I walked out of the church after Mass, through the small courtyard towards the parking lot. In that staggered line of people, I happened to be directly behind a young girl and her mother. The older lady could have been her grandmother because the young girl was probably in her early teens. I’ll call her the mother, which I am sure would be well received by her.
The young girl was holding her mother’s hand, as she did while making her way to and from the Eucharist during Holy Communion. I noticed the awkward way she walked. Twisting back and forth like you see in those who have had a major injury, or were born with a physical problem that causes us to notice them because of it – at least the first time you see them. But, from her facial features, I would say she probably has needed this mother’s help from birth and appeared to be blind or partially blind. They were dressed in matching tops and clean pressed simple pants.
I sometimes notice people at Mass and wonder what kind of life they live. I wonder what needs they have that would prompt them to ask for God’s grace. Like the slim, middle aged oriental man. Every Communion after receiving from Father, he walks to St. Joseph and lights some candles. Ours are electronic and lit by just tapping them, but they glow the same as real ones. Tap, tap, tap, tap. Sometimes just tap, tap. He then continues on his way to his pew. I have seen him needing crutches to walk, but he still lights the candles.
After all, Mass and the sacraments are a time to immerse ourselves in Christ’s Church, to recognize our place in His Holy Body, to be grateful for the opportunity to forgive our inevitable sins, to join with our creator. The opportunity is accepted by the people I mentioned above to ask for what is most important in their lives – as do I.
We Walked Along
I held back as we walked, not wanting to squeeze by the girl and her mother on the narrow walk. I’m in no hurry anyway. This courtyard has a small grassy lawn and an arbor with a statue of the Blessed Mother. People often stop there and pray to Her.
Another young girl ahead of us stopped at the exit into the parking lot, as if she was waiting for someone. This young girl was blessed with apparent good health and actual youth that we sometimes look back on and ponder a time long ago when we were that young. This girl may have unseen difficulties in life that we can all imagine from our own experience or the experiences of those we know. We don’t know for sure what they might be.
What made this seemingly unremarkable little moment in my humble existence very important to me, is the way the healthy looking young girl was dressed. She was wearing shorts in contrast to the other people I saw on my way out of Church. Shorts in the summer in Church has become a common sight, if not numerous. Usually young girls, rarely young boys, never teen-aged boys. If considered proper for the young why not for adults? Why not for the clergy? Why can’t father perform his function in Bermuda shorts or Speedos, as well as in those colorful vestments? Is the only reason for a particular dress comfort and simplicity – a quick way to get ready to go somewhere?
“The Times They Are A-Changin”
The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’. (Bob Dylan)
This degradation in dress for Mass over the years has no apparent opposition from the pulpit. I guess it is part of the way custom has moved over the years. From presenting a cared-for appearance to God while worshiping Him, to gathering together for a family celebration and meal. An imitation of the American Thanksgiving where many people embarrassingly thank an unnamed entity for all the standard good things, gorge themselves, then watch football. Why spend time dressing up? Stay dressed-down, as you found yourself when you woke up that morning. The food, the company (not always), and the T.V. are the important things.
People Are Different Than Butterflies
Animals groom themselves instinctively. Some, like butterflies, need no special care to look beautiful, and it is easy for us to recognize that natural beauty.
We, on the other hand, to enhance the beauty of our soul, tend to dress appropriately for occasions. The beach requires a swimsuit of some kind, if not for swimming then for sunbathing. Shorts will do. To dress there in a business suit or an evening dress would be very strange, and impractical. Some beaches in crazy land allow no suit at all, to the shock of my sensibility when presented with what briefly appeared to be from afar a large group of Zalophus californianus, turned out to be Homo sapiens. An honest mistake due to the similarity of body shapes in that instance.
At the Mall, teens and young adults wear shorts, torn blue jeans, or other casual clothing. But, you can be sure that their hair is carefully groomed, and for girls makeup is applied. Older men my age, who should know better, come in jeans and T-shirts.
When people come to Mass in jeans, shorts, flip-flops, T-shirts with large lettered messages that have nothing to do with faith, I don’t wonder if these people are able to afford better clothing, I wonder why they don’t dress up a bit. I wonder why the parents of teens dressed as if they wished they were at the mall, don’t insist on better behavior.
This is God
God, your maker, the creator of everything, is whom you are approaching. Would you appear at the White House dressed that casually? Those who would say yes to that question currently because of political reasons, I would guess would not say yes if the last president was receiving them. How about an honorary dinner, to be on television, a first date, a second date, as a prom date, your wedding, an anniversary dinner, to have your portrait taken, any gathering of persons for an important special reason.
The Great Depression is well behind us. A time when food and shelter were the main concerns of millions and clothing was a lesser one. I can remember a time just after the start of the recovery from that time, seeing a family of classmates in grade school with no shoes. The quality of clothing was less obvious to my age group than the absence of clothes. A sight probably not experienced in today’s America. Even then, people washed and mended, they did what they could to improve their appearance and well-being. The wider experience of poverty provided a standard for what was possible, just as plenty does today.
If we have reached a time when imitating a Zalophus californianus is our goal, then we have made no progress towards understanding the failure of the first try at imitation that our species made in Genesis 3: “But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…””
We are God’s people. When we show an obvious disinterest in making the occasion of Mass a little more special than going to a Justin Bieber concert, then are we really aware of what we owe Him?