Wearing Our Sunday Best?

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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

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8 Comments

  1. An issue I go back and forth about. My boys are 15 and 11. I insist on a logo and picture-free shirt for Mass, if it is warm enough for shorts, a tailored pair – not the elastic-waist gym shorts my 11 yo prefer to wear year round. My husband has started wearing jeans regularly for the past year, but always with a nice collared shirt and loafers or boat shoes. Neat, clean, not sloppy. Following these rules and making it to Mass every week, usually as a family, does it for us.

  2. Erin – I love this! It’s a good reminder to me personally to be consistent with this. I often attend twice on Sunday, with my husband and son who play music at two different masses. For the morning Mass, I always dress up, but for our Life Teen mass at night, I dress more casually – as does the entire congregation. Same Church, vastly different “cultures”. I am going to start trying to wear my “Sunday Best” at night too!

  3. I go to your church Erin and it is an amazing feat to get there each week with my kids, husband and I with clothes on period! I do dress up my kids for Mass usually but honestly I don’t have the money to buy nice clothes for myself so I am one of those often in jeans. I don’t have nice jewelry and I don’t have any of the kinds of beautiful clothes that you have. I do however love God with my whole heart and mind and I know that my worship of him on Sundays at Mass pleases him, whether I wear jeans and flip flops or not. I felt like your article was so judgmental of those who can’t dress as nice as you and your husband. God cares WAY more about our hearts than our appearance.

  4. Excellent post! I have a spot in our boys’ closets where I hang their church clothes. They are expected to choose from them each Sunday. Simple things: a button-down, a few pairs of khakis, sweater or two, and a few polos. Dark socks, dark shoes, and belt. They’ve become accustomed to doing this, but there was a time when they rebelled, when they were old enough to notice what their friends were wearing. I just couldn’t give in, and I’m glad I didn’t. They grew out of rebelling and are now on board.

    Keep up the good work, moms!!

  5. I would just like to make a comment regarding the ability to afford nice clothes. I understand 100 percent! My husband has been ill for a few years now, and our medical bills make a big stack each month. We are working hard to make ends meet everyday.

    If families find it hard to afford clothing that is appropriate for Mass, I’d like to gently suggest they look into re-sale or thrift shops. My boys are well-presented each week, yet their outfits are all under $10–for the entire outfit: khakis, dress shirt, belt and dark socks. For myself, I manage to find beautiful sweaters, pants, and skirts for about $3 a piece. I also find all my casual clothes at thrifts and re-sales. It takes very little of my time. I HATE shopping! But I want my children and myself to look presentable.

    Moms, if you make it a priority to dress appropriately for Mass, you can find very affordable ways of doing this. For children, it only takes a few items. But if it’s not a priority, then you will never find the time or desire. Be honest with yourself. It’s really not about the money.

    The younger your children are when you start, the better, so don’t wait!

    You can do it!

  6. I would second Kathleen’s suggestion. It’s definitely sometimes hard to justify clothing purchases when times are tough. I have found some great bargains at our Catholic Charities thrift store. But I also think that jeans, clean and worn properly, can be appropriate Mass attire. I think it’s simply great that our families are attending mass together, since this too is a challenge for so many families.

  7. I was raised having to always, always,wear skirts to mass. So as adult for a while I rebelled and wore jeans just because I never could. Now that I have kids I have gone back to putting on my nicer clothes And going the extra mile to look nice. I have 3 young boys (under 4) and the 2 and 4 year old can tell when it’s church day based on my clothes And when I put them in polos or buttoned down shirts. It helps them get ready mentally I think for where we are going. It is a commitment to look nice but so worth seeing my family spiffed up and sitting together in church!! Hang in there!

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