I had the opportunity recently to attend Mass in Orange County, Calif. Not something I do very often. Go to Mass, I mean. The priest was a doll. He’s about to retire, too, from what I understand.
What I didn’t understand, however, was why the parishoners failed to dress for church. I don’t mean you have to dress up like its Easter Sunday, but for heaven’s sake, don’t look like you just rolled out of bed to go to Mass. Have some respect for yourself and for the priest who leads you.
I was pretty much appalled at the way a lot of the parishoners dressed for church. One guy, in his 50s, was wearing khaki shorts, a hoodie and flipflops. Another gal had on a track suit and pink crocs. Some of the younger girls, teenagers, were wearing the tightest jeans they could paint on and skimpy tops. Some of the kids looked like they’d been dragged to Mass straight from the playground, and most of the parents looked like going to Mass was an afterthought. Like they were in the middle of cleaning out the garage and thought, “Oh man! It’s five o’clock! We gotta go to Mass!”
Don’t get me wrong. I used to argue with my mother that God didn’t care what you wore to church, but now that I am a heck of a lot older, I see the point she was trying to make.
We had our “Sunday best,” shoes that were polished Saturday night, the ties and shirts laid out for Mass in the morning … she would try to iron out the hemlines of the pants that had been altered time and again for the boys at various stages of growth. A good pair of pants might last 10 years if they’re only worn to church on Sunday.
Sister and I used to wear veils (anyone remember those days?) and white gloves. If for some reason a veil happened to not be available, Ma would bobby pin a doily, or … drum roll please … a Kleenex, to the top of our heads. It was handy if you had to sneeze all of a sudden.
The odd times that my mother managed to convince my father to come to church ensured that we had to be pressed and dressed. In his later years, he had a specific outfit especially for going to church. As soon as he got home from Mass, or a funeral, off would come the pants, the shirt, and the tie. He would remove the belt from the pants, fold the pants over the hanger and hang the belt on the crook of the hanger. The shirt would then go on the hanger, and the dress jacket over that. He would roll up the tie and stick it in the pocket of the jacket. It was the same outfit for about 20 years. He added a pair of suspenders to the ensemble about 10 years into it. He may have actually washed the shirt and pants once or twice during that time, but they always had a bit of Old Spice left to them.
I’ve been to church with the Mormons, who gussie up for church. Shirts, ties and dress pants for the men and boys, dresses or skirts for the women and girls. They look like they care about going to church, that they plan on what to wear because church is important to them.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are some of the most impeccably dressed people I’ve ever met. They dress to the nines, even when they’re out proselytizing.
Members of the African Baptist or AME churches really put on the dawg when they go to church. Suits. Fancy suits. Men and women. Most of the women wear big beautiful hats, and shoes to match. They mean it when they go to church.
The Baptists? Dressed up.
The Methodists? Dressed up.
Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans … all dressed up.
When my younger brother was ordained, one of my dear friends came to the ceremony dressed to deal with the devil.
She had on a yellow suit, big black hat and long black gloves. She was dressed to impress, and no one ever forgot it. I know the good Lord appreciated her effort.
What is it about the Catholics, and I’m not talking about all Catholics, but you folks know who you are, that cannot even drag a comb or brush through their hair before they go to Mass? Are you serious? Have a little self-respect. It’s just as easy to dress nicely…and by that I mean “appropriately” — for Mass. Sweats, T-shirts, jeans — they all have their place, but it shouldn’t be in the House of the Lord.
Granted, I don’t even own a dress, but I do have one pair of dress pants and a dress shirt that I will put on to go into a house of worship.
If I were contemplating joining the church based on what I witnessed, I wouldn’t. It would appear to me that although there was a great multitude of people at Mass at 5 o’clock in the evening, they looked as though they’d rather be sleeping on the couches they rolled off of to get there.
Jesus loves you, but not when you come in wearing that Budweiser T-shirt. And just ’cause He wore a robe doesn’t mean you should.