When my friend Eric Coughlin from Two Sense Films emailed me describing his new project, I thought it was a great idea. He wanted to create a short movie on dressing respectfully for Mass. His last film on altar servers was fantastic so I knew this would be another winner.
Then Eric asked if my family wanted to participate. I told him we would be honored. But I quickly added that, with four kids six and under, getting everyone ready for Mass often resembles a hostage negotiation. He said that was fine. Eric came over early one morning, filmed us getting ready, accompanied us to Mass, and the kids had a blast.
This morning he released the finished project. Please watch and share it around!
Most people put little thought into dressing for Mass. When I was Protestant, the overarching message I heard was, “Come as you are! God doesn’t care what clothes you wear. He just wants you!” But over time, I discovered this was only a half-truth. Of course God loves you just as you are—that’s the only “you” that exists! And of course God would prefer you in a tank-top and sandals than not at all.
But the more I reflected, the more sure I became that what you wear matters. This is the case in every other meaningful area of life. For example, few bosses say to their employees, “Come as you are! Pajamas, muscle shirts, tube tops—it doesn’t matter!” No bride I know would say to her fiancée, “Come as you are to the wedding! I really don’t care what you wear.”
How you dress matters. There are at least two reasons why. First, because of what it says to others. Dressing nicely communicates respect and honor. When you dress specially for Mass, you’re telling God, “You are worth the effort; you deserve my best.” It tells your fellow worshippers, “I take Mass seriously; it’s not just one casual event among many for me.”
Second, dressing respectfully changes your interior orientation. I’ve found that when I pull on a suit and tie, my thoughts, speech, and general approach to the world all change. I become more gentlemanly. I’m more serious than silly. I’m better able to focus, display reverence, and sink into prayer. That’s why I’m convinced dressing up is a spiritual discipline. (My friend Jen Fulwiler reflected on similar experiences: “How Changing What I Wear Changed My Approach to Mass”.)
We all know that fewer people today are dressing respectfully at Mass. Visit the average service at your average parish and you’ll see the whole spectrum of attire, from prim and proper to scandalous and sulky.
But imagine if even a small percentage of Catholics decided to dress more respectfully each Sunday. Imagine how the atmosphere would instantly change. Imagine what our children would think, how they would see the Mass. Imagine how it would affect the prayer lives of people seeking deeper experiences. The spiritual fruit would be remarkable.
If you want to help bring on this shift, first commit to dressing more reverently yourself. Take the time and effort to dress better next Sunday. Then help your kids do the same. Finally, be sure to share Eric’s excellent video.