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Have we lost reverence in Church these Days? How can we recover it?

July 17, 2013 170 Comments

071713In the first reading this morning at Mass there was the familiar story of Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush on Mount Horeb. Approaching the Theophany, and thus the presence of God Moses received the following instruction:

Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your father,” he continued, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. (Ex 3:4-5)

 And here we see an ancient form of reverence. It is interesting that, to my knowledge, Jews no longer use this sign of reverence. But Muslims still do. I remember being outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and seeing hundred of pairs of shoes lined up on the patio outside. A Muslim would not think to enter the Mosque without first removing his shoes.

The Jews however are very strict in insisting that men, Jewish or not should not go before the Western Wall or pray with heads uncovered, and there are men nearby, at the Wall who enforce the rule strictly and provide carboard-like yarmulkes for men who did not bring one or some other head covering.

Here in America, the thought of taking off ones shoes or being in Church without shoes would be thought of as highly irreverent! And for a man to go into a Church without removing his hat is often scolded by an usher. It would also seem that the Gentile world had this norm since St Paul, though himself a Jew, wrote Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head…A man ought not to cover his head, (1 Cor 11:4,7). He further indicates in the same place that a woman ought to cover her head.

And thus we see that culture has influence on signs of reverence and, while there have been different forms of it here and there, some equivalent of “Remove the sandals from your feet…” has been observed. Until now.

Until now?  Yes, it would seem that there is really no observable and/or agreed upon way in our modern American culture that we “take off our sandals” and show some sort of reverence and acknowledgemnt that we are on holy ground, when we come before the Lord in our parish churches.

It is not just that women have shed veils (sadly I would opine – more on that HERE and HERE). But beyond that, almost no one dresses in any special way for Church these days. “Extreme casual” would seem to be the norm of the day, to look in most parishes. Most people don’t even think to change their clothes for church, there is a “go as you are” mentality. Further, other signs of entering the Church such as sacred silence, and genuflecting are increasingly absent.

It was not always this way. Even in my own short life I remember when going to Mass on Sunday was a formal affair, at least before 1970. As a young boy and teenager I had special Sunday shoes, hard black ones, and would not dream of going to church in jeans or a t-shirt. We were expected to wear pressed trousers, a button down shirt and tie, along with a jacket in the cooler months. The ladies all wore dresses and veils. (See picture of a youth Mass from 1968 above right). Church was a special place, Mass was a sacred occasion. On entering Church we were expected to maintain a sacred silence, and, upon entering, to bless ourselves with Holy Water and genuflect on entering our pew. Silent prayer was expected of one prior to Mass.

These were ways we “removed our sandals” and acknowledged we were on holy ground and before the Presence of the Lord.

Today this seems all but gone. A few “old folks” keep the traditions, and, interestingly, some younger twenty-somes as well! But for the vast majority of Catholics today, at least here in America, there is little visible or tangible equivalent of removing the sandals from our feet.

I will not even argue that ALL the old traditions should return, (even though I would like that). But at least we ought to recover SOME way of signifiying that we are on holy ground and before the presence of the Holy One of Israel, the Lord of glory.

I am aware that I will get some who say all this “stuffiness” will “turn people off.” But of course Mass isn’t just about pleasing people, it is about adoring the Lord who is worthy of our praise and our reverence. I am also aware that some will take the critique I offer here further than I personally think we need to go.

All that is fine. Where exactly to reset the line is debatable, but the bottom line seems to be that there ought to be some culturally appropriate that we fulfill the admonition of God to “Remove your sandals for the ground on which you stand is holy, I am the God of your fathers.”

How say you? Perhaps we can together start a trend (old) trend.

Video: Mass in the 1940s, as artistically remembered. It is a wedding Mass, albeit, but people usually dressed close to this way on Sundays too (perhaps minus the corsages 😉 ), according to old pictures:

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  1. Dolorosa says:

    The Latin Tridentine Mass was taken away from my family in the 1960’s. It was such a departure from the mass we attended that my Mother left the church and so did her children. By the grace of God, we found out in 1998 that some priests were still saying the Latin Mass and that’s all we attend today. The women and girls wear veils or hats and we have a dress code. It is not like the Novus Ordo.

  2. Jennifer Fitz says:

    That’s the one thing I really admire about the custom of chapel veils (in contrast to both nothing or hat-as-part-of-outfit): that clear delineation between inside church and outside. A specific action, and men removing their hats as the counterpart, that defines the line around the sacred space.

    Realizing that everyone isn’t ready for a major fashion change . . . Silence in the church would be a great first step. And perhaps a few norms about modesty to go with — not formality, necessarily, just modesty for a start.

    • Repent and Believe the Gospel ! says:

      I think people dress casual because they don’t believe in the real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
      I’ve seen newspaper and hand sanitizer left on the little table next to the unconsecrated bread and wine before the Mass.

      Is this liturgical abuse?

      I hate seeing that, I feel sorry for Jesus he has to put up with us.

      • Fr. Frank Jindra says:

        As a priest who embarassingly suffers from allergies that are hard to distinguish by others from a cold, I place hand sanitizer on the “little table” for the comfort of thought of my parishioners as I prepare to distribute Holy Communion. However… newspaper…? Really? How tragic, I agree.

      • Heidi Keene says:

        It is not liturgical abuse unless it were placed on a holy surface (the altar). However, the liturgical architecture, and art is designed to convey to our senses that we are no longer on earth in the mass but in heaven. To have a bottle of hand sanitizer visible does hinder us from fully “lifting our hearts up to the Lord” – forgetting everything temporal and entering into sacred space and time.
        To Fr. Frank I would say God bless you for giving your life as a gift to God and in service to us all. Perhaps consider keeping sanitizing wipes nearby so that a vertical bottle that reminds us of our culture of consumption isnt a vehicle for satan to disrupt those faithful who are attempting to enter into the mystagogy of the mass.

    • Raine says:

      Yes, modesty would be a great place to start. Its unbelievable the way some girls/women dress in church, especially in the NO. I can live with pants – but not women with short, short skirts and sleeveless tops with cleavage spilling out up reading the Epistle – or even worse, distributing Holy Communion. Our poor Lord must be so offended by this.

  3. Robertlifelongcatholic says:

    We’ve lost reverence in society as a whole. I think Jesus had the right idea when he drove the money changers from the temple. It gets to the point where reverence has to be demanded.

    • Repent and Believe the Gospel ! says:

      We must evangelize with beauty. People dress up for graduations and weddings because they see them as important events. People must see that coming to Mass is the most important event of their lives, for this is a place where they will receive the Body and Blood of Christ – the Holy Eucharist.

      Now I will leave you with a clue to solve the mess that we are in. In a few months you will understand this riddle.

      A riddle, a riddle, now riddle me this…

      How can wisdom be a tree?
      And how can a tree transmit wisdom?
      And how can wisdom bring forth the fruit of everlasting life?

      For “wisdom is a Tree of Life” – Proverbs 3:18

      “He will search out the hidden meanings of proverbs, and will be conversant in the secrets of parables.” – Ecclesiasticus 39:3

      • Heidi Keene says:

        How can wisdom be a tree?

        God chose the folly of mankind (the tree) to show forth His wisdom 1 Cor: 1:18 af

        How can a tree transmit wisdom?

        From its fruit (the Eucharist is the fruit of the tree of Life and in Christ crucified that tree also became Wisdom of God) Prov. 3:18, 1 Cor:1: 16 af

        How can wisdom bring forth the fruit of everlasting life?

        Because “it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe….we preach Christ Crucified” and from Christ Crucified comes the fruit of everlasting life (jn 6:50 af)

        Man’s “folly” was attempting to “take” the wisdom of God from the tree. Illustrating the folly of men, Genesis tells us that there was a tree of life in the garden. Wouldn’t it have been wiser to eat of the fruit of that tree first? So by the folly of man, God will show forth His greatness by turning that folly into the Wisdom of God and effecting our redemption through the very mechanism of our fall. Now there is only one tree for us to eat from and its fruit is supplied super abundantly at every Holy Mass. Blessed be the Glory and Wisdom of Our God!

  4. Joel says:

    Interesting post. I suppose I’m a bit guilty. While I dress up for Sunday Mass, for weekday Mass I’m often in my exercise outfit, because I usually go after Mass to a workout routine prescribed by my cardiologist. The 15 minutes or so I save by not having to change at the gym is actually important.

    BUT… I’m usually in prayer anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes before Mass and for 5-10 after Mass.

    As for chapel veils, I like them. But I’d settle for others — especially on Sunday — just praying in silence instead of catching up on all the neighborhood gossip before Mass.

    • I think if we can aim for Sunday. Weekday masses are kind of like “workers Masses” and they either go to work or come from there and we can certainly understand that dress may vary for that reason. People are catching a weekday Mass sort of on the fly, and we keep it short for that reason.

      • Gerry says:

        I do the same as well. At Masses I attend during the week, I usually have to go to work afterwards, so I, at least, dress in my nicest work clothes.

    • Raine says:

      Yes silence would be SO NICE. I don’t why people can’t respect that precious time before Mass when you need to be preparing your heart and mind for the coming sacrifice! Is it appropriate to ask people to be quiet in the sanctuary?

  5. John says:

    In olden times (such as in the old testament), people are perhaps less educated and their relationship with God may be more rule-based or fear-based. That’s why the 10 commandments were necessary plus many other rules, rather than just one grand golden rule. Nowadays people focuses on the golden rule and less on the other ones. The relationship with God is becoming closer because it is more heart/spirit based rather than rule based. As the relationship matures, it can become more and more cosy, maybe even too comfortable. We see this happen in human relationships all the time, such as between lovers (from dating to married), or between parents-children when the children grows up from baby to adults. Perhaps this is why people don’t think twice about attire to mass, because it is almost like a weekly family gathering to see your “old man” and you want to be comfy and not dressed stiffly. I do see your point though Msgr, that God is our Lord, and we ought to show Him reverence at all times. Having said that, God focus less on appearances and more on the heart. So if it is less reference in dressing but more reference in heart, that is better than the other way around like the Pharisees who showed more emphasis on looks/formalities than substance/true love.

    • John says:

      I think what I am trying to say is: appearance is secondary to love; but when there is true love, it would be good to pay some attention to appearances too (like loving couples dressing up to go on a weekly date).

    • A few questions for you:

      Why do you oppose “rules” and love?
      Why do you describe people “in olden times” a fearful, immature, non “heart based” etc. What is your evidence for this?
      Do you think that texts like the Song of Songs and the Book of Psalms display the kind of “immature” fearful and non heart based understanding you describe?
      Finally, you seem to propose that we moderns by contrast are spiritually more “mature.” What is your evidence for this?

      • John says:

        When one is young, one need more rules to know proper behavior. Do this, don’t do that…etc. When one is older, we have accepted a certain code of conduct so we don’t need so many explicit rules.
        You are right that the songs of songs and the Psalms were beautifully written. But these are divinely inspired to only a few prophetic individuals and may not be generalized. My thoughts are that civilization and humanity has advanced over the last few thousand years, from barbarians very very long ago to generally speaking more civilized people with better conduct. There are many many rules that Moses have prescribed to the people, including what to eat or not, how to behave… why is it they need still many explicit rules? Why did Jesus come 2000 years ago at the fullness of time and gave the most important golden rule, rather than giving the people this rule at the time of Moses? Could it be because the hearts of the mass people are too hard at olden times that they are not ready to receive the message?

        • You have not answered my questions.Try taking them one by one. And I’ll add another:
          Do you think the entire moral law (e.g. 10 Commandments) should be chucked and simply be replaced with the “Golden Rule” or is the Golden Rule a kind of summary statement and we still do need the other “rules” to specify it?

          • John says:

            My evidence is based on how many rules they needed as deemed to be necessary by God. Msgr you recently wrote that people/societies that don’t have God as the over-riding Lord would need many thousands of pages of laws/rules to try to cover everything. And God is love. People who truly love don’t really need too many rules, they just know how to behave out of love. So I am interpreting the need for more rules as an indication that there was a certain degree of insufficient love or lack of maturation in the relationship. Songs of songs and palms were exceptional and may not reflect the general masses.

          • John says:

            Yes Msgr we need both because our love of God is imperfect, so we need some ground rules of engagement with others like no murder, stealing… similar to ground rules for children like no kicking or spitting. If our love is perfect or near perfect like the saints, these rules will be completely unnecessary because those actions would be not be fanthomable.

        • Heidi keene says:

          I would suggest that being in closer relation with God would increase -not decrease- respect and reverence especially when entering into sacred space and time. Our outward postures and appearances have a grave effect on our spirituality. To think otherwise is naive. The lack of reverence in dress plays a huge part in stripping the Mass of its supernatural reality.

          • Repent and Believe the Gospel ! says:


          • John says:

            I would counter that supernatural reality does not so much depends on outward appearances of what is covering the flash than inward spirit. If it is driven because of a spirit of love, then that is good. But appearances alone is not worth much. I am curious why you think outward appearances have grave effect on spirituality. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

          • edraCruz says:

            Hey John, come on. Our faith is not an either/or but both/and. If you have an appointment with the POTUS or a company CEO or a monarch. I bet you would dress up in the most elegant way you can. The military has a gala uniform worn in special occasions. The musicians wear their tuxedoes and best night dress when performing. It goes to show that if you have the attitude out of love and respect it becomes a command for you to present yourself as best as you can. What more if you are to come in the PRESENCE of the LORD of lords and the KING of kings, of my LORD and my GOD, would you not present yourself smartly clean and elegant inside and out. We have more than the Burning Bush here present with us in the Holy Mass. Yes, if I can make myself supernatural already I will do it but not yet because I will have to endure this world yet out of love for HIM who endured for us in death. In the meantime, I will present myself to HIM in the best of my repenting inward spirit and in the best of my outward appearance. GOD Bless you John, for your name means ‘Graced by YHWH.’

          • Jennifer says:

            I know of executives in California who meet with their CEO’s in PJ’s. Jeans, a t-shirt and clean looking flip flops IS considered dressing-up here, especially with the right accessories. Wearing the kind-of clothes in the 1950’s picture from this article would seem very formal and showy, like you were trying to draw attention to yourself. This is why some people dress casually to Church. They don’t want to take the attention away from Christ. In contrast, in the Orthodox Masses I have been to, people are always dressed their best, and women typically spend a lot of time on hair and make-up. If you want a beauty pageant, then I guess you know where to go.

          • Heidi keene says:

            Because we are both matter and spirit. Our body does affect our spirit. For instance, one can combat the spiritual diseases of gluttony, sloth and uncastity by abstaining from food (fasting). The necessary corollary is that the spirit affects the flesh. For instance, excessive eating will lead to spiritual sloth, glutony and unchastity. Why do we kneel? Because the posture affects the soil and this particular posture necessarily fosters humility in the soul. The ancient Rabbis had a tradition that what Adam and Eve lost in the Garden (right relationship with God) was their Glory. The loss of glory is what made them feel naked. St. Paul often talks of “putting on Christ”- as though Christ is a garment. Strange analogy at first blush. However, when considered through Jewish lenses we see what Paul was referring to. Now consider that humans are the only animals that desire to be gloriously clothed. At the Mass, more than any other place, the “sacrament” (our dress) of our restored glory through Christ Jesus brings new significance to Sacrosanctum Concillium’s teaching on “active participation”. Pope Emeritus Benedict reflected that what we do at the mass is like what children do when they play. They practice for adulthood. At the mass we “play” – at once practicing for and really participating in what (with God’s grace) we will do for all eternity. And in eternity we will be dressed once for all in our restored and glorified immortality through Christ Jesus.

          • edraCruz says:

            Heidi, we are not animals (that is Darwinian), we are human persons created in the likeness of GOD.

          • Heidi Keene says:

            I am using the term “animal” in a biological sense, not an ontological sense. But thank you for pointing out a need to clarify.

            Define animal:

            the physical, sensual, or carnal nature of human beings; animality: the animal in every person.

          • edraCruz says:

            If you will read again your sentence you did not use the word ‘animals’ as you had defined.

          • Heidi Keene says:

            Thank you. I will clarify it as to mean “creature”. I hope that makes more sense out of it!

          • Phil Steinacker says:

            Remember the man who thought as you do and who couldn’t be bothered to put on a wedding garment appropriate to the wedding feast (imagery of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb – aka the Mass).

            The king had his hands and feet bound and he was thrown out into the darkness with the wailing and gnashing of teeth.

            It’s not about whether in your finite smallness as man you are able to see it or not. Your God has in so many ways made the link between how you dress for Him and the effect on the content of your soul.

            This is so for all of us. Some of us get this; pride in our own mastery of our lives cannot see it.

  6. alex_from_across_the_ocean says:

    You have three meetings to attend today: one with a business associate, one with a lover and one with a friend,
    yet You can only pick one set of clothes because of whatever reason You want (Your house burned down and You have 57$ at disposal after buying a sandwich).
    So, whatever You pick oughta be respectful, it should show You care for the person and You should feel natural in it.
    Oh, and remember Who is in the jury…

  7. Patricia says:

    Perhaps one way to recover some of the reverence for the holines of the Church, is to recover the reason it is holy. Greater awareness, love and reverence for the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist will help immensely here. If made to chose , I would prefer to see reference in actions, rather than appearance in dress, but I guess the real Catholic response is not either /or but both /and.

    • María says:

      Patricia, I completely agree with you that in order to show reverence for the holiness of Mass, or even just in the Church, we need to understand why it is holy in the first place.

      At least that is what I have noticed in my own experience. For many years I saw attending Mass as a special once a week event that made God happy while at the same time being more of a social gathering, time to catch up with friends and chat. During this time my standard dress was nice jeans and nice t-shirt, always focusing on my comfort. But as I have learned more about the Mass, what each part represents, what is actually going on both physically and supernaturally, and most of all the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, my attitude is that of awe and respect and love for God. Not only has my dress changed, but what I do and how I act have changed dramatically.

      I guess the key is in us relearning Who is being worshipped and praised at Mass and what everything represents. I have a long way to go, but I think I’m heading in the right direction!

      Maybe a start would be to form book study groups that explain the Mass (ex. A Biblical Walk Through the Mass by Edward Sri) or have a family movie night showing films like “The Greatest Miracle” or form a “what’s going on during mass” group that meets once a month where parts of the mass are discussed and explained with focus on the Real Presence, maybe with priests, deacons or nuns as guest speakers. And last but not least, Eucharistic Adoration! I don’t know, just some ideas :-).

      • Phil Steinacker says:

        It is both/and. Also, we should be mindful that dressing appropriately for the Wedding Feast IS action.

  8. Cynthia BC says:

    Regarding silence before Mass

    My family usually arrives about 10 minutes before Mass starts to pray quietly. At that time the choir/cantor often are rehearsing music for the hymns and/or psalm. Definitely a pet peeve of mine; those final run-throughs should have been taken care of before parishioners started arriving! And I say that as a long-time church musician myself.

  9. didymus says:

    Adam and Eve were naked before God until sin caused God to shed blood to dress them in animal skins. Our Lord was naked, save modesty, on the Cross. Reverance is evidence of the true condition of the persons’ relationship with God.

  10. Jamie R says:

    Jesus dressed in ordinary clothes and, as far as I can tell, did not require those he met to dress in specific ways. I wonder then why we conflate reverence with forms of dress? I do understand the point about dressing appropriately in Mass – but I would not go as far as to impose unecessary conditions on people.

    • Heidi keene says:

      Did Christ dress in ordinary clothes? John’s gospel tells us he wore a seamless garment. Josephus tells us only the high priest wore seemless garments and that their mothers wove these extaordinary garments because weaving such a garment requires much skill and time. So you could not just go into a store and purchase one. The preciousness of the garment is attested to by the roman soldiers casting lots for it so as to preserve it intact.
      Moreover, this particular linen garment was woven by the blessed Virgin for her son’s wedding day.
      So I would say Jesus wore his best garments to the first liturgy of the New Covenant.

    • Phil Steinacker says:


      Before Vatican II no one thought of dressing in our “Sunday best” (remember that phrase?) as an unnecessary condition imposed upon us.

  11. Romagno says:

    I believe that part of the problem lies with the priests in not setting a higher standard. Something appears to have been lost in the formation of our current generation of priests, since so many rush through the Mass and litter their homilies with irrelevancies.

    Why should somebody dress up when the priest gives a dumbed-down Jay Lenoesque monologue instead of a sermon dealing with scripture and the tenets of Catholicism? If the priest seems more intent on discussing the area’s sports teams than Saint Thomas, then the parishoners would rightly assume that nothing important is going on here. In an atttempt to become “relevant” the Church has cheapened the Holy Mass.

    Those who have commented that people who attend the Tridentine rite tend to dress up will also observe the strict adherence to the rubrics of that rite and that the priests’ sermons at such masses are heavy with theology and the Catholic doctrine. This is not to say that the Novus Ordo cannot be said in a very reverent manner – it can be and is by more than a few very good priests, but my observation is that they are in the minority.

    • Okay, but let’s not go down this path. The fact is the vast majority attend the Novus ordo and that’s not going to change. Its especially not going to change when people hear the kind of attitude you express in a comment like this. I have to shake my head and cringe when when traditional Catholics speak like this. I almost guarantees that the older form will NOT grow. Not many people feel attracted by condescension, ridicule, generalizations and the like. Not all N.O. masses are as you described them, and not all parishes or priest act this way. Further, not all Masses in the 1940 were celebrated as beautifully and reverently as the video shows. The problem is wider and more cultural than the form of the mass that is celebrated.

      • Martin says:

        Cultural is the key word here. The way people dress changes. Judging someone’s intent by what they wear is uncharitable. God told Moses, as you said, to remove his sandals. He did not say to go down and change into his best clothes.

        Conscience, I say, not thy own, but the other’s. For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience ? If I partake with thanksgiving, why am I evil spoken of, for that for which I give thanks ? – 1 Corinthians 10:29-30

        He that hath the substance of this world, and shall see his brother in need, and shall shut up his bowels from him: how doth the charity of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word, nor in tongue, but in deed, and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18

        • But how do we “remove the sandals from our feet” today? That’s the question. Please refrain from all the “you judging someone” etc because you break the rule in summoning it.

          • Martin says:

            I apologize for breaking any rules. Perhaps, ‘removing the sandals from our feet’ would be ‘removing sin from our heart’. As St. Paul said, you can have faith that can remove a mountain, but if you do not have charity, you have nothing.

          • You know its kinda funny, it dissing us for arrogance, as it seems you are doing, you come off sounding kinda arrogant. It is not wrong to ponder these sorts of questions and wonder if the culture of casual should have any limits

          • Patricia says:

            it just hit me, a clean heart , true sorrow for our sins, submission to Gods will, ie obedience to the Church, confession ? perhaps that is how we remove the sandals from our feet.

    • Also When you say “current generation of priests” what do you mean? I think it is pretty clear that the younger priests have circled back a lot to tradition.

  12. Donna L. says:

    I remember, too, in the early 70’s how we wore dresses and our special church shoes every Sunday! My family did this, I think, until about 1975, until we noticed that “nobody else had to…”

    Until 2008, my husband and I attended a Baptist church, where men wear suits and women wear dresses (maybe dress pants – but only if it’s snowy and cold). When we returned to the Catholic church after so many years away, I was struck by how GRUNGY everyone looked and I took it as a sign of disrespect and indifference. It was all I could do to not run back to the Baptist church, but then I reminded myself that I was now in the Catholic Church because that is where the Lord is – and I was there for Him.

    Sadly, as with so many things, our society has lost its way when it comes to dress. The way we dress is not just an expression of our “personality”, but an expression of the things we value. Instead, we find in our schools, work places, and other public places that dress has become merely a way to compete with one another.

  13. AA Cunningham says:

    The decline in dress is yet another fruit of poor catechesis and the enabling that many of the ordained have engaged in. It has been my experience, in my Archdiocese, that some Priests steer clear of topics that might have an adverse effect on the collection. God forbid if the truth offend anyone. The Dean of Academics at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver commented about the decline of the dress code at Mass and the rectory of the parish he is in residence at received several complaints. The loss of the sense of the sacred and profane is a tumor that must be excised.

  14. Susan says:

    Agree totally. At the NO Mass my husband and I attend, it’s so noisy and sometimes downright boisterous before Mass, it’s more like bar scene.

    • NO Mass is going to continue whether you like it or not. Back to the question: How do we “remove our sandals” today?

      • Heidi keene says:


        I totally agree with your observations. The idea that dress has no bearing on our spirituality is untenable as evidenced in throughout sacred scripture. It was the liturgical vestments of Aaron that stopped the angel of death from killing all the Hebrews (Nu:16:45 af). We are all priests offering sacrefice at the liturgy (although not all ministerial priests). In Leviticus God clearly communicates the importance of liturgical vestments. Christ himself as i stated in previous post wore the garments of the high Priest at His liturgy.
        Many people have posted replies to your blog that this failure in external reverence is the result of failures among clergy and professional catechizers. However, each of us is called to spread the gospel. As a kingdom of priests each of us should be both the exemplar of the rule and the catechiser to those may not understand fully.
        It also bears mentioning what Pope Benedict Emeritus requested : the “novus ordo” be properly called “the ordinary form” and the “tridentine mass” be properly called “the extraordinary form”. They are the same rite- both are the latin rite.

      • Susan says:

        Frequent confession. Always act the way you would like others to act before Mass (genuflect, dress modestly, pray quietly), but don’t judge them. Pray for them, and thank God that they are here. Get to know them better, so you can pray better, and help them if they need help if it is within your abilities to do so. Start a prayer group at church. Our church is rural and very small with a visiting priest only, so we actually don’t have any groups…YET.
        Now would be a good time to begin.

  15. Ruth Ann says:

    Just to answer the questions in your title, Monsignor Pope, I would say, yes, we have lost our reverence. As for remedying the situation, I believe catechesis by church leaders may help. Reintroduce the meaning of reverence. I have used the burning bush narrative for that purpose in past years. I noticed it grabbed people’s attention. Give applications about the narrative to the here and now. Let the listeners offer their ideas of how to be reverent and encourage their good ideas.

  16. Gonalo T. Palacios, Ph.D., C.U.A.,1970 says:

    Thank you, Monsignor Pope! Finally!! I am delighted to see someone younger than I (75) concerned with the loss of propriety and piety when in Church. Gonzalo T. Palacios, Ph.D., C.U.A., 1970.

  17. Joe K says:

    Patricia above touched on this a bit. I think she is right on the mark in saying that there is a loss of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. I suspect that if a priest was to take a poll among his parishioners a majority would INTELLECTUALLY know and be able to state that the Eucharist was the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. But how many of those do you think REALLY know it in their heart? I mean really, really know it deep down inside themselves. It’s this that needs to be restored.

    Here’s a novel idea on how to do that and simultaneously return some reverence to the Mass. Maybe start it with the Saturday vigil (they do it here at a parish in the UK), or the early Sunday or the late Sunday. Maybe starting out with the 1200 Sunday Mass would be excessive. Then slowly expand it to other masses…

    For the 30 minutes preceding Mass have Eucharistic Adoration on the Altar. Put 8.5″/11″ signs on a stand right in the middle of the doorway to the church that say, “Our Lord is on the altar, please enter in silence and with reverence.” Also, maybe for the first few weeks have ushers to ask people who don’t maintain silence to quietly and charitably point this out when they do talk. This will have a few effects….

    1. First and foremost the grace received from Adoration is beyond compare, it can only have good consequences.

    2. People will effectively be “forced” to enter in silence. After all, when there are people kneeling in silence it’s going to be contagious.

    3. People will have no choice but to mentally prepare themselves for Mass because they will not be able to chat and gossip with their neighbor.

    4.Those who do not KNOW IN THEIR HEARTS that the Eucharist is the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ will come to that knowledge more fully because of the example set by those that do.

    Just a thought to ponder.

    • Thomas says:

      My parish has Exposition before the principal (mass each Sunday. We say the rosary and then have a deacon lead benediction, all while Father hears confessions. It’s wonderful having this and really helps the entire parish have a greater-than-average sense of reverence.

  18. kelso says:

    Embarrass the offenders. Correct them in a sermon and then, if that fails, publicly. It is a virtue. Not to admonish the sinner when one is obliged to do so (improper dress at Mass is, as you’ve pointed out, offensive to God) is itself a sin. Remember Eli and his sons.

    • Not sure embarrassment is a good tactic.

      • Heidi keene says:

        Why dont you speak with those parishoners who arent fittingly dressed and in charity let them know their incredibly esteemed liturgical role? Perhaps all that is needed is a little clarification. If I went to a wedding and did not know I was the bride- I wouldnt be dressed like the bride. Make sense?

  19. BHG says:

    Perhaps the saddest conversation I’ve heard recently in church was this: A friend was walking in for Saturday evening vigil mass and look at another appointment person said oh are you going somewhere special after mass? The question was engender because the woman was nicely dressed because she was going to be a lector that evening. It says volumes about our priorities and the way we express ourselves in our clothes…

  20. BHG says:

    Perhaps the saddest conversation I’ve heard recently in church was this: A friend was walking in for Saturday evening vigil mass and looked at another friend and said,” oh you look so nice! are you going somewhere special after mass? “The question was engendered because the woman was nicely dressed because she was going to be a lector that evening. It says volumes about our priorities and the way we express ourselves in our clothes…and sorry for the previous typos. PleSe delete/ignore prior comment!

  21. Anne Marie says:

    I remember a couple of years ago at my parish there used to be a gentle reminder when around Memorial Day weekend or thereafter, about the need to while it is important to stay cool and confortable, it is important to dress in a reverent matter for Sunday mass worship.

    My parish this year just added the practice of telling people to shut their cell phones “off” during mass.

  22. Mike says:

    Something, perhaps, for pastors and their assistants to think about: The respect shown for the Eucharist is shown directly to Our Lord. Are our parishes using Communion-plates during Holy Communion to protect the Host? Are we following guidelines to ensure reverent reception of Holy Communion in the hand.

  23. Alberto says:

    The more secular our culture becomes, the less importance it gives to that which is true, right and lasting. This gradual erosion is evident all around us. It is also beginning to infiltrate the traditional Catholics’ relationship with God. We are in the process of becoming a nation of cynics, and God needs to get in line along with all those others that have disappointed us in one way or another.

    We cling to our Sunday worship responsibility, but with a spirit of distance and distrust. Like every other relationship in our lives… this one also needs to be in our terms. You better not impose too many conditions or expectations, or expect too much effort or change from me, or I’m out of here. Above all, my freedom to go to the game, or the beach, or Sunday brunch at my favorite restaurant directly after mass must be protected. After all, it is all about me don’t you know?

    Thank you Monsignor for bringing these subjects up for discussion. It is the essential first step that we must take if we are ever to succeed at removing the blinds off our eyes. Our culture tightens its blinding grip day by day, and we will never be set free unless we are at the very least made aware of it.

    God Bless

  24. Linda H says:

    My biggest sin is judging other’s at Mass, how they are dressed, how they run at the face to each other while other’s are trying to pray. I think of them as cafeteria Catholics. I have just gotten to the point that I truly believe God will take care of “us”, the way we dress, think etc. in his own good time. Until then I will continue to wear my veil (always have, always will), dress respectfully. I have taken to putting ear plugs into my ears when I get to Church so that I can pray without the chatter and rehearsal of the choir distracting me. Each to his own I guess.

  25. Claire L. says:

    Mass is a holy sacrificial ceremony. As for any official ceremony, like in the military or graduation, etc. we should dress, behave and act in the appropriate way.

    Someone above wrote that Jesus dressed in ordinary clothes, to which I disagree after reading in the New Testament: John 19, 23-25: “The soldiers when they had crucified Jesus divided his garments into four shares, one share for each soldier. They took up his cloak too, which was without seam, woven from top throughout, so they said to one another, better not to tear it, let us cast lots to decide whose it shall be.” Why would the soldiers want to keep Jesus’s garments if they would be of little value? And most of all Christ’s cloak was of great importance otherwise why would John bother to mention that it was without seam and woven from top throughout. Because of it’s high value the soldiers wouldn’t dare divide it but decided to “cast lots” for it.

    • Claire L. says:

      These clothes that John describes were probably the same that Jesus wore during the celebration of the Last Supper, which leads me to think that Jesus didn’t wear any ordinary clothes for an important ceremony. Seems he was dressed in a sober but quite elegant way.

      • Heidi keene says:

        I responded to a much earlier post about Christ’s garments. You may be interested. You are both correct. I just added a little bit more to what you said here.

  26. Jim says:

    In the Catholic liturgies of the East we still use this sign of reverence where the priest wears slippers nor any else made of animal skin, and the deacon and sub-deacons wear no shoes at all nor anything made of animal skin.

  27. Jacqueline says:

    What I cannot stand is when families/kids where shorts to mass. I tell my children that if they were to have an audience with the Queen of England or King of Spain, would they shorts? They say “no”. So, why would you wear them to the King of all Kings?

  28. Jim says:

    I should qualify something. I suddenly realised. When a Catholic is not standing in the sanctuary he is to wear shoes, not sandals, in order to distinguish himself from the unbelievers. I think this is the idea behind discalced kleros (nuns, priests, sisters and brothers) not being entirely shoeless. I could be mistaken.

    The old standard is that a Franciscan is to have a reviled appearance and unkempt beard but still wear shoes, as the heretics and possessed go shoeless. Shoeless protesters shouting and hollering, rallying for immoral sexual behavior and “affirming” legislation remind me of this from time to time.

  29. Craig says:

    Lead by example and with charity. Wear a suit or dress on Sunday and for the Sacraments, eg, Baptism, wedding, funeral. Give a nod, but do not enter a conversation before or after Mass if inside or especially near the sanctuary. When people comment, say with awe(!) our Lord is in the tabernacle, people are or need silence to pray to Him for their needs and adoration and thanksgiving. Show them He is there!

  30. edraCruz says:

    Catholicism is tradition. Yes, we need to return to the roots of our faith. We have forgotten that the Holy Mass is indeed a celebration and thanksgiving but also adoration and worship of the ALMIGHTY GOD who is truly present body, soul and divinity. I was literally floored when I was reprimanded by a leader/worker in the parish when I genuflected before receiving the Holy Communion and that as per Bishop we are not to do that. I cleared this up with office of the Bishop and yes it was his prohibition. To follow the diocesan rule and my Bishop, now far off the Communion, I genuflect well ahead in time for I promised myself that as long as I have the strength to kneel and genuflect I will honor GOD in my littlest ways. Communion by tongue is also discourage, I see my Parish Priest squirming when I receive the Host by tongue, so now I just receive by hand but I see to it that there is no bits left on my hand. As for Sunday best dress, we do observe that as a family. As for the silence, I am sorry to say the Parish Church do not observe that. How I wish there is a longer period of silence after the Communion. YHWH SHAMMAH.

    • Heidi Keene says:

      I think you would enjoy reading Redemptionis Sacramentum. Your choice of act of reverence before receiving our Lord is up to you- not the Bishop. To prohibit you from genuflecting is considered a “grave” abuse liturgically and the requested response to this abuse is to directly report it to the CDF.
      However, I applaud your obedience.

  31. John Zoll, Delaware OH says:

    The church building and the Church have switched places since Vatican II, and as I understand it, the Church is more as the early believers would recognize than that of the Tridentine era. For the Living Stones of the Church the building is now a gathering place for community interaction. In fact, as buildings are created for a community now the initial sanctuaries are also the communal gathering places while the more traditional space is funded, built, and then blest.

    With these ideas of a basis for discussion, the broader area of the entry space and seating areas provide a less formal space for gathering, allowing a more relaxed atmosphere and consequently, we wear clothing that is more to that situation (sometimes too little for even a community gathering; another story altogether)

    I still see the laity serving at the table wearing more formal attire at the parishes where I attend mass (I’m an ‘itinerate’ Catholic). And those who approach this table of sacrifice bow or kneel before entering into it to serve.

    Finally, those approaching the ‘holy of holies’, the tabernacle repository, more generally are formal in both attire and reverence as they enter so close to the presence of the Eucharist. Bowing becomes genuflecting, the signing with the cross, and the bowing of one’s head as if facing a Burning Bush or and Intense Light. And back to the general communal area, receiving the Eucharist from this tabernacle, all are encouraged to bow in reverence and make the sign of the cross after receiving. I mostly see at least one, but often both.

    My perspective is that we are more true to bringing our own nature before our God at mass, instead of dressing in the faux nature of spruced up clothing that doesn’t represent us. I too had hard black shoes, a shirt and bow tie forced upon me as a youth. Quite uncharacteristic of the kid I was playing with Matchbox cars in the dirt. The reverence for God remains, though, in a different manner and, I believe, in a more honest presentation than before.

  32. GaryB444 says:

    I think this is part of a larger cultural issue – people really don’t get dressed up much for anything anymore, not just in Church.

    I suffer from the same issue that others have stated. The Choir is always rehearsing right before Mass (although they are a really great choir), and there is a lot of chit-chat. You can see people scattered throughout the Church trying to pray, and it’s not fair to them.

    If I could think of one thing that would represent ‘taking off ones sandals,’ it would go with having a period of silence before Mass.

  33. Donna says:

    What I’m going to relate to you is not directly about how people dress for Mass, but it could be a starting point in helping us regain the sacred in the Church. EWTN aired a documentary about restoring the sacred within the Mass called, “Where Heaven Meets Earth – Restoring the Sacred at St. Peter’s Church” ( a Church in Omaha, Nebraska). I sent for this video, and they sent me two copies, one to keep and one to give away…well I gave the second one to my bishop. There is also a first video which you can view online called “Saint John Cantius: Restoring the Sacred.” Each parish pastor decided that they needed to “restore the sacred” in their church. They started by focusing on the Eucharist, in the way they said Mass and making sure they said and did everything the way the Church called for in the Tridentine Mass as well as the Novus Ordo Mass with attention to vestments, form,use of Latin, sacred music, and sacred art within the church building as well as the use of altar “boys”. They made more opportunity for the Sacrament of Penance, being available any time they are able (St. Peter’s priests even listen to confession during Mass as a way for “busy” people to be in the state of grace in receiving Holy Communion [and hopefully learning the importance of this] and it also allows the young to see their parents and other adults utilizing this most important Sacrament). They keep their churches open during the day so people can stop in and pray before the Blessed Sacrament….this also shows that even though one can pray at home, in the car or wherever it is not the same as praying before the Blessed Sacrament….focus on the Eucharist. They have restored devotions such as Corpus Christi processions, praying the evening prayer of the divine office with the people, etc.

    Fr. Barron in his new series, Catholicism: The New Evangelization also speaks of “beauty” as being the starting point. Beauty in the Mass, in the building of the church, in the lives of the saints, etc.

    Our senses have a lot of influence in the way we see things, react to things and in the way we are moved by these things that affect our senses. It all helps in the growth of our faith. Maybe this is the starting point. Once, at a meeting in my previous parish this topic came up and it became quite heated. We were discussing the way everyone that helps out in the liturgy should present themselves in the manner of dress which then led to how all people should dress for Mass. The consensus of a few of the people was that they didn’t want to push that button with their children, especially teen children because, “at least they were coming to church”…. The way they dress has no affect on the way they pray or the interior of their faith and subsequently their way of life. Let’s consider this then: Lex orandi, lex credendi – the law of prayer is the law of belief…..if, as in the video’s above, by the way they gave proper attention to the vestments of the Mass, making sure they were using all the vestments called for by the Church and making sure they were beautiful, and doing so increased the faith of the people and brought them back to the church, then, besides the fact that we owe God the best of ourselves anyway, our utmost reverence, there is also merit in the way we present ourselves in the Mass that will affect our faith and the faith of those around us. Since that meeting, I think a good number of these children have made a mass exit from the Church rather than remaining and growing in their faith. A few reminders in homilies and parish bulletins complete with reasons why this is important would also be helpful.

    Here is a link to one of the video’s mentioned above:

    • Suzanne Carl says:

      Donna, you are right to mention the videos from Their video On St. Peter in Omaha, “Where Heaven Meets Earth” will air again on Wednesday, July 31 at 3am & 6:30pm Eastern / 2am & 5:30pm Central.

      We belong to St. Peter now. At our last parish, a woman stopped me after Mass to say that while our son looked nice in his suit, I shouldn’t expect him to dress like that as a teenager. While we are currently having trouble keeping him in pants that fit, I can’t help but feel that the comment came from someone who had given up. I don’t wear a veil anymore, although I have on occasion, but the tradition of dressing well for Mass is something I’ve never stopped. It has to come from the parents. If the parents think dressing for the soccer game after Mass is more important, then that is how the kids are dressed. And that becomes the tradition handed down.

  34. Ellen says:

    I dress down (usually t-shirt and jeans) for daily Mass, but on Sunday I try to dress up at least a little bit. I have some skirts and nice slacks that I wear to Mass, but I haven’t worn a chapel veil in years.

    I have found that in my parish it’s the older ones who are the worse talkers before Mass. I am trying to pray but I have to contend with lots of folks who sit there and chat. It drives me crazy. But I try not to let it get to me.

  35. Christine says:

    I love the old traditions of the church. The new way of thinking is not for me.

  36. Teresa says:

    Maybe when once again we truly believe and recognize that the main focus of the mass is not us, but the Holy Trinity, about re-presenting Christ’s command to “Do this in memory of me” will we not hesitate to dress modestly and in our best (whatever your state in life affords you)…why would we want to impede another’s participation because what we’re wearing is distracting? I think the reason modest dresses and collared shirts and slacks are suggested is because they are the least distracting attire we tend to own. If we each cared enough and loved our fellow parishioners enough to want them to participate as fully in the mass as possible, then it would follow that one wouldn’t dare dress, or act in a manner so as to draw special attention to oneself. Mass should be the one place we set aside all selfishness so as to help each other out so that we can focus on what is really going on, and how what’s going on during mass deserves nothing short of our complete attention. Aren’t we interested in assisting at mass anymore in the proper way, or do we choose to allow selfishness to assist in drawing attention away from the Real Presence at mass in favor of our immodest wardrobe selections?? It’s only for an hour on Sunday…a little self-sacrifice can go a long way! In short, our outward attire is a sign of our inward truth…kind of like a priest’s black clothes and Roman collar… He is announcing his an ordained priesthood. At mass our attire should announce, “I love my Lord and fellow parishioners enough to not want to draw undue attention to myself during the sacrifice of the mass.”

  37. Ray says:

    Great article, Monsignor. This topic needs to be addressed by each pastor on a nation wide basis. To reminisce about the way it was in years gone by can at times be a heartwarming experience, but it won’t fix the problem. The leaders of the Church, both the USCCB and each pastor must speak out publicly about the problem. Catholics in the pew can close ranks and lead by our example. I see it as a much broader problem. It is not just the dress code, but our entire way of acting in the Church that has disintegrated over the last 40+ years. People now routinely carry on conversations before, during and after Mass in the Church proper. Also another aggravant is the clapping after Mass for the choir. I was taught we go to Mass to adore our God not to be acclaimed for our good voice or sharing musical talents. Anyway, thanks for addressing this, Monsignor.

  38. John says:

    I would counter that supernatural reality does not so much depends on outward appearances of what is covering the flesh than inward spirit. If it is driven because of a spirit of love, then that is good. But appearances alone is not worth much. I am curious why you think outward appearances have grave effect on spirituality. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

    • You still have not answered my questions. And now you are setting up false dichotomies

    • Heidi keene says:

      Because we are both matter and spirit. Our body does affect our spirit. For instance, one can combat the spiritual diseases of gluttony, sloth and uncastity by abstaining from food (fasting). The necessary corollary is that the spirit affects the flesh. For instance, excessive eating will lead to spiritual sloth, glutony and unchastity. Why do we kneel? Because the posture affects the soil and this particular posture necessarily fosters humility in the soul. The ancient Rabbis had a tradition that what Adam and Eve lost in the Garden (right relationship with God) was their Glory. The loss of glory is what made them feel naked. St. Paul often talks of “putting on Christ”- as though Christ is a garment. Strange analogy at first blush. However, when considered through Jewish lenses we see what Paul was referring to. Now consider that humans are the only animals that desire to be gloriously clothed. At the Mass, more than any other place, the “sacrament” (our dress) of our restored glory through Christ Jesus brings new significance to Sacrosanctum Concillium’s teaching on “active participation”. Pope Emeritus Benedict reflected that what we do at the mass is like what children do when they play. They practice for adulthood. At the mass we “play” – at once practicing for and really participating in what (with God’s grace) we will do for all eternity. And in eternity we will be dressed once for all in our restored and glorified immortality through Christ Jesus.

  39. Rosemary says:

    Sorry to be late for this. Just want to say that I notice how the Hispanics come to the Spanish Mass. These are very poor people but they are in their Sunday best! Then I look at my American parishioners most of whom are doing quite well, and, you guessed it – they look like they just rolled out of bed. Some of the girls (I think) forgot to put pants on, or may it’s just that their shorts are really short! Are their parents afraid to correct them?

  40. RichardGTC . says:

    Wow! What a ton of comments. Sorry I don’t have time to read them all. I think the one of the worst new traditions is when the guy with the guitar stands up and says, “And now before we begin Mass, will you please take a moment to turn and greet your sacred neighbor,” thereby destroying whatever sense of interior silence and reverence one may have had at that time.

  41. Cynthia BC says:

    It occurs to me that perhaps I shouldn’t have busted my 12yo as we left for Mass a couple of weekends ago for wearing flip-flops. [I made her change into “real” shoes.] No doubt she would like nothing better than to wear flip-flops through the narthex, then take them off to walk barefoot through the nave.

    I think I’d best leave the “take off your sandals” as metaphorical, particularly since my daughter is serving as a lector as Mass this Sunday.

  42. Kerstin says:

    Oh how I would love for folks to dress more appropriately at Mass!
    What one encounters so often in discussions about this issue is really a form of reverse snobbism. Folks define “dressing up” as a form of “uppity-ness.”
    I think here we see another casualty of our secular culture. The distinction of what is normal, everyday life and what is special has blurred or become non-existent. So it is no wonder we have lost the ability to distinguish of what is secular and what is sacred, and in the process through our ignorance profane what should be holy.

  43. Deacon John M. Bresnahan says:

    It is amazing what some women wear to Mass.
    I am tall and to distribute communion in our parish we stand on the sanctuary step.
    Thus when I distribute communion to a woman who has a cleavage revealing dress or blouse there is little left to the imagination.

  44. Steve B says:

    Msgr Pope you’ve brought up an almost 20 year old discussion I had with an Oblate of St. Francis De Sales on this subject. “never let the right hand know what the left hand is doing” – I learned a valuable lesson going to daily mass in Portland, Maine – the homeless looking man was the one putting the most into the collection plate and the “properly dressed” were not even putting in their 10% (closer to 1%). The clothes will not get you into Heaven your compassion and acceptance will.

    The Pharisees always dressed the nicest – I’ll take the shabbily dressed in my pew anyday. And yes sometimes they don’t smell that great.

    God Bless you Msgr Pope for getting us thinking and all the good people’s comments.

  45. Sarah in WA says:

    I would submit that if you hope people will dress appropriately and make outward signs of reverence, you must first restore a true sense of the sacred mystery of the Eucharist. I did not gain a sense of the sacred from my typical experience Mass. I gained that sense from Adoration, and later adjusted my dress and behavior at Mass to reflect the hidden reality that I had experienced.

    You are right — some of us in our 20s are embracing older sensibilities. That’s not because we were criticized, shamed, or culturally pressured into it. It’s because we encountered Jesus, and judged that the older sensibility appears to be a “more excellent way” to approach worship of Him.

  46. Linda says:

    As a 49 year old woman now who has been wearing only long skirts for 5 years, trust me.
    You feel like a lady when you wear flowy skirts to Mass, and anywhere. You feel like a girl. Pretty pretty pretty. Wear them. Give it a try. You can buy them anywhere now. Target, ebay, marshalls, etc. and i started veiling at Mass about 2years ago. I dont do it for attention. Sometimes I’d rather not and be invisible in the crowd again. But i like what someone on here said, evangelize with beauty. I like that.
    The men are respectful. The women are too. Seriously, give it a try. Girls, you wont be sorry. :)
    In this world that sexualizes everyone, do it as a rebrllion against that. Against impurity. Believe me, it is noticed.

    • Ellen says:

      Sorry. No. I wear capri pants in the summer. I wear a skirt to Mass, but I like to hike and walk and find I trip in a skirt.

      • Heidi Keene says:

        What a lovely post. You are very in tune to the connection between our postures and our soul. There is a piece in the musical “Hello Dolly” that illustrates your sentiment in a very entertaining way. It is called, “Put on your sunday clothes when you feel down and out” (ironically).
        To the ancient Hebrews you veil what is holy and the dress was considered a veil for a woman’s womb because it is holy…actually since our Savior came out of a woman’s womb it must be beyond holy!!!
        It is interesting that the same century that popularized women wearing pants was also the century when massacring the life in the womb became commonplace….

        • Linda says:

          Thanks Heidi. We are brides. For Christ. How wonderful that brides dont have to take off their veils. We can wear them to every Mass. How lovely. And, can i say it…fun.

      • Linda says:

        Ellen, yes i hear you. If i’m hiking i wear capris too. With a long enough top to cover up…er..London and France, if ya know what i mean. :) i dont wear a skirt for activity like that. Sorry if i made it sound that way.

  47. stefanie says:

    You can only teach reverence by your own personal example. You don’t need to be obnoxious about it, but simple reverent action — especially when in the Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist/Tabernacle — is essential.

    A little over a year ago, I started wearing more modest feminine clothing to Mass. Now I’ve assembled a good selection of all Church seasonal colors. From time to time, I’ll wear a nice hat (I change the hatband with a seasonal ribbon). I’ll wear a scarf about my shoulders just in case I do want to veil for prayers. The result is that my RCIA students have been gifting me with hats and scarves and gift certificates to women’s clothing stores. :)

    For our once-a-month Family RCIA class, we include Sunday Mass as part of our class time. All the students and their families are given a dress code for Mass. Our kids are the best-dressed in the assembly at that particular Mass. Kids love having clothes dedicated for a specific purpose — look how they pro0d they are of their sports and scouting uniforms. To dedicate clothes for Sunday is a good tradition to instill in the young.

    I truly think that there is a great need to re-instruct on the Real Presence. I truly wish we knelt for Holy Communion again. One of my recently-received-into-the Catholic Church students CHOSE to kneel for his First Holy Communion. Right on the marble floor of the sanctuary. He could not imagine receiving our Lord in any other way, bless him!

  48. Janet Marie says:

    I had my reversion of sorts a few years ago, and repented for my sins of not always paying attention at Mass, plus not dressing better for Mass too. It has helped that I do go to Extraordinary Form Masses more where it is more of the norm to dress better & modestly plus better behavior by all ages & both genders. I also make sure I am going to Ordinary Form Masses that have more reverence & stuff too.

    I still am not happy with the way people dress for Mass in stuff better suited for the beach, pool, bar, club, bar, sporting events, gardening, etc. I went to one Mass in a tourist area in the summer, and several of the female ministers assisting with Holy Communion were wearing short shorts, spaghetti strapped shirts and flip flops, I could not say anything as the priest was a sub that weekend and have not been back to that church since.

    Ideally we should dress in clothing either appropriate for a business casual or professional office for Holy Mass. My workplace defines those codes, and none of those codes include cleavage showing, revealing items, flip flops, tennis shoes, jeans, tees, hoodies, etc for business casual or professional dress. I would have no issue returning to my parents’ days when my mother & sister etc wore a dress & hat to every Mass, and the males wore some type of suit.

  49. Janet Marie says:

    Also, there should be signs up outside the main worship space reminding people: silence your electronic devices, lower your voices to whisper or no speaking – others may wish to pray or reflect, show respect for the Blessed Sacrament before taking your seat with a bow or genuflection and be modestly dressed.

  50. OMB says:

    Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I do actually endorse the general idea of dressing and behaving respectfully for the place and occasion, but I can’t find anywhere in the New Testament where it says, “Oh yeah, don’t forget. If you really want to please God, whatever you got used to as a kid is the only thing that’s acceptable, whether it’s how you dressed or the language you remember hearing. Whatever OTHER people got used to as kids is clearly unacceptable and they deserve your scorn. What do you think the word ‘catholic’ means, anyway? Oh wait, it means ‘all-embracing.’ Never mind. Like the song will say in a couple of thousand years, ‘Everybody welcome – come in, kneel down, and pray.'”

  51. Betty says:

    I dress as if were going out for a special dinner…which of course is the Eucharist offered at Mass
    We had to leave our usual paraish and attend another. Our former parish had hired a musician that played the piano,loudly while singing his own specfially written songs. He did not play during the homily, but all the time during the rest of the service. What bothered us the most, was that we were to sing songs all through the acceptance of communion and afterwards, No opportunity to thank God or offer thanksgiving prayers after receiving. Our present parish is great and silent..

  52. Elizabeth says:

    The links to your opinions on veils are inoperable. I, for one, would love the opportunity to read them. Thanks.

  53. It isn't a dinner or supper says:

    It is not a dinner. It is the body, blood and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you are Catholic, you are in need of some catechism.

    • Marguerite says:

      Right on! Until we get back to calling our Lord’s action on the Altar, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, instead of Eucharistic Celebration, then maybe more respect and reverence will be shown in Church. The Pastor at one of the Churches in Florida has the extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist consume the Precious Blood outside the sanctuary after Mass while the ear-deafening din is taking place. When approached, he said the church committee agreed it was okay. Did he bother asking the Lord if it was okay? So you have a problem in the pews as well as the pulpit. Needless to say, I now attend the Latin Mass on Sundays. Thank God there is one to go to.

      • Heidi Keene says:

        This is a grave abuse- the officiating priest must consume all of Our Lord’s blood that is left over after the communion. I urge you to first supply the Pastor with a copy of Redemptionis Sacramentum and if the issue is not resolved, report it to the bishop and/or CDF.
        Remember, you are a priest, not a ministerial priest, but a priest- and you play a crucial role in the church. RS, states that the faithful have a RIGHT to the liturgy as the Holy Spirit has prescribed. Fight for your rights!!!
        God bless you

    • Heidi Keene says:

      “It isnt a dinner or supper”:
      You are exactly correct to state ontologically who we are consuming in the Eucharist. However, it is a meal, a supper.

      Rev 19:9 Those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb:

      It is a banquet. feast. table. Matt 8:11 “Many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Issac, and Jacob in the kingdom of Heaven”

      • Phil Steinacker says:


        You will probably never read this because I am 6 months late in responding but for the sak of others who read I will answer comment on the exchange between you and “It isn’t a dinner or supper.”

        He is more than correct; he just didn’t go far enough. The problem is that for 45 years Catholics have been bombarded with the metaphor – and that is what it is, even in Revelation – of the Mass as a meal. NO ONE anymore preaches or speaks the Mass for what it really IS – a Sacrifice. Hence, the phrase “Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” is still used by the Church in formal documents but rarely by Her bishops and priests.

        Interesting to me is that in your response you correctly identify as ontological the description of the Mass as Sacrifice while implying that such description belongs on a shelf unused and the metaphor be substituted for it to the extent that the faithful believe that the Mass IS a meal. Because no follow-up comment that it is ALSO a Sacrifice is ever offered, the result is over 90% of Catholics believe that ontologically the Mass is a meal and that is all. While Our Lord nourishing us spiritually through the Mass – the meal – He does so through His Sacrifice. The image of a meal is for our benefit because we are unable to understand exactly how we are fed spiritually, due to the puny nature of our intellects compared to His.

        Since ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being, becoming, existence, or reality, it is easy to see we have gotten everything exactly backwards. Well, not quite. For that to be so the standard practice would have to be to mention the Mass is also a Sacrifice right after stating it is a meal FIRST. We don’t do that – the Sacrifice is NEVER mentioned anymore. The few exceptions allow me to state this as I have because they are exceptions to the norm – exceptions I rarely see, and then mostly at a Traditional Latin Mass.

        Given that the Mass ontologically IS the Sacrifice of the Priest-King Jesus Christ, should not that thought – that conception – be first and foremost in our minds? Should we not use the meal metaphor correctly to explain how we are fed spiritually by that Sacrifice? Should we not understand the Mass as a prefigurement of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb – also a metaphor for what we cannot understand (Heaven)?

        The Church needs to reverse this condition by deliberately and overtly setting aside (not removal) the “meal” metaphor and place it “at the back of the bus” so to speak. Understanding the Mass as the Holy Sacrifice of the the Mass needs to be paramount in the minds of everyday Catholics. Over time, I GUARANTEE IT, this will produce a shift in attitude by Catholics in the pews in the spiritual journey they walk. In reality, it will lead many to enter a spiritual path to holiness they never knew existed or was even remotely possible.

        The Marriage Supper of the Lamb you mention is in Revelation for a reason – it is reserved to the Eternal Salvation we seek. It IS that eternal reward, so it won’t take place until then. Our Mass prefigures that Banquet but it is NOT the actual Marriage Supper of the Lamb which, as you note, will be attended by many coming from east and west , along with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of Heaven.

        In the Kingdom of Heaven – not here, not yet.

  54. Annette Strachan says:

    Observing the fast before receiving Holy Communion is being reverential.

  55. FC says:

    I sadly agree. It pains my heart to see people walk in to church and enter the pew without even a nod to Our Lord, nevermind genuflecting, or at least a bowing of the head (for those who are physically unable)
    I think a way to get back to signs of reverence would be, teaching children @ a young age to genuflect..
    As far as dress – well, I’ve heard priests from the pulpit request proper dress, and this has been ignored , for the most part…it’s easy enough to g, and a sign of reverence and respect..Please God, we who do can revive the tradition..sounds simple enough…Why do we make it so complicated ?

  56. Susan says:

    As an Eucharistic Minister, I have seen more reverence in those coming forward to receive since the addition of the bow prior to receiving. I think this physical gesture is a reminder of the magnitude of that which we receive. It is a small step forward, but it is a step.

    • Dismas says:

      Susan, I thought only priests are Ministers of the Holy Eucharist, did you mean to say Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion? Anyway, I agree, gestures of return to that which we have lost, no matter how small, are of great magnitude.

    • Katharine says:

      If that’s the case, imagine what bringing back kneeling at the altar rail and receiving from the hands of a priest would do!

  57. Mary Sandra says:

    The lack of reverence at Mass has many causes. Probably at the top of the list is lack of knowledge of the sacrificial nature of the Mass and lack of faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. If we Catholics really believe that we are in the presence of our Lord and Savior offering Himself to His Father as He did at Calvary, how could we be so casual about our attendance at Mass? How could we be so comfortable with very casual or immodest dress? How could we fail to genuflect with reverence to our Eucharistic King present in the tabernacle. How could we greet others while we ignore Jesus? How could we prefer conversation with others in the pews than with Jesus who waits patiently for our attention? How could we not prepare well for Mass and Holy Communion? Why would we be chewing gum or greeting others on the way to receiving Jesus in Holy Communion? How could we fail to make an ardent thanksgiving after Holy Communion? Why would we prefer to watch others in the Communion line instead of having a Heart to heart conversation with Jesus? How could we be in such a hurry to leave His Presence? Why would we not want to linger awhile in sweet communion with Jesus? How could we fail to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass faithfully on Sundays and holy days and whenever else we could? How could we not spend time in Jesus’ Eucharistic Presence outside of obligatory Mass times? How could we whine and complain and offer excuses about inappropriate attire and behavior when we are guests in the house of the King of heaven and earth? How could we not know with what love , humility, praise, adoration and gratitude we should approach our Eucharistic King?

  58. Debra says:

    Oh my, YES! We have lost appropriate reverence! I am not sure how we should go about recovering it specifically. Obviously there are various cultural norms that would be reasonable. I choose to dress nicely, modestly, and I do cover my hair with hat or veil. I don’t know that we should go back to requiring hair covering, mind you, but wouldn’t it be nice to see some sort of gesture like it make a come back? Not because the Church told us to, ladies, but just to say to the Lord as we come into greet Him every Sunday, “Yes, YOU are my God!” Sadly, when I attend our regular parish instead of the TLM offered nearby, I find I am regularly served Communion by EMHC’s wearing shorts and flip flops! People, this is attire you wear to the beach! And to be quite honest, I find myself sometimes in the position of feeling better about all the blue jeans and t-shirts than some of the dresses, halter and tank tops, etc. It just should be basic common sense that if your clothes don’t even quite cover your underwear as you go through the motions of sitting, standing, and kneeling, they aren’t appropriate for Mass! In fact, I’d dare say they aren’t appropriate for public, either!

  59. Cynthia BC says:

    Today the following memory came to mind:

    Just after I graduated from college, I directed the Cherub Choir (4-year-olds thru 2nd-graders) at my Lutheran parish. One warm Sunday morning, we were lined up in the back of the nave waiting for the processional hymn, when suddenly one of my charges poke me and pointed at a woman sitting several pews from the back.

    Cherub 1: Miss Cindy! That lady ISN’T WEARING ANY CLOTHES:
    Other Cherubs: (following Cherub 1’s finger) *GASP* She’s NAKED!!!
    Me: She is NOT naked. You just can’t see the part that’s covered.
    Cherub 2: If her BACK is naked maybe the REST of her is.
    Me: NOBODY is going to come to church NAKED.
    Cherubs: (gaze at me skeptically)

    Once the hymn started, we walked forward. As we passed the pew in which the woman sat, the cherubs looked over to make sure that she was, indeed, wearing clothes.

    After the service:

    Cherub 1: She WAS wearing a dress, but it was TOO LITTLE
    Other Cherubs: She was TOO NAKED for church!

    out of the mouths of babes…

  60. Heidi Keene says:

    Actually OMB, Katho likos means “according to the whole” – according to the whole truth. The Catholic Church reveals the whole truth- biblical theology, christian anthropology, moral theology, mystical theology, angelology, demonology, soteriology, ecclesiology, pneumatology…. The “whole” truth of life and the cosmos is accessible though the Catholic Church’s teaching alone.
    To your remarks about “all-embracing” I would suggest Matt 7:18-22 :
    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father”
    In the OT, you would receive death for failing to keep holy the sabbath day. The physical death in the OT illustrates what happens to the soul when one fails to keep the law. The death sentence that God imposed was not a punishment but a sign to future generations. The obligation to give God one day of the week is to give yourself 100% on that one day. If you hold back anything, then what you hold back can cause spiritual death.
    Our spirits are called to come to mass stripped naked, like Christ on the cross- poor in spirit. But our body’s are coming to dine on the resurrected, glorified and immortalized body of Christ who’s garments were brilliant and beautiful at the transfiguration. Ours should be the same.
    There is wisdom in “Lex orandi Lex credendi”

  61. Diane says:

    When I go to mass, I see the nuns who are lecturers and Eucharistic ministers wearing pathetic looking blouses and poor fitting, homely polyester pants. Almost all the women were pants. You see the occasional skirt, but there is nothing special or elegant about it. I wonder, and I don’t mean to sound like a snob, but how do they have the audacity to get on the alter dressed like that? So when you see this, you have to wonder, “wow, if they don’t think they need to dress their feminine best to please the Lord, in his real presence on the alter during mass, why should the people in the pews dress reverently and care? It’s not about spending a fortune on clothes or being a snob, it’s about presenting our best to the Lord, our King. And for your information, I am guilty of dressing rather poorly myself. Lately, I have been thinking about wearing a skirt and heels because my conscience is beginning to bother me. Don’t I care enough about the Lord to show him my best? I’m working on it…..
    One more thing… I know this will irk a lot of people, but I don’t like seeing women on the alter, including alter girls. I think men on the alter, command more respect and usually the men I see on the alter, out dress the women and were suits or shirts and ties. Oh boy….I know this is going to irk a lot of women. And to think, I am a women myself!

    • Dismas says:

      Again, I believe priests are Ministers of the Eucharist, nuns would be Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.

    • Jennifer says:

      I agree. There are enough men but they need our encouragement. I want also an all male sanctuary. (I am a mom to young kids)

  62. Diane says:

    Excuse the typos above. It’s my clumsy fingers.

  63. Therese says:

    “Have we lost reverence in Church these days?”
    Yes, we have. Not genuflecting, immodest attire, the din of talking and laughing, small lines for Confession but long lines to receive Holy Communion, etc. Unfortunately, I could go on but reading through most posts here will reveal most of the rest of the abuses and just plain irreverence.

    “How can we recover it?”
    By promotion of the Traditional Latin Mass in all of our parishes as Benedict XVI desired with his issuance of Summorum Pontificum. The TLM is the epitome of reverence. You won’t find any of the above hijinks and shenanigans being allowed to go on. The TLM in all parishes will also positively influence the celebration of the Novus Ordo Missae by its example (view how the NO is celebrated on EWTN’s Daily Mass to see this in actual effect).

    It would be very helpful for priests to teach us from the pulpit about Catholic teachings and practices that have become lost in our current minimalist age.

    Women can give an example to others in Church by dressing modestly, yet still stylishly, and wearing a hat or chapel veil as a sign of reverence before God. Like we used to do!

  64. William says:

    To appreciate the loss of reverence at Mass, simply attend the TLM, even once.

    The most common abuses I observe at the OF include:
    – immodest dress
    – arrivals after the start of Mass (even sometimes after the 2nd reading)
    – irreverent chatter (some of it gossip) before Mass
    – lectors trying to draw attention to themselves
    – the commonplace use of EMHCs (extraordinary is in the name for a reason)
    – sloppy, uncaring dress among the EMHCs
    – horde of EMHCs (8 EMHCs with fewer than 150 in the pews; 15 at a Mass with about 600 in pews)
    – people leaving their pews to exchange the sign of peace
    – noisy commotion during sign of peace
    – not merely immodest but scandalous dress on some receiving

    I could go on, but I am sure we’ve all had similar experiences.

    I find that there is rarely anything said by priests in their homilies about these issues, but there should be.

    This is the holy sacrifice of the Mass, not a picnic. We attend Mass to worship God. If we are irreverent, then we are in the wrong place altogether.

    • OK, but real world reminder to WIlliam: The TLM is attended by a tiny minority and OF isn’t going away. Hence, my question remains, “What can we do today, given that most do not attend the TLM and do not want to (Unless you evangelize in a more positive way), to “remove the sandals from our feet?

      • William says:


        I was not promoting the return of all to the TLM. Rather, I was meant to suggest that those who are most disturbed by the irreverence in many parishes sample the TLM, as there are by now many who may never have heard a Latin Mass. I have not found a Latin Mass which is beset by any of the complaints I lodged in my note.

        What can we do today? Several things:
        – Priests can instruct the faithful, from the ambo, and in the bulletin.
        – The laity can remind their priests (often) of the irreverence they see, and that they are disturbed by it.
        – If local measures are a failure, we can write to our bishops.

        But it is not merely the irreverence, bad as that is. It is decades of failed or absent catechesis.
        – Each home should have at least one copy of the Catechism, and use it, especially with children.
        – Each adult should read the Catechism, cover to cover. And then use it as the source from which to answer questions from family, friends, and yes, even catechists. It may also prove useful in discussions with some less than conventional priests.
        – Ensure that children are well catechized. Don’t depend on the CCD classes–attend them yourself, and also check your children’s awareness of what the Church teaches, which (sadly) may often be different to what they were told at CCD.

        Understand that these are the approaches which make sense to me based on the parishes local to me. Issues elsewhere may be in need of different methods.

  65. Magdalene says:

    Even for weekday mass I always wear a skirt I’m always dressed up for the Lord. Many times I am the only female so dressed. But I always hope that maybe my example would be noticed by others. Hopefully others will dress for mass. As my sons grew up, they were always dressed properly. Now one of them recently came in shorts and I was appalled. Older men especially seem to wear shorts, at least women are more likely to wear capris.

    The casual dress sows our lack of understanding of the Holy Sacrifice . But for years we were told it did not matter what you wore as long as you came.

    • HashtagCatholic says:

      I go to weekday Mass on my lunch break so I do not wear my Sunday Best (I do have a section of my closet reserved for Sunday attire– and it’s not worn for anything else). However, once I started going to Daily Mass, I do think that what I wear to work has changed. Still not Sunday attire, but I consider that I will be at Mass when I dress for work now.

  66. Marie D. says:

    I think a lot of love and patience is necessary – but a concrete plan, ushered in perhaps over several years – would help. Several years ago, on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, Pope Emeritus Benedict preached on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and appropriate posture for worship. From then on, he only distributed Holy Communion to people on their tongues while they were kneeling. While we cannot expect to implement that in the way the Holy Father did, I do think appropriate catechesis on the Blessed Sacrament is the key to a rediscovery of reverence – and it is pretty easy to give parishioners the option to kneel. My own Pastor gave a homily just this year on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, invoking the example of Pope Emeritus Benedict – and set out a prie dieu – allowing any parishioners to kneel if they wanted to. Now, he sets it out every week. There is now true “diversity” in our parish. Many parishioners receive standing, some receive on their tongues, some in their hands. We have Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. BUT – we also have the opportunity to kneel. And many people do! Just in a month, the number seems to be growing. So – I would say little invitations like this, combined with good catechesis, slowly remind people that they really are in the Presence of the God of the Universe. The more that sinks in, the more our consciences begin to work at appropriate dress, reverential silence, etc. Slowly but surely, further steps can be taken. It can’t happen like a blitzkreig.

  67. Maureen says:

    Habitually arriving after Mass has started is bad, but it’s not an abuse.

    Occasional arrival after Mass has started is a sign that teleportation hasn’t been invented yet.

    (Ah, the joys of vacation before the Internet and Google Maps, when finding a Catholic church and getting there before the Gospel was always an adventure….)

  68. JACK says:

    Sacred Silence! I’d love to witness that. The din in the Church, before and after Mass, is unbelievable. Reverence toward the Blessed Sacrament borders on the nonexistent.

    I think the short answer is a lack of faith. If Catholics truly believed they were in the presence of Christ, none of this would be a problem. No one has any sense of awe anymore.

    The Mass has become a “community gathering” and not much more. The young people have picked up on this also. They figure if we’re just gathering as a community/social/semi-religious event, they’d rather gather elsewhere where the community is a little more interesting.

    • Becky says:

      Yes, I vote for sacred silence, too. The conversations among friends before Mass is, necessarily, exclusive not inclusive. Quite beyond its being distracting.

      I think that even at a casual-dress Mass, an expectation of peaceful silence might be possible. If priests were brave enough to request it.

      Monks wear the simplest attire, and yet they can be silent. Their attire is really more “simple” than “formal”.

      But maybe laity need formal clothes to make silence seem possible.

  69. Rex says:

    As an altar boy years ago it was my duty to hold a gold saucer, a paten, under each persons chin as they recieved communion. This was to make sure the Body of Christ did not fall off the tongue and onto the floor. That was reverence.

  70. Pancho says:

    Msgr., let me share a story. About a year and a half ago I treated myself to a movie after mass on Christmas day since the movie theater is only a few blocks from church and I hadn’t seen a movie in ages. I went and saw The Artist, the silent movie set in the 20s that won the Oscar for Best Picture of that year. For various reasons I had already gotten into the habit of wearing a shirt, a tie, and a sweater to Sunday mass at the parish I attend and on that day I also wore a nice blazer. I went to the movie still dressed for mass.

    One of the things that struck me about that trip to the movies was the difference between today’s world and the world displayed on the screen, because in that movie there’s at least one scene that takes place in a movie theater and in that scene all the men in the audience are dressed in a coat and tie. In contrast, in the theater where I watched the movie I was the only guy in a coat and tie and all the rest were dressed fairly or very casually no matter what their age.

    I share this because it shows how much things have changed. 90 years ago most guys wouldn’t even leave the house without putting on a coat and tie. Since then the way we dress has changed in importance. We’ve become a lot less formal and a lot more utilitarian. We’ve also become more insecure: we claim that dressing up doesn’t matter at the same time that we’re afraid of being judged as stuffy, snobby or shallow if we do. On top of all that, as someone else pointed out up thread, we’ve lost reverence in society as a whole.

    I think that if we want to “remove the sandals from our feet” in church today we can do a number of things. I think it starts with ourselves. If we believe in the need for greater reverence in church we need to be more reverent ourselves, in our behavior, in our clothing, etc. We can set the example, even if its awkward or difficult at first (which it can be), and always be kind and generous. Priests can celebrate the mass in a more reverent manner no matter the form, the language, or the music of the mass. If people see a priest taking the mass seriously then they will take the mass more seriously. This extends to other liturgies and to the deacons, servers, lectors and musicians in the way they dress and behave when they follow or serve a liturgy. People notice if they take things seriously, too.

    Then priests and deacons could teach and preach about the nature of the mass and the Eucharist and its importance. They can call attention to the times clothing appears in scripture in both a literal and allegorical sense, as in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet. They can then start asking during homilies whether our behavior reflects our beliefs in the mass and the Eucharist. They can teach and ask these things during other times like RCIA, baptismal preparation and marriage preparation. They can request servers, lectors and musicians dress and act a certain way during mass and other parish events to set an example for the congregation.

    I think another path priests could follow is to preach and teach on the priesthood of the faithful and how that reflects on our behavior at mass. I admit it’s a struggle for me sometimes but one of the reasons I started dressing up for mass is because it is the offering I bring to mass (along with my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings). I’m not an architect so I can’t build beautiful temples for Our Lord but, to the best of my abilities and my station in life, I can dress my own temple of the Holy Spirit in beautiful and dignified garments and present it to the Lord at Sunday mass.

    (On a practical note, I know that guys often complain that dressing nicely can be expensive but I get most of my clothes from ebay, thrift stores, and sales racks. Googling terms like “dressing well on a budget” brings up lots of resources on line.)

  71. Ella says:

    I am a former Baptist become a Catholic convert. I had lost almost all sense of reverence in church because there is none in Baptist churches (for the most part). I studied Catholicism and realized that Christ was actually present in the Body and the Blood and when I first stepped into a Catholic parish, I felt an awe inspiring presence and knew to the very core of my being that He was there. Reverence was a natural result of that.

  72. William says:

    Not sure why I typed “abuses” when I was thinking “signs of irreverence”. It may help to review my words above in that context. My apologies for the confusion.

  73. EAP says:

    This is fundamentally a question of aesthetics, IMHO. Some of the blame for inappropriate attire rests with churchgoers, to be sure, but the tone was set with ugly church architecture and art, and bland liturgies. The Church is simply reaping the consequences of bad taste. One hears people complain regularly about the low mass attendance, something like 25%. They seem astounded by this figure; I’m astounded it’s not lower. I have a friend who is in the 75%. He’s a Boomer-aged professor who disagrees with many of the moral teachings of the Church, but he told me once that he’d go back to mass if they’d bring back the Latin. I thought that was revealing.

    Now I may be in the minority, but for an hour each Sunday (unless I go to Latin mass or to the Melkites), I try to block out the entire experience of mass. It’s like a tiresome power point presentation or a routine office meeting, only with bad music. I could more readily commune with the Deity on a beach or a mountain or listening to Mozart. Put another way, NPR is bringing more beauty into the world than most Catholic liturgies. So it’s kind of unreasonable to expect reverence for the sacred when the presentation points to the banal. Someone will of course respond, “But the body and blood of Christ are present!” OK, then why does everything look like a high school rock concert at bowling alley?

    • Brad says:

      Aesthetics is the symptom, I think. Comprehension is the problem. If we, both the laity and the clergy, know what is really going on during the Mass, then we will comport ourselves accordingly. Whether it is posture, dress, language or song, the norms of behavior are the results of our knowledge.

      Catechesis and kerygma are the answer, I think. Those ordained to leadership positions of service must lead, and those appointed to support positions must follow. Our seminaries are generally much improved from twenty years ago in terms of teaching orthodoxy and orthopraxis. Our lay parish leaders should be similarly renewed. Then we can encourage the faithful in the pews to study what is true and beautiful with the happy result that they will be more reverent in every way.

  74. Stella Milam says:

    I drive 75 miles each way on Sunday to attend a TLM. Why, because of all the abuses and lack of reverence in the NO Mass in the town where I live. Blessings to those who want only men in the sanctuary. That is as it should be because only men can become priests, and being altar servers, etc. is training ground for the priesthood.
    And dressing nicely to be in the presence of Our Lord and Savior is only logical. Can you imagine visiting the King or Queen of England dressed in flipflops,backless dresses (with bra straps showing), shorts, pants (on women), jeans, tank tops, etc. And this is an earthly King or Queen, and in our Catholic Churches, Christ is truly present. As one person said, we have lost that sense of awe.

    In June I traveled to Nebraska for the ordination of a young man (whom I know) to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. I thought I had died and gone to Heaven. What reverence, what beauty, and soon there will be a Fraternity church in Houston. The priest is already saying Mass at another church, until the new church is built, and who attends? young married people, homeschoolers, dress wearing females, suit wearing men, and lots, and lots of young, well-dressed children, and all females have their head covered! This is home to large families who are very reverent when attending Mass. God be praised.

  75. Briana says:

    I attend an OF parish.

    We do not chatter before mass. It is not monastic silence, but it is very quiet.

    Very few people come late. Perhaps one or two in the 5 masses.

    We bow before receiving the Eucharist. Many relieve on their knees.

    We bless ourselves with holy water upon entering the church.

    We genuflect before entering the pew.

    Most will spend a few moments in prayer upon entering the pew.

    My family, and I would say most families in our parish, dress for church. In my family, all the girls wear skirts, and my boys at the least wear polos. All of the children have church shoes.

    It all flows down. We are blessed with a very reverent Father.

  76. Fr. Hearty says:

    Good article, Msgr. Thank you.
    I have to say that the photo in your article still blows me away; amazing how the faithful still conducted themselves for the Liturgy plus obeying the new rubrics.

  77. Papabile says:

    I do not dress as formally as I would like when going to the novus ordo. That’s chiefly because my two of my children (10, 8, 7, 5, 3, an 1) present squirming problems and it is much easier to manage them when I wear a gold shirt n nicely pressed pants/shoes.

    However, when we go to the old rite, all those troubles disappear as the children remain silent and do not squirm. They are interested in what is happening. I wear a suit quite easily to the TLM.

    All my children know to genuflect and when to make the Sign of the Cross, etc. at either Mass. While thy know all the prayers of both Masses, they don’t like to enunciate them in the novu ordo. My three oldest tell me they are praying the in their hearts. I leave them alone about this.

  78. Bob Bennett says:

    I am appalled at the number of people leave as soon as they take Communion. I feel like tripping them or standing at the door and saying: where are you going? Mass isn’t over yet.” Or: Judas left early too.

    • Hidden One says:

      St. Philip Neri sent acolytes with candles to accompany one such person. The problem isn’t new!

  79. rita torres says:

    I miss the latin ‘high mass’ we used to have back in the day. people seemed to be much more respectful then. stores were closed on sundays and parish soccer games were NEVER on sundays.
    Sundays were for families to be together and spend quality time in honor of the Sabbath.

    Also, women wore skirts and men wore long pants.
    Understand that I do not expect everyone to dress up – many people can’t afford to have alot of clothes. that’s understandable. But everyone should be respectful, and not wear shorts or tank tops to mass,

    And people should always genuflect when leaving mass and clasp their hands while approaching the alter for holy communion. but many don’t and it is sad.

    But what i think is disgraceful is that some of the women have the audacity to show cleavage while standing on the alter as eucharistic ministers. I asked a priest to please address this and make it required that servers cover their breasts and don’t wear tight pants. Unfortunagely, he did not do it and actually told me that those servers “haven’t been enlightened” yet.

    Well WHO IS GOING TO ENLIGHTEN THEM? Priests have an obligation in my opinion to ask worshipers to dress for mass the same way they would go to a party. Isn’t our church building supposed to be the palace of our precious Savior, Lord and King of all the earth and heavens??

  80. Katherine McMillan says:

    The mesaage of Fatima, there will be no reverence for Christ in the Eucharist in the end times. People will care more for their bodies than their souls. I think we are here.

    Our beloved Priests, preach to us like we are good people. We are not good people, we are SINNERS. We are self obsessed, immmodest, vain, greedy, glutonous, impatient, and irreverent sinners. We need Shepherds who care more for our souls than they do our tithes.

    “He has scattered the proud in their conceit.” After V II when the Mass was changed, the faithful threw off their veils and all the small acts of reverence that are in the Tridentine Mass. That is – the bending of our necks and stiff spines at the name of Jesus Christ and all the signs of the Cross at the end of every prayer in the Mass. I can only imagine the hardness of our hearts.

    When they were building the tower of Babel, God scattered them by taking away their common language, He did the same thing to us at V II. We have learned nothing from the lesson of the golden calf, we still worship it – ourselves. I can only imagine how disgusting we are to God. If we are created to know, love and serve God, do we worship God in a way that makes us happy? NO, we worship God in the way most pleasing to Him. Do you think anyone knows that?

    • Dismas says:

      Scattering the proud in their conceit….When they were building the tower of Babel, God scattered them by taking away their common language, He did the same thing to us at V II.

      Quite an epiphany, good stuff!

  81. Lori says:

    I have tried very hard to teach my children and step-children to dress for mass. After all, they would not wear jeans or shorts to their prom, to meet the governor, or the or even the bishop. I have referenced scripture where the wedding guest was thrown for not being dressed properly (in body or in soul). And we provide appropriate clothing for church. Unfortunately we are not helped by the parish “teen mass” where it would be weird, not cool, or just plain against the way of things because it is a youth mass, for our teens to dress in anything but shorts(whatever the current length is) jeans, and t-shirts. If the church doesn’t help the kids to understand to show respect in what you wear, how can I??? It’s like I am fighting a losing battle.

  82. Elizabeth Westhoff, Director of Marketing & Mission Awareness, Archdiocese of St. Louis says:

    Another home run from the good Monsignor!

    It would appear as though those of us who do some writing as “professional Catholics” all had the same idea these last couple of weeks. Providence.

    As a friend of mine pointed out, it is important for those of us who attend the N.O. Mass to be examples of propriety and reverence.

    …and the people said, “Amen!”

  83. Annette Strachan says:

    I don’t think it looks nice when priests have bare arms under their vestments , Pope John Paul 11 wore long sleeved shirts in the photographs I have seen of him celebrating Holy Mass.

  84. esiul says:

    Dear Msgr. Pope,
    I like to hear about the reverence that is needed and all the good comments. Keep up this good work please.
    Bless you,

  85. Ona says:

    I find that different Masses draw different crowds. At my home parish (and I’ve seen this at other urban churches which are run by religious orders, and thus have multiple priests and multiple daily Masses) the very early morning Mass tends to be attended by Religious and those who like simplicity and silence. The nuns do the singing, a capella, wearing their habits. There is no chatter and many people continue kneeling during periods when one could stand. Given the number of Religious, and the generally devout and quiet nature of the Mass, the priest will often leave a period of silence after the homily or even (occasionally) instead of it. Many people kneel for communion.

    At the evening weekday Mass there are many very devout participants – including a regular group that comes to pray a rosary before – but it is generally a much more boisterous and sociable group. Going to that Mass is a sure way to find out who is sick or dead, who is up to what, and all the other “news”. During the week a few of the older women lead the singing, using popular hymns that most people know by heart.

    I have a fondness for the Traditional Latin Mass and attend a few times a month when my schedule permits the trip across town; and wear my chapel veil or a scarf even if I am not at a TLM, even if I just stop in a church to pray alone. The first time they saw it, the rosary ladies were quite taken with it – some remembering that they still had one at home somewhere, another saying she wanted to go buy one. The older ones told stories about how they used to dress for church when they were young. I’ve seen photos of the church from the 1950s, before the beautiful marble high altar was torn out. Everyone in the pews was dressed in pretty dresses and hats, or dress shirts and ties.

    The “youth” Mass, on Saturdays, is packed, but very boisterous, with lots of guitars and rowdy singing, clapping and hugging and casual/inappropriate clothing. Their enthusiasm is sweet, though the casual and noisy atmosphere is not to my taste. God isn’t absent! But you are right that we forget how all of this is supposed to change *us* – and symbolic acts of reverence are a way to help us remember how utterly small and dependent we are.

    All that said, when I first was drawn to the church (I’m a recent convert) the general informality opened a door for me. I had always assumed Christians were very uptight and stuffy and frowned on everything. To see that that was not so gave me the confidence to poke my head in. But as time went by I found I preferred the quieter and more reverential side of things – it seems more fitting with my own changing relationship with God.

    I feel grateful to have the choices. A benefit of living in a large Latin American city.

  86. Jordan says:

    I find it odd that so many fingers get pointed at the priests, the extraordinary ministers, parents, children, the Novus Ordo Mass, the lack of the Latin Mass, semantics, etc. What are we the faithful failing to do. Not once in any of the replies was praying for the Church, the laity, the priests, etc to become more reverent. Everybody seemed to either want to attack the form of the mass or show off their theological muscles, but they failed to look at what God asks us to do, which is pray. The other that we are taught is that we should teach others with our example, not judge or admonish them (unless absolutely necessary), are we setting the right example of reverence. I saw many excuses of why people aren’t reverent during the Novus Ordo, but never looking within themselves that if they aren’t taking the Mass seriously because they pine for yesterday, that their children, and other people will catch on to that. I mean whether TLM or NO you are still in the presence of our Lord, and you are on Holy Ground, and you are their to worship with your whole being the One True God. So when you go to Mass dress, act, move, and pray with reverence, but make sure you pray for others to feel the Holy Spirit move through them so that they understand why and how they should do the same. One last tidbit before I leave off, remember in the early Church it was more fervent in their worship, Saint Paul had to start laying ground rules of how many people would be allowed to speak in tongues to be able to keep order.

  87. Bill says:

    I disagree with the notion of clothing choice being a signifier of reverence. In the parish I grew up in the social order was determined by the clothing that one wore and dressed their children in. Honestly it became a fashion show…and worse on holidays such as easter and christmas. I remember as an altar boy, serving the occasional saturday night or sunday night mass…when the hoi paloi were not around…there was one family who I knew as not being of means would always attend TOGETHER and sit in the back (Luke 18:10) wearing t shirts and jeans. Over the years I’ve watched as the well dressed of that parish went through various and sundry lapses of piety; divorce, infidelity, drunkeness, drug addiciton, child molestation, etc. etc. But hey, they were ALWAYS well dressed at mass! That parish no longer exists. In a sweeping restructuring of the diocese it was determined that not nearly enough parishoners were attending mass…so they closed the church and the school and the parish was absorbed into a nearby parish. Today I attend a parish where I live where the general aesthestic is not very buttoned up. I will sit a pew with parishoners who are dressed to leave for work right after mass…because that’s what we have to do these days. I will sit next to parishoners who wear shorts, sandals, or even hawaiian shirts…we are, after all, a seaside community. The point being I am sitting next to parishoners! Every mass is well attended. Ministries are well staffed and well attended. Every few years there is an uproar by the older crowd who are “offended” by the lack of attention paid to the modes of dress by those of us in the pews. We even had a pastor take note of this from the pulpit…but his comments were pretty much on point; “At least they are here.” I think it is important to have reverence for Christ and the mass absolutely. I am not sure, in the 21st century, that “putting on your sunday best” is actually what it’s really all about. It’s not like we are farmers and we have the choice of sweaty, dirty, manure stained work clothes OR a sunday suit. I wonder how many who walked away from Jesus (jn 6: 66-69) were well dressed and removed their sandals at the right moment? How many of the poor and not-quite-so-well-dressed did Jesus address when he said “If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink.” (Jn 7:37)

  88. steve says:

    People want to say,”well Jesus accepts me as I am”, this is true but he also does not want you to stay that way hence the reason for growth in sanctity. The same is with clothing, Jesus would rather you come to mass if all you had was an old pair of jeans and a torn shirt, but lets face it we in america do not only have jeans and a torn shirt; the majority of us have the means to buy and wear better looking atire. Take a look at a funeral, people dress to the tea for a dead man but cannot take the time to dress nice for the King of the universe. They definitly would not dress down if they had to stand before a Judge. People have lost the sense of reverance, the sence of awh, of who they come before. We are lazy we don’t want to have to take the time to look nice for God, “Jesus love me just the way I am”, is the attitude. They come to mass for themselves not out of respect for God. As for the Bishops and Priest I do not know why they do not inforce better attire at mass. If you jion a club or go to a fine restuarant there is a dress code, why not a dress code for the best dinner in the universe. Laziness even at the highest office, afraid of offending someone, at my church even the ushers look like they are out on the farm, women look lioke they are going to the night club, or worse the strip club, men look like they just threw on yesterdays play cloths. The pulpit is silent and I am sure God is offended both from the parishiners atire as well as the silence from the pulpit. The Cardinal is sure to speak out on his fund raising appeal but lets not correct the conscience of the people you are supposed to shepard. Lets not prick the conscience of the people, we might lose funds.

  89. Doris says:

    Hi, It’s so sad and painful, watch the American
    Catholic Church Mass, In this days.
    In my parish,Blessed Sacrament ,here in Clermont,Florida.
    They have women Ministers of the Holy Eucharist,
    Wearing Thigh long pants, short skirts and No-veils
    or cover there’s heads. (during the Holy Communion )
    The director of the coir, who practice
    Wednesdays, with his group inside the Church.
    Making jokes, talking loud like a he is in
    a bar or baseball field.
    During I made the rosary on front of the
    Tabernacle, where the Body of Christ live.
    I wish someone do something about that.
    Because I’m nobody there, just another member.
    But if the director of Church receive a letter of
    The Holy Father or the Diocese somewhere,
    Then they do something. Cause there’s authority.
    I think Pope Francisco. Star a campaign to reform,
    Clean and Re-estructure the Catholic Church.
    Before it’s too late. He can’t permit the devil

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  91. James says:

    Jesus said it’s not what goes into a man, but what comes out of a man that is critical. I was scolded by a man because I had not taken off my hat while I was outside the sanctuary waiting to go to sunday school class in a separate but attached building from the sanctuary . He was using alot of innuendo that I didn’t pick up on and it finally escalated into him telling me if he asked me to dinner and was serving me steak and I didn’t take my hat off he’d take my steak and slap my face with it and toss me out of his house. I told him it’s not what’s on the outside that is important but what’s on the inside. He said that he did not think that was true. It was time to go to class, ha! It was upsetting and I felt sorry for other people he probably had walked up to and treated the same way. Instead of being concerned for why people were in church and their personal need, he took authority that wasn’t his to judge falsely. Don’t we all do this in our minds against others when we have no idea at all how God thinks about them? It’s not what we think about people it’s what God thinks about them. I think what causes people to judge others falsely is because they are bitter inside and have unrepentent sin in their own lives.

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