Dress up, not down for Sunday Mass, even in summertime

| Father Michael Van Sloun For The Catholic Spirit | June 22, 2011 | 7 Comments

Entrance sign at Basilica of Trans­fig­u­ration at Mount Tabor in Israel. Photo by Father Michael Van Sloun

Every year, this sensitive summer subject crops up: What to wear for church.

We Minnesotans spend much of the winter bundled up in jackets, sweaters, hats and gloves, and we relish the day when warmer weather lets us peel off all those layers. But how much is too much? What is appropriate dress for church?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that when it comes to the celebration of the Eucharist, “Bodily demeanor (gestures, clothing) ought to convey the respect, solemnity and joy of this mo­ment when Christ becomes our guest” (No. 1387). Clothing ought to reflect re­spect and solemnity.

When it comes to church clothing, it is time to “dress up,” not “dress down.”

When I served St. Benedict the African Catholic Church on the South Side of Chicago, it was customary among African-American Catholics there to wear one’s “Sunday-go-to-meeting-clothes,” a slogan for the best clothes in one’s closet. When people came to Mass, they looked sharp.

In the Holy Land and Rome, there are signs at many sacred sites and security guards that refuse admittance to those who are dressed inappropriately.

Consider how you may dress if you were invited to meet the president at the White House or attend a formal dinner.

Doesn’t a visit to meet Jesus and attend his great banquet, the Euch­a­rist, rank higher? Shouldn’t how we dress reflect this? The Lord deserves our Sunday best.

Father Michael Van Sloun is pastor of St. Stephen in Anoka.


Category: The Lesson Plan

  • Humbander

    I agree completely! Last Sunday I saw a pair of young girls walk into church in extremely short shorts. It is common to see tank tops and shorts, low cut tops, flip flops, cut off sweat pants- things you might wear around the house or at the park. The church is God’s house! If you knew you’d see him face to face there, would you dress differently?

    • Kaylynn

      Unfortunately girls when they dress up usually have no idea or concept that it should still be modest. My brother says that guys put on more clothes when they dress up but girls take them off. It is unfortunate to see the way young girls dress. Most definately know better or their parents do anyway….I wish that we heard more on what is acceptable and what is not. Even if the priest feel uncomfortable speaking about it, there are some really good women speakers that could be invited to their churches to go over that kind of information.

  • MSwan

    Just to create coversation – what about those who say “come as you are”? Especially when it comes to youth isn’t it better they are there in sandals rather than not at all?

  • Keran003

    @M Swan..Come as you are refers to where you are at spiritually, it has nothing to do with how you dress. It drives me CRAZY to see people of all ages walking up to recieve Christ in the Eucharist dressed as if they were taking out the trash. We are going to see our saviour, the least we can do is dress like it. Alot of times, how we feel on the inside is indicated by how we dress on the outside. Why bother going to mass if you can’t be bothered to dress as if it’s a special occasion?

  • Mswansn

    I totally understand the position of dressing appropriately for Mass and understand what  everyone is saying. I’ve actually had great conversations with my Priest about this same topic as it is one I enjoy talking about. I do wonder though how important it really is to God. Does he care if I wear shorts? I don’t think my wearing shorts is any reflection of where I am spiritually or how I feel. It merely reflects that is summer outside.  I’m not saying you should wear sweat pants or pj’s but nice shorts and sandals just aren’t a big deal in my eyes. God knows my heart, my mind and soul – its only the people in the pews next to me that seem to be concerned with my outward appearance.

    • Mtushaus

      What you wear expresses your attitude.  The Eucharist and the Mass are a big deal
      so we need to dress like it’s a big deal.  Shorts and sandals do not express giving honor and respect to God, Who is a big deal. Like you said, shorts and sandals are not a big deal.  They are not what a person would wear to the greatest wedding that ever was and is.  It is good to go all out for this Big Deal.

  • Citygirltc612

    I agree with what the Church is saying and think they have the authority to speak to this subject but it doesn’t help us when we allow negative thoughts to enter our minds. We can control only ourselves and our families and pray that others will come to understand why they should dress up. In my opinion those who may not look the way we think they should may be the ones who need to be there the most.

    I think we should all think about this passage from the book “The Lambs Supper – The Mass as Heaven on Earth” by Scott Hahn -because all it can do is help each one of us grow. Personally I have returned to it often because I believe these points are valid and thought it would be appropriate to pass along.

    “…Even if our victory is assured, the fighting itself won’t necessarily be easy, and this is especially true at Mass. Knowing the power of grace, the devil will most forcefully assault us, says one ancient teacher, “at the time of the great feasts and during the Divine Liturgy-especially when we are intending to receive Holy Communion.”

    What is our particular combat during Mass? Maybe its warding off contempt for the parishioner whose perfume is too strong. Maybe it’s holding back our judgement for the parishioner who’s skipping out early. Maybe it’s turning the other way when we begin to wonder how low that neckline really goes. Maybe it’s fighting off smugness when we hear  a homily ridiculed with grammatical errors or smiling in an understanding way at the mom with the screaming baby.

    Those are the tough battles. Maybe they’re not as romanitc as sabers clashing in a faraway desert, or marching through tear gas to protect injustice. But because they’re so perfectly hidden, so interior, they require greater heroism. No one but God and His angels will notice that you withheld judement against the fmaily that was underdressed. No one but God and His angels will notice that you didn’t mentally critique Father’s homily this week. So you don’t get a medal; you win a battle instead.”