Have you ever walked into a room and realized you are underdressed? Shame is a bad feeling isn’t it? It can also be a serious motivation.
One of the first things we notice when looking at photos from the past or even photos from different cultures today is the style of clothing. While people did not always dress as we see them in photographs and paintings, the styles of yesteryear were often impressive, sometimes inspiring. Even photos of people going about regular daily activities can sometimes evidence a long lost attention to style. In comparison, today’s photos are significantly uninspiring. From the red carpet in Hollywood to the activists on the streets of Washington D.C., much of the clothing (or lack thereof) betrays the dignity of the human person.
The clothing we wear has an enormous impact on our culture and our culture can have an enormous impact on our clothing.
We still dress very well when we go to weddings, expensive fundraisers or other fairly glamorous social events. We are even more likely to dress well if a camera is involved. But unless we are doing something “special” or required to dress to a certain standard due to our employment, we are not likely to dress with great attention to style and detail.
What was once either a utilitarian approach to one’s garb or a statement of dignity and style, our current approach to style has devolved into one of convenience, comfort or political statement. What part of our interest in clothing styles is due to ourselves and what part is due to our desire to glorify God? The answer to this does not have to be an “either/or”, but too often it is.
Think back on the last time you dressed your best. Note that I’m not talking about renting a tuxedo or buying a new 3-piece designer suit. Some of us simply cannot afford a fine wardrobe. I am talking about the best clothing you have at your disposal. I’m talking about the clothing you picked out of your closet. For one man, this is tailored suit, but for another it may be the only button down shirt he owns.
When you last dressed your best, where were you going? What was the occasion?
If you wore your best for anything other than Mass, you may be dressing for yourself (maybe others) and not for the glory of God. We should be dressing our best every Sunday, because on Sunday, we meet our King. Why would we dress our best for a social event on Friday night or Saturday night and then give less to our King? Why would we look sharp for our co-workers on Monday through Friday, then show up for our King in jeans and a sweatshirt on Sunday?
For the last several decades, the national trend has been to forego the Catholic Church on Sunday, and show up at the local mega church instead. At the mega church, the feel is much different than in our Catholic Churches. There is little or no liturgy, the music is central but the altar is not, coffee and snacks are everywhere. If anyone is dressed well, it is the minister, but even the minister is often dressed like he is headed to a cookout.
Today, millions of Christians are skipping the mega churches and staying home on Sunday. They are unaffiliated with a church, so they don’t even have anything or anyone to whom they must dress.
There is no question that God accepts us as we are. But we should not force Him to accept us in our casual or comfortable clothing when our best stuff is hanging in our closet at home. Nor should we expect Him to come to us, when it is He who built the Church.
We show respect for others and events in many ways, but one of the most obvious is by the way we dress. When we interview for a job, go to a funeral or attend a celebration or event honoring someone special to us, we dress in our best. The Eucharist is the peak and pinnacle of our faith and the Mass is our highest form of communion with God. Why would we miss the opportunity to dress with dignity for our King? Catholic men simply need to be more intentional about the way we dress for Holy Mass.
Since our clothing impacts our culture and our culture impacts our choices of clothing, dressing our best says something about our relationship with God and the unparalleled importance of Holy Mass. We can never add to the Mass, but we can allow the miracle of the Mass to transform us. One way this can be seen is in our appearance when we meet the King.