About a month ago my son made his First Confession. I had him wear a dress shirt, a tie and khakis. I even made him tuck his shirt in. I explained to him that God’s forgiveness is free to us at any time and in any condition, but as it was his first one, I would like us to treat it as a special occasion. Clean, new clothes to reflect our clean soul afterward. I even dressed “up” for the day.
We were a rarity. Lots of kids in t-shirts and jeans. Parents in sports jerseys and sweat pants. Different strokes, right?!
A few weeks ago, our Director of Faith Formation had a parent meeting for all parents of children who will be receiving their First Holy Communion in the weeks after Easter. This included all the parents from our parish school who had a child receiving the sacrament at our parish and the Faith Formation parents. I ended up sick that day but she briefed me afterward and told me that the main questions were about what the children were allowed to wear. She asked me if I had any questions regarding that or anything else. My answer: Joseph is getting a brand new suit.
I was curious as to what the parents might have thought was acceptable. Sleeveless dresses? Jacket optional? It doesn’t really matter. Just like Confession, when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, it is our desire to receive Him that matters, but we should receive it respectfully.
I can be a judgy as the next person. I truly can. And it’s for this reason that I spend a lot of my prayer time after receiving the Eucharist with my eyes closed.
I realize that attire during Mass is a hot-button issue for a lot of people. And there are a lot of different issues that could be addressed: veiling, skirt length, women in pants, men in ties, shorts etc. I really and truly try to ignore most of it. Modesty, I believe, is a state of mind as much as a way of dressing. Personally I don’t wear nor allow my children to wear any clothes with words of them nor pictures of animals or characters, but the lady with the two toddlers who sits near us during Mass always wears skirts with patterns of animals or cute scenes. They’ve caught my eye a couple of times before Mass and before I let myself think more about them, I refocus on the massive Crucifix and the man hanging from it.
It is a real shame that people sometimes come to Mass not dressed in honor of what they are about to receive. But honestly, that’s not my concern. And nor should it be yours. At our previous parish there was a couple from Nigeria. They came to Mass each week in their brightest, best robes and dashikis, they stood out, but it’s exactly how they would have come to Mass in Nigeria, in their best. And how do I know that someone else’s best isn’t jeans and a t-shirt. Because honestly I don’t.
The reason we should all be at Mass is hanging from the Crucifix and found in the Tabernacle. When we allow ourselves to be distracted by the elderly woman talking behind us, the baby wailing or the person who receives Him in cut-offs…we’ve lost the entire point. We’ve abandoned our reason for being there altogether. As a lay person, I am there because of God’s grace and no other reason. And when I judge the state another’s soul by the clothes on their person, I’m no longer in a state where I can licitly receive the Eucharist.
Distractions happen. We’re all human. But when they begin to distract us completely from our Lord and Savior and His sacrifice and the miracle in our presence? Let’s think about that, a person’s clothing or hair or the fact that we can see her hair has taken precedence over the greatest love we can ever experience? This is something we need to understand fully and to appreciate the gravity of. It would be awesome if no one ever dressed and/or behaved in a way that even for the briefest of moments took our eyes off of His, but then the Devil wouldn’t exist at all would he? The real victory is when we actively turn our eyes away from the evil one’s distractions and refocus them on Him who is “I am.”
So, with that in mind, let’s try to pay attention, as fully as possible on what has brought us to this place and in that spirit, thank Him for bringing all of us together at His table to receive His greatest gift.