by Kathleen Blease
first posted Feb. 17, 2011
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 was....er....okay, 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 anyway....like 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!
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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!