Dressing Etiquette of Catholics

This matter was brought up to me by someone a few days ago. I suppose it's not new, since our church bulletins have probably been having reminders to dress properly for Mass.

Do you think it is appropriate for people to come for Sunday Mass dressed in slippers and bermudas? Should their clothing be neatly pressed? Should ladies be dressed in what some might call sexy outfits? Where should the line be drawn?

This same person also brought up to me that brides are wearing more and more daring outfits for their weddings.

So I ask again, where should the line be drawn as to what Catholics can and cannot, or rather, should or should not wear for Mass?

I am of the opinion that a person must consider why he is wearing what he is wearing and if it has never occurred to him, it falls on his community to point it out.

How about you?


Br Lawrence, O.P. said...

We generally consider what we wear, when we go to an important occasion. If we were invited to a banquet or to meet a king, would we not go in our best? Why then, do some dress sloppily when called to the banquet of the Lord and to meet the King of Kings?

The traditional notion of Sunday best still holds because one dresses well to grace an occasion, to signify the importance of the event, not to draw attention to oneself.

The idea that the Lord knows and loves us and we should thus be familiar with Him and dress as we like (ie sloppily) is nonsense. The Lord is not our chum; He is the Holy One of Israel and sloppy dressing at Mass only reflects the irreverence one holds for God.

Some think we should 'come as we are' and I agree. We come bringing to the Lord our brokenness, our sinfulness etc. We come as people in need of God, but that's no excuse to come in rags.

The only people who may and should come in rags is the poor and I suspect there are very few of those in most Singaporean parishes.

As for the question of 'sexy' dressing I believe that good Catholics should note the Catechism's teaching on modesty and dress accordingly at all times, whether in church or not. After all, would Our Lady bare her midriff or wear skimpy clothes designed to incite lust or attract men's attention? I very much doubt so! The same attention must be given to those who wear T-shirts with inappropriate slogans (eg: FCUK) or images (Pornstar, demons etc)

Women who say they dress to feel good about themselves and not for men are being duplicitous. They feel good because they are being looked at and this in itself is a disordered inclination of low self-esteem and self worth. Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body has much to say on such issues.

Granted it is hot in Singapore but let's face it, many many people have no qualms about wandering up and down Orchard in denim jackets and several layers for fashion's sake, so why not cover up decently in our air-conditioned churches?

As sacramental people, how we appear is important, just as habits are important for religious; it is truly habit-forming!

Daniel said...

I know that there are others who feel the same way as you do. But does that mean we are to wear long-sleeved shirts, ties and overcoats every Sunday? After all, that is indeed what we would wear to a formal dinner, is it not?

Br Lawrence, O.P. said...

Well, it isn't unusual in the more conservative parishes in England for people to come dressed in suits to Mass. I know a parishioner who comes in a tie everyday (and this isn't because he's off to work or a meeting later!).

I'm not necessarily advocating this but I think some thought and care should go into what one wears to the Holy Sacrifice. I am primarily responding to the example given in the post (slippers, bermudas, sexy outfits etc).

This does not mean that if you happen to be out and dressed casually and wish to attend a weekday Mass, that you should feel unable to do so. No.

However, there is a habit of just turning up on Sundays in any old thing without due consideration and I think a holistic approach to the holiness of the Mass would demand otherwise of us.

Norman Lee said...

The question is, should we leave it to the individual to decide what is best, or should we set rules?

I advocate making the faithful aware of the need to dress properly, but we should leave it to the individual's sensibilities.

Br Lawrence, O.P. said...

The post entitled "Would you be allowed on a Golf Course" at Quodlibet may interest you as it discusses dress codes in a parish in the USA.

Daniel said...

I think I've come up with what might be a suitable answer through talking with different people and reflecting on the matter.

There are those who feel that they have a personal relationship with God, so it doesn't matter what they wear when they come to Mass. True as that might be, but when we come for Mass, we come together as a community, a people of God.

In that sense, we are not at Mass as individuals, but a people. Thus, the personal relationship doesn't apply here. What applies is the relationship between God and his people. And that relationship is so clearly stated in the Bible: They shall be my people, and I shall be their God.

This goes to say that we must give God proper reverence, which must be reflected in our dressing.

On a sidenote, this occurred to me when I heard someone say that when we participate in the liturgy of the Word during Mass, we do not ask ourselves, "What is God trying to tell me through this reading?" Instead, we are to ask, "What is God trying to tell his people through this reading?"

Makes sense?

Norman said...

Regular readers of this blog might be interested to know that a letter was published in the most recent article of Catholic News, which unfortunately seems to label those calling for proper dressing as "very righteous". Will post the text of the letter on a later occasion.