Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Merry Catholic 

Well, the warm weather is finally here, and you know what that means, don’t you? Baseball and picnics and trips to the beach. It also means we get to go to Mass each week and hear people whisper, “Look at the way she’s dressed!”

Many years ago, there was a well-known concept called Your Sunday Best. This was a person’s best and most reverent set of clothing: usually a suit and tie for the men, and a nice, modest dress and hat for the women. It was called Your Sunday Best because that’s what you wore to church.

But our modern culture has now become the Casual Friday culture, and even that has turned into Sloppy Saturday and Skimpy Sunday. Nowadays, when it comes to fashion, we pretty much live in an anything goes society; or rather, “anything shows.”

And boy, sometimes at Sunday Mass, it’s hard to tell if we’re at a house of worship offering praise and thanksgiving to the Lord or if we’re at a Las Vegas house of ill repute offering, well, never mind.

Some people think we need a church dress code. But of course, just the mention of the term dress code is sure to offend many people. You see, there are two points of view on this subject. First there’s the “It doesn’t matter” point of view. The thinking here is that it makes no difference what a person wears to church, and we should be happy he or she goes to church at all.

The other opinion regarding church attire is the “Yes, it DOES matter!” point of view. The thinking here is that Mass is an important religious occasion, so people should not dress the exact same way they dress for other important but non-religious occasions, such as a trip to the laundromat or a NASCAR race.

There’s also the question of modesty. I realize the concept of modesty was banished from our culture in the late 1960s, but many present-day churchgoers, especially those who can vaguely remember a time when everyone indeed wore their Sunday Best to church, are a bit taken aback when they see at Mass, for example, young women wearing less fabric than the average women’s Olympic beach volleyball uniform – only worn more tightly.

And don’t think I’m only picking on the women. Some men like to show off their beer bellies with a t-shirt three sizes too small. And others wear shirts with obscene and offensive messages.

Here are some folks I’ve observed at Mass recently and the nicknames I’ve given them: Peter Pajamas, Florence Flip-Flops, Hazel Hot Pants, Johnny Gym Shorts and Cathy Cleavage.

Personally, I’m at the point where I’m just glad people come to Mass at all. A person’s being at Mass is more important in the long run than what he or she wears. But having said that, regardless of whether one’s church attire is stylish or frumpy, expensive or threadbare, the overarching theme really ought to be more along the lines of modesty and reverence rather than the all-too-common theme of shock and awe. Quite often, the message being sent by a person’s clothing in church is either, “Hey, look at me!” or, “Hey, I don’t care what I look like!”

In both instances, it really makes other people feel quite uncomfortable.

Speaking of uncomfortable, I don’t want to threaten anyone, but I think if people don’t begin to dress more modestly for Mass, then those of us who are middle-aged and seniors – just to make a point – might show up at Mass someday wearing only tube tops and flip-flops. And I think we all can agree that will surely be Our Sunday Worst.

Bill Dunn is a freelance writer who resides in Torrington. His most recent book is titled The Gospel According to Morty. He can be contacted via his blog at MerryCatholic.blogspot.com.