Corpus Christi Blog

Does God Care About What We Wear to Mass?

09-24-2017Weekly ReflectionFr. Chad King

Last week, Matt wrote about the sanctity and dignity of what we are doing at Mass and how our participation with our bodies and souls should reflect that. In every Mass, Heaven and Earth touch — the eternal Mass in Heaven comes down so that we on earth join the Angels and Saints worshiping God in Heaven. Today, I want to bring up what some think is an important issue, while others don’t really think about it — how we dress at Mass.

A few years before I entered Seminary, I worked in a credit card call center. I was in a big building, full of individual cubicles, sitting in a chair talking to people over the phone for 8 hours a day. As someone who stutters, this was my least favorite job I’ve had — I still remember how I counted the minutes until my next break and dreaded going back to work after them. Another thing I did not like about this job was that I had to wear dress pants with dress shoes, a button-down shirt, and a tie every day. When I started there, I asked myself, “why do they make us dress up just to talk to people over the phone? Couldn’t we all do the job, perhaps enjoy it more, if we were in more comfortable clothes?”

However, after working there for a few months, I realized that by having to dress up every day and looking at other co-workers dressed up too, that I was more professional in my attitude. I was more aware of what I was saying and make sure I was talking in a professional manner. So, what I wore on the outside, the external things I saw, affected my inside. Do you think it can be the same at Mass?  Yes, it is.

After a few more months, I switched to working the graveyard shift because I got paid more and my lifestyle allowed that transition. Also, for those working at night, they relaxed the dress code completely. I could wear shorts, t-shirts, and sandals, so I did.  Even though I enjoyed not having to dress up going to work at 10pm, it really did affect my attitude.  Wearing such casual clothes, my attitude also became more casual and more relaxed. So conversely too, dressing down affected my attitude.

The point is, God made us human beings with a body and soul and one affects the other. The external affects the internal, and vice versa. Everywhere we go, whomever we are meeting, we dress for the occasion.  Who goes to a job interview, or meet the President, wearing shorts and sandals? If you’ve ever been to Rome and the Vatican, you know shorts are not allowed to be worn inside St. Peter’s. Why? Our Lord Jesus Christ present in the Holy Eucharist deserves our reverence of body and soul. Showing respect for Whom we encounter and receive at Mass, should be made both interiorly and exteriorly, for one affects the other.

Common Objections to dressing up for Mass and answers to those objections

1. “God doesn’t care what I wear to Mass”

This is often heard along with – “Come as you are! God doesn’t care what clothes you wear! He just wants you!” God does care what you wear, because what you wear affects you and others. No Bride on her wedding day is going to say to her Groom – “Come as you are to our wedding! I really don’t care what you wear.” Jesus explicitly demands respectful attire in Matthew 22:1-14 (The Parable of the Wedding Feast). Every Mass is our wedding feast and a renewal of our covenantal vows — God is giving Himself to us and we are giving ourselves to Him. Does our dress reveal that every Mass is our Marriage Feast?

2. “It’s my personal prerogative – I don’t feel like dressing up”

Here we have the objection that, because I might dress up all week for work, on Sunday it’s time to relax. Yes, Sunday is our Holy Sabbath – a day of rest. But also, God calls the Sabbath to be set apart for Him, and in a particular way, Sunday Mass should be set apart from the rest of the day.  Yes, I hope you relax and spend quality time with family on Sunday, but Mass too should be set apart.  If you are looking forward to attending or watching the football game with your family, or even just relaxing that day, I understand wanting to wear a jersey or casual clothes. By doing so, though, aren’t you saying that you are more excited for the game then you are for our Lord at Mass?  I think so! Is the Sacrifice of Our Lord worth the sacrifice of having to change clothes for Mass? Again, I think so! Additionally, I think that not dressing for Mass appropriately falls into the sin of sloth. Sloth lacks discipline and the willingness to suffer. If Our Lord suffered in agony on the Cross for all of us, then we can dress appropriately for a couple of hours on a Sunday to glorify His name, and yes, even when it’s 110°. Can you offer up the sacrifice of dressing appropriately in love for the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, which is made present at every Mass?!

How we Dress for Mass Really Matters

There are two main reasons why how we dress matters. First, how we dress conveys respect and honor. When we dress appropriately for Mass, we are saying to God, “You are worth the effort; you deserve my best.” It also communicates to your fellow parishioners that you take Mass seriously. It’s not just another casual event during the day or week.

Second, when we dress in a respectful manner it changes our interior disposition. As I learned at my former job, when we are dressed up, our words, thoughts, posture, and general attitude are different. Some will even argue that dressing up for Mass can be seen as a spiritual discipline.

If you want to assist in bringing the changes needed for dressing appropriately, first make the commitment to dress more reverently at Mass yourself. Talk to a family member, parents talk to your children, call up a friend from the parish and challenge each other to dress better for Mass. Next Sunday, make the effort to dress more appropriately. Once you are doing your best to express the seriousness of the sacrifice of the Mass in your outward appearance, then you can help others to do the same. Thank you for your consideration.