May 23, 2007

Attire At Holy Mass

Father Zuhlsdorf linked to my post on Gang Colors at Holy Mass from his fine blog the other day. To my surprise, there were a few people who took my post as an opportunity to talk about about attire in general as well as veer into gestures and posture. To my complete lack of surprise, I realized that it is still true that people don't read what is actually on the page but what they think is on the page based upon projecting their own selves into it. In my original post, my intent was to express my displeasure at those who use the colors they have on to make a statement of their infidelity to the Faith. I, further, expressed my dismay that these same gangsters feign surprise when they are censured for doing so.

However, I never shrink from a challenge and I'm cranky today so long time readers of this blog know what that means....


Ladies and Gentlemen: Because I think that's what you are. Why don't you dress like ladies or gentlemen? Why do some of you look like you came to Mass wearing what you had on in bed? I've seen people at Beer Busts that are better dressed then some of the faithful in the pews.

Now, before you start with the But, But, But, Cathy ....

Why? Why do you dress in a stained Budweiser t-shirt, frayed denim shorts and flip-flops when you go to Mass? Is it because you are on vacation? Gee, did you fail to realize that Sunday comes every 7 days and it caught you by surprise? Are you too pressed for time to put a nice outfit in your luggage? Yet, you just spent 60 minutes trying to hook up your boat and organize DVDs for the trip.

Is your attitude thus: "Well, no one should say ____about my attire because I am here. At least I came" Yes, you did and do you feel like we need to fall at your feet for that? Well, aren't you special. And, no, we won't.

Would you talk like this to your Mother? "Well, Mom, you should not be upset that I came 2 hours late to dinner with no valid excuse because at least I deigned to make an appearance. Too bad, that you had to keep the chicken warming in the oven and it dried out to accomodate my lazy ---" If you DO talk to your Mother like that slap yourself upside the head.

The same disrespectful attitude is at work in both of the examples that I outlined above. The Lord should be grateful that I bothered to show up even though I'm fully aware that I did not make my best effort in doing so. Really, I made no effort at all. And my attitude is belligerent defiance.

Really. Belligerent defiance. Have you ever had to talk with someone about the inappropriatness of their attire? I have. That's exactly the response you will get if they are not genuinely clueless. Why? Because they KNOW that what they have on is not appropriate but they are furious that you have dared to tell them so. Even though, frankly, they've been daring you to say something all along.

I see this in my workplace. Give an inch, some take a yard. My workplace is thinking of going back to business formal attire from our current practice of business casual because too many people are dressing completely inappropriately for work. Midriff bearing shirts, t-shirts, sports jerseys, capris that are really shorts, cleavage bearing tops, spaghetti straps, wife beaters, micro-minis, ripped jeans, flip-flops.

This is the workplace; but I bet all of us have seen these clothes at Mass haven't we?

If it's not appropriate for work, is it appropriate for Mass? If it's not modest, is it appropriate for Mass? Are you going to Mass to be noticed by God or the cute guy in the 3rd pew?

Would you dress slovenly for a job interview and expect to get the job? If you dress better for a job interview then you do for Mass what does this say about your priorities and how much more you value and respect your career then honoring your Lord? Your career is a gift to you from God and THIS is how you thank Him?

A few frequent excuses:

* No one else "dresses up". (This is so junior high. No one else wears jeans from Sears. Baa, Baa, Whine..Whine..)

*I want to be cool (Babe, you're a Catholic. You are SO not cool to begin with. You ARE the counterculture so look like it!)

*I don't have time (Yes, you do. Put your clothes out the night before. Get up earlier. This mean you who have kids too)

*Society has become more casual, thus it's ok for me to look sloppy. (Society has become more casual. Is this a good thing? Someday, I may blog about the perceived correlation between the decline in the dress code with the decline in civility)

*Since Vatican II we don't have to dress up (Actually, that's not true. Since Vatican II you don't even have to wear clothes. We have reverted back to the Garden of Eden. Kidding! But, I can see some numbskull trying to blame VII)

The all-time King of either-or threats:

Well, is it better if I just not go at all rather then sit here and worry about what I have on?

If there is a personal choice between not seeing you in all your disrespectful "glory" and looking at your underwear that is peeking thru the hole in your jeans, I would rather you stayed home. But, it's not for me to be judgemental about you. You must judge yourself. However, look at your attitude. You are saying: If you don't want to just let me do what I want without saying anything and be who I want to be I just won't bother and I hate you (and now you are exactly like the gangsters). If that's your position: Why are you a Catholic? Why do you even have a membership in the Church? Any church? Why do you believe in Jesus? Why do you hope for heaven? If we could all just be who we wanted without any thought or consideration given to anyone else or consequences why bother with Christianity? Why strive to be better? To be a part of a Faith is about fighting our natural inclinations. My natural inclination is to sit around at home on my butt all day and eat. However, the Faith I profess tells me that laziness and gluttony are sinful. If your natural inclination is to look like a prostitute or a griller at a Vikings tailgate party before you go to Mass, fight it.

What if one day all the priests showed up to celebrate Mass in T-shirt and shorts and did not vest but just wore the t-shirt and shorts at the altar? Would you be upset? Think about it. You should be. He's offering our prayers to God and he's consecrating the Host and he looks like that?! The priest is required to make an effort with his appearance. Why can't we?

I've seen homeless people make a better effort at dressing for Mass then those of us who are blessed to have a roof over our heads. I know a poor widower who wears a suit that's 40 years old to Mass but it's his best piece of clothing and it's clean.

Wear the best and the most appropriate clothing you have. why BE like everyone else? We are Catholics, we are NOT like everyone else. We are beautiful, reverent and modest, so let's look like it!

Here endeth the rant.


Blogger Adoro said...


May 23, 2007 8:05 PM  
Blogger Terry Nelson said...

Cathy - great post!

Just to get you in a better mood, I'm going to do a post of my own and link to yours. (I hate it when you're cranky! I know it's because of my comment on your meme, that I didn't like to hunt - I'm going out this moment to shoot the rabbit in my backyard!)

May 23, 2007 8:51 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Great post, Cath!

Just one correction: Catholics are the COOLEST people on the planet, hands down.
(Not the liturgical dance crap - the true Roman Catholic culture...)

May 23, 2007 9:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right on, Cathy!

Now if we can prevail upon some pastors to read out your "rant" from the pulpit one Sunday, that would be great!

Excellent post, and reminds me of the kerfuffle caused at Dusty's site ( How else can you show your kids that this is God's house, and that God is entitled to every respect and reverence?

We would never dream of dressing sloppily for a wedding or a funeral, or visiting a head of State. Last I checked, God was a little bit higher on the totem pole (well, above it).

God Bless,

Embattled Catholic

May 23, 2007 11:37 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Thanks all.

Terry: I won't believe you did that until I see the photos!

Ma: WE may think Catholics are cool (and I know we both do), however, society at large doesn't.

May 24, 2007 4:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My favorite is "God doesn't care how I look."

May 24, 2007 7:24 AM  
Blogger swissmiss said...

I have two criteria:
1. If I wouldn't wear it to work, I won't wear it to Mass (doesn't work for everyone, especially construction folks)
2. If you wouldn't wear it to meet the Queen of England, then don't wear it to Mass. Tongue-in-cheek sentiments of my parents. I don't really know what I would wear to meet the Queen of England. Maybe envisioning meeting the Pope is more appropriate :)
On a less cranky note, St. Agnes does say from the pulpit and in the bulletins, no shorts, no shoes, no service. No, that's not shorts, no beach wear, no bare shoulders, etc., although the prior sentiment would work, too.
My nearby parish, in the heart of Macalester-Groveland, is filled with people in shorts: mom, dad, kids, everyone. They are dressy shorts, I have to say that, just right for the luau we're having. I really don't like receiving communion from a EM dressed in shorts or a tee-shirt. Heck, I don't even like them standing on the altar.

May 24, 2007 7:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. Don't care for the flip flops our altar servers wear either!

May 24, 2007 10:57 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

swissmiss: Good point about the construction workers attire. Actually, I've known construction workers who will leave an outfit in the van along with some wipes so they can clean up and change for Mass-especially on HDO during the week.

Anonymous: I could do a whole post on footwear of the altar servers. Maybe one day I will! Thanks for the idea. Blog readers are the best!

May 24, 2007 11:06 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Father Zuhlsdorf: Yes, I've heard that one too. But, we know that God DOES care about us both inside and out.

May 24, 2007 11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you lived in a hot (or worse: HUMID) climate *and* was obese, you'd wear dress shorts, too. I have no qualm against people wearing respectable dress shorts & nice tops that cover the shoulders during the hot months. But I don't think Eucharistic Ministers or altar servers should ever wear that attire. Hmmm. I wonder if my mind is starting to change about this stuff. Anyway, I've been known to wear clean, serviceable jeans to Mass w/a nice top. But like I said, when you're obese, you wear what you got & if that means a XXXLG polo, then that's what I'm wearing. Dress clothes for the hefty set is NOT cheap. Everything's twice as expensive (guess they charge by the yard).

May 24, 2007 2:25 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

jeron: Believe it or not it does get hot and humid in Minnesota in the summer. It can be worse then Florida here.

As someone who has been overweight in her life, I know dress clothes for big and tall people are more expensive. However, everyone usually has at least one set of dressy clothes for summer and another for fall/winter.

May 24, 2007 2:34 PM  
Blogger Dcn Scott Dodge said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 24, 2007 2:50 PM  
Blogger Dcn Scott Dodge said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 24, 2007 2:51 PM  
Blogger Maryann McGronk said...

I think you've forgotton your roots. Do NOT make me come up there and drag you by the veil (*ugh!*) back down here to Knoxville! I am NOT afraid to throw you back into the labyrinth!

Every winter we have a homeless day...maybe you need to remember what it's like to dress like a homeless person. Then you wouldn't be so blase' about this "dressing up" thing.

Even your hero John Paul II talked about "solidarity". It's about solidarity, sister! We dress down so we don't offend those who might show up who don't have the money to buy nice things.

I'm so disappointed in you. You just don't get it. I'm going to send Tim over to rate your blog a PH, C+, R, O...and all the other ones.

May 24, 2007 7:44 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...



Why go to Church anyway? We don't want to offend those who never go, right?

Good luck with dragging me anyplace. I work out and I'm armed.

May 24, 2007 9:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, Cathy, you *are* cranky! lol.

May 25, 2007 8:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, at least the casual dress can't get any worse...unless we start offering a nude mass. We don't want to offend all the nudists who might feel excluded from clothed masses. LOL Seriously, I'm okay with dress casual with modesty, but please, no clothing police. I agree with you- we are a "witness" to the rest of our parish by the way we/our kids dress and behave at mass. Hopefully, people will take notice. Hopefully?? Keep up the great blog and have a blessed weekend!

May 25, 2007 11:55 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

L: Nude Mass? The way some folks dress we are practically there now!

May 25, 2007 2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A couple weeks ago, our choir director wore a sleeveless, very low-cut top that IMO was way out of line for Mass. Thankfully, our choir sings from the loft at the rear of the church, so the congregation didn't get to notice this spectacle. However, I'm the organist, and have to use a mirror so I can see what's happening at the altar, so Mme. Director was in my line of sight all through Mass. BTW, I'm a woman, and I can only imagine the distraction this caused for our male singers. And oh yes, she and the other director chew gum all the time, whether directing or rehearsing. Don't even want to know if they receive the Eucharist with this stuff in their mouths. Eeww...


May 26, 2007 10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cranky or don't really have a lot of tolerance do you ?
Whatever happened to love your fellow man as yourself?
The wrappings around a person's body do not represent the soul of a person - I think you are being overly harsh on people who do not meet your narrow personal viewpoints on how people should attire themselves for their communion with their god.
Personally, I wouldn't care if my priest was wearing sneakers under his cassock; things like attire are not as important as faith! You seem to be caught up in $0.02 worth

An Australian Catholic!!

August 16, 2009 1:05 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Australian Catholic: Why not wear your best for the Lord? Why not? Why not encourage our fellow man to be all they can be?

I don't believe that the best articles of clothing that most of us have in our closets are halter tops, cut offs and flip-flops. What do you wear for a job interview? Unless you are applying for a job waxing surf boards at the beach, I'm not buying it.

August 16, 2009 1:56 PM  

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