Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dear "Coach Smith": About not getting "hung up" on the clothing rack

Dear Coach Smith,

Everyone who loves our Lord and the holy Mass also shares your concerns about behavior at Mass and would like to see respect as exemplified by arriving on time, departing after Mass ends, attending quietly and attentively. But these are not the only factors that affect the praying of the Mass and the worship of everyone present.

I am glad that you are not "hung up" about what others wear. None of us should be and I certainly don't recommend anyone get "hung up" about anything except God as being unhealthy and unhelpful for spiritual, psychological and other reasons. What it seems as though you are in fact saying here, however, is that others who bring up the subject of modest or appropriate clothing are in fact "hung up" on the subject. That is a judgment and I recommend that you avoid getting "hung up" on that, as well.

The Church has always encouraged the faithful to express love for God not necessarily by wearing fine clothing as an end in itself which may be taking money that could be spent for feeding or caring for the poor, for example. No, here the issue is not expense as an end in itself or wearing the best one can afford but, rather, only about avoiding the wearing of the least appropriate clothing one owns.

The Church also has a concern for modesty in dress at Mass as anywhere else.

I am assisting parents who tell me their children no longer go to Mass. I am beseeching them to recognize that every element in preparation, presence and participation is just as, and more important for worship, as it is for every other situation: there is appropriate garb for a wedding, a funeral, for any special event.

If at Mass we otherwise wear the most casual shorts and t-shirt or gym clothes in the closet we teach our children something by this that we may not intend and may later regret. I would not bring this up except that I have witnessed families return home after Mass, change into less casual garb and then return to the same church later in the afternoon
for the baptism of a friend's child. So, again, this is not about going "more formal"; it is simply a respectful request that our people shun the wearing of the most casual garb they possess in order to speak more powerfully, and to witness to our Faith more consistently, that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, and in the community of the faithful through His grace, at every Mass.

Asking that people exercise the same kind of care about their clothing at Mass as they do at work, or visiting friends, or attending other community events is not "going back" and is not a "rigid format": it's plain, simple common sense. Vatican II did not intend, and nowhere in the documents does it say, that common sense was to go out the window along with the beauty of the Church's immemorial worship as was tragically the case in so many places.

You recommend to me: "worry about yourself". I do. I vest at Mass as the Church asks me to and do so gladly as an opportunity to give glory to God and help to build up the faith of my neighbors.

The Church welcomes your liking for Latin and gives you opportunities to attend the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite through the document Summorum Pontificum in which Benedict XVI makes clear that any priest can say the latin Mass anywhere, for anyone.

You said that you respect other people's opinions. I welcome that and am glad of it but ask that you take care in future to also show that you do so by avoiding statements which might lead others to believe you are judging their motives. This will enable you as it does all of us to "worry about ourselves and our reflection with Jesus Christ" as you so laudably recommend we do.

God's blessing also be with you,
((((..))))

"Coachsmith"'s comments are reprinted below.

I am more concern that people come on time and leave after the last blessing, control their kids so as not to distrub others who are listening to the word. Don't hold conversation during the mass with your neighbors. Allow me and others five to ten minutes prior to the mass as a time of reflection. I am not hung up on what someone wears as I don't walk in my brothers shoes and the cloths they wear may be the best they have. I'm glad that they are at mass. I respect the individuals opinion but I'd be more concern with getting the twice a year Catholics back to mass on a regular basis. If you truely want to make it a rigid format then let's go back to Latin and have women once again ware a veil. In a lot of ways I preferred the Latin over the English mass however it was a change. Again, I respect the persons opinion however worry about yourself and your reflection with Jesus Christ and less with what others are wearing. God Bless.

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