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At Least They're Here...

I was surfing through some blogs today and found a comment on a post about people dressing inappropriately for Mass that went something like this, "We should be thankful that at least they are here.  They are loving Jesus even if they don't know it."

Of course this made my head spin.  Whenever my head starts to spin because of comments or postings of this nature I always take a deep breath.  After that, I ask myself if we can apply the same idea to other areas of life.  If we can, the person may have a point.  If not, I've found the reason for the drunken feeling.  So, let's give it a try.  Shall we?

If my son decides one morning to wear flip-flops, a t-shirt (no, wait, a former t-shirt sans sleeves that he cut off), and shorts with paint on them to school, what is the principal going to say?  "Child, you really should wear your school uniform, but at least you're here!  Have a great day!"  No, I'm going to get a call..on my cell phone...before I get half a block from the school.

I used to work as an electrician when I was younger.  I wonder what my boss would say if I arrived in my bathing suit, sandals, and Hawaiian shirt?  "Hey, Jim.  You know the Union says you need to wear the proper attire, steel-toed boots and all, right?  I was going send you home but at least you're here.  Watch your toes moving that transformer."  I'd have counted myself blessed to have kept my job after pulling a stunt like that in the work place.

Okay, this one may be a bit rough.  I can only imagine the joy on my cousin's face when I showed up at her wedding wearing my water shoes, Speedo, and a Jimmy Buffet t-shirt.  I can hear her now..."Jim, umm, that looks comfy.  It isn't a beach wedding but...well, I'm just glad you're here.  Yes, you can still be the best man even though we may need to discuss the pictures..."  Of course I'd never do anything like that because I don't have a Buffet shirt.  In addition, it would probably cause a major family feud.

In life there is a time and a place for everything.  In life there is a time and a place for different modes of dress.  There are proper things to wear to work, out to dinner, to play sports, and to wear to weddings.  Why is it that the Mass is the only place where this common sense flies right out the stained-glass window?  Why is this place, the place where Jesus becomes sacramentally present in our midst, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity the only place in the world where the "at least they're here" phrase is acceptable.

Are they "here"?  I would strongly argue that they are not.  I firmly believe that clothing is a reflection of an interior disposition.  How we dress for anything can affect how we feel and how we feel about something can affect how we dress.  When I wear a suit, I feel good, I feel powerful and in control.  When I feel lazy or depressed, a pair of sweats fits the mood.  I often don't feel like I can truly start my day until the pj bottoms come off and the work pants, jeans, etc go on.  There are books and studies that prove all of this.  Clothing doesn't make the person but it is often an outward sign of an inner disposition.  Isn't that where the mantra "dress for success" and "the clothing makes the man" come from?

The priest wears special clothes for Mass.  The deacon wears special clothes for Mass.  The servers wear special clothes for Mass.  Why shouldn't we?  The question I get is, "What should we wear to Mass."  A wise man told me that whatever you wear, it should be the nicest thing you've worn all week.  Give God your best!  For some it's a dress or a suit.  For others it's nice pants and sweater.  If you wearing flip-flops, a tank-top, and cut off shorts, and that's the best for the week, I don't even want to imagine what the rest of your wardrobe looks like.

Finally, some might say get over it and that is fine.  But everything we do, say, think at Mass is important and becomes part of our worship, for good or for bad.  Dress is important, Jesus says so.  Remember the one dude who showed up at the wedding feast in flip-flops, tank-top, and jean shorts in the Gospel of Matthew -But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.  He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence.  Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.  Again, an outward sign of an inner disposition, not a fashion faux pas.  I'm sorry, "at least they're here" doesn't cut it with me...


Patience said…
It's interesting but I think Catholics are the most guilty of this. I have visited Protestant churches and everyone dresses up there but at my local parish; many think jeans and capris are a dress item. Maybe the fact that the Mass became more casual sort of trickled down to the clothing choices.
munchesmom said…
I admit, I'm one of those who used to say "at least they're there" (while at the same time shaking my head in disgust over some of the completely inappropriate attire worn by many).

After reading your post, I'll NEVER say it again. You make an excellent point. Thank you for your honest & wonderful perspective!
James M. Hahn said…
Patience, Nicole and I were wondering about that just the other night. It seems like so many Protestants are all dressed up for their services but folks who come to the Mass can be dressed for just about anything but worship!

Munchesmom, thanks for the comment. Just trying to bring some logic to the situation and be charitable at the same time. Thanks, Jim

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