In 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:

169 Responses

  1. 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..

  2. Elizabeth says:

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

  3. 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:

        Marguerite:
        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:

        Heidi,

        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.

  4. Annette Strachan says:

    Observing the fast before receiving Holy Communion is being reverential.

  5. 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 ?

  6. 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!

  7. 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?

  8. 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!

  9. 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…

  10. 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”

  11. 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)

  12. Diane says:

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

  13. 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!

  14. [...] My friend Msgr. Charles Pope has some good comments on reverence in church.  HERE [...]

  15. 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:

        Msgr.,

        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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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….)

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.)

  22. Ella says:

    Msgr,
    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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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??

  31. 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!

  32. 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.

  33. 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. http://blog.stlouisreview.com/?p=934#more-934 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!”

  34. 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.

  35. 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,

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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)

  39. 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.

  40. Doris says:

    NO DRESS CODE OR RESPECT AT ALL.
    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
    Win.
    Blessings.

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