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5 things to say to people who wear the wrong things to mass

Starting with this gif because I find it both kind of funny and kind of inapprops....and I think that that kind of sums up where we're about to go with this here post.
Starting with this gif because I find it both kind of funny and kind of inapprops….and I think that that kind of sums up where we’re about to go with this here post.

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!!

"Did you SEE what that green-headed girl wore today? I saw her in the communion line. SHOCK.ING."
“Did you SEE what that green-headed girl wore today? I saw her in the communion line. SHOCK.ING.”

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:

  1. “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.
  2. “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.
  3. “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.
  4. “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.
  5. “Nice weather we’re having, isn’t it?”
    Because, if nothing else, talk about the weather. (It has been pretty nice lately).
  6. *Smile*

    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.

Here's some Pope with some pizza--but for no real reason.
Here’s some Pope with some pizza–but for no real reason.

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.

Please. 🙂

Keep it real.
A goodly inappropriate gif, just to come full-circle. Keep it rill.

33 thoughts on “5 things to say to people who wear the wrong things to mass

  1. PREACH. I agree with this so much. Especially when overly-modest things are forced upon the baby childrens. When I was 9 or 10 I used to have a lot of dresses that had little short leggings to go underneath, comfy cute and my mom got them from a Swedish company. Looked along the lines of this:
    Well people complained when I wore them to daily mass. I was 10. I have yet to understand why this was distracting, it’s like saying a Phineas and Ferb character is sexy. (Although some of my guy friends who were altar boys at the time later said they were distracted by the cuteness.)

    For real though, we should be glad people come as they are. They came after all.

    1. I think that that’s another thing that makes me frustrated. Like, sure, modestly is important and it has it’s place, but when people start joining the “Let’s-critize-clothes-at-mass” party, there’s really no stopping it. Little-girl leggings under a little-girl dress? Please. Please.

  2. I love how you write and what you say here. I read that same article, I think, and also found it annoying. It had the attitude I’m always trying to rip out of my own heart, that everyone else is doing it wrong. This is the perfect antidote.

  3. Truth be told, I clicked on this article prepared to suggest that the only thing you need to say to “those inappropriately dressed for church” is, “hello! It is wonderful to see you here today!” I am glad I don’t have to.

  4. This post is great. We worry about people not wanting to come to mass or be a part of the Church. Well, why would anyone want to come if they feel lost and judged? A smile can say more than a thousand words, and so can a hurtful look. Let’s all just be thankful that God brought us together.

  5. I was coming here to see about some thoughtful, constructive ways to encourage people to dress appropriately, and all I get is a few lines about being nice to ppl. Really? Lamesauce!

  6. The church also welcomes the homeless, those in uniform, those who are sick, maybe even drunk, ..the dregs of society. They need to come. Practice custody of the eyes.

    1. So, a few days after I wrote this I went camping. And the temps unexpectedly dropped into the 50’s, and all I had were my summer clothes. And, one of those days, I received big, challenging news. And I thought to myself, “I NEED to do to church.” So, I found a church, and I went in and I prayed. And I thought a bit about how inappropriate I looked. I seriously looked like death warmed over because: camping. And I was in short-ish shorts and my hair was a mess and I had baggy eyes and everything. But, I mean, I needed God and I know I did. And I’m thankful that I could enter as I did.

  7. Hi, I just read your article, and I really really like what you have to say! I wondered what kind of advice one could give about telling others to dress more appropriately for church. Then I liked the “surprise” of how you turned that around! Yes, some of us might show up just in the nick of time, hair a bit tousled, a bit groggy, but as you so wonderfully put it (referring to the little boy who came to church alone), ” And yet, there he was, every day (mostly): sitting there, alone, praying the prayers.” And that’s what’s important! I have to believe that’s what’s most absolutely important to God. His children come to worship Him in His home. Maybe “the kids” are a few minutes late, but they came! They were there with hearts trying to be in the right place, and they keep trying. What parent doesn’t love that part the most? Just to have our kids come home because they chose to and that has everything to do with love. I don’t know that God really sees the clothes, anyway, just that His children are home.

  8. Thank you! I totally agree with what you have written here. Yes, strapless sundresses and short shorts can be distracting. So can the person in the next pew snoring through the homily. Or the mom breastfeeding (which I totally support), without a shawl or nursing cover. The list can go on….forever. I think the important thing is to be there, fully present with the Lord. I think that is what makes Him happy.

  9. I just found your post via reddit and I have to say – you are my favorite person of the day!

    I love every word of this post. You win the Catholic internet!

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  11. I love this! I’m a new catholic. One of my favorite things to do is watch people go up for communion. (I know, I should be praying, but…) I love seeing each one receive this special grace and saying yes to the love God has to offer. Especially at daily mass where you will see suits and scrubs and all sorts of attire. It never even occurred to me to pay attention to attire until I started reading more catholic blogs and it unfortunately took away from the beauty of seeing so much diversity in the communion line. I started to feel like maybe people were judging me because I wore pants or didn’t veil or didn’t receive on the tongue, or, or, you get the idea.

    I think the quote, “Be kind for everyone is fighting a great battle” is appropriate. I just wish we could just love each other and recognize that it is a great struggle for many, many people to even step foot inside of a church. That while they are there, they have a heightened awareness of anything that even hints at lack of charity or judgement. That it may have taken months of them talking themselves out of going to mass to finally arrive on that particular day. I think charity and kindness could go a long way. I just don’t understand what people get out of by being so harsh.

    One last note, as far as the modesty thing goes. Maybe we should take to heart the verse that speaks of how God says we are wonderfully made. Our bodies are beautiful! They were molded by God himself! Yes, we are sexual beings, but we are so much more. Learning how to train your eyes and mind is a very beneficial thing to learn in regards to chastity. Otherwise, we go into the dangerous territory of blaming and shaming other people for our own choices and thoughts. And if you take that to the extreme can lead to horrible consequences for everyone.

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and for taking the time to share so much of your journey and thoughts.
      Also–welcome! Welcome to the church. I’m so glad you’re here…I love being Catholic, too!
      Much love and many blessings for where you are and where you’re going. Buen camino! <3

    2. “….Otherwise, we go into the dangerous territory of blaming and shaming other people for our own choices and thoughts. And if you take that to the extreme can lead to horrible consequences for everyone….”
      Actually yes, you are guilty by the sin of commission when you act against modesty and lead others astray. God help us if anyone dares to feeled “judged” by their behavior. Is it any wonder we have come to this point in history where sodomites are now allowed to “marry” each other? Now that is a horrible consequence. Bottom line: its the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, you’re at the foot of Calvary again, act and dress like it. If people’s feeling get hurt, too bad. And stop coming to Mass late.

      1. Thanks for stopping by–methinks maybe you mean “omission” instead of “commission.” 😉 Anyway, I hope you can give the original post a read, too.

  12. Reading this post made me think of a quote by the wonderful Saint Therese of Lisieux: (My favorite saint and confirmation name:) “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest things right, and doing all for love.”
    I try to make Jesus smile everyday by making others smile. I’ve seen how a simple ‘Hello’ and a smile can brighten someone’s day and put a spring in their step.
    <3 Erica Dawn
    P.S. Nell, you seem like a really neat person. Keep blogging my sister in Faith!!!

  13. I haven’t read that yet. I may have to order it. He was Therese’ spiritual brother/Seminarian. Check out Volume 1 and 2 of Letters of Saint Therese. It’s interesting. I also recommend Saint Therese Her Last conversations. It is a faith building read. She gives me courage to face my Kidney Disease (I’m in stage 4 kidney failure) and Cerebral Palsy. Oh well, Jesus will take care of me!!! HIS LOVE SUSTAINS ME!!!!

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