Deacon Greg and the Hooters Shirt – UPDATED

A few weeks ago, Deacon Greg Kandra wrote a column for Patheos, entitled No Flip-Flops in the King’s House.

Remember when people actually used to get dressed up to go to church?

When people actually showed up early for mass?

When the pew wasn’t the preferred site for a family picnic?

When did all this change? I must have missed the memo. Somewhere along the way, we went from neckties to tank tops, and from fasting to fast food. And it’s getting worse. I recently had to tell a couple that no, they could not have their Chihuahua in a tuxedo as part of their wedding party. An auxiliary bishop in Indianapolis recently complained about people who tweet during funerals.

Casual Catholics, it seems, have taken “casual” to a new level.

Well. Seems those flip-flops have gotten legs to go with them. The Deacon’s unhappy musings were picked up quickly:

Deacon Greg Kandra was well aware that modern Americans were getting more casual and that these laid-back attitudes were filtering into Catholic pews.

Still, was that woman who was approaching the altar to receive Holy Communion really wearing a Hooters shirt?

Yes, she was.
[...]
After the Hooters incident, he decided it was time to stop whining about the rising tide of irreverence and immodesty and to start griping about it right out in the open. Thus, Kandra and the parish’s other clergy have resorted to appealing in the parish bulletin and in public remarks for a hint of sanity or even some old-fashioned decorum.

And now Father Edward L. Beck and ABC News have explored the matter, as well, and they’ve included a brief interview with Greg:

“…Kandra also points out that geography can have a lot to do with the way churchgoers choose their pants. He was in the Nashville area recently and said he felt like he’d been whisked back to his more formal childhood.

“But there’s been this psychic change in the culture,” Kandra says. “It’s a different ethos.”

All of this attention suggests to me that this issue is, perhaps, something people have either simply not thought about for a while, or have thought about and become resigned to. I think it’s worth talking about. In managing the portal, I’ve had a few hum-dinger emails sent my way in response to the column — from all sorts of perspectives: there is the thoughtful correspondent who wonders if God cares how we dress for Mass or if he isn’t simply pleased to have us there, even in cut-offs and wrinkled tee shirts. I get the sentiment — and certainly our attendance is more important than our dress — but on the other hand this view seems a tad lazy to me, “hey God, I’m doing you a big favor showing up, here; you don’t need me to dress, too, do you?”

And then there are the folks wagging a finger and saying, “shame on you! Some people can’t afford nice clothes!” And yes, that’s true. Particularly with the economy in a shambles, many budgets cannot be currently stretched to include new or fine clothes. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be neat, if we can be. Or, why not use the nicer stuff in our closets? It might actually make one feel better to wear something that’s been “saved” for a special occasion; if something is meant to be worn for a nice dinner, why not use it for a meal with the King?

I confess, when I used to be very casual about mass, and I am still more the “casual-but-neat-with-an-occasional-skirt” type than a super-dresser. But the days of wearing jeans to Mass are over for me, and my husband would never do it. Even my kids, when they go, dress for Mass more neatly than they would to just hang out, somewhere, and they’ve always done that.

Do other churches even have this problem? Is it only Catholics who are going to church dressed like slobs? What are your thoughts?

UPDATE: At Our Sunday Visitor, the editorial board wrote about this issue, just a few weeks ago:

These are all real issues, and the Church in some ways is always seeking to improve a sense of reverence (the revised translation of the Roman Missal) and combat the temptation to make it a rote exercise or a simple obligation.

In this context, dressing appropriately for Mass is an external sign of our appreciation for what is taking place in the Eucharistic celebration. The danger with placing too much emphasis on externals such as dress is that we may miss the larger point, which is an interior reverence that resides in the heart. Our priorities must always be to focus on our inner preparation for Mass and our inner receptivity to God’s Word.

Are dress codes the answer?

It was a desire to teach her teenage daughter the virtue of modesty that led Martha Fernandez to request a dress code be adopted at her parish, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Sacramento, Calif. She has been deeply involved in the predominantly Latino parish for 25 years and serves on the parish council.

Fernandez said, “My daughter wanted to wear little shorts to Mass, and I told her it was not appropriate.”

When the girl complained that other parents let their daughters wear similar shorts, Fernandez replied, “Maybe they don’t know any better.”

So, Fernandez thought she’d help educate them. She went to the pastor, Father Lino Otero, a member of the Legionaries of Christ, which staffs the parish, and asked to place dress code signs, similar to those at the Vatican, at the church entrances. He agreed.

The sign indicates that shorts, bare shoulders and tight clothing are not appropriate for church. They primarily target the dress of women because, Fernandez said, “We are the biggest offenders.”

The feedback in the two years since the policy was implemented has been universally positive.

In fact, a neighboring parish, Divine Mercy, copied Fernandez’s signs and implemented the dress policy as well.

Not all agree, of course. Read the whole thing.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://chuckthisblog.wordpress.com Joe

    I’m glad to see you bring this up. In some sense, I’ve been noticing the same trend for – oh – about 20 years or more, now.

    If it’s a problem (and I suspect that for most people the jury is still out on that) I’m not sure there’s a solution. But there is something to be done.

    For no reason that I can put my finger on, I just started to wear a suit and tie to Mass every week. Well, honestly, for no reason I can name, I started wearing a tie to work too. It’s not the uniform in either place, I can assure you. I just wanted to look a little better for my own vain-glorious reasons.

    What I didn’t expect was to see a few others do the same – I think they were copying me! Heh! Me, a fashion-trend setter? Who’d a thunk it!

    Now it seems that more than a few attendees (and co-workers) are doing the same. Seems the critical mass for such things is rather small.

    So I suggest that no-body worry about it and dress well in public, especially to Church, just for the sake of not looking sloppy. You might find that you’ve actually influenced others in a very quiet, even Catholic way.

  • http://Janehartman.com Jane Hartman

    It was rather horrifying to me, as a new convert having been raised in the Anglican/Baptist tradition to see the extreme casualness of Catholics coming up for Communion. One girl in a tube top, shorts, chewing gum, walking up to receive “The Body of Christ” comes to mind. I wondered what she thinking and I had to come to the conclusion that she really didn’t understand what she was doing. I think better teaching on the doctrine of the Eucharist would make us all step back and think. For daily mass, the attire certainly could be work clothes, but modest. For Sunday Mass, probably more thought should be put into what we wear. After all, we should give Him our best, or at least try.

  • http://www.sthubertsrosary.com shana

    On dress clothes: St Faustina, when she was young, came from a family that was quite poor. She and her sister went to different Masses at their parish so each of them could wear the one good dress they owned to Mass and each could go before God dressed well.

    I always think of them when I am tempted to lower my standards for Mass with an excuse (heat, snow, running late, whatever).

  • Paul

    Our Bishop wrote a column on appropriate behavior and dress a couple months ago which I wrote a note and congratulated him on in, so did many others.

    I have travelled to other parts of the world and I have friends who have been on trips to our sister parish in El Salvador; these people materially poorer than us do not dress like we rich Americans do when going to Mass. It is special to them.

  • HV Observer

    I put it to you that the Intrinsically Unworthy Music Products which have infected Catholic worship since 1965 which bear the lion’s share of forming the attitude that “jeans-and-flip-flops” are acceptable clothing to wear at Mass.

    To paraphrase St. Paul – Here is a saying you can rely on: Virtually all music products, composed in English since 1965 ostensibly for liturgical use, are based on entertainment values, which is how those attitudes are formed.

    I say “virtually,” because there are some wonderful new works which promote worship, not entertainment, such as these and these. But the market, right now, is still dominated by the Intrinsically Unworthy Music Products, and their defenders in the parishes will go to the barricades rather than sing what the Church wants.

    Bottom line: As long as the Intrinsically Unworthy Music Products remain in our parishes, the jeans-and-flip-flops attitude remains as well.

  • http://pungeon.blogspot.com LS

    As an agnostic who hasn’t been to a service in years, I couldn’t imagine showing up in anything less than a suit and tie.

  • Nuncius

    Each Sunday, I am the only man present wearing a tie. It gets old. I was finally asked why I “dress up” like that. I said, “I dunno. I heard Jesus was going to be here.”

    It’s amazing. If the governor or some celebrity or something were going to be there, everyone would be wearing his best. Doesn’t the Real Presence entail “presence”?

  • Roz Smith

    When I attended St. John Cantius in Chicago a decade back there was a sign on the door that those who were dressed inappropriately would be requested to leave. It was a conservative parish – the only one in the diocese that said mass in Latin – so the regulars were properly dressed. The sign was meant for visitors to the Tridentine high mass. I never did see anyone denied access by an usher.

    At my current parish those who live here full time do tend to look presentable. But we are also in a vacation town and some of the part year parishioners and short term visitors sometimes look as if they came from a pool party. It is distracting but the transient nature of the offenders makes it hard to correct with a reminder by Father or a tactfully worded announcement in the bulletin.

    Fancy restaurants used to have a couple of jackets and ties on hand should a male dinner not meet their dress code. I sometimes think we should go to the Salvation Army and buy some men’s sports coats and women’s cardigans. Then we should crank up the air conditioning and have the ushers insist the too scantily clad take the covering as protection from the cold.

  • http://www.seasonsofgrace.net Kathy Schiffer

    First, I realize that Jesus is glad to see you—however you come.

    And I realize that some people may come directly from work, or head out directly to work, with no time to change from work clothes into “Sunday best.”

    And it’s hot outside, and who feels like dressing up?

    And sometimes the baby spits up on your shoulder just as you’re getting into the car; and you haven’t done the laundry; and you’ve gained five pounds and can’t fit into your blue sweater….

    To all of God’s people who need to “come as you are” to Mass this weekend, I say: Come on in!

    But couldn’t you try a little harder?

    First, I realize that Jesus is glad to see you—however you come.

    And I realize that some people may come directly from work, or head out directly to work, with no time to change from work clothes into “Sunday best.”

    And it’s hot outside, and who feels like dressing up?

    And sometimes the baby spits up on your shoulder just as you’re getting into the car; and you haven’t done the laundry; and you’ve gained five pounds and can’t fit into your blue sweater….

    To all of God’s people who need to “come as you are” to Mass this weekend, I say: Come on in! But COULDN’T YOU TRY A LITTLE HARDER?

    I posted about this a while back, and it was one of my most-read columns: http://kathyschiffer.com/dressing-for-liturgical-success

  • TXRed

    The congregation I worship with is older (average age in the 50s) so even “casual” Sundays are still rather neat, tidy and logo-free. We have some refugee families who attend church and they wear what they have, but it is always neat, clean and has sleeves, even if it is a dark t-shirt and worn (not holy) jeans or a denim skirt.

    My personal feeling is that you should dress up for worship because it shows respect for the Lord and helps set that time and place apart from the office or social club. If dressing up means your darkest pair of work jeans and a clean white t-shirt because that is what you have, then that is perfectly fine. So is a gently worn blouse from a local thrift shop. But logo t-shirts, flip-flops and tank tops? Well, no.

  • Margaret Mary

    I’d like to echo Joe’s sentiments about raising the bar a little. My teen son has a Bible Study leader who challenged them to dress for the occasion (specifically, to wear a tie) and several of them took him up on it. Since then, I’ve seen more and more boys looking nicer than average and a couple of them were asked to present a short lesson on how to tie a real tie to a parish group for 4th-6th grade boys. They had a very enthusiastic response from the boys AND their parents!

  • shirley elizabeth

    I think that people have come to treat church so casually because the Sabbath is casual – no longer a special and holy day. I do not dress in my respectful best for church, I do so to honor the Lord’s Sabbath on His day. It is not any other day, with a few hours set aside for church. It is a day of worship, service, family, repentance, study, prayer, fasting, testifying.

    I think that if congregation leaders were to resurrect the importance of the Sabbath, they would see their sheep become more respectful and holy, among all of the other promised blessings of obedience.

  • Carol

    I don’t like to see extremely casual clothing in church. And some of the immodest clothing–yikes!

    But, I just shrug my shoulders at it and give the person the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps church is new to them, and they’ve never be taught differently. In my opinion, it’s a bigger problem if someone stays aways from church because he feels he can’t dress to “standard.”

    Personally, I have three or four outfits I wear to church. (I would only have one “Sunday-go-to-meeting” outfit, but that would drive my husband up the wall.) From a practical point, having clothes set aside for church certainly helps keep things calm on Sunday morning, and takes some emphasis off of me, which is always a good thing, especially when heading to services.

  • Byzantine Steve

    My test has always been to compare what I wear to church with what I wear to work. The former should be at least as nice as the latter, as God is more important than work. Plus, this accounts for my place in life… when I worked at camps and made very little money, I knew I was still showing as much respect as I could.

  • shirley elizabeth

    On vacation this summer I attended a congregation with a local family member. I was surprised that my husband and I were the only ones dressed for the day, aside from the preacher and his wife. The people were all beautiful and welcoming, and I hope to attend again next time we are in the area, but it stunned me that ones so devoted would not care to show proper respect.

  • http://www.hermitofbardstown.com Stephen Taylor

    My thoughts? I think you wrote an excellent article. I live on almost nothing as a hermit but I go to a thrift store that has nice clothes, nice enough for mass at least, and I pay a quarter for them. It is possible to dress neatly for mass. For daily mass I will wear jeans, but never on the Sunday masses or even the Solemnities.

    Well done good and faithful blogger. :-)

  • Greta

    We are having great success with the committee who have tackled this issue. It is parishoners who take it on themselves to come up with ideas that improve the overall dress at mass. We have someone who greets the gathering from the pulpit before mass starts to welcome everyone and during that welcome, the discuss shutting off cell phones and not answering them, the policy with ragard to receiving communion, and the desire of the parish to have people propery dressed for mass. There is an insert in every bulliten each week, and we have a small booth outside of church each week to answer questions on dress. If someone is out of work or in need, we have arrangments to help them privately with donations and discounts from local stores all done in secret. The theme is how would you dress going to meet Jesus Christ our Lord. However, we also know that Christ would be happy to see anyone who arrives with an open heart and thirst for salvation and make sure that this is never lost.

    We now get those who visit from around the city and outside the city asking us how we have such involved parishoners at mass who seem to know that dressing properly and with respect is important. The youth are involved and leading the way and made this topic the focal point of one of their youth meetings.

  • RJT

    I think Joe’s comment is outstanding and a great idea that will work.

    My husband does the same – he teaches physics at a university and always wears a tie and jacket. He’s one of the only ones in his department at this point, but I think it’s catching on there. My husband grew up with out much money and decided that he was dressing up as soon as he was able. He is also a lector at our parish in Philadelphia. It’s a gorgeous, old church without air conditioning. He wears a jacket and tie there too, even on the hottest days in the Summer – he doesn’t take a water bottle with him, either! One of our Oratorian priests reminds us when it’s that hot, the it was probably very hot on the cross for Jesus as well. An excellent point!

    This topic has been on my mind lately too. I remember one of my sisters telling me to dress up to take exams in college – it made her feel professional, and focused that way. It was good advice.

  • Bob B.

    I don’t think for most people (certainly for me) that the issue is wearing expensive or fancy clothes. The issue is showing the proper respect by dressing with some level of modesty, neatness, and recognition of being in God’s presence. That doesn’t mean designer clothes, or suit and tie. But it does mean, as my mother-in-law says, wearing clothes that “cover up the necessaries.”

  • Paula R. Robinson, M.D.

    My take is that, unfortunately, whenever you have a discussion about what is acceptable to wear to mass, the outcome is going to be that everyone is going to agree that it is unacceptable to wear certain things to mass. And that is going to lead to judgments against people who show up to mass wearing certain things; judgments on the part of people who frankly may not have a lot of extra leeway in the hypocrisy department. Why tempt people to sin? Can we simply agree, out of charity, not to wade into that swamp pit?

  • http://yeomanlawyer.blogspot.com/ Yeoman

    I was one of the ones who commented on Deacon Kandra’s page, and I’ll do here as well.

    It isn’t just Mass, but everywhere, that this has occurred. As a courtroom lawyer, I have gone from telling people to dress in their “Sunday Best” (even if they didn’t go to church) to telling them to at least appear with a button up clean shirt. Some can’t even seem to muster that. While I don’t do criminal law, I have days where I can walk through the court hall and tell who will win a case just by how weirdly or badly their witnesses are dressed.

    Which leads me to this point. A lot of people have no idea how to dress at all, and have no concept of how they appear, but people still make subtle, unconscious, mental notes about the “uniforms” that others wear. We are quick to take offense if people tell us to dress more nicely, but we seem unaware of the message we’re sending out.

    Where I live, Catholics have always dressed fairly informally for Mass. But like some other here, I’ve taken to dressing a bit more nicely, as I’ve become conscious of how I appear and what message I’m sending. I’m not overdressing, but I’m not dressing like a slob either. Most people can at least muster that.

    Beyond that, whether we like it or not, dressing can send an entirely inappropriate message that should really give us pause. I’ve never seen a Hooters shirt at Mass, but I have seen shirts with sexually suggestive phrases on them more than once. What kind of message does that send?

    Working back around, however, I think we might be at a point, culturally, where we ought to be a bit concerned that for a nation that claims to be the most advanced in the World, we dress like tottlers to a large degree.

  • Ellen

    I’ve been dressing neatly for the past year or so for Mass. I don’t go the hose and heels route (I wear heels for no one), but I do wear nice pants or a skirt. It’s the right thing to do.

  • Ken

    I do not dress for Mass typically. I believe as long as you are clean and your clothes are clean and modest, there shouldn’t be an issue. I am much more put out by the lack of decorum in Catholic churches before, during and after Mass. It’s almost impossible to pray before or after Mass with the loud gabfests going on. And, you can usually find some people talking amongst themselves during the Mass, even during the Eucharistic Prayer. I think the lack of a reverential attitude is more distracting/disturbing than a lack of more formal dress…although, I suppose, the two could be opposite sides of the same coin.

  • Gregg the Obscure

    We got a new pastor in the summer of 2010. Early on he requested (quite gently) that lectors and eucharistic ministers refrain from wearing jeans or shorts while serving. Sadly, some of the lectors and eucharistic ministers pitched a fit over that simple request. Since our parish is mostly older folks, there’s not so much of the suggestive going on, but there’s plenty of boomer resistance to suggestions from outside the clique-approved channels.

  • Ken

    That should have said “dress up,” not just “dress.” Geesh!

  • Jen

    It’s about so much more than sloppiness versus dressiness. It’s about modesty and focus and consideration, too. Women in teeny, strappy tops, with much cleavage showing; young girls in skirts that are no longer than their panties; and the general “sexiness” of our modern dress is all highly inappropriate for Mass. Women especially — c’mon, give the guys a break. They have to look around the church and see breasts on display and short tight skirts. And they’re not supposed to look? When the gals are dressed like they’re going to a nightclub? I feel bad for them. I feel really bad for our priests!!

    But honestly, I can’t stand it either. I don’t want to see other women’s assets at Mass. I came to see Jesus. And the immodest dress is very distracting. It’s very inconsiderate of the other people around you. And that kind of dress has absolutely no place in worship. (I would argue it has no place just about anywhere, but that’s another topic.)

    Every Sunday as a girl I watched my father polish his shoes for Mass. Then he’d polish mine and my mother’s. Mom and Dad dressed every Sunday like they’d been invited to dinner with the King and they made us dress that way, too. It’s high time we brought back “Sunday Best.” Time for a spelled-out dress code.

  • Sue from Buffalo

    I have four daughters and one son. While it is a losing battle to get my teenage son to wear something really decent to church, he knows that the line is drawn and he had better not cross it.

    Every other weekend we get two nieces to babysit (6 and 11). It’s the only time they go to church. I have to buy enough skirts/dresses for 6 girls each season so that they’re not getting sick of the same old stuff and yet still wear something special to church.

    Where to buy? Just where you would think. Consignment shops, clearances and thrift stores. It’s not easy getting clothes that are appropriate. Can’t be too short or immodest. Somehow, with God’s grace, we find them.

    We’ve had people actually come up to us after mass and tell us how classy the girls look. That they look like young ladies and are an inspiration to others.

    I grew up Methodist and converted ten years ago. My Mother always had me dress up for church and they didn’t have much money.

    If we dress lazy then we tend to view the Mass in a lazy way. If we dress special, don’t we somehow see that the Mass IS special and important?

  • A. Noël

    I live in the Dallas area, so there are occasional visits to steak houses and other good restaurants with reasonably formal service. I’ve been stunned to see people my age (50s) going into these places in jeans shorts and t-shirts and flip-flops. I’ve adopted wearing a skirt in protest, still casual but still more dressed-up than the servers. (!)

    It is interesting that, in some areas of life, wearing a suit has become a signal of subservience, whether to customers (salespeople), potential bosses (applicants), or clients/judges (attorneys).

    St. Peter had it right, I think: “do not adorn yourselves outwardly by wearing … fine clothing; rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight.” (1 Peter 3:3-4) Where that inner spirit is cultivated, the wardrobe will probably eventually reflect it.

    [My husband and I went out to grab a bite at a diner recently -- what's more casual than a diner -- and I was struck to realize that the father and son sitting next to us were dressed exactly alike -- shorts, tee shirts, baseball caps on the head. I had actually forgotten that once upon a time men didn't wear hats while eating! :-) admin]

  • Romulus

    One girl in a tube top, shorts, chewing gum, walking up to receive “The Body of Christ” comes to mind.

    The one I’ll never forget was a teenage boy in Camden, Maine who presented himself for the Bread of Life while wearing a black tee shirt silkscreened with a garish skull-and-crossbones.

  • http://www.noodlingonit.com Kris, in New England

    The evangelical church I grew up in had a dress code: suit & tie for the men; dresses/skirts for the women. Children to do likewise. As I grew up it was relaxed a bit in summer – no suitcoat or tie required, women could have bare legs. Even into my 20s, the rules were pretty strict; only relaxed for women to wear pants if they wanted.

    As a new Catholic, I still get somewhat dressed up for church, as does my cradle-Catholic husband. His parents still get somewhat dressed up for Mass. We all believe it is a sign of respect for the Eucharist and the presence of Christ. This does not mean a suit & tie or a dress (I don’t wear them). It does mean that we wear what we wear to work – sharp, business casual clothing. Crisp shirt and khakis for my husband, nice slacks and a modest top for me. I am still old-fashioned enough to believe that jeans, shorts, cheap flip flops, tattered hoodies, sloppy sneakers and shirts with logos are just a no-no.

    It doesn’t have to be expensive to dress cleanly and neatly. I don’t judge anyone who doesn’t; I pray all the time for God to help me be less judgmental and to focus on my own spirituality and not worry about everyone else’s.

    I still think we should all be respectful of what we are doing and where we are.

  • Tom Emmanuel

    One Catholic university resorts to Air Conditioning. At all times, they keep the chapel too cool to wear shorts/t-shirts/etc comfortably.

    [I don't really admire that. That's just forcing an issue; it's not teaching anything. -admin]

  • RJT

    Dr. Robinson’s post got me thinking…..I certainly notice those who are too casually dressed, but I think I also notice people who are extremely well dressed, i.e., expensive shoes, fabulous jackets, expensive purses etc….maybe I should just focus on mass a bit more, if I’m honest!

  • Daniel Kane

    Of course, one would be denied entrance to St. Peter’s in shorts or with sleeveless tops. No exposed shoulders or knees. The guards will turn you away at the door.

  • Douglas Johnson

    I wear a coat and tie to church every week. One other fellow in the parish does the same. Everyone once in a while someone will say “don’t you look nice today.” I usually answer with “well, it’s church.”

  • Douglas Johnson

    Nuncius,

    Well put.

  • Penny

    When I went to mass last Sunday, there were 2 women lectors on the alter. I think both wore pants but one was especially informal. A loose shapeless pants over loose shapeless baggy slacks. I wonder if we all started dressing down (and I have been guilty of this too) because the lay people on the altar started dressing down. I see sneakers, casual pants on women and general sloppiness. Maybe we are emulating what we are seeing on the alter. Or maybe the people on the altar are emulating what the people in the pews are wearing.

  • Andrew

    Attend an FSSP, ICTK, or SSPX mass, you will see none of this, the pews will be full 15-30 minutes prior to mass, with people praying, not talking, or eating, nor will the Priest waste time on such amateur hour instructions in his homily. The real question is why do people feel like they can get away with this in some places and would not even try in others?

    We have very poor people, very poor, and very, very rich people in my parish, and they all seem to be able to present themselves to God in befitting manner, on time. Those who have, provide for those who have not.

  • Teresa

    I live in the Valley of VA surrounded by two national parks. During the summer the campers come to our small church for Sunday Mass. I really don’t object to their attire because they are camping and don’t normally pack suits and dresses. I would object more if they skipped Mass on Sunday just because they are on vacation. As well, many in our county are poor and often, if they are employed, they have to work on Sundays. So they arrive in work clothes and then go to work. One of our deacons is a chef and comes to Mass wearing his Chef’s shirt because he has to drive 30 miles to his job. I do think tank tops and short shorts or skirts are really pushing the envelope.

  • http://www.patheos.com Amy

    A short homily – 23rd Sunday – worth the listen just over 11 minutes.

    http://www.stmarysgvl.org/discipleship/audio-homilies

    Also, I recommend this website from St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville, Sc to bookmark. All of the homilies have sustinence and feed the soul. The High Mass is truly beautiful and they have holy priests. I listen to the homilies as I am not a member of this parish. ( I live 3 hours away) and most of the times, what I hear at my local parish leaves me feeling empty. I still have Christ, body. blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist, but my heart longs to hear what once was preached, respected and observed by faithful Catholics.

    Perhaps what you will hear make you want to share this with others. Remember, we are to be salt. Reverence and modesty…I think the Muslems and the Hindus practice these virtues unashamedly and they are pleasing to the eyes.

  • http://patheos Patti

    In regards to the question, “does God really care how we dress”?
    We had a reading a few weeks back, about the King who’s friends were too busy to come to his son’s wedding,(I’m Catholic so I don’t know my Bible Chapter & Verse). He sent his servants out to invite people in the streets. There was one man who didn’t have on his wedding garments – he was bound & thrown out into the streets!!!
    Do you THINK God cares how we dress? DUH!!! Pay attention to Mass, listen to the Readings, God speaks to each one of us. He answers all the questions we have, if we’d only listen instead of texting & talking to each other. Parents are very guilty of this. If this is the only time you get to be close to or speak to your child, you all have a problem, seek counseling & respect God in His house.

  • Donna G

    Good to see this out in the open. To me the immodest and improper dress is a larger problem of lack of respect. When did it become old fashioned to genuflect? And acceptable to talk and laugh on your way up to Communion, and sit down immediately on returning to your seat? These things are important – do we believe God is really present or not? What do we believe about the Eucharist?

  • http://sicetnonderful.blogspot.com Scotty Ellis

    Although I understand the impulse behind the concerns over dress, it seems to me that a lot of Catholicism – especially in certain Internet cliques – has become a kind of hyper-moralism. I respond more thoroughly here:

    http://sicetnonderful.blogspot.com/2011/09/inanity-of-new-catholic-moralism.html

    As a Catholic who has moved a lot and seen my share of parishes, I am thoroughly convinced that modesty is culturally relative. It is quite possible that what some consider immodest is merely the natural style of a certain region’s culture. I am not saying it is impossible to break a culture’s rules for modesty, but since these rules are flexible and changing it is important to withhold judgment about whether people really are being immodest or it is simply dressing according to cultural norms.

    Furthermore, these norms vary widely; there are cultures in which toplessness or even complete nudity is not considered immodest. This is of course not the case in most western cultures, but my point is simply this: we cannot simply judge based on how much skin is or is not covered.

    Finally, it seems that a lot of this takes away from far more serious considerations: countering the violence and meaninglessness of sin and spreading the love of Christ.

  • Pancho

    I think U.S. society in general is a lot more casual than it was before, and Catholics (like in other things) are following along.

    I like Nuncius’ (#7) answer to being asked why he “dresses up”: ““I dunno. I heard Jesus was going to be here.”

    Most Sundays I wear a tie to Mass, a collared shirt and I nice pair of slacks or chinos. I started doing so because I began feeling uneasy about myself. I’m one of those people who want the liturgy to be better: the music, the preaching, etc. but I realized if that’s what I want why aren’t I more presentable myself. I am the only person I have direct control over. In my own small way I can contribute to beautifying the Mass (and the world) by dressing a little better.

    It’s a little difficult because of my natural laziness and procrastination (and I’m still tempted to wear “dressy” jeans, it’s a trendy look) and because I still sort of stick out. I know there will be weeks when I won’t meet my own standard. But I try. I’ve noticed a couple of guys have been wearing nice pants and tucking in their shirts and so on at Mass since I started dressing up a little so maybe I’ve helped set a little example? I don’t know, but it’d be nice if that’s the case.

    I think we need to be reasonable about this. For some people their Sunday best is a clean t-shirt and a clean pair of boots. And everybody has off days. I agree it’s important to keep everything in perspective and not judge people on appearances, etc. I even think we need to remind ourselves of that regularly because it’s too easy to fall into the trap of focusing to much on aesthetics and the superficial things.

    But honestly most Catholics in this country are not the poorest of the poor and I think it’s time to ask that majority of Catholics why, for instance, they may dress for work or going out but not for Mass and what that says about their priorities, or why they’re willing to shell out money for the latest Xbox or for HD cable each month but not on a nice set of Sunday clothes. If we make a big deal about the “incarnational” aspect of Catholicism then that ought to play a role in how we dress for Mass, no?

    I think the best thing people can do who think people should dress up for Mass is to dress up themselves, and be the kindest, most helpful, most sympathetic and happiest Catholics they can be. And have fun. That’s the best example and encouragement Catholics can offer to others to wear their Sunday best.

  • Ryan Hilliard

    Oh please…I don’t care how poor one is, one can pick up a pair of khakis and a button down at a thrift store for $7.00. And I am sure a woman could find a decent blouse and skirt for under $20 as well at a thrift shop or consignment store. This has nothing to do with lack of funds.

  • TheInformer

    Yeah, what a wagonload of bull…….

    $3 will get you a serviceable collared shirt at a thrift store, and another $3 will get you some long pants.

    Can you be thrown into the outer darkness for not having your celebratory gown where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth?

    Many of you too probably got the same angry, outraged, self-righteous responses from the slovenly Mass attendees.

    Memorably was the “(ordinary) Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion” who cruised into Mass moments before communion, usually wearing cut off jean shorts….and for a 50 something angry person, this was abominable! He got especially angry with me. It was fun.

    Or the hispanic dude (don’t you love ‘em?….Hispanics, so devotional but know almost nothing about the Faith)….who had the bizarre Aztec shirt on with the especially vivacious and buxom Aztec Queen standing powerfully atop the human sacrafice temple.

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    Some great comments. I think we have an overwhelming agreement on the issue. Let me highlight some comments that resonate with me.

    Nuncius #7
    “Each Sunday, I am the only man present wearing a tie. It gets old. I was finally asked why I “dress up” like that. I said, “I dunno. I heard Jesus was going to be here.”

    LOL, excellent comeback.

    Carol #13
    “it’s a bigger problem if someone stays aways from church because he feels he can’t dress to “standard.”

    I agree.

    BobB #19
    “I don’t think for most people (certainly for me) that the issue is wearing expensive or fancy clothes. The issue is showing the proper respect by dressing with some level of modesty, neatness, and recognition of being in God’s presence. That doesn’t mean designer clothes, or suit and tie. But it does mean, as my mother-in-law says, wearing clothes that “cover up the necessaries.”

    Those are my feelings exactly.

    Also can you imagine my horror when one of the speakers of the readings, an attractive young lady, was dressed with revealing cleavage and exposed bra straps? She had a good speaking voice but whoa where was her head? I haven’t seen her give any more readings.

  • Doc

    Our FSSP parish has a dress code and I wish others would as well. Generally, respectful dress will lead to more reverent behavior during Mass. And ladies who dress provocatively must know they are eye magnets. One would hope they understand that the focus of all attending Mass should be on the Alter.

  • Jenny

    I have to laugh about the thought that Nashville is more formal than other areas of the country. Maybe we are.

    When I was growing up, my father, who was raised Southern Baptist, was outraged at the casual dress in the Catholic Church. That was at least twenty years ago and I assure you people are even more casual now.

  • Jon

    If the liturgy becomes more solemn, more reverent, less laid back, less funny, less 70′s-80′s-ish, then the dress will change. If the folks who are there all the time: greeters, ushers, readers, altar servers, musicians, singers, Eucharistic helper-server-whatever’s raise their own bars a little, then probably the rest of the folks will come around to a little more solemness.

  • http://yeomanlawyer.blogspot.com/ Yeoman

    Interesting sets of comments. On a few:

    “Since our parish is mostly older folks, there’s not so much of the suggestive going on, but there’s plenty of boomer resistance to suggestions from outside the clique-approved channels.”

    The boomer reference is an interesting one. We can’t really maintain that every member of a generational cohort exhibits the cohorts traits (I fit into the Boomers or the immediate post Boomers, depending upon where you slice it) but I do think that there’s something to this comment.

    Setting aside Zoot Suiters and Flappers, the Boomers may be the first generation to adopt a set of clothing symbolically while young, in rebellion, and they were such a pampered cohort, that they’ve never gotten over it, and that’s become the norm for them.

    Indeed, I saw this recently in an interesting way. An associate of ours, who is the child of quasi (albeit Catholic) flower children (he’s become some sort of Evangelical) doesn’t know how to dress, and recently came in like he was going to the gym. One of our Post Booomers had a fit, and instructed him to go home and dress. Soon thereafter we’d learned he went to a legal function (outside of course) dressed down to the extreme, and another of our Post Boomers went to a senior, Upper Boomer aged Partner to demand action. That partner couldn’t grasp the problem.

    Which brings me to:

    “[My husband and I went out to grab a bite at a diner recently -- what's more casual than a diner -- and I was struck to realize that the father and son sitting next to us were dressed exactly alike -- shorts, tee shirts, baseball caps on the head. I had actually forgotten that once upon a time men didn't wear hats while eating! :-) admin]”

    Indeed, this is a near norm. I went to a baseball game last night and noted that a large number of Boomers in attendance were wearing juvenile t-shirts. It looks silly, but they don’t know.

    By extension, a lot of people in their teens and twenties literally dress like toddlers. Droop drawers, underwear showing, hats on sideways. Their effecting a toddler affectation.

    The preservation of babyhood into middle adulthood. . .

    Take a look at teens from the 1920 through 40s. It’ll shock you. Their small frames make it apparent that they are teens, but they’re often dressed like adults. Indeed, they were near adults. And take a look at photographs of 20 somethings from the 20s to the 50s. They are adults. And there’s no doubt of it.

    Not so much anymore.

    Perhaps as a reaction to this, starting about ten years ago, I quit wearing t-shirts as outwear unless the message on them was something I actually want to identify with.

    “It’s about so much more than sloppiness versus dressiness. It’s about modesty and focus and consideration, too. Women in teeny, strappy tops, with much cleavage showing; young girls in skirts that are no longer than their panties; and the general “sexiness” of our modern dress is all highly inappropriate for Mass.”

    Or anywhere else. Every day I drop my son off to middle school on my way to work. I have to wait there in my car until I can pull back into the street. . . so everyday I note that there’s a certain number of teenage girls who come dressed for school with everything on display.

    Do they really want to be looked at for their assets at that age, or any other? If this is tolerated at that age, what are they going to know of dressing when their in their 20s?


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