Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wedding Garment

Today's Gospel was the parable about the wedding garment, or lack thereof. Although other guests had been invited to the wedding feast, all of them backed out and refused to attend. The host then told his servants to get other guests from the highways and bi-ways. Finally, anyone on the street was invited, including one fellow at the last minute. But he entered without wearing a 'wedding garment'. When the host spotted a guest not in proper attire, he asked him about it. The Scriptures say the man was 'reduced to silence.' HE HAD NO ANSWER.

Today, many feel bad for the poor fellow and wonder why he was so roughly treated (bound hand and foot and thrown outside). Unlike the first invited guests, this guy had no advance notice. He was asked at the last minute. So why expect him to be dressed up? Well, our society and culture does not get it. At the time of Jesus, EVERY Jew had and was expected to have a 'wedding garment' to be worn at weddings and other formal religious celebrations. It did not matter how much it cost nor did it matter what material it was made from. What mattered was that you, as an invited guest, showed RESPECT to the host by wearing this garment. Rich people would obviously have expensive and designer garments, but even the poorest Jew had a simple, inexpensive but decent wedding garment. To arrive without one was an INSULT. And as the man was 'reduced to silence' he, too, knew that he had no valid or legitimate excuse.

People today have trouble with this parable. We live in a SUPER, ULTRA-casual age. Formality is passe. When I was growing up, we had "church clothes" which were worn every Sunday to go to Mass. We would never have been allowed to leave the house and to church wearing 'blue jeans' and a 'tee-shirt.' Today, every Tom, Dick and Harry, from teenagers to middle-agers to the elderly; all wear blue jeans and sneakers to Mass, be it during the week or on the weekend.

One summer I celebrated Mass several times for an African-American parish in Erie. Mostly poor people on public assistance, yet EVERY Sunday, a full crowd would come to Mass and 'dressed to the nines'. EVERY woman had a chapel veil or white hat and wore gloves; EVERY man wore a button dress shirt, tie and suit jacket. NO EXCEPTIONS. They wore their 'church clothes' because it was a great honor and privilege to go the the Lord's House as His guest of honor. Their reverence and piety put the rest of the parishes in the diocese to shame. No one came late and no one dared leave early from Mass. Their attire and their demeanor was one of LOVING RESPECT. I was in awe and edified each time I celebrated Mass for them.

Then I go to suburbia and see Super Casual take over like an Ecoli epidemic. Every school and place of employment now has 'dress down' days. When dressed up, in formal or business ware, the idea of LOOKING special helped people to do their job WELL.

Sunday was (and still is) DIES DOMINI (the day of the Lord). Gone is the family meal when everyone gathered around the table for a home cooked meal. Now, each person goes to his or her own parish or church (if they go at all) and meals are like the rest of the week: on your own or microwaved frozen food. Me and my brothers, however, went to Mass every Sunday with our mom and dad as a family and then we had an afternoon meal at grandma's (which usually lasted until the evening). Usually five to seven courses of pasta and meats with various vegetables, it was expected that everyone be there and likewise it was expected that one had gone to Mass beforehand. We had to dress for church and for Nonna's house. Play clothes could be worn AFTER the meal, but never during. Men wore button shirts and slacks and you could take off your tie and jacket EXCEPT for holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Jacket and tie, though, were worn for church just as the women were expected to wear a dress and some head covering, from a hat to a chapel veil.

That formality was important because it conveyed a sense of DIGNITY and RESPECT for God and for home; for faith and for family. Home was the domestic church and the local parish was the divine church. Both were sacred in their own right. Paper plates and plastic ware and paper napkins were never used on Sundays or holidays, either. Linen tablecloths and metal flatware and cloth napkins every weekend.

When the extreme-casual craze hit church, we saw the demise of the burse and veil on the chalice, the absence of the amice and cincture, the pedestrian vestments and banal music. I noticed that I myself needed to make Sunday special even as a parish priest. If I did, maybe my parishioners would follow suit. So, I've made an effort to wear my cassock or my suit jacket whenever seen outside of Mass on Sundays. I wear my french cuff long sleeve shirts under my alb and have a separate set of vestments just worn on Sundays and Holydays and a simpler set for weekdays. I always use the burse and veil but on Sundays, we light ALL the candles (like the old High Mass of the EF). I chant more of the prayers at the Sunday Mass, like the Our Father, opening and closing prayers, preface, etc. Outside of Ordinary Time I use incense, too.  Just little ways to convey that the DAY OF THE LORD is special in church and at home. I schedule no meetings or appointments on Sunday and visit the sick on other days of the week (unless an emergency, of course)

Weekday Mass is not sloppy by any means but besides the omission of the Gloria, Creed and second reading before the Gospel, I want to subtly convey the importance of Sunday Mass while at the same time preserving the awesome respect and reverence for ANY and EVERY Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. So, the proper vestments are always worn and no illicit shortcuts taken.

What happens in the homes I do not know but several new families to the parish have told me that they are returning to their former practice of making Sunday special as a family. Going to Mass together, dressing up in church clothes and sharing a decent meal in a dignified manner that same day. It takes effort but it is worth it.


Baron Korf said...

AMEN Father!

Do I have your permission to pass this around? (properly credited of course)

Unknown said...

by all means

Jack. said...

Excellent Post Padre.

As a convert what got me was that when I attended the local N.O Parish teenagers would go up for communion dressed in sports shirts, strap tops ect ect, simerly the respect shown to God at the local Traditionalist Chapel(which I currently attend) really lifts my heart.

Anonymous said...

"Usually five to seven courses of pasta and meats with various vegetables," Father--I want to be adopted into your family!!!

Tomorrow--Friday, I will be wearing my scrubs to Mass. If I dress up--I will have to miss Mass or be late for work--so I wear my scrubs. But other days, when I'm not working--I will wear clean levis and a modest shirt. On Sundays I always wear my best for Mass. But I do not mean to be dis-respectful to our Lord.

Father, I like what you said about the meal on Sunday needing to also be special. But to tell you the truth, after working hard all week, I'm tired, and cleaning the house, planning the menu, going shopping then fixing a meal and inviting over the kids--well I just don't have the energy, so it is a more ordinary meal.

I suppose in the days when women made the large Sunday meals--they did not work outside the home. Well, you could always pray for me--that my husband tells me I don't have to work anymore :) Then I could make great Sunday meals--I love to cook.

Dawn said...

Thank you for sharing this Father. I am guilty of "casual" dress during weekday Masses and you called me out on it. We dress for Sundays, but you are right we should always be prepared. I am also going to link to this one. It badly needs repeating.

Anonymous said...

Fr, this is great and very encouraging. It reminds me to set the sartorial standard to my family as a father.
Any thoughts if an acolyte should as a 'motu proprio' find a burse, veil, ciborium veil (from the depths of the sacristy draws), so that they are used at Mass?
How to approach this with the priest?
As an additional thought, could an approach to increase the reverence you speak of, be to ask for one Sunday Mass to be designated as a 'solemn mass' (with incense, altar servers with black shoes, 6 candles on altar, veils, incense, traditional hymns, and organ music, etc) and the other Sunday mass could be a 'family mass' or 'longer crossbeam' mass (referring to more 'horizontal' orientation of mass) and typically includes happy birthdays, talking, overcrowded sanctuary, drums, etc)?

Brian, from 'Down Under"

Elizabeth said...

Thank you for your wonderful example, Father. My family ALWAYS dresses for church and adoration.
It is the rule. Sunday is Family time. We rarely even allow playdates...we WANT to be together!
Blessings, EJT

Pablo the Mexican said...

Dear Padre,


If all we had to do to get into Heaven was to dress as Europeans I think more of us would get there.

The greater share of my family are and were poor Mexicans. Far from European dress and customs. I pray God had mercy on them; they as much of the world, went to Mass as best they could. No suit or tie, just poor clothes and huaraches for shoes.

I understand Roman Protestants of the Novus Ordo ilk try vigorously to dress as their Protestant counter parts.

However, it does get shameful that at some Masses the Priest and congregation look at my clothes and not the condition of my soul.

Having to dress European and measure up to the personal virtue of Traditional Holy people is one of the reasons why I do not affiliate with any Trad group. I keep moving from Chapel to Chapel to keep out of their judgement and wrath. It bothered my soul to wear a suit to Mass just to placate white people. Racism is not Catholic.

My mother, God rest her soul, would tell me to never be ashamed to stand before the Blessed Sacrament as a poor man; if I had sins, He would forgive them, and if I was in a state of grace, I should ask Him to keep me there. Most important of all, I should have Charity. Without Charity, no one gets into Heaven.No matter how expensive the clothes they are buried in.

To say people must wear suit and ties to Mass just gives the wretched Holy people another reason to beat upon a poor sinner who might earnestly and humbly be trying to come to repentance.

SALUS ANIMARUM IN ECCLESIA SUPREMA LEX is the Supreme law of Holy Mother Church.

The Supreme Law is not Wearum Goodum Suitum.

May God our Lord in his infinite and supreme goodness be pleased to give us his abundant grace, that we may know his most holy will, and entirely fulfill it.

Santa María de Guadalupe Esperanza nuestra, salva nuestra patria y conserva nuestra Fe.

Unknown said...

You miss my point. I said it does NOT matter how much the clothes cost. In fact, designer blue jeans and sneakers cost MORE than inexpensive dress clothes. Friends of mine have been to Mexico and they showed my pictures and the locals dress MUCH better than most Americans do in a typical parish. Again, it is NOT the cost of the clothing, it is the style. Even poor people have good clothes they wear for weddings, funerals, etc. My point was that most middle class to upper class income Catholics dress DOWN for church but dress UP for social affairs.

If your clothes are CLEAN, MODEST and NEAT, it does not matter how much you paid for them. I have seen too many immodest and inappropriate clothing on men and women in church to keep silent. The African-American parish I helped at was the POOREST parish in the diocese and most of the people were low income but they had CLASS in that they had church clothes which they wore just for church. If they could do it, anyone can. All I am asking for is REVERENCE by wearing MODEST, CLEAN, and NEAT clothing without any obscene pictures or graffitti on the shirts.

Pablo the Mexican said...

Dear Padre,


Thank you very much for your Charity, and for clarifying the issue.

May it serve to stop us from hunting down people who don't dress as we think they should. I believe people will now understand it is the job of the Padre to admonish someone for inappropriate dress, not us laypeople.

We should keep our eyes fixed upon the Blessed Sacrament.

Please pray for the Sacristan of Tepeyac Hill; he is suffering.

With the assurance of my Holy Rosary prayers for all your good work in the vineyard of the Divine Master, I remain yours truly in Jesus and Mary Immaculate.

Santa María de Guadalupe Esperanza nuestra, salva nuestra patria y conserva nuestra Fe.



Unknown said...


Pater Ignotus said...

"Me and my brothers... went to Mass." Ouch! This one time you will be forgiven, however, for using the objective case rather than the nominative.

Unknown said...

what yous talkin about?


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