This blog's mission is simple--to encourage moms who are married to non-Catholics and raising their children in the Faith. If you know a mom who needs a little encouragement in continuing her efforts, I would be delighted if you would share Kathleen's Catholic with her. Thank you!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why Flip-Flops and Blue Jeans Attend Sunday Mass

top reasons folks won't dress appropriately
by Kathleen Blease

Right now, I think my parents would laugh, and laugh hard, if they were to read this post. Growing up, I was just as difficult about dressing for Mass as any teenager, and that, well... thirty years ago (Yikes!). This issue is tougher to address these days, isn't it? Why is that? Because those teens are now adults (that's us), and we still want to do our own thing. Boy, do I understand!

There are two ladies who completely changed my mind and convinced me that jeans and flip-flops have no place in Sunday worship. First and foremost is my mother. Mom wouldn't give up. When we attended Mass with our parents, all four of us were expected to dress appropriately and pass a basic look-over. Of course, I whined and  cried when I couldn't wear my brand new Calvin Kleins. And, yes, I found ways to wear them waiting until the very last nano-second to show up in the dining room where Mom was waiting. Sigh. I remember, I remember. (Sorry, Mom.)

The second lady who had a big impact on me entered my life in my adult years, after I was married. My brother's wife, Maria, taught me a thing or two about presenting myself at Mass, in front of Our Precious Christ. Maria grew up in a large family who immigrated from Brazil when she was a child. Her mother insisted that the girls wore dresses always. And they all looked beautiful. They learned to be aware of their appearances as children of God at all times, not just at Mass. Over the years, their example has very much affected me. I have to tell you, the ladies in Maria's family are beautifully, modestly, and simply dressed. They are in no way frumpy or matronly, and they believe in maintaining their appearances without gaudy remedies, such as thick mascara or lipstick.

I have made a one-eighty, from a tempramental teenager to a Mom who is watching over her sons' souls. So I'd like to share with you how I have been able to work myself through the various arguments against dressing appropriately for Mass. And, yes, it does have to do with the soul. I'll cover that briefly below. Here we go...

1. Too expensive. "I don't have money like you do. I can't afford nice clothes and jewelry like yours." This is the big one, so let's start here. Granted, there are those who legitimately cannot afford more than very basic attire, but even during the Great Depression every man owned a suit and took care of it. Every woman had a Sunday dress. It was unheard of not to own these. But we're living in today, so here's a timely remedy: Try looking into thrift shops, re-sales, and consignment stores in your area. My boys dress in khakis, button-down shirts (topped with sweaters in winter), dark socks, and belts every Sunday, and it costs under $10 per child, for the entire outfit. They look presentable, neat, and appropriate. Granted, I do think their hair could use a better combing!

As for myself, I find the vast majority of my outfits at thrift stores. The Goodwill in our area is a beautiful, small facility that has fitting rooms, a return policy, and a credit card system. I've found lots of pretty sweaters, blouses, pants, and skirts for around $3 a piece, and they are all in excellent condition and appropriate for the season. I HATE shopping, so I use very little of my time to find clothing. It doesn't take much effort or money. Let's be honest. If it's not getting done, then it's not a priority. When I finally digested that and accepted the responsibility, the job was already half done.

2. No time. "Hey, I'm lucky to get there (meaning, to Mass) at all." What we are really saying is not that we are lucky, but that the Church is lucky that we have decided to attend. I do think we're lucky. What I mean is that we are lucky to be Catholic and witnesses to the greatest prayer on earth, the Mass, to Christ and Heaven touching our world right on the altar in front of us. No time? Consider this: It takes the same amount of time to pull on a pair of jeans as it does to pull on dress pants or khakis. Even less time to put on a dress. No time for ironing? My kids' pants haven't seen an iron in years. Just wash, dry, and hang up.  It's a new invention (not really) called wrinkle free, care free fabrics. Gotta love that stuff.

3. Peer pressure. "My kid feels like a dope when he has to wear dressy clothes in front of his friends." Ah, yes. I've heard this one, too, from my own boys. Teens have the ability of taking a simple line of logic and using it to its extreme. Hey, we're not talking about a suit and tie here, just a nice pair of pants and shirt. Don't give in. We're not at Mass to please some buddies. We're there because Christ gave Himself to us on the cross. We should take a good look at a crucifix, and then tell Christ, who was stripped and humiliated and tortured, that we don't want our kid to feel out of place. We really should feel some shame if we do that and still feel right about it.

In addition, kids should be given the chance to rise to the challenge--it's all part of growing into a sound adult. Last school year, I led the local Boy Scout Troop in earning the Catholic Religion Emblem, the Ad Altare Dei. After much thought, but from the beginning, I realized that the boys should wear their dress uniforms (called Class A's) to each of our meetings. This would help show our respect for the topic at hand, Our Lord and the Catholic faith. I had been told that the decision should have rested with the boys, not me. But I disagreed. I was there to teach the scouts, and this was definitely part of the lesson. I held my ground, took a deep breath, and announced it to the kids. I heard not a whimper. No problem. Why? Because each boy did it, so no one was considered odd for dressing appropriately. It was expected and supported. They rose to the challenge. Wouldn't it be great if our children and their friends got together and agreed to dress appropriately for Mass? To unite? To be "cool" by showing Our Lord the respect He deserves? Let's start by making that pact in our own homes.

4. Husband pressure. "My husband thinks it's ridiculous to dress up and won't get behind me on this."
I personally have never had to deal with this. My husband has always supported the boys dressing for Mass, but this is an argument I hear a lot from moms, so let's address it. I suspect that most husbands would LOVE to see their wives in something feminine and pretty, instead of the daily frumpy jeans and T-shirts. Even though my husband doesn't attend Mass, he does notice my appearance on Sunday morning, because it is the only time I get to play dress up. He once said, "I need to take you out, so you can dress like that for me!"  I'm not talking party clothes here, just outfits that present you as the Catholic woman you are. I wouldn't be surprised that after seeing his wife dress in this way, a husband would gradually support her cause. Even if he doesn't, then the wife is doing well for her own soul.

There's something special about preparing to see our Lord, even if it's done under pressure, and the interior can't help but get in the right frame of mind. Yes, even when the kids are driving you nuts. (To learn more about the beauty of being a Catholic woman and living out your femininity, you might want to click on The Authentic Catholic Woman: A Book Review.)

5. It's a hassle. "It's a job just getting everyone out the door each Sunday." Oh, boy, do I hear you!! Last weekend, I was upset with my kids for dragging their feet--again. We have been attending Mass every Sunday at 10:30 since they were babies, and still it's a mad dash. Every family goes through this. Yes, it is a hassle. But let's remember the "hassle" our Lord went through so He could give us ("us", as in you, and you, and you.... I don't mean this collectively) His body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Holy Eucharist. Since my boys are teenagers, they are old enough to understand, and so I finally laid down the law: Be in the car at 10:00. If I leave without you, you are grounded. No yelling, I promise. Just grounded. (Which means they go to bed very early that night. Not a tough grounding, I know, but they definitely don't like it.) Gulp. I think I had better be on time! I will let you know how this works out. Please know that you are not alone! Hang in there and don't give in!

6. God loves us anyway. "And we love him with all our hearts and minds." Hmm. Doesn't seem that we're using our minds here. By saying, "God loves us anyway," what we really mean is, "No matter how little we give Him, He still loves us." Do we really want to give little? Most of us really don't intend on doing this. But intentions and actions are two entirely different things. It's not good enough to intend on giving Him our hearts and minds. We have to do this through our actions, and it's very pleasing to Our Dear Lord. And when it comes down to it, just how difficult is it--really--to dress appropriately for Mass? You might want to check out What Kind Of Spouse Are You?. It's a post about being devoted to Christ and how we show it.

Phew! I'm exhausted! This has been a very enlightening post for me, and I hope it has been for you, too. It's good for me to review the sound reasons for presenting ourselves to Our Messiah in a pleasing way. Please share your thoughts on this. I need to sign off now. God bless all of you!


  1. Great post Kathleen. I completely agree. The hassles and theatrics that teens will put forth are amazing. If they put that much energy into their studies, they would all be geniuses! True too is the sad fact when those same bad habits carry forth to adulthood. I can't imagine what goes through some folks heads (mostly men) when I see them not just in jeans, but in t-shirts and sneakers! There was even a gentleman who would wear a t-shirt with ripped off sleeves (and I know you know who I am referring to!) I can only imagine what is going through his head when he is getting ready for church...hmmm, let's see, what is my BEST t-shirt I can put on today for Christ! Society itself is to blame too, just look at the high/low cut shirts for girls and the low hanging pants for boys - what are these designers thinking?! Let alone the parents who buy this junk for their kids and let them wear it! We can only hope that we remain diligent and be an example for others. Maybe one day, society will revert back to the 40's when men wore suits and hats and women wore dresses.....we can only hope huh?

  2. I loved this post.

    You really deconstruct all of our Very Good Reasons for dressing down for mass. Thanks so much for this. It's much-needed.

    I especially like what you had to say about the time and expense excuses. Isn't it funny how the poorest people I've known in my life were also the most religious, and the most well-dressed for church?

    My very favorite point, though, is the one about "God will still love me no matter how little I give Him." Wow. What a punchline. While true, and so important to remember as an exercise in humility and perspective, it's such a good reminder of the trap we can fall into of apathy and half-heartedness in our spiritual life.

    Blessings on you and yours,


  3. Great post. We were raised to dress nicely for Mass. There wasn't any debate about it - and I don't remember giving my mother a lot of grief over it. It was simply what you did - it was respectful to Christ, the Priest, other attendees, and showed that we valued our Church.

    We have two or three "large" families who attend our Mass time ("large"=over 7+ children) Those children are always dressed appropriately. I can't imagine how the mother manages every Sunday morning to get everyone out the door on time. But I bet there's a routine involved!

    I really like your post deconstructing all the reasons not to dress appropriately.

  4. Thanks for visiting, Shelly, and your kind comment.

    Everyone, please visit Shelly at her terrific blog--which I find to be thoughtful and well-written, a joy to read--at Sound Mind and Spirit.

    God bless!


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