Column: Liturgy consultant tackles contentious topic of Mass attire

Michael Podrebarac is the archdiocesan consultant for the liturgy office.
Michael Podrebarac is the archdiocesan consultant for the liturgy office.

I have put off writing this column for long enough


by Michael Podrebarac

It’s a no-win subject, for there are lots of decent arguments offered from various sides:

“When at Mass, we are to be at our very best . . .”

“But Jesus accepts us just as we are . . .”

“You wouldn’t dress like that if you were going to visit the Queen of England . . .”

“Just be thankful they are at Mass . . .”

And, indeed, all four arguments are good ones in response to the never-ending controversy of how folks should dress when they to go mass.

It is an important issue in our day. And I am supposed to be the liturgical consultant for the archdiocese. And there has to be some answer we all can at least respect.

And so, using the four example arguments given above, here goes.

1. We should all be very grateful when we see other people at Mass. Even the most positive survey results indicate that only one-third of Catholics in the United States attend Mass every Sunday. However they are dressed, they are in fact present, and this should make us thankful for the “communion of the Holy Spirit” we share with them. Right?

2. Surely, few would dress as casually to meet the Queen of England as many do when attending Mass, where we are actually not only meeting, but sharing a living encounter with, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Correct?

3. Jesus loves us unconditionally, accepting us wherever we are. But the remarkable think about Jesus is that he never wishes to leave us where he first found us, but asks us to draw more deeply from both him and ourselves. Mothers also love their children unconditionally. But would we ever presume to neglect the respect we owe them simply because they will always love us?

4. If we truly understand what the Mass is, we know that it demands our very best. One’s best is, by nature and circumstance, a rather individual thing and should be discerned by each of us, thoughtfully, conscientiously, and prayerfully. Sloppy or suggestive is certainly not our best. But neither is angry or self-righteous. Agreed?

So, when it comes to how we dress for mass, none of us should ever wish to cause our neighbor to stumble. None of us needs any additional distractions. None of us should despise another’s presence. None of us can outdo the honor of receiving Jesus in the Eucharist. None of us will ever be good enough. None of us should ever stop trying to do our very best. None of us can honestly claim to both love God and despise neighbor. None of us should ever lower our standards . . . or lose our patience.

 

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