Diocese of Toledo, Ohio

Browsing From the Pastor

Expressing our Dignity in What We Wear

   We express something of how we see ourselves in a number of ways: through our tone of voice, in gestures such as shaking hands, exchanging hugs, in our punctuality or lack of this, by using our hands to express what we want to share, in the manner in which we groom ourselves and by what we wear.

   We wear clothing which is appropriate for the situation in which we find ourselves. A number of us have “work clothes” that we wear when doing physical chores around the house, such as cutting the grass, painting, etc. As children, we have clothing and outfits that we wear to school. A number of schools have dress codes, stipulating what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Apparel is designed that enable wearers to come across to others as being “sexy.” There are outfits that we wear when we are being interviewed for a job that we hope to land. We have attire that we wear when we attend special events, such as weddings and funerals. Hopefully, we will want to dress in a fitting manner as we come to Mass each weekend.

   If our income allows us to have a variety of items in our wardrobe, we have an opportunity to express how we feel about the place or role of coming to Mass in what we choose to wear. To the extent that we regard any activity in our lives as special, we will want to express this in what we wear as we participate in this activity.

   Discussing attire in regard to coming to Mass is a delicate matter. On the one hand, we will hopefully regard the opportunity to gather weekly for Mass as a special occasion. In what other event or activity can we experience the affirmation and strength for which we yearn and of which our Lord is the Source than that of gathering for Mass?  

   As extraordinary as is the opportunity that is offered to experience God’s love for us as individuals and as groups whenever we gather for Mass, the Lord wants to offer this opportunity to all persons. No one is to be excluded. We definitely want to avoid the pitfall of coming across to persons as parishes in which they are not welcome because of what they wear. For this reason, I am reluctant to set forth a dress code indicating what is appropriate to wear or not to wear when we come to Mass. It is very important for us to not judge others on the basis of what they wear when they come to Mass. Let’s assume that our fellow worshippers are wearing the best that they have. We do not have control over what others do. What we do have control over and therefore that for which we are responsible is how we relate to options that are open to us.

   As a reflection for determining what to wear when we come to Mass, I offer the following. Let’s just say that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, invited us to his residence for dinner some evening. What would we want to wear? Would it not be the best that we have in our wardrobes? Let’s just say that the best that we can wear is a pair of old tennis shoes, a faded shirt or blouse and other items that have patches in them. I sense that the Holy Father, representing our Lord in a unique way, would welcome us with outstretched arms. When and as we offer and present the best that we have, we need not ever feel ashamed or inferior because we are not out to please others, but the Lord, Who welcomes all. 

   As our love for the Lord grows, on the one hand, we will want to please the Lord in all that we do, even down to the matter of what we choose to wear when we come to Mass. At the same time, we will assume the best about all who gather to worship with us, regardless of what they wear. In this way, the matter of Mass attire will be an occasion for expressing a legitimate sense of diversity within the broad setting of our unity in Christ.


Sincerely yours in Christ,

Fr. Nelson Beaver – Pastor


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