Deacon Greg Kandra has a great article over at Patheos about trying to get his parishioners to dress decently at Mass. It think this is a frustrating universal problem in the United States (especially in my casual Southern state.) In reading the comments to the article you can see why it is such a problem…people just don’t think it is a big deal. I commented too and I reproduce it here for you. Be sure to go read his article too (but come back!)
“I think Deacon, that you can see from the comments here why we have this exact problem at Mass. First, let me say that I’m glad people come to Mass and I’m happy to have them, even if they are not dressed well or are 15 minutes late. However, in general we have a laxity of dress in this society today. Many times I think, “What should I wear to an event?” and then dress down and it is usually right.
I have given up trying to make my 16 year old wear dress pants and dark shoes because no matter what Mass we go to (LifeTeen or not) all the teens will be in flip flops, T-shirts and jeans. I don’t want to discourage him from going so I pick my battles. People just don’t think it is important to look nice or modest anymore. So I just bite my tongue when the 14 year old girl comes in with a tube top or spaghetti straps, or the 17 year old guy comes in with the T-shirt with satanic symbols on it.
People also don’t get why we should not be bringing in food, water bottles, or soda to Mass. I am well aware of how hard it is to keep small children quiet and distracted at Mass. But, you know… Cheerios or Goldfish? How about a nice quiet, long lasting Tootsie Roll Pop. No mess, no bugging Mom for more. I did that until they were 3 and then no more. After that it was paper and pencil to draw or a small quiet toy to play with, etc. And believe me my boys were not easy in Church. The cry room is a wonderful place for the 2 year old if needed.
I think the problems are:
1) Few think it is necessary to dress up anywhere. Comfort is all essential.
2) I don’t know about your church but mine is not exactly a beautiful and reverent place.
3) There are few people who really are reverent about the Eucharist, which is why we do everything the way we do at Mass. If they were aware of how important the Eucharist is they would be very reverent. This is why catechesis is so important.
4) Many people are not there to truly worship God, they are there to do their duty and “get it over with” while making themselves feel better that they went to Church, or that they are good people for taking their kids to Mass.
5) Essentially, it is all about “Me” and not about “God.” That is why so many hymns are “I” “We” “Us” and not really about praising Him.
It will hopefully help when we get a more reverent translation and maybe better music. I think it would also help to make the lights in the church very low and have the altar more lit. Perhaps having the lights low will encourage people from chatting – the old people are the worst in our church and they should know better. It also would encourage silent prayer. Bring back the tabernacle and perhaps maybe turn the priest back around so you can say – “Hey, we are really here to worship God.” Let’s make it a special event and perhaps people will dress like it is special.”