I had a friend tell me that he came home from Mass the other day offended and deeply hurt. His adult daughter paid him a visit and they decided to attend the anticipatory Mass together. The problem was that his daughter was dressed in clothes that would make Daisy Duke blush. During the sign of peace an older parishioner took a hold of his daughter’s hand tightly and said, “You should be ashamed of how you are dressed.”
“The lady didn’t look too happy with me either,” he said. When I asked what he was wearing he said that he had on his favorite cut off shorts, tank top, and flip-flops. “Who are they to judge? God doesn’t care what we wear. He’s just happy that we came.”
Personally, I find that to be one of the most arrogant statements I hear. The creator of all existence is overjoyed because we managed to carve out forty-five minutes of our day to go sit in church. My friend’s daughter is getting married at the end of the year. I asked if it would be ok for me to wear my cutoffs and tank top to her wedding.
“What? No it wouldn’t be ok. It is her special day. You’d ruin the pictures.”
For far too many people Mass is a place where they go to get. They get to listen to good music. They get to hear a sermon that makes them feel good about themselves. The get communion. They don’t see anything wrong in wearing beach attire when it is all about them and what they get.
But Mass for a Catholic isn’t about receiving. It is about giving. It is the highest form of worship we have. Mass is where heaven and earth come together as one and we are taken through space and time back to the foot of the cross at Calvary so that Jesus crucifixion is made present in real time to us. When we go to receive communion we don’t go to get a host but to give our lives to our Savior who is giving his to us. It is the most awe-filled solemn event a human can have on this side of heaven. Unfortunately for far too many Mass has lost its awesomeness.
Dress is one area where I think our Muslim brothers have an advantage over us. No, I am no supporter of the full blown burka but I do admire the respect they have for a woman’s body. See, we veil what we hold sacred. Brides wear veils. Our chalices get veiled. The Holy of Holies was veiled. What we hold sacred we cover. They take it to the extreme by covering their women from head to toe so nothing can be seen. What does it say for our culture when women, when our daughters wear as little as they possibly can?
“You should be ashamed of how you are dressed.”
My friend took that to mean “how you are dressed for church”. I am sure the parishioner really meant “dressed in public”. Where is your sense of decency? Where is your respect for yourself? If you hold your body to be a sacred temple of the Lord why do you show it off as if you dance around a pole for a living?
And then to show up for the most holy event in a Catholic’s life dressed as if you were headed to a pool party?
My friend should not have been offended. Instead he should have been humbled and thankful that this person cared enough about his daughter to actually say something to her. Love takes on many forms. Not all of them make you feel warm and fuzzy.