My husband Michael and I recently had a conversation about what we wear to mass. The fact is, over the years (at least in the heavily Catholic parts of Louisiana where we both grew up), many Catholics have begun to dress much, much more casually for church than they used to.
When I was a little girl, we always dressed up for special occasions and masses at church, especially for major holy days. For years, my grandmother and mother made sure my sisters and I had new dresses to wear to Christmas and Easter masses. Those dresses made those special days of the year so exciting and special! My favorite dress was a creamy yellow Easter dress with white lace, a poufy skirt and petticoat, and matching shoes with rosebuds on them. My first Eucharist and first Reconciliation also meant beautiful new dresses (and for first Eucharist, a real lace veil!).
Even as a little girl, I remember knowing in my heart that those sacraments were a Big Deal, and it was important and right for me to dress up for God that day.
These days, Michael and I generally dress nicely for mass. Michael always wears dress pants, dress shoes, and a polo shirt or dress shirt to mass, and we both try to steer clear of jeans. I wear a nice top over dress pants or a skirt, and sometimes I wear a dress. I also usually wear some tasteful jewelry, makeup and maybe a spray of perfume.
We are somewhat in the minority at our parish. On Sundays, most people–especially teens and children–wear jeans and t-shirts, flip flops, and generally pretty casual attire to mass.
I don’t think that dressing casually for church is necessarily a bad thing; it’s just that I think “dressing up” for church is a wonderful thing.
After all, do priests celebrate any mass in jeans and a t-shirt? I think that “dressing up” for mass is a part of keeping Sunday the holy day that God intended it to be. It recognizes and honors the mass for the incredible celebration, the timeless divine moment that it is. Heaven and earth come together during every single celebration of the Eucharist.
Perhaps dressing a little too casually shows that we don’t always remember that we’re participating in something that is a privilege and a special gift from God.
And now for a Mom Perspective.
I wasn’t a child all that long ago–I remember all too well the chaos of getting ready for church on Sunday morning! Sometimes, just getting all four of us to mass with clothes on (nevermind hair brushed) was a major feat. Sometimes, being at mass at all should be considered an accomplishment in itself!
And yet, there are families in my parish with eight children that attend daily mass together.
In the end, I think it all goes back to our priorities for our families. As Catholics, the Eucharist is a central part of our faith, and it follows that our understanding of, behavior in, and respect for the mass should be a priority for our family. Perhaps how we live out making the mass a priority for our family can differ.
The children of the large family I mentioned that attends daily mass together don’t wear their Sunday Best every day. The children’s usual attire is (sometimes) mismatched cotton tops and sweaters with crocs or flip flops. But those children’s maturity in mass and understanding of the liturgy is astounding. Even the three-year-old and four-year-old take turns taking the gifts up the aisle for the consecration.
Michael and I both agree that we want to teach our children to know, love and serve God. And we both agree that teaching our children to love, know and respect their Catholic religion will take them closer to God. Finally, we agree that it’s a goal of ours to show reverence for the Eucharist by doing our best to dress our family nicely for mass-especially on Sundays.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m trying to leave plenty of room for being realistic! I’m the first to admit that there will probably be plenty of Sunday or daily masses where my heart will praise God for getting me and my family to church in one piece, with relatively clean clothing on, and at least half of the kids’ teeth brushed.
And that’s OK.
I don’t have a little girl yet, but if God blesses me with a daughter (or two), I plan to make sure that, at least one year, she gets to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ at Easter in a creamy yellow dress with a poufy skirt.
Copyright 2011 Erin Franco