Respect for Our Lord – Dress and Behaviour in the Church

How we dress, the choices we make regarding our individual pieces of attire, and the manner in which we carry ourselves, says a great deal concerning the respect we have (or lack thereof) for the Blessed Presence of our Lord in the Tabernacle — the Body of Christ. What you wear and how you behave in Church, before, during and after Mass, says a lot to others who might be visiting the church for the first time. They may walk away at the end of the service with the wrong impression.

When we enter into the nave (the seating area) of the church, do we have an awe of reverence? Or are we looking around to see who has shown up yet?

Are we seeking opportunities to be a witness for Christ for guests? Or are our actions turning guests away from the Church?

Are we chatting with others and even at a volume that is disturbing others who are trying to pray? The nave is not a place to be chit chatting or talking about our plans for the weekend. If you wish to talk to others, do so outside or in the narthex (lobby). If you must talk for some reason, please consider whispering instead. Laughing out loud can also be very distracting to parishioners who are trying to pray.

The Bible tells us that God’s house is a house of prayer.

I will bring them into my holy mount, and will make them joyful in my house of prayer: their holocausts [burnt offerings], and their victims [offerings] shall please me upon my altar: for my house shall be called the house of prayer, for all nations. (Isaiah 56:7)

And he saith to them: It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves. (Matthew 21:13)

Does our attire say that we are visiting the house of our King Jesus Christ? If you are going to an important interview, would you wear a baseball cap, ripped and faded jeans, and a t-shirt? What kind of respect are we showing our Lord when we show up for Mass wearing these same types of attire?

Unless there is a medical emergency, don’t bring food or drinks inside the church. Unless you’re a baby, I’m quite sure you don’t need a bottle.

It is fitting that He Whose abode has been established in peace should be worshipped in peace and with due reverence. Churches, then, should be entered humbly and devoutly; behaviour inside should be calm, pleasing to God, bringing peace to the beholders, a source not only of instruction but of mental refreshment. Those who assemble in church should extol with an act of special reverence that Name which is above every Name, than which no other under Heaven has been given to people, in which believers must be saved, the Name, that is, of Jesus Christ, Who will save His people from their sins. Each should fulfil in himself that which is written for all, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow; whenever that glorious Name is recalled, especially during the sacred Mysteries of the Mass, everyone should bow the knees of his heart, which he can do even by a bow of his head. In churches the sacred solemnities should possess the whole heart and mind; the whole attention should be given to prayer. (Second Council of Lyons, A.D. 1274)

This doesn’t mean that everyone is required to wear a suit, tie or dress — as if there was a strict dress code. But for the love of all that is holy, at least wear your best and try to make sure it’s respectable enough for our Lord.

While there is no strict “dress code,” per se, there are some types of clothing you would want to avoid. Some of these include: shorts, spaghetti straps, sleeveless shirts or sleeveless blouses, dresses above the knee (when standing and sitting), dirty clothes, ripped jeans, tank tops, tight clothing, t-shirts with large decals or advertising.

Men should not wear hats at all. However, it is highly respectable and commendable for women to wear a veil (mantilla), although most American women no longer practice this tradition. (See 1 Corinthians 11:3–16)

If we are called to serve as a reader or other responsible role during the Mass, we need to remind ourselves as to where we are — in the presence of Christ Jesus. As such, we should be on our best behavior and wearing our best clothes. We don’t need to look as if we just returned from participating in a tennis match or digging a ditch.

Sometimes we might see some parishioners dress up quite nicely when the bishop visits, yet when he is not present, it’s back to the old blue jeans and t-shirts routine. What happened? Wouldn’t we want to dress up for Christ as well, with or without the bishop present? Should God receive less respect than any human being visiting our church?

Please remember that Christ is present in the tabernacle. Knowing that our Lord is with us, let’s begin to show the respect that He deserves.

God bless you,
Fr Charles

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