footwear is too slippery and the server whipes out right on the steps. Heels are not a good idea. I've seen EMHC's wear the wrong footwear for the job too. A good rule of thumb is to dress in shoes that are not only appropriate but STABLE.

I will also add: QUIET shoes are nice. I don't need to hear your shoes clacking across the marble while you are helping to serve anymore then I like hearing folks talking behind me. Both to my ears, are noise that can be avoided.

I am amazed at the numbers of people whom I've heard from in response to my last two posts, as well as those blogs who linked to me, who justify appropriate attire as being t-shirts, sneakers and jeans at Holy Mass as long as they are modest and clean. I'm still not buyin' it. To my mind, the folks who dress like that want to be sure they aren't late for the baseball game after Mass so they want to save time by dressing interchangeably. These are also, possibly, the same folks who leave right after they've received Communion. Don't shortchange the Lord. Don't insult the Lord.


Blogger Emily said...

Great post, thank you! Here in OSU Buckeye land, some of the Masses look like a Tailgate party! It is awful! And I live in an upper-middle class community where I KNOW these people dress better than this every other day of the week. It is amazing the little respect people show in their dress when they come to Mass. It is not that hard to put on a pair of nice pants and a button down shirt or polo. Come on, people.
And altar servers...right on. Just because they wear a robe doesn't mean the rest of it doesn't matter. I'm in my church choir and I see this a lot there, too. Just because we robe doesn't mean no one can see our shoes...or lack thereof...

May 29, 2007 2:24 PM  
Blogger japhy said...

Catechesis has really gone down the tubes. No one is told why Mass is important (or what it really is), so they don't treat it like something important. Gum-chewing, sneakers (even with heel-wheels), uber-short shorts and skirts, cutoffs, etc.

The Church does not know the same "seasons" as the world. There is no Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter in the Church; there is Advent, Christmas, Lent, Paschaltide/Easter, Ordinary Time. Use those as your cues for attire. (Yes, I did wear a red button-down shirt for Pentecost. Not because I'm crazy, but because it's appropriate for the Liturgical Season. I wore white-on-white for Christmas and Easter.)

I'm a GIRM-loving, Redemptionis Sacramentum-touting, norm-enforcing Catholic.

May 29, 2007 3:04 PM  
Anonymous Jeron said...

That's a pretty wide sweep, my dear. I don't arrive at Mass late (I get there 20-30 mins. early so I can spend time quietly w/the Lord and orient myself towards Him) and I don't leave early (in fact I stay till the last note of the last verse is sung). I don't do the quick "half-bob" to the floor; I genuflect reverently. Heck, I even pay reeeally close attention to all the words being spoken by the priest and myself (or at least try to consistently) if I'm not too distracted for whatever reason). All this AND I sometimes wear jeans. Wow. Imagine that. It's more important what's in a person's heart than what's on their back. Perhaps a person *does* dress down because there's less devotion in their heart, but how can one be so certain? Maybe they're just poor? If conversion is a daily, on-going process and what a person wears is a reflection of that, then how can we really judge if what they're wearing is *still* modest? God forbid I show up to Mass wearing my jeans & a polo shirt to your parish. I'd be too concerned about offending YOU than my Lord, who knows the state of my heart.

May 29, 2007 3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cathy, I'm with Jeron on this one. I also occasionally wear jeans to Mass and in this post you've crossed a line into judging the person's intentions by the clothing. Be careful with that! And I also frequently wear jeans to daily Mass, and don't you DARE suggest that I thus must be one of those who ducks out early; I suspect you'd be completely shocked if I ever did such a thing without a dire reason to do so.

Now, that said, I prefer to dress up for Mass, I like to dress up for Mass, and I think it's extremely important to do so. However, when I do wear jeans, they are accompanied by nice sweaters, etc. according to the season. Personally, I don't care if you're offended by my wearing jeans on seems to me you're the one who suffers more here, and I see that as an opportunity for grace for you.

Overwhelmingly I agree with the rest of your post; attire IS important for those serving and you bring up several practical aspects to accompany the respect due our Lord, and yes, parents really need to reinforce these things. Heck...adults need to think a little more before they wear stilettos when serving as an EMHC!

~ Adoro /Leviticus

May 29, 2007 4:33 PM  
Anonymous L said...

I would think it's the parents job as well as the person who trains the servers and EMs to enforce a dress code. Heck, even the pastor could put in a good word on this issue. My boys were servers, they wore dress pants and shoes- never sandals or tennis shoes. However, they were certainly in the minority. I don't like the hair in the face either-boy or girl. It all boils down to the particular parish's climate and what is expected out of the servers- young,cool,hip,casual attire or do they encourage reverent, modest apparel for those serving on the altar. The parish may feel that they won't get many servers if they ask them to dress up- not an excuse, but why else would flip flops, etc. be allowed? Does anybody have pastors/priests at your church who ever bring up this subject in the bulletin or elsewhere? Just curious...thanks Cathy for another thoughtful post.

May 29, 2007 5:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was trained as an altar server we were told black or brown dress shoes/well kept boots (enclosed without heels for the girls) and hair pulled back from face. Period. End of story. Somehow within two or three years that changed drastically. Girls and boys have hair in their faces now, and I see tennis shoes all the time. I don't say anything though, but it does bother I don't mind if they're wearing jeans under their albs, but I dont like to see dirty and frayed hems.

As far as jeans to Mass, I say fine during the week, but for Sunday we should be dressed up. Its "little" Easter. I don't presume to judge anyone who does wear jeans though--I don't notice them normally.

May 29, 2007 5:20 PM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...

I couldn't agree more.

Not being familiar with the various brands and styles of "tennis shoes", I really am taken aback by the oversized Mickey or Minnie Mouse style of shoes that are four times the size of the person's feet.

I would like to say in the servers' behalf that one of the reasons that they treat the responsibility so casually is that the job under the Novus Ordo Mass has become ornamental, with very little for the server to do after the entrance procession.

Back in my day, we were vitally important assistants to the celebrant and woe betide us if we didn't dress properly.

It is really appalling when lectors dress informally when they stand in front of the congregation, reading the Word of God, appearing as if they were calling bingo numbers.

May 29, 2007 6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even if you are poor, Wal-Mart sells khaki pants/black pants for the same price as jeans.
It's not about judging people based on what they's about showing proper respect for where you are and what you're doing.

May 29, 2007 6:23 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

What I'm hearing here is some folks saying yes, I'd prefer to be dressed up and I think it's best BUT, somedays I'm wearing jeans. My question remains: why on some days do you think that's appropriate for Holy Mass and not others?

My ultimate question remains (and this was from some of my earlier posts not directly in this one) why do you dress better for job interviews, wedding and funerals, or the workplace, or school then you do for Mass?

I am not trying to give the impression that my feelings are all important on this matter and that any offense I may feel takes primacy over anything else. Nor, am I trying to be judgemental (though I agree I probably veered into that with my baseball comment). I'm, genuingly, trying to understand why people think looking excessively casual is acceptable for Holy Mass but they'd never dream of looking like that in another situation.

May 29, 2007 6:47 PM  
Anonymous L said...

Great point. I agree with you on this, and am looking forward to reading more responses...this is definitely a hot topic!

May 29, 2007 6:59 PM  
Blogger onionboy said...

This is one former Protestant who is still trying to get used to the bloody chatter that goes on as people come in Mass so much so that I haven't paid much attention to what people are wearing. It's grouchy of me, I know, maybe even self righteous but I am still looking for the Church I read my way into. That the building we meet in looks a lot like your average 70's evangelical building, inside and out, and the talk and visiting before Mass begins is like any evangelical church I ever pastored, and that the liturgy can get funky and that we sing Protestant choruses and, and...well, I do love the people of our parish but I feel a bit like I am parish-ing.


May 29, 2007 7:33 PM  
Anonymous Giorgio Armani said...

The problem with altar servers has to do with their training. They often have little or no training, not to mention an understanding for decorum in the saanctuary, serving the priest at Mass.

St. Agnes in St. Paul has very strict training. In fact, I have noticed altar servers in stocking feet - black socks - assuming they showed up wearing and unsuitable show.

To be sure, when serving Mass or performing the duties of lector or Extraordinary Minister, proper dress and decorum is essential - without exception, and this is up to the priest to make certain these things are observed and put into practice. (Imagine a server or waiter at the White House, or in Buckingham Palace were wearing his uniform but had flip-flops on while serving. It doesn't work.)

What the congregation wears is another matter entirely.

Good post Kitty-Kat.

May 29, 2007 7:46 PM  
Anonymous Mr Tom Cruise said...

Please excuse Mr. Armani's spelling - he's drunk. "show" should be "shoes" - etc.

You get the point.

May 29, 2007 7:49 PM  
Anonymous Versace said...

Okay - "I assumed the servers showed up for Mass wearing unsuitable shoes, and so they were in stocking feet - with black socks."

Tom must be drunk as well!

May 29, 2007 7:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terry is allowing the voices to multiply again.

May 29, 2007 8:04 PM  
Blogger japhy said...

Not to be an over-literalist, but the poor and destitute invited to the banquet were still expected to come dressed in wedding attire (cf. Matthew 22:1-14).

I think it's of the utmost importance (and my pastor thinks so as well) that anyone serving a ministry at Mass -- EMHC, Lector, Altar Server, usher, etc. -- be dressed appropriately, and in doing so, we will be setting an example for everyone else. The same goes for our posture, our gestures, our attitude, our reverence.

I'm only 25, and I've never been to a TLM, but I'm been told you'd never see anything less than your Sunday best at Mass.

If appropriate clothing is outside your means, maybe you should say something about it. Ask for assistance. We are the Church, y'know. We minister to the marginalized (cf. Matthew 25).

May 29, 2007 8:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, to answer the question, "Why some days and not others?" I have to answer with a question...Why does a pastor somedays celebrate a low Mass while on Sunday all Mass parts are chanted or sung? Because Sunday and all Solemnities ARE more "important" liturgically, even though the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is One.
I find jeans acceptable on days when a) I am wearing them to work since I cannot change prior to getting to work after daily Mass (and yes, I go to the earliest one possible) or b) it is Saturday--mainly because a lot of my work wardrobe is dirty/in need of pressing or I just plain can't handle putting on another pair of dress slacks and my legs are not shaved for a skirt. Best reasons in the world? No. But they are my reasons. I'd rather not fuss in a mirror on Saturday--I want to be recollected rather than scattered. I don't have the ability to plan out my clothing on Friday night for Saturday morning like I can for Sunday morning Mass.

May 29, 2007 8:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

japhy said:
"If appropriate clothing is outside your means, maybe you should say something about it. Ask for assistance. We are the Church, y'know. We minister to the marginalized (cf. Matthew 25)."

Yep, you are 25.

May 29, 2007 10:15 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Terry: Are you off your meds again? ;-)

Let me throw this out to the crowd (see, how difficult I am):

If you were going to the gym to workout on your way to or from work wouldn't you carry a seperate set of clothes rather then work out in what you are wearing for work (even if what you wear to work is jeans and casual shirt)?

My guess is most of us would say: yes. So, clearly it's not an issue to carry extra clothes if you KNOW you are probably going someplace where you may need alternate attire.

Ladies: How many of you bring dressy clothes along or an alternate outfit if you know that right after work you are going on a date or out with the gals? I have done that.

What's the difference if you may have an inkling you could be going to Mass?

May 30, 2007 4:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The difference is, though, that I can show up at the gym at whatever time after work. I can arrange my social events and when I meet people. I can't control what time Mass is, and I can't control what time I have to be at work. I often would not have time to "dress down" after Mass and be ready to start work on time.

May 30, 2007 6:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Cathy,

"QUIET shoes are nice"

The librarian in me is lol to the quiet shoes statement!



May 30, 2007 7:30 AM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...

See what happens, folks, when you get confirmed as an adult!

All of a sudden you are aware that it is GOD that we are there for.

Yaaaaay, Cathy!

May 30, 2007 2:35 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Me again.

The anonymous who posted at 6:37 a.m. makes a valid point on their behalf. However, I still maintain that most of us can make more of an effort but we just don't perhaps because no one else does or we just don't feel like it.

I apologize if I offended anyone with my last paragraph. It was pretty wide-ranging in it's indictment.

However, I still think we need to dress better for Mass.

May 31, 2007 10:42 AM  
Blogger Bobby said...

The problem of wearing inappropriate clothing to services is a problem along all denominations.

At Protestant services, especially with the Leftist "Emerging Church" movement, the dress code is out.

Anything goes -- and ragged clothes are in. The children want to look like they are anywhere but at a holy facility.

The rise of the Emergent philosophy, which is mainly postmodern, has led to dress code problems at both Catholic and Protestant services.

June 04, 2007 10:07 PM  

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