The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench


Why mass is like Disneyland

posted by jmcgee

It’s all about clothes.

Below is a vintage photograph of guests at Disneyland in the 1950s.

dressing_8.jpg
And below, from 2006.

dressing_2006.jpg
It’s not too great of a leap to compare the fashions at an amusement park to the clothes at church.  With a few scenic adjustments, both the pictures above might be set at any Catholic parish, in their respective decades.

Msgr. Charles Pope offers some other observations:

This is where our culture has gone. It is not just Church. Years ago when my family went out to eat we almost always dressed up. Maybe it wasn’t a full neck tie but at least trousers and a button down shirt. Maybe not a formal dress for mom and sis, but at least a skirt and blouse. A restaurant was considered a semi-formal outing. School was also considered a place where things like jeans and informal t-shirts were out of place. Going down town to shop meant we changed out of shorts and put on something appropriate. Shorts were basically for running around the house, playing in the yard and such. But you just didn’t go out to more public settings wearing shorts and flip flops or even sneakers.

Pardon me for sounding like and old fud but I am not really that old. My point is that culture has changed, and changed rather quickly. This has affected the Church as well. What were fighting is a strong cultural swing to the extremely informal. Most people don’t even think of dressing up for most things any more let alone Church.

He goes on to offer some very good advice on what to wear at mass.

And, since it’s almost summer, I’ll re-post this: Bulletin Announcements I’d Like to See.



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Brian

posted June 6, 2010 at 9:47 am


My home church is a small rural congregation in Middle Tennessee. When I was young, everyone dressed in their “Sunday Best”, until most of those people died. It was hard to attract new people because they were turned off by the formality. So, some of us started to dress down and we started to see more people in the pews. I still have standards and wouldn’t wear shorts and flip-flops, but one also doesn’t have to wear a suit and tie every week to be close to God.



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awashingtondccatholic

posted June 6, 2010 at 9:53 am


Deacon Greg:
I also believe that the change in formal attire to Mass is also due to the fact that the Mass has changed. There has been a watering down of the music, the homilies and even our Church structures. When all of these become “loose” or “less formal,” people take that to heart. Look at most of our new churches — they are no better than a sports arena. The music — most of it is terrible. The homilies — ramblings which tell us that if we don’t recylce, we are no better than a BP oil spill.
Yes,the outside culture has changed. But so has the inside.



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Artie

posted June 6, 2010 at 10:57 am


Yes our culture has no common sense when it comes to how to dress appropriately for different events. Modesty has essentially gone out the window. Girls in short shorts and guys wearing sporting shirts with baggy pants. Maybe at disneyland or a beach, but at Mass?
I agree with Brian to a certain degree or extent. If I was going to visit the Queen of England or even lets say the Pope. I don’t think I would be dressing up in jeans and a t-shirt. How much more important would it be to dress in appropriate attire to Mass when we receive or Lord in the Eucharist? While it has nothing to do with our relationship with God in how we dress to Mass, it has to do with respect to God.
That being said if not a suit and tie at least a collared shirt and nice slacks guys.
“Purity requires modesty which, while protecting the intimate center of the person, expresses the sensitivity of chastity. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their communion. Purity frees one from wide-spread eroticism and avoids those things which foster morbid curiosity. Purity also requires a purification of the social climate by means of a constant struggle against moral permissiveness which is founded on an erroneous concept of human freedom” (Compendium of the Catechism 530).



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AlsoDisgruntled

posted June 6, 2010 at 10:57 am


awashingtondccatholic, thank you for saying that! The Church does not realize that they are encouraging their own problem. I agree completely that parishioners should not be showing up at church in clothing that looks like you are on your way to a picnic at the beach or that you were interrupted in the middle of cleaning out your garage, but you get the respect you command. When the servers are visibly wearing what would have once been considered “play clothes” under their robes, and when the laity assisting the priest don’t bother to make themselves presentable, how can you possibly expect the congregation to get dressed up? Since Vatican II, the Church’s desire to make itself “un-stuffy” has succeeded in making itself “un-respectable.” More importantly, they have turned what was once a dignified service in an awe-inspiring building into an ego-driven amateur hootenanny in a barn emceed by clownishly pious hypocrites. The hypocrites are nothing new–Jesus raged against them when He was on earth–but they used to do a nicer job of covering it up. I don’t want to see some morbidly obese priest waddling up to the lectern to tell me about how I need to donate money to feed the starving in Africa, and I most assuredly don’t want to be stuck listening to three Guitar Hero aficionados and an American Idol wannabe caterwauling through an off-key hymn that sounds like it was written by a stoned hippie. Where is the sincerity and majesty in that? I wish I had a dollar for every time I walked out of church thinking of Bono’s infamous Grammy quote about God complaining, “Oh, don’t – please don’t thank me for that one. Please, oh, that’s an awful one! Don’t thank me for that!”
The Vatican is getting what it wants. It took all the sovereignty out of going to Mass. No wonder people dress like they’re running just another errand.



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Mike E.

posted June 6, 2010 at 12:47 pm


I don’t disagree that people shouldn’t dress like they’re at Disneyland when going to Mass. That being said, there’s a bit of a disconnect when we complain that people aren’t coming to Mass then when they do, we complain about what they wear.



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pagansister

posted June 6, 2010 at 1:32 pm


MikeE? Good point…there are complaints if no one shows up, but when they do…the clothes aren’t appropriate. What is more important…clothes or the fact that there are actually people in the pews? Might some of this have to do with the area the churches are in? Those who can’t afford much will dress in what they have…perhaps they don’t have a “Sunday best” because they are lucky to have daily clothes. Obviously not the entire reason, but possibly in some areas, a reason.



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Mere Catholic

posted June 6, 2010 at 2:08 pm


Pagansister, I have observed the opposite of what you propose for lack of a ‘Sunday best’ attire. The best dressed Catholics at Holy Mass (and the best dressed Christians of any denomination at their respective Sunday services)are often in inner city parishes with a large African-American or Latino population. When I lived in the Bronx, I was awed by the care that these parishioners- whose median income was at least half of mine- took in preparing themselves spiritually and materially for Mass. When I would at times pray the Mass in nearby and affluent Westchester County, the “Sunday least” attire predominated. For a time in my life, my mother’s income was close to the poverty line. She and I may have worn last year’s clothes to work/school but she would never have dreamt of taking me to temple (I was a Hindu then) without dressing me in finer clothes.



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Tom

posted June 6, 2010 at 2:23 pm


I know a good number of congregants who, not exceedingly wealthy, do take the time to dress up even for daily Mass. Showing up is one thing (give em stars all around!) but do so with a little dignity for Heaven’s sake. Worshiping in comfort shouldn’t be first priority in a liturgical setting, at least not if a proper understanding of the Eucharistic sacrifice is ingrained. There are plenty other hours in the week to lounge around and wear t shirts, loafers, denim, etc other than Sunday Morning. Sunday best may not be resurrected overnight, but the other extreme is all the more disturbing in my book.



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kenneth

posted June 6, 2010 at 3:25 pm


I will concede Mere Catholic’s point. As a member of the club, I will stipulate that white folks are slobs, by and large. Ever since mainline protestantism began to decline, and since we got out of the colonialism business, we figure people will just have to take us as we are. Black folks on the other hand, tend to take more pride in how they look. Even the young dudes in street culture want to look sharp, even if it’s not “formal” in the usual sense of the word. I’m sure there’s some profound answer rooted in social anthropology that can explain this, but I’m not smart enough to know it. At any rate, maybe some (white) Mass-goer can strive to turn up the amp to 11 with this trend: show up for services in a bath robe, or bath towel….



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pagansister

posted June 6, 2010 at 3:33 pm


Mere Catholic:
Thanks for giving me your observations. Guess my theory was not accurate. :o)



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Michelle

posted June 6, 2010 at 4:24 pm


To Tom —
I would just note that people on their way to work, who take time for daily Mass, will appear in what they must wear to work. In my case, that can be jeans (working in the lab) or pumps and a skirt (lecturing).
I frankly cannot get worked up about what people wear to come to Church. It’s completely cultural — what is “dressed up” in California ranch country is not the same by any stretch as what “dressed up” is in my East Coast parish. If it would not be distracting or remarkable in the grocery store (ruling out bathing suits, I should think, and implying shirt and shoes), it should not raise eyebrows at Mass either. The key question might be “who are you dressing up for?” The woman who will raise her eyebrows if you have on jeans, or God? I do not wear my Sunday best to go to prayer at the monastery, or to the daily Office or to daily Mass. What do I bring to God? I think of the traditional penitential psalm – 51 What sacrifice do I desire, asks God in Psalm 51? Not holocausts (or fine robes?) but a humbled, contrite heart. Our inward stance ought to be humility, so perhaps our outward dress should reflect that — particularly in this culture that is so caught up in fashion.



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Awashingtondccatholic

posted June 6, 2010 at 5:15 pm


Now, let me just add one more thing. I was not talking about people who sometimes come to Mass just after work or will go to work after heading to Mass. There have been times that I just got out of working at the supermarket or some other job and I just made it to Mass. Or, i need to get to work right after Mass and am not in the best of dress. To those folks who do what they can to get to Mass before or after work, they deserve a pass.
And, yes, I have always been amazed at the African American community when they go to Church. They are always dressed very well and respectful.



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james

posted June 6, 2010 at 6:24 pm


Looks like those in the 06 photo are quite a bit heavier than in the 55 photo. Just an observation.



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Paul Snatchko

posted June 6, 2010 at 6:42 pm


I’d like to pose a question:
Is this the best time to be worrying about what people are wearing to Mass?
After all the horrible headlines about the Church in 2010, should we perhaps just feel blessed that the Spirit keeps drawing the Faithful back Sunday after Sunday?
For me, this hasn’t been an easy year to be a Catholic. With each bad headline about the abuse crisis, I’ve had to defend my faith against friend who are hostile to the Church.
So, I don’t know if now is the right time to be judging those around us in the pews.



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Aquamarine

posted June 6, 2010 at 7:53 pm


The Latino parishioners in the various churches I’ve attended over the years (and I grew up in Jackson Hts., so it’s hardly like I’m a stranger to predominantly Latino parishes) may wear dressier clothing to Mass, but they often look more like they’re heading to a nightclub rather than to Church. From very early ages on, the girls are often squeezed into hootchie-mama outfits, usually two or three sizes too small, with flesh splooging out the the top, the sleeveless arm openings, and the skin tight micro minis. Dressing “up” doesn’t necessarily equate to dressed appropriately.
I’d rather see a woman in a pair of nicely tailored non-denim crop pants, a basic tee, a cardigan and a pair of flats or sandals than I would some thirteen year old girl in a too-tight, too-short, too-bare, too-many-shades-of-inappropriate cocktail outfit with gobs of pudgy flesh oozing out everywhere.
In these days of office casual, a pair of chinos and a clean polo shirt or button down is appropriate for a normal Sunday Mass or church service for men, while a dressier-casual outfit such as tailored pants or a simple cotton skirt with an appropriate top should be fine for women.



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Your Name

posted June 6, 2010 at 8:31 pm


hellland, yesterday and today



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Michelle

posted June 6, 2010 at 10:00 pm


I completely agree with Aquamarine. I’m a Protestant Christian and my church is mixed in the way the congregation dresses, not to mention that most of us are college students and I am one of them. I do, however, think wearing shorts and flip-flops, unless the flip-flops are somewhat dressy, is just….out of place. As long as someone is dressed modestly and worshipping the Lord, what’s the problem, really? “Clothes don’t make the man,” after all.
God Bless you,
Michelle



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carrie

posted June 6, 2010 at 10:48 pm


Lets put it this way….what would you wear if your family was invited to a nice lunch at the White House????? We forget that we are invited to our Lord’s Supper and we should dress nice out of utter respect for our Lord.



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Gerard Nadal

posted June 7, 2010 at 5:38 am


As a professor, I strictly enforce the wearing of lab coats in biology lab. Further, the lab coats must be clean and pressed. I was much more “relaxed” about this sixteen years ago. However, when I began enforcing the rule, I noticed a marked change in the approach and attitude of the students.
If, as Michelle states, “The clothes don’t make the man”, then why do people “Dress for success”?
I think that we hold ourselves very differently depending on how we dress, and grant solemnity to occasions by how we dress. In an added wrinkle to this discussion, I’ve noted for almost 20 years now the new trend of dressing down for a wedding ceremony or full Mass, and then people going home to dress up for the reception. The party garners more dignity than the solemnity of the exchange of vows.
That’s disturbing. So is the dramatic rise in divorces in this same time frame. How we dress for wedding ceremonies says something about how we regard the institution of marriage, and the role played by God and the Church.
Taking it even one step further, for about ten years now I have also noted how people no longer come into church and maintain a prayerful, respectful silence in the moments before Mass. Most parishes hum with conversation, many loudly, right up to the opening note of the entrance hymn. So, I’m not certain that I agree with the sentiment that says we should be grateful for any attendance at all.
Reverence across the board has taken a dive. Dress is a decent indicator.



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C.

posted June 7, 2010 at 8:29 am


We have to admit the obvious: our culture’s standard of dress is utterly immoral and for Catholics to submit to that standard — whether at Mass, at Disneyland, on the street, or even at the beach — is a sin.
It is a worse sin at Mass, because it distracts the attention of Christians from Christ present on the altar – in other words, it provokes the outrageous sin of Eucharistic indifference. Furthermore, like all public sinning at Mass, it is both disunitive and particularly scandalous.
Why can’t we use this word, *sin*? Why does everything have to be explained in secular and worldly terms? And we wonder why, after years of listening to homilies on how to behave well, still nobody goes to Confession.



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Daniel

posted June 7, 2010 at 8:52 am


No mantillas. In the 1950s, Catholic ladies and their daughters would be wearing mantillas. That’s a significant difference, not simply as a fashion statement, but as a reminder that we’re in a sacred place. In our contemporay Post-Vatican II enlightenment, we show no recognition of the sacred space of the church. It’s too bad you can’t have sound in these pictures. The chit-chat and distracted behavior going on at that line at Disney would give us all warm and fuzzy reminders of what goes on during Mass in our more fully evolved state.



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Regina Faighes

posted June 7, 2010 at 9:59 am


I agree with Carrie!



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Fred

posted June 7, 2010 at 10:40 am


I too am an advocate for appropriate Church-wear, but simplistic analysis, like, ” Lets put it this way….what would you wear if your family was invited to a nice lunch at the White House?????”
Tell me, are you going to the White House for a lunch, but staying for a State dinner? If you show up to the wrong event in your tuxedo and tails you’ll look like an idiot. Just as if you wore your elegant Ball gown from the State dinner to Tuesday morning Mass at 8:00 a.m. It’s not just about where you are going, or the Real Presence. You are attending a public event within a social context. The Church leaves decisions about appropriate attire up to adults to decide, although – obviously – immodest dress should bring correction. But, please, too casual or too formal attire – although interesting from a sociological perspective – is not worth all the argument.



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Michele

posted June 7, 2010 at 11:10 am


Sorry Deacon, I disagree with you on this one. As long as there are no bathing suits in Church I’m fine with whatever people wear. I’m happy they are there.
When I led a group of high school students to see Pope JPII at World Youth Day in Paris, France, in August 1997, we all had on tank tops and shorts as the Pope went by and during the Mass led by the Pope. I didn’t hear one word about our casual dress code at that event, and 11 young people were baptized by the Pope during Mass.It was broadcasted all over the entire planet!
This week, we had the closing Year of the Priest celebration at my parish and invited all the local priests of our Deanery, active and retired (we don’t have deacons) and during the silent exposition of the Eucharist, a visiting priest’s cell phone went off. Not a big deal. People are there to worship the Lord God, not worry about who is checking out their clothing. For heaven’s sake, if you can’t focus on God and have to focus on the clothes of the people near you, then God is not enough of a distraction for YOU. “remove the plank in your own eye” and all. Just sayin’.



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Aquamarine

posted June 7, 2010 at 12:51 pm


I have to agree with Fred to some degree, especially after reading through some of the comments on Msgr. Pope’s blog also claiming we should dress for Mass/church services as if we were going to a gala or special event (someone even brought up the Academy Awards).
One can err on the end of the continuum, too. Dressing in a manner that is ostentatious or is meant to draw attention to oneself is as bad as underdressing, IMO. There are situational norms, and the level of elegance required for a gala is not called for at Sunday Mass or other normal religious services.
I was re-reading Gaudy Night this weekend and there’s a lovely passage regarding dress when Peter returns from Rome and asks Harriet out for punt along the river. Bemoaning the shocking state of dress, or lack thereof, the students sport, Harriet dresses appropriately in neutral colored linen skirt and blouse. She encounters her friend who comments, tongue-in-cheek, “You are making yourself conspicuous. That kind of thing is not done. You are clothed, clean and cool. On a Sunday afternoon, too…”.
That was 1936, so this tug-of-war between the generations over appropriate attire for all kinds of situations is nothing new. Also, “clothed, clean and cool” is pretty good advice. You don’t have to show up in clothing you would wear to a formal gala, but you shouldn’t show up looking like you’re headed to the beach.



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Michelle

posted June 7, 2010 at 5:52 pm


Fred said it best. In general this conversation is not about respect for God, it’s about respect for social norms. Which may not be a bad thing, but I’m certain can’t tell who is holier by how they are dressed…not. at. all. And clearly, from the New Testament stories, it’s a long standing problem (both the what to wear, and should you care debates).



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plavo

posted June 7, 2010 at 8:48 pm


we americans are a bunch of spoiled teen-agers–spoiled by our forebears who grew up in the pre-vatican II church and abandoned it with abandon; I worhsip in a parish that sings the entire mass in english, is prayerful, receives under both species, and stays till the end of Mass–the vernacular is the best thing that ever happened, and we are very reverent, thank you!



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Don

posted June 7, 2010 at 11:53 pm


Point #1: The four ladies in the first picture are the Lennon Sisters, a singing family frequently seen on the Lawrencw Welk T-V Show. They are not your average tourists. That said, however, it seems that the influences that encourage people to dress in common street attire for mass has more to do with their concept of Who God is to them rather than social norms. If you see Jesus as Lord of All, King of Kings, He Who Will Come to judge each of us, I think you would have a little more respect. If you see Jesus as your buddy, friend, or best pal, then you will dress accordingly. In other words, if your worship is in a verticle direction (to God who reigns over all), you act and dress in a certain way. If, however, you see God as Jesus during His time on earth (“Let the little children come to Me”,… “Come down, Zaccheus, we party at your house tonight”), then you act – and dress – another way.



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Deacon Necessary

posted June 8, 2010 at 12:01 am


If one dresses modestly, and is clean in appearance, what’s the big deal? I would think the important thing to Jesus is not how you are dressed, but that you are there.



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Don

posted June 8, 2010 at 12:07 am


Oops, I meant vertical direction as opposed to horizontal concept of worship(where we all are “One cup of blessing which we bless”???).



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Gerard Nadal

posted June 8, 2010 at 9:57 am


Don,
If you look at the people in the background by the Tobacco Store Indian, you’ll notice that they are similarly attired.



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Regina Faighes

posted June 9, 2010 at 2:59 pm


When we are deciding what to wear to Sunday Mass, it probably would be a good idea to apply similar standards as we do during the week, when we are deciding what to wear to work or to school. Many workplaces allow employees to wear so-called “business casual” attire. This certainly would be appropriate for church.



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fr. john shedlock

posted June 10, 2010 at 12:19 pm


When I read the caption to this article, I assumed it was referring to the Liturgy of the Mass rather than the clothing worn. Nevertheless, I will stay with my first reflection, that is, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist has become a “Disneyland” experience in this respect: Notice the “parade” of announcements after Holy Communion; implying that most parishioners do not read the church bulletin. Bad move! The spiritual focus is not on “reception of annoumcements”, but the reception of Christ’s sacred body and blood. It’s unfortunate that pastors have conceeded to “media ads, i.e. announcements after Holy Communion” rather than allowing sacred silence to be experienced.



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Trad, and proud

posted June 15, 2010 at 12:13 am


Solution to all above problems….The Latin Rite..Live it.



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Also proud to be Trad

posted October 8, 2010 at 7:42 pm


Yay for you Trad and Proud. I agree!



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