January82012

Dressing inappropriately in Church?

This issue has been on my mind since the previous Catholic News, where I read a forum entry from a guy who complained that wardens didn’t allow his wife into the church because she wore flip-flops. Are the wardens going too overboard?

Whilst discussing this whole issue with my parents in the car on the way to lunch earlier, my dad mentioned something which struck me. Bear with me, it may not seem to be related to this issue YET. 

He said that last time, a famous protestant once asked a catholic, if he believed that the eucharist is truly Christ’s body and blood, why doesn’t he crawl to it? And i don’t think she meant it in a demeaning or insulting way. I think she’s truly perplexed when Catholics claim that the eucharist is the body and blood of OUR GOD, and yet we don’t treat the eucharist with reverence and awe. 

The Mass is really a time when God is made present in the Eucharist. I truly believe that the eucharist is the body of Christ, and thus I think that it’s only right we give God that reverence. One of the way we can show reverence is to dress appropriately for mass. No shorts, no flip-flops. (and no short skirts, of which I’m ashamedly guilty of)

And really, why argue? Why do we find the incessant need to bargain? ( i.e. “well, I’m already wearing long pants and shirt, why can’t I wear flip-flops?) Why can’t we just realize that God is going to be very present in form of bread and wine in the Mass, and thus, we should dress appropriately? 

UNLESS, we haven’t realize the enormity of the Mass, really the gravity of the whole situation.

GOD IS GOING TO BE PRESENT IN THE FORM OF BREAD AND WINE, JESUS CHRIST AS THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE.

Is our wearing flip-flops more important? Or showing respect and reverence to our God? Yeah I mean, its easy for us to say that “as long as we respect and are in awe of God in the depths of our heart, and we truly mean it, it doesn’t matter how we dress! That’s so traditional and restrictive!” 

But we have to remember that, when we worship God, when we pay Him homage and reverence, worshipping involves both our mind, spirit and our bodies. We can’t just say we give God our mind and spirit, but not our bodies. 

In Romans 12:1, St Paul says “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

So I really don’t buy the stand that people take, that only mind and spirit is involved in worship. Our bodies play an important role as well. So shouldn’t we then approach the altar of sacrifice appropriately dressed, with respect for the Host ( Our Lord and Saviour)?

Also, somewhere in the bible I know there was this story of a wedding banquet, where the host didn’t allow people who weren’t dressed appropriate for a wedding to enter the banquet. ( Sorry, can’t remember where it is, but it has definitely appeared as a reading before) And I was reminded of this story in the bible when I was reflecting on this whole issue. It is only right that we dress respectfully when we go for a wedding banquet, what more the Mass? 

I guess the only issue I see here is how to balance this importance for reverence in Mass ( which can seem all-too-traditional and restrictive for many Catholics and potential Catholics) and keeping people in the Church ( because some may feel that the Catholic Church is being too stifling in their own individual faith journeys by being so picky about things such as dressing). And frankly, I wonder too how to draw the line.

But all I know is that, I don’t mind being seen as traditional. People only see it as such when they don’t really understand the true gravity of the issue at hand. We’re talking about respecting GOD here, not another human being. It isn’t restrictive, it isn’t traditional and it isn’t stifling - it is just the right thing to do. 


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