Dress Code

When I first walked into the local Slovak Catholic Church, the priest in the vestibule pulled me aside. He said next time it would be appreciated if I wore modest attire, and pointed to a sign forbidding shorts among other things.

Shorts. Casual dress shorts.

I was quite put-off. At first I thought maybe it was a Slovak thing. Now I go there every chance I get, and I love the place for making me think twice about how I dress on Sunday. And that same priest has become my favorite confessor.

If every parishioner in America were admonished as this Bishop has done, what would happen? There would be outcries of authoritarianism and accusations of throwbacks to pre-Vatican II norms. Having grown up free and unshackled by such prurient minutiae, has my generation benefitted? Has our reverence for the Eucharist diminished because we grew up thinking of Mass as a casual event? Did our parents' respect for authority diminish because of such manifold restrictions? The answer to all the above seems to be 'Yes'.

We have benefitted from not being bogged down by minutiae because it allows us to value these instructions for the virtues they instill rather than the fear/loathing they induced in our parents. Our reverence has certainly diminished, but we are now free to encounter the Real Presence without the obscurity of rote praxis. Sadly, our parents lost respect for the Pope and the Real Presence, but we can bring them back to both through our new lenses of faith.

The laws, the restrictions, the various limitations on our freedom are useful gifts from Mother Church that assist our becoming what we were called to be at Baptism: holy. Holiness has only ever been found in those who conform themselves entirely to Christ, who is still a Prophet and King as much as he is a carpenter's son. Holiness increases through cultivation of virtue, through denial of self, listening to authority, and chastisement.

If this offends us, we have only come up against the prevailing culture's effect on us. Begin the process of shedding, not your shorts-- but the pride that says you shouldn't have to mind what you wear. Begin the process of purification. Bend your will, bend your knee, rend your heart and not your garments.

1 comment:

~Joseph the Worker said...

That was a really good post. I actually had my local priest admonish me at least twice since I have been Catholic (only for about 4 months). First, he told me to only genuflect on my right knee and second, he sat me down and instructed me on the Bishops instructions for sitting, kneeling, and standing during the mass. He would probably be considered a right down the middle moderate priest, and I think many people might be insulted by that, but I was so happy that someone would correct me. I think that's wonderful.

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