As the culture changes and transforms, so too does the level of importance placed on certain mores and standards. Sometimes, cultural changes are improvements. But other times, customs are best left untouched.
Father Scott Pogatchnik joined Glen Lewerenz on Morning Air to discuss the growing concern around the standards for proper attire at Mass and in churches.
Father Scott began by explaining that as the culture has changed, less and less significance has been placed on the familial structure, the value of parents, and the value of attending Mass or Church and religion in general. When those things fall to the wayside, obedience, humility, and modesty also fall. So, there is clear cause and effect that forms the basis for some people’s lack of etiquette at Mass with regards to their dress.
Glen recalled the days when you would go to a baseball game, one of the least formal events by today’s standards, and you would see men dressed in sportscoats and suits and ties. The culture was so different from the way it is today, and while it’s not a bad thing that baseball games have been deformalized, it’s a bad thing that that “deformalization” has trickled into religious practice.
Father Scott clarified by saying that the emphasis on attire at Mass is not the end all be all issue at hand, but rather a symptom of other areas in which this generation may be lacking. By dressing inappropriately at Mass, one could be indicating that:
- They don’t have respect for Our Lord or the sacraments.
- They don’t realize the importance of what they are witnessing.
- They don’t care about distracting those around them (possibly in a sinful way).
- They are prioritizing comfort over reverence and piety.
- They have some activity following or proceeding Mass that takes priority when it comes to attire.
“A lot of this is about protecting the purity of the heart, and really ordering our desires to God and to the proper dignity of men and women,” said Father Scott. “And so, yes, I do think we’re certainly seeing this increase in culture.”
Mothers and fathers are feeling the pressure from the culture, other parents, family members, and friends to allow this type of behavior and dress, specifically at Mass. The challenge for pastors these days is to address this topic in a pastoral and tactful way while also being direct and making it clear that this is not an unimportant issue.
Glen mentioned that part of that conversation might be pointing out that the Mass is not just another thing that you’re attending. It’s not an obstacle in the way of the rest of your life. The transubstantiation is the most important moment you’ll ever get to witness, and you can be a part of it every Sunday, and every weekday if you so choose. So in choosing to attend Mass and choosing to witness the sacrifice of Our Lord so that we may have eternal life, we should also choose to dress fittingly.
Pope John Paul II said in reference to modesty and purity that when a person physically exposes too much of themselves, they aren’t showing too much of their person, but rather too little. Inappropriate dress purports a message of shallow immaturity and a lack of dignity, innocence, and beauty of who a person may actually be.
Father Scott said that this emphasis on appropriate attire is not some campaign to whisk the body away and hide it for its ugliness and potential for sin. Rather, the body is a beautiful gift from God that serves as a temple for His life within us. Therefore, we should treat it with respect and orient it for His glory. We are called to be proper stewards of this gift so that it ultimately leads to holiness of life.
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