This was kind of inspired by a post I saw on the good ol’ FB. The post was like, “Ways to improve your etiquette at mass–you’ve probably never heard of these!!11!!”
Now, I don’t know that I’m really a click-bait-y type of girl, but I am kind of interested in improving my life, and I agree that there are probably etiquette formalities to which I’m oblivious. So, I clicked.
Meh. It was like, “Hey, wear modest clothes to church!” and “Hey, I’m tired of stupid music ministers who play stupid songs that I don’t like, STOP THAT, MUSIC MINISTERS,” and a bunch of other stuff that seemed more whine-y than anything else.
And then I just got on my internets ready to whine some more, I guess! Hahahahaha.
I find that this time of year my FB feed is flooded with articles about people who dress inappropriately for mass–these articles will talk about these people who show up for mass in shorts (eep!! Saints preserve us from kneecaps!) or maybe in a sundress, or maybe even in (*gasp*) a strapless sundress. And some people even wear bathing suits under their clothes. Indeed!!
So, here are five things I’ve thought of that you could say to “those people.” “Those people” being the ones who wear things you find inappropriate for mass:
- “Good morning!”
Also acceptable would be “Good evening” or “Good afternoon.” Pro-tip! You can switch out the greeting depending on the time of day.
- “Thanks for joining us for worship today.”
Because sometimes we read that one verse in the Bible about how we’re all one body. And, I happen to feel it’s a good thing when we get together to worship. A necessary thing, even. Community is essential to our faith experience. Gathering together is something excellent that we get to experience. All of us, broken and stupid and weak, gathering to pray.
- “Man, it’s good to see you!”
You know what I think is kind of serious? There are a lot of people who grew up going to church and knowing church-y things and maybe even being taught their prayers. But, one day, they walked out of a church and they haven’t been back. Like, a lot of people.
Now, think about their hearts. Think about the times they’ve had hard, hard things happen to them and they don’t know about the adoration chapels like maybe you do. Think about the days they’re struggled through, without the grace of the sacraments or the prayers of the faithful or any other number of graces available through a church.
Now, think about us…the community. We all have gifts and talents, yes…even those who aren’t in our churches right now. They have words to speak that will teach and inspire us. They have artistic flair and accounting knowledge and any number of things where, without them, we are experiencing a poverty. Without them we have a hole in our church.
Probably that person with the too-short shorts has valuable, beautiful things to share with us all. Thanks be to God.
- “Welcome. Welcome to our church.”
Maybe it’s been a while since they’ve been here. Maybe they don’t know all the times to stand and sit and, even, what to wear. Maybe this has been a really, really tough year and they’re giving this church-thing a try. Please, please extend welcome and love and kindness, always kindness.
- “Nice weather we’re having, isn’t it?”
Because, if nothing else, talk about the weather. (It has been pretty nice lately).
This is a bonus one. It doesn’t require words, in case you don’t feel like talking. St. Therese was all about this: “A word or a smile is often enough to put fresh life in a despondent soul.”
That’s just a beginning. I’m sure there are better words and kinder phrases. I’m just a church-goer with a charcoal-y heart doing my gosh-darn best.
I know what some people might be thinking.
“But it’s so disrespectful!”
I know. I know it is. It’s stupid-disrespectful.
Do you want to know what else is disrespsectful? Me. I show up late for mass more days than I show up on time. I bound into my pew, do a fast-paced Sign of the Cross, close my eyes and positively beg God for His grace, day after day.
Do you want to know what else is disrespectful? Me. I love going to mass. I really do. I try to go every day. And yet, my mind wanders. I daydream through the Eucharistic Prayer sometimes. I hear the first snatch of the Gospel and my mind goes, “Oh, I’ve heard this already, why don’t I think about all of the other things I need to do today?” My Catholic-game is so far from being desireable.
Do you want to know what else is disrespectful? Me. I’ve been receiving the Eucharist for almost a quarter of a century now. I still don’t think I’m prepared for this. There’s no way I am. The priest read I Corithains 13 at church today. Love may never be rude or self-serving or doubtful, but I am. And I recieved the Lord anyway. I’m kind of a jerk.
What I’m saying is: maybe most of us can be a disrespectful crew to our Father, Lord and Maker most of the time.
“But it will distract the men!”
(Or, alternatively, the teens or the women or the seniors or the seminiarians or the babies or, yeah, anyone).
Yeah. It might. That sucks, I know.
The other day, in Walgreens, there was a girl ahead of me in line wearing a romper. And her shorts got stuck in her behind, and so there was suddenly a lot of butt all over the place. It was, honestly, distracting.
But, I’ve also been to a few Catholic churches in my day. Catholic churches aren’t your general Walgreens (and thanks, God, for that). We have Stations of the Cross and the tabernacle and usually a gigantic crucifix. And, if you’re really lucky, there are statues of the saints and stained glass windows and maybe even little books that have Bible passages in them. There are a lot of other things to distract a person. There are a lot of other places to turn ones’ eyes and hearts and mind. Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh buildin’ virtue!!
God deserves better!
He does. I know He does. He deserves the best, best, best we have to offer.
And yet, he picked a stable, didn’t he? And shepherds. They probably didn’t dess very well, honestly. And then he had people like St. John the Baptist who wore camel skin and St. Joan of Arc who wore PANTS and St. Francis of Assisi who stripped naked in public and what not. And, you know, God still found a way to be glorified and proclaimed through those people.
Maybe this isn’t the best closure, but it’s where my mind goes when the church starts pointing fingers at those who aren’t fit to be seen at mass. I used to ride my bike to mass in the summers, during college, in the morning. I would roll out of bed and pull on shorts and ride to mass–hair askew and eyes still sticky from sleep. (Lalalala, this is also, honestly, what has happened the past few days, too).
Per my normal por form, I’d probably show up a few minutes late, cross a hasty sign across my body, slide into a pew.
Most days, in the mornings, a few minutes after me, the door across from me would open, too (the church is in the round). And there was a boy, probably seven or eight years old, who lived a few houses from the church. Judging from his askew-hair and morning-eyes, his morning routine probably closely resembled mine. And yet, there he was, every day (mostly): sitting there, alone, praying the prayers.
We both of us were probably ill-prepared and underdressed and overtired and any number of things that are wrong and inappropriate.
But, really, what we heard from God was this: “Hey! Hey, my beloved children! Welcome and let me pour unbelieveable amounts of grace and love upon you.”
And that’s what has kept me coming back again and again and again and again and again and again and again.
Yeah, I’ve heard a few modesty talks in my day and I get it and I’m on board and what not.
But they don’t really measure up to times I’ve heard that God loves me and loves me and loves me–that knowledge is what keeps me, holds me, guides me.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is: yes. You’re right. Modesty at mass totally has it’s place. But so does the love of God. And let’s not forget about love, let’s let love and welcome and care be the priority here.