The Importance of Dressing for the Occasion: What to Wear to Mass
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Dave Snelly points out that people have become more casual when dressing for mass. Jeans and t-shirts replace what had been the Sunday best – dresses, formal outfits, and suits complete with ties and nice shoes. Still, we learn, he makes it a point to put on a suit jacket, so he can show respect for the Mass while also teaching his grandson that Mass is special.
If you are stuck in a pinch when travelling or in an emergency, of course it is understandable if you make it to Mass without scrupulosity regarding your clothes. In such situations, the priority is to attend Mass, even if you forgot your church clothes. God will understand, and no one should judge what others wear to Mass, but it’s important to put your best effort forward when you are able (which is normally the case).
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Note that it is called celebrating the Mass, not just sitting through the Mass. Casual clothes aren’t fitting for such a celebration.
Fr. Justin Paskert understands that people question why dressing for Mass is important because they say God already knows our hearts. This is true, so why is dressing up so important then? Isn’t it what’s on the inside that counts?
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As Catholics, we believe in the Incarnation, so allowing the spiritual to be manifested into the physical is what makes dressing for Mass so meaningful. Father Paskert states:
Mass is holy, it’s the sacrifice of our Savior for us. Saints and angels are with you at Mass, surrounding the Eucharist. It’s a break from the stress of the world, an opportunity to refocus yourself on Christ for the rest of the week, and a heavenly partaking in communion. The significance of Mass is endless, so your intentional dress at Mass is a statement to yourself and to others that this is not just any other activity… this is important.
Children know by their special clothes that Mass is a unique time and will follow their parents’ example for how to act in Mass. It’s not every day that a five year old puts on a polo shirt and nice shoes. Why not begin showing them how extraordinary Mass is from head to toe (freshly combed hair and dress shoes)?
Also, others will see the respect of parishioners and understand that this isn’t just a casual occurrence. Mass is to be treated honorably, and the external expression of our spiritual faith is evangelical; it teaches; it spreads to Good News of Christ to ourselves, our families, friends, and others who witness our efforts of neatness and attention to detail.
Dressing up for Mass isn’t a fashion competition, as if the better you dress, the holier you are. Rather, it’s a way for each person to dress differently than their ordinary attire for school, for football games or for lazy Sunday afternoons. Because Mass is not ordinary; it’s extraordinary.
“You’re not going there not just to sit there for an hour quietly,” explains Trevor Stefanski in the video. “You’re going there to learn, to grow spiritually, to come into the real presence of Jesus.” As this video illustrates, preparing for Mass is more than getting in the car mindlessly and finding a pew. From the moment you start getting dressed in your finest, you are preparing your hearts for communion with your Savior, which calls for your utmost reverence.
Tips for What Not to Wear to Mass:
1. Flip-flops and beachwear – Keep these items for fun in the sun, not worshiping the Son.
2. T-shirts and jeans – Great for hanging out with friends, but keep it classy when you are in the presence of God.
3. Revealing or too tight shirts, skirts, and pants – Dress in a way that allows others to keep their focus on the beauty of God, not on your body.
4. Sweatpants, yoga pants, pajama pants, and gym shorts – Our culture loves to be comfy, but Mass is not for lounging. We suggest saving these items for when you return home.
So, What can you wear to Mass?
Ladies -for wonderful tips on keeping your outfits modest, yet stylish, we suggest these websites:
If these clothes are priced more than you would like to spend, study the styles and head to your local thrift store to see what you can find.
Men – you will look great in suits, button down or polo shirts, nice pants, and “dress” shoes.
We would love to see your favorite, modest ideas for what to wear to Mass. Share a picture with us in the comments!