Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Eight short rules

Why is it that so many mentions of modesty and/or appropriate clothing for Sunday Mass end up devolving into a discussion of that article of clothing aptly called "shorts?"

One sometimes gets the impression that three-fourths of all adult Catholics in America show up at Mass during the summer months dressed in bottom-baring shorts and frivolous flip-flops. Perhaps that is true in some places. It isn't true here where I live, though, and considering how hot it gets here...but then again, maybe that's just it: maybe people in northern climates don't own suitable summer-weight dress clothes to wear to their non-air-conditioned churches during the two weeks of the year when the temperature hovers dangerously near ninety, and thus the shorts appear. It's possible.

What is definitely true is that shorts are now considered acceptable attire for many places and occasions where formerly they were not; or, to put it more accurately, the entire country has become so casual about dress that one is likely to see shorts in places and occasions where they are actually not appropriate, but no one really seems to care. The only standard of dress today seems to be that there are no standards.

No universal ones, that is.

I have my own set of standards about the wearing of shorts. Just for fun, and because it's that sort of day, I'm going to list them. These are my rules. They may be yours; they may not. But here they are:

1. Shorts are to be worn only as follows:
  • At the beach, pool, or other aquatic venue;
  • For the participation in or observance of outdoor sports activities or indoor or outdoor exercise;
  • To a backyard barbecue where it is clear that the hosts intend the event to be ultra-casual;
  • For hiking, camping, and similar outdoors activities;
  • Around one's own home, including in one's own yard or garden particularly when gardening in summer heat;
  • As part of a uniform such as that of a mail carrier or bicycle police officer, when circumstances and employment conditions demand it.
2. Even for women (and I speak only of women here for a reason) who adhere to rule 1, shorts should be retired from one's wardrobe altogether sometime between the ages of 35 and 45 (the exact point will become glaringly obvious to a woman if she is honest with herself). This is for your own benefit, as few parts of one's body broadcast one's actual age so clearly as one's knees do (and for the same reason, above-knee skirts, if one actually owns any, should also be retired). The "retirement" does not extend to items one wears only at home, of course, and professional female athletes who still train and compete after age 35 are also exempt, as are those who must wear shorts as part of a uniform (and this would include gym teachers and swim coaches as well as the above mentioned mail carriers or bicycle cops).

3. For those women who wear shorts, it should be noted that shorts do not especially flatter the following figures:
  • petite women (because shorts act like a visual karate-chop instead of helping to create the long, smooth line petites try to create to add the illusion of height);
  • very tall women (unless the shorts are extremely long; otherwise, tall women will tend to look rather like beanpoles from the sheer expanse of leg showing);
  • plump women (because there is not a bit of fat or cellulite that will not be enhanced by rather than hidden by most shorts on the market);
  • extremely thin women (because they will look like adolescent boys)
None of these points matters, however, if rule 1 is being strictly adhered to; still, there are other choices that may better suit some of these figure types, such as capri pants, skorts, split skirts, and the like.

4. Every now and then, fashion companies will try to sell so-called "city shorts," designed to be worn to the office and accompanied, frequently, by a matching jacket, heels, and stockings. I myself fell prey to this fashion trend in the early 1990s. It was as silly then as it is now. The worst part is that no sooner have you convinced yourself that it really is possible to wear "dressy shorts," the trend evaporates, and you're stuck with dated clothing that no woman in her right mind would wear to the office or anywhere else nice, for that matter. (The last time this trend really rose up was around 2005 or 2006; it had peaked by about 2007, and though designers always threaten to return it there hasn't been a lot of interest lately. Maybe when the job market is shaky and lots of people are out of work, showing up for work in shorts just doesn't seem like the greatest idea.)

EDITED: 5. No invisible shorts. Thanks to Larry D for suggesting it when Freddy noticed that my numbers got out of whack (which happened because I was moving some of these points around and got sidetracked). :)

6. Despite the efforts of designers in number 4, shorts remain, for adults, ultra-casual wear. They aren't suitable for sit-down restaurants, for business offices unless they are part of the "uniform," or for Sunday Mass. If you are an adult and you are wearing shorts of a decent length inside a church building outside of Mass because you are cleaning or decorating or helping with a food-pantry located in the parish hall or some such thing, or if you stop in for Saturday confession on your way to a picnic, you're probably okay. If you show up for Sunday Mass in shorts I will assume you have no better clothing available and will pray that the exigencies of your situation improve dramatically in the near future.

7. Children under seven or so are not bound by these rules. While I think teens who show up for Mass in shorts look extremely silly and out-of-place, I know that teens delight in looking silly and out-of-place, and will probably deeply regret such things when they are adults.

8. Men over the age of 65 or so will sometimes signal their absolute surrender in terms of things like fashion or good taste by wearing knee-length shorts with mid-calf or knee socks and sandals out in public. They will compound these errors by pairing a dress shirt or collared polo shirt with the shorts regardless of how casual the shorts are; the shirt will bulge out at the waist, because they will still be shopping for their shorts or pants based on the waist size they had ten years ago. Respect for our elders (and we must, in charity, assume that any man who dresses like that is at least 65 years old) decrees that they should be humored and their fashion faux pas ignored by everyone--except for their wives, who may continue to nag them not to appear in public like that.

Some of you may agree with these rules; some will agree with some and violently disagree with others; and some will disagree with all of them. Which is why blogs have comment boxes. :)


Anonymous said...

I wear my old softened gym shorts to bed. The elastic has long dried out and barely meets the function of holding them up without several safety pins, but I have them, if I need them suddenly, say, for fixing my glasses, or poking the little shut-off knob on the blasting alarm. One never knows when a decent safety pin will come in handy. Of course, I wear them under a cotton skirt if it's chilly, as I do not like the latest fashion of those black tights with the footies off, and I have not seen decent leggings since the early 80's. I haven't worn slacks since the short time I could fit into my mother's wool Air Force dress pants to ski. Other times, well I took heed of my little brother's observation that me wearing slacks was like donning a couple of potato bags or gunnysacks. One definitely has to be finished with climbing trees before putting away the shorts forever. As for culottes--fine, wear wherever if of decent length, short skorts--for kids, and if stopping at Mass while traveling by car cross-country, the locals better not say a thing!

Melanie B said...

Oh I guess I'm too early for comment box mud slinging. I'll be sure to check back later for the fun.

L. said...

I am over 45, and I have no desire, nor see no need, to retire shorts from my wardrobe altogether.

I am not a "professional" athlete by any means, but I am a runner, and it gets very hot here in the summer.

I honestly don't care if people are giggling at my "old" knees, as I run past them.

freddy said...

Where's number 5?

Anonymous said...

Love this post!

Yes, after a certain age, 35 or 40, retire the shorts ladies. Heavier ladies seem to get this and don't wear them anyway. It's the skinny ladies who think they can still pull them off, but their knees sag too. Not to get into a skirts/pants debate, but honestly, I find that skirts are so much cooler in the summer anyway.

Men and young men wearing shorts to Mass (as well as women) drives me absolutely nuts.

~ Marie

LarryD said...

freddy - it's obvious, isn't it?

Rule 5: no invisible shorts.

Bathilda said...

L.!! it's good to see you back! I'm with you on the shorts for middle agers...probably because I am one, and I wear them. I do exercise regularly, and I wear shorts to do that. I'm not going to wear sweats to my ankles on a six mile run, unless it's chilly outside, I don't care how much my knees sag. How about this: Women who are over 35 can still wear shorts of a reasonable length, just not at mass or other inappropriate venue. Some of us are not so vain as to care about saggy knees. My knees actually sag less than my breasts, and certainly less than my jowls at this point. I admire the old ladies at the gym who are sagging down to the ground, but they are rocking shorts, working out, and not giving a rat's butt about what everyone thinks. @Marie, I live in one of the fattest states in the country, and the "heavier ladies" DO NOT retire the shorts. trust. I am a big Modest dress at Mass proponent, and I dress very conservatively, but I'm keeping my shorts...even at the advanced age of 43.

freddy said...

Larry: D'oh! Now I just feel stupid! ;)

Anonymous said...

Can the Baptismal Font be considered an "aquatic venue?"

The FatMan

Siarlys Jenkins said...

These rules are not bad, but I still favor comfort over fashion or even some portion of propriety if the weather is hot and humid. I'm one of those people at northern end of the lower '48 who gets upset when the temp rises above 75, and ceases to be productive at much of anything when it goes over 90.

Shorts, loose short-sleeved shirts, are just fine if it is the alternative to hot sticky clothes enclosing my hot sticky legs and arms. I don't care what I look like, or what anyone else wearing shorts looks like, except for one woman who looks good no matter what she is wearing.

Some things should be covered, but other than that, comfort first. Women have an advantage, since they can wear light, loose dresses or skirts and still get plenty of air circulation in complete modesty.

Barbara C. said...

At age 34, I recently stopped wearing shorts outside of the house because of the big popping vein on the back of my leg. I'm not vain, but that is just gross and I don't want to inflict it on others. I wear capris during the summer, but I do not wear them to church. I switch into a skirt, dress, or long pants.

My girls are forbidden to wear shorts or sweat pants to Mass (over the age of 5), and for now I take bare shoulders on a case by case basis (no tank tops without a shirt underneath but an exception for some nice sundresses).

When I was a kid, the only time I ever saw men wear shorts at Mass was the weekend of our parish picnic when workers would pop into the Vigil Mass between shifts in a booth. (That was also the only time of year besides Christmas when a midnight Mass was offered.) Now it seems at least half the men of all ages wear shorts to church.

When I was a teen, I wore jean shorts to Mass and rolled the legs up shorter. Apparently the priest said something to my dad, because I was instructed to never do that again. (I was an usher that day, so I was probably more noticeable.)

Kimberly Margosein said...

. Every now and then, fashion companies will try to sell so-called "city shorts," designed to be worn to the office and accompanied, frequently, by a matching jacket, heels, and stockings. I myself fell prey to this fashion trend in the early 1990s.

What pray tell, is the difference between these and culottes? I'm not being snarky, they seem to be the same thing.

IRT #8- I guess you have seen me. However, I have some cotton collared shirts from when I was working. They are great for yardwork in hot weather, as they wick up the sweat and really cool me off.

Patrick said...

You might even pare it down to one rule, three exceptions:

1. Same as yours + a "reasonableness" exception (which covers things like stopping in a grocery store *on your way* to a BBQ, or stopping to confess *on your way* to a picnic: "reasonableness" demands the shorts.)

Exception #1: children
Exception #2: men over 65 entirely exempt
Exception #3: women over 45 are barred from short pants.

For BBQs, they've invented white linen and mint juleps, two ways for adult men to keep cool without short pants.

Patrick said...

Correction: one rule, two exceptions - children and old men are covered under the same exception insofar as being entirely exempt.

Charlotte said...

I don't care what people think I look like. Life is too short. If people think I look like an idiot in shorts, oh well. If people think I'm too old for them, oh well.

I'm middle-aged and I like being cool and feeling free in the summer. I live in Wisconsin, where people break out the shorts when it hits 60 degrees (well, only on college campuses) and we celebrate our short-lived summers as long as posisble because we live in snow and cold for more than 1/2 the year.

I wear shorts to mass sometimes and I'm not apologetic about it. I think we all know I'm not wearing short-shorts. I don't do it all the time, but if I'm on the run that day or going to mass on vacation or going to mass while on a camping weekend, yes.

My husband almost always wears shorts to mass in the summer, via my direction. I am of the opinion that the shirt he wears with his jean shorts or dress shorts is much more important than the shorts themselves. The shirt on top is what makes the shorts look dressy or casual.

Shorts feel good, even if they might not look good on everyone. From what I see out there, if people are clueless about shorts, they are just as clueless about hairstyles, makeup, pants, shirts, and pretty much everything. That's called the human condition. I could write a post just like this listing out "rules" for picking out dresses/skirts that look good on people, as well as hairstyles for men AND women.

Shorts are here to stay. They are just another piece of clothing. Your ass shouldn't be hanging out of them and probably you shouldn't be wearing them someplace like a wedding. You also should try not to wear shorts to mass if they are made of sweatshirt/athletic materials or have "Ambercrombie" written across the back. Beyond that, welcome to the modern era - it's been the modern era for many, many decades and I wish people would figure that out.

Just my opinion, which Erin welcomed in this post. : ) (And Erin, for the record, I do agree with some of your observations about people who are short and tall with shorts. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't get to wear them.)

Charlotte (Waltzing Matilda) said...

I'm curious, Charlotte... why do you say that you "shouldn't be wearing them someplace like a wedding" but think that shorts are acceptable for Mass?

Another Charlotte

gradchica said...

Shorts are comfortable? Really? I'm an athletic young woman and shorts have never ever been comfortable for me, even during college when I exercised 3 hrs a day and had to keep my weight low for sports weigh-ins. Shorts that split the "booty shorts" v. "old lady Bermudas" line still end up being either too short, too tight, or strangely cut so you spend your time tugging at them and shifting around so they don't ride up your bum. If you purposely buy ones that are more loosely cut, you spend your time tugging and shifting so the extra fabric doesn't gather between your legs and make you look like a whale. Anything other than men's mesh gym shorts are far more trouble than they're worth fashion-wise--at least the gym shorts are comfy, cool, and appropriate for the hottest of summer activities, like exercise, gardening, etc.

Charlotte said...

Therein lies the major problem in all these clothing/modesty discussions - people making assumptions that aren't true for everyone.

You're uncomfortable in shorts.

I'm not.

Gee, that was easy.

Charlotte said...


Because current norms, practice and tradition in American Catholic parishes allow for shorts at weekly Sunday mass but not at weddings, funerals, and first communions, etc. That's why.

You can dislike it, you can say it's wrong, you can say it's improper/disrespectful, or believe anything you like about the situation. But as it stands, shorts are not forbidden by the Catechism, nor by the bishops, and in the vast, vast majority of parishes they are either considered completely acceptable or at least tolerated.

Which is why I don't get why so many people freak out about them. Oh that they would freak out about something that really matters to the salvation of our souls. I just went to dinner tonight with someone who considers herself Catholic, but then told me the Eucharist wasn't real and she didn't have to confess her sins to a "gay" priest to be forgiven and reminded me that Catholics are really behind the Protestants in reading and understanding their Bibles. I think we have better things to be worried about than shorts.

Red Cardigan said...

I think there's a legitimate question as to whether shorts are "acceptable" clothing for adults to wear to Mass, or whether they are merely "tolerated" the way, quite frankly, a lot of sloppy casual clothing is tolerated not only at Mass but at restaurants and other venues.

I think it's kind of sad that people don't dress up for anything but weddings and funerals (and not even those, necessarily). Then again, many items of "dressy" clothing sold for women are totally inappropriate to wear inside a Catholic church building anyway.

But to me--and I know I can say this without hurting the feelings of either Charlotte--wearing shorts to Sunday Mass is more about bad taste than inherent disrespect for Our Lord. Unless, of course, one is younger than 7 or so.

Perhaps a subject for another blog post--why do we Americans tend to celebrate our bad taste so much (not only in fashion, but in many areas), as if it's something really good and wholesome and American instead of being kind of boorish and crude? Have we been suckered by marketers and advertisers into believing that there's something to celebrate about a culture which revels in sloppy, ugly clothing, junk food, kitschy "art" and the celebration of the vulgar on stage and screen? When did we decide that that's what it means to be Americans, anyway?

Charlotte said...

I love Andy Warhol art. I love 1950's kitch. I love drive-ins. I love tacky carnival booths. I love Big Macs.

These are all aspects of American culture that make us American. We are, after all, a "new" country, and one that is a hodge-podge and fiercely independent at that.

Our tastes in food, clothes, architecture, etc., have been the laughing stock of Europe for a long, long time. In fact, many Europeans can identify American tourists simply because they are wearing.....shorts (or sweats).

Am I proud of every aspect of all this? No. But I have no problem liking SOME things that I'm not proud of. Does France, for example, have a grander, more aesthetically sound culture when it comes to things like fashion and architecture? Absolutely. Does that mean I can't appreciate something tacky from our own culture? No.

Still, I live in America. This is our culture. Our people wear shorts, and we have for decades upon decades. We really have - anyone who wants to argue the opposite hasn't looked through the old slides in the basement. My grandmother, born at the turn of the century, wore one-piece jumpers that were shorts on the bottom in the 1930's and 1940's in the summer, and my mother wore pedal-pushers in the 60's and short-shorts in the early 70's. (No, they didn't wear them to church, I admit that, but it seems your blog post was about shorts in general.)

What you consider "too casual" IS the culture. The majority don't see it as boorish and crude. They really don't. They are too rushed, too crazy, too driven by entertainment, too busy. They just want to be comfortable and feel as if their clothing reflects the warmer seasons. Clothing reflecting the feel and mood of the seasons IS a part of fashion design and always has been. Today, shorts is one expression of that reality, and that reality also happens to be very casual.

Except it's becoming fewer and fewer people who see it as "casual." I see this hashed around so often on Catholic blogs, that I'm starting to personally identify an over-concern with "casualness" as the hallmark of a fussy conservative. (Not saying that specifically about you, although you do like this subject! Ha!)


Charlotte said...

Listen, there are huge parts of me that wish people would dress up more. I collect vintage clothes, purses, shoes, and jewelry, for heaven's sake! Last night I was swooning at the mall because Banana Republic has introduced a womens AND mens clothing collection mimicking Mad Men. Awesome! Except the thing is I have nowhere to wear those vintage clothes and those spiffy retro-styled dresses anymore. I don't work in corporate America. And if I wore any of that to church, there would be more than a few raised eyebrows!

Yes, raised eyebrows. No one looks twice if a woman comes to church in a casual skirt or dress anymore. But if you show up to church in a REAL dress or a dress suit or heels with pantyhose, etc., or a really nice mens suit with tie, you had better be a senior citizen or someone is going to ask you why you're all dressed up. I believe the average Catholic would back me up on this (except mostly average Catholics aren't reading this blog). I rarely see men in ties at mass anymore. I rarely see women wear anything dressier than a loose skirt with what amounts to a t-shirt and sandals. Honestly. Any church that I go to anywhere. There's a handful and that's it. Period.

Perhaps I am arguing for adhering to the lowest common denominator. Perhaps. Perhaps I have lowered my standards. Perhaps. But the thing is, I don't feel like fighting culture on something I don't think matters anymore.

I don't think people are less inclined to believe the Eucharist is real if they are wearing jeans to mass or shorts. I really don't. Trads and such will argue otherwise. Rather, I believe it's about Vatican II and crappy catechesis and families that don't take their kids to church every week, etc. I see families EVERY WEEK, for years and years at my parish wearing shorts to church. EVERY WEEK they are there. Good, faithful Catholics who are active in the parish. What's the big deal?

Patrick said...

Would anyone accept the argument that, in charity, one really ought to try to please the *more picky* person, dress-wise?

It's really the reason why people dress up for weddings and funerals. The bride or the bereaved would be rendered uncomfortable were I to show up in a tee-shirt and shorts, and so rather than pursue my comfort or assert my right to wear "whatever I please because I don't care what anyone thinks" (which is true in my case as well as Charlotte's), I'll wear a suit and tie, and have a shave.

So in other words, sure, why short pants don't violate any Commandments nor are they banned in the Catechism (and rightly so), and God doesn't care whether you wear shorts, and "taste" is very subjective*; would anyone accept the argument that one ought to dress so as not to overly tax a less casual member of the parish out of concern for their comfort?

* Since I grew up in Michigan, I can say that people in the Upper Midwest are pretty casual dressers. The short pants/sweat shirt/visor combination isn't rare, and neither is the socks-with-sandals combination.

Charlotte said...

Patrick - all good points.

I would counter with the anecdotal "fact" that in catering to the most "picky" person at mass, I would be catering to a very small minority. In this, I am referring to your average, middle of the road American parish, not a church that was decidedly conservative in nature or reputation.

So the question is this: Is there a need or reason, spiritual or otherwise, to "cater" to a very small minority?

Red Cardigan said...

Char, the funny thing is that I attend a tiny church in rural Texas, and most people do dress up for Mass; same thing was true at the big suburban church and the cathedral (though in the case of the suburban church, the influx of Anglican converts probably raised the tone of the dress a few years before I ever went there). I haven't visited the midwest in quite a while, so I'll take your word for it that no one cares enough to dress up for church anymore. Maybe this whole thing is more regional than I thought; the south and southwest tend to retain those "good manners" ideas about dressing up--and the many Protestants attending church services in their Sunday best put us to shame!--and if you say midwesterners have pretty much abandoned ship on that idea and are totally comfortable going grungy/sloppy to Mass and everywhere else, I'll take your word for it (just one more reason for me to be happy to be here!).

JMB said...

Interesting comments! Here's my POV on shorts.

I actually look good in them. I'm almost 45 and work out regularly. For the past year I've been taking a Lotte Berk technigue class which incorporates the ballet barre, light weights, pilates & yoga to strengthen and overall tone the body. It is the most difficult exercise that I have ever done and it has changed my life in ways that I never expected.

The first one is that I am proud of what my body can do and I no longer think I'm a total loser in the athletic department. Secondly, I realized that nobody has a perfect body and that we are all fighting age and gravity. Thirdly, I'm not as self conscious of myself as I used to be.

Part of the problem with a lot of women is that they are afraid to look "too good". They are afraid that other women will hate them and think that they are frivolous, stuck up or vain, or simply trying too hard to be the center of attention. So in some ways, there is a deliberate and subtle pressure to tone it down a little. Take off the bling. Wear longer shorts that don't flatter as much as those mid thigh ones do! Ditch the knee skimming skirt for something longer and frumpier. Or just pull out all stops and wear those Chinese worker khaki capri shapeless pants! Yes, if I look like I don't care, than maybe I'll fit in with those smart ladies over there. As you may have guessed, I live in a predominately Irish Catholic and Waspy enclave. If you move a few miles away to the town that has more Italians and Jews, you don't have this problem.

So I rock out the shorts in my neck of the woods. I wear them when I walk my dogs and I wear them proudly. I also learned that shorter shorts actually look better on my shorter legs than those long "city short" style. Would I wear them to Church? Of course not!

freddy said...

Charlotte's right, Erin; we in the midwest tend toward the uber-casual. Although I do know a man who got fired from my husband's place of business for wearing shorts, but that was several years ago.

And Charlotte, you're right. Why on earth should we cater to that small minority?

Tell you what: next time we have a certain friend over for dinner, I'm not gonna clean my house. After all, I'm comfortable, my kids are comfortable, that should be good enough for anybody, right? And we're going to use paper plates. Why should I have to wash the good china just for a guest? And even though I promised a good meal maybe I'll just call my husband and have him pick up some pizza on his way home.

"Hi, Father, come on in... no, don't sit there, I'm not sure what that is...."

I guess it comes down to whether you see Mass as something pretty extraordinary or just a stop between Starbucks and Dennys. I'm not saying that you have to dress to the nines, but that your fellow Catholics should get as much respect as your boss, maybe. And shorts are by and large going to scream, "casual" in any setting.

Charlotte said...

Erin, yes, I think the midwest is very different than down south. In fact, the two times I have been to Dallas, I couldn't believe how preoccupied people seemed to be with fashion and jewelry and nice cars, etc. So maybe it's a regional thing.

Freddy: I eat at homeschoolers homes all the time where we are served on paperplates and the house is anything but clean (usually homes with lots of kids.) That's personally not my style, but just have to retort back for the heck of it.

See, here's the thing, and I'm gonna be blunt: We can bitch about how immoral and unholy everyone is ala gay marriage and abortion and premarital sex and not knowing that the Eucharist is the real deal and no one going confession. Or we can bitch about casual clothes at mass, whether or not mass is ad orientem, chapel veils, the songs we hate ala Haugen/Haas, and a host of other little aestehetic details. But I don't think we can bitch about all of it.

For me, it seems much better to bitch about the first set of problems than the second. But that's just me, I know others would disagree with me vigorously.

I'm moving more in more in the direction of "give me Jesus" and "Have mercy on me a terrible sinner" in jeans rather than give me fussy rubrics in Sunday best. Not advocating that for everyone, we're all on our own spiritual journey.

By the way, what I've written here probably makes it seem as I go to mass dressed like a total slob. Not the case. I'm as dressy/casual as anyone else there.

Red Cardigan said...

Charlotte, the thing is, I don't think it's always either/or. Sometimes it's both/and.

It's kind of like saying that so long as we have Mass, it doesn't really matter if the church looks like a shopping mall, never gets around to actually having pews to replacing the folding chairs, and puts up lots of burlap/felt wall decorations. For me, I had to learn that those things weren't the *most* important issues, and not areas where I should judge the *hearts* of my fellow Catholics--but does it mean that architecture, music, art, etc. means nothing at all or is all a matter of personal preference?

This gets back to something we used to talk about on Rod Dreher's old blog--the loss of a sacramental vision of life, of the idea that there should be some cohesion between one's inner and outer life, the idea that we really can be affected by our environment, food, clothing, etc. That's not mumbo-jumbo stuff--just look at scientific studies about the connection between everything from mood to mental health and wellbeing as related to things like aromas, light levels, clutter levels, stress factors such as noise, and so on.

I will readily agree that it is more important to prepare one's heart for Sunday Mass than to prepare one's mere outward self--but that doesn't mean the outward self doesn't matter at all; we are flesh and spirit. Sure, the person throwing on shorts and a tee-shirt for Mass may be totally focused on his or her looming encounter with our Eucharistic Lord, and may be immersed in his or her daily habit of deep morning prayer, and may not be thinking at all about what he or she plans to do for the rest of the day. But I find it easier to get into "Mass mode" if I'm *not* throwing on clothes I'd wear to the park or the grocery store.

Charlotte said...

Erin, I couldn't be Catholic if I didn't agree with you on that last comment, now could I?

My point was that if we start complaining about EVERYTHING then we aren't being appreciative of what's really going on. I'm saying we need to pick our battles.

Some will pick different battles than others. In this case, I highly doubt all the complaining and admonishments from internet bloggers is ever going to change the general way in which the average American dresses at mass. I'd rather see 100% of Catholics believing the Eucharist is real and wearing shorts than the other way around.

Patrick said...

@ Charlotte:

"Is there a need or reason, spiritual or otherwise, to 'cater' to a very small minority?"

Only to make the more punctilious parishioners comfortable; so only as a kindness to your neighbors. Of course, if your neighbors are casual as well, then there is no reason. Being kind to your neighbors might make you holier, but dressing nicely doesn't make you holier when divorced from that motive.

"But I don't think we can bitch about all of it."

This is part of the reason I floated the idea of, in charity, trying to "please the pickier". These preoccupations with how other people dress, receive the Eucharist, what type of architecture/music there is, seem so distracting as to be getting in the way of their spiritual growth; I recommend that the less punctilious, in charity, do these folks the tremendous favor of observing proprieties - simply as a favor to help them focus on the important subjects (adoration, abortion, the importance of sacraments and sacramentals).

In other words, ease the mind of these reactionaries* by receiving the Eucharist on the tongue - even though in the hand is *perfectly permissible* - and you might be removing obstacles to someone else's growth by ending their preoccupation with something that, after all, *isn't* a sin.

Truthfully; I thought the original post was more tongue-in-cheek than it's become in the comments section.

* I mean that in the technical sense, not as a pejorative (in case someone thinks "reactionary" is pejorative).

LarryD said...

Being Catholic means to be counter-cultural, even more so when being counter-cultural amongst the culture-infused Catholics around us.

One ought to dress in accordance to the seriousness of the occasion and the worthiness of the host. Seeing that Jesus Christ is the host, and the Sacrifice on the Cross is the occasion...well, for me, that's all the reason I need to not wear shorts - as well as insist the same for my sons - to Mass. I think the mindset "hey, it's just part of the Midwest culture" is a piss-poor reason (and I live in Michigan, so I know what the Midwest culture is).

Is this a hill worth dying on? No, not particularly. But the effort we put into preparing ourselves for the Mass should include the whole person - physically, mentally, spiritually - and perhaps by one person's example to do a little more, however small, in adjusting one's appearance for Mass might inspire another person to do the same. And then another, and then another. And then, by shining our lamp rather than our legs, the culture within the Church will ever so slowly improve.