It was an inspiring television spot. The organization Catholics Come Home has put together a number of “evangomercials,” short videos reminding people of the nature and identity of the Catholic Church, of the content and impact of the Catholic Faith, and the indispensable benefits of attending Mass. (click here to see Catholics Come Home evangomercials) The first one I looked at made me go to their webpage to review some of the others. I liked them all well enough, but one scene from the first one stuck with me; it made me wonder.
It was a brief clip of a family being greeted by a priest, who was vested for Mass. The dad was reaching out to shake Father’s hand, and was wearing a shirt and tie.
Yeah, and? You might say; what happened next? But that was it. He was wearing a long-sleeve shirt and a tie. At first, I chuckled. Nobody wears a tie to Mass anymore, I thought. Well, okay, there are a few I can think of, but still.
I’ve grown accustomed to this. Compared to our Alabama Protestant neighbors, my family was not big on dressing up when I was a kid, for church or anything else. We did have “church clothes” that were nicer than what we wore any other day of the week (including to school), and my dad usually wore a tie, as I recall. That was a long time ago; society, and clothes, have changed.
Nowadays, I go to church all the time, and for Mass I almost always wear my cassock. But for Sunday Mass and Holy Days, I dress up. My Chaplain’s cassock (the one with the purple buttons and piping) and good shoes, a crisp white shirt often with French cuffs. Fancy, right? Is it to show how important I am, or how sophisticated? No. It is because Sunday Mass is the most important part of my week and “upping my game” in wardrobe both shows others and reminds me what a really big deal Sunday Mass truly is. Christmas and Easter, weddings and other personal celebrations are opportunities for me not to slack off in my preparation but to show how important they are to me and the Church.
This is my own wardrobe “vocabulary” and as such only one part of how I communicate the significance of the sacred actions of the Church in which I am privileged to participate with and for you. I do not dress any better or “fancier” for the Archbishop, the President, or the Pope than I do for Our Lord and for you when you come to Sunday Mass.
So that’s what I do, and it’s no skin off your nose. Not everybody – hardly anybody even – thinks that way anymore, and I understand that and have grown comfortable with it. But then I saw that“evangomercial” with that family and that guy wearing that tie. And it made me think.
You, we are all so busy; we all have so many activities and obligations and opportunities and things we have to do that it often does make our head truly spin. Especially for families with little kids and the unpredictabilities of family life to manage, simply getting everybody into the church is a triumph, and you know I rejoice with you in that. The Church – and this parish church – place no obligations whatsoever on you about how you present yourself before the Holy Altar of God; well, maybe we do ask that you avoid anything too revealing or lewd, or with actual vulgar words or images printed on it. That’s a pretty low bar though.
What if you raised the bar a bit on yourself? What if you wore a tie and sport coat to Mass every week, and a suit on big holidays? What if you polished your Sunday shoes on Saturday evenings? Women’s wardrobes have morphed to the point that I cannot even guess what the equivalent would be. But what if your kids saw the effort you put into preparing yourself for Mass? What if the neighbors saw you leaving the house dressed like that? What if people saw you in the bakery or the grocery store afterwards still in your church clothes?
But most of all, what difference would it make to you if you “upped your game” in wardrobe and grooming for Sunday Mass? What if you prepared yourself externally to a higher standard? Would it affect how you were disposed internally ? Would you get more out of Mass if you put more into it?
There’s only one way to find out what happens next. Excuse me while I go polish my shoes.