A parish priest on Sunday Mass obligation and attendance

Fr. Bill Baer, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, former rector of St. John Vianney Minor Seminary (which he turned around in a Herculean labor) and now parish priest of Transfiguration in Oakdale, MN, has intelligent observations about Catholics and Sunday Mass attendance.

Some salient points from Fr. Baer in my arrangement but with links back to his parish blog:

1. A "Good" Parish: A Parish Where the Parishioners Go to Mass

The first of the seven "Precepts of the Church" is this: "To attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, and to rest from servile works."


2. Reason #1: A Distaste for Obligation

"When I was young, I went to Mass because I had to.  Now, I go to Mass because I want to." 

It is rare these days to hear a pastor declare, "You must go to Mass."  Actually, it is rare these days to hear a pastor declare that you must do just about anything.


3. Reason #2: If We Just Ignore that Nasty Little Statistic, Perhaps It Will Go Away Recent studies have determined that between 25% and 30% of American Catholics are at Mass on any given Sunday.  (Statistics on Sunday Mass attendance vary a great deal by region: Catholics in western Kentucky and the Dakotas, for example, have been clocked at 75% – 80%.  At the other end would be the Archdiocese of Boston, which reports attendance rates of 12% – 15%.)

Imagine truancy rates such as these in our schools.


4. Reason #3: The Third Commandment in Slow Dissolve

The decline in Sunday Mass attendance among Catholics is part of a larger phenomenon: the decline in Sunday itself.  A couple of generations ago, many rural and big-city Catholics had small closets in their bedrooms, containing two hooks: one to hold their working clothes, the other to hold their "good" clothes, their Sunday clothes.  Two hooks, two parts of the week.  Nowadays, Catholics get dressed up for work, and dress down for Sunday.


WDTPRS kudos to Fr. Baer.  I hope he continues his series.

Pastors of souls are just that… pastors of souls.  They have the responsibility to see the the care of souls of their parishioners.

Getting them to Mass on Sunday, so they don’t risk their souls, is a good start.

From there, you can take them along a sound pastoral path.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. doanli says:

    Very good and interesting thoughts.

    I remember telling a priest friend years ago that it was okay to mix a little “brimstone” in the warm and funny homilies as well.

    Bet many Catholics weren’t taught or it wasn’t emphasized that attendance on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligations were REQUIRED.

    How many priests don’t even talk about sin anymore for fear of offending someone?

    I know it’s hard and I empathize. But wouldn’t you say also, Father Z, that priests and other religious will be answerable to the Lord Himself for how they shepherded the Flock?

    For the record, I have been guilty of not observing the Sabbath, something I am going to rectify. (Holy Days of Obligation and working for money on Sunday).

  2. TJerome says:

    Unfortunately, low Mass attendence probably is due to a couple of factors: poor catechesis following the Council and banal liturgies. It was not uncommon after the Council that many priests trying to be “pastoral” stopped referring to categories of sin, such as mortal and venial, and quit talking about the laws of the Church and one’s obligation to attend Sunday Mass. If one’s pastor has given up, what would one expect of the laity? Also, the implementation of the reforms drove many folks out the door. We went from fairly solemn and dignified liturgies (generally) to sappy music, banal language, sloppy vestiture, banners, balloons, folks running all over the altar, etc. It was truly a revolution and many decided to opt out. Fr. Baer is to be commended. If the pastor takes the Church and her sacraments seriously, the people will eventually follow.

  3. Fr Matthew says:

    This is a very important point – we need to get our parishioners to Mass on Sunday and teach them to understand the importance of being there. It’s difficult to implement, because generally speaking our homilies are being heard by the people who DO in fact go to Mass on Sundays (and/or weekdays). That’s no excuse, of course – we have to find the way to reach the “lost sheep” – but it’s just more evidence that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If more priests had held the line in preaching about sin and obligations as well as the more “affirming” part of the Christian message, and if more had offered a liturgy that was clearly transcendent and beautiful (or at least dignified), we would not be in this mess today, trying to figure out how to get the toothpaste back in the tube. I preach about these topics, but I realize that I’m largely “preaching to the choir”. The faithful mass-goers need to have their good habits reaffirmed and motivated. However, the people who urgently need to hear the message are not in the pews most of the time.

    Anyway, lamenting the past is not very helpful. We need to take a positive and active approach to solving the problem. Blogs like this one are a way to reach people we might not see in Church – you never know when a Google search will lead someone to a good post like this by “accident” (i.e. Divine Providence) or in a moment of curiosity.

  4. SuzieQ says:

    I am constantly amazed at the lack of respectful clothing during Mass… even among good and faithful Catholics! And this is not passing judgment on anyone … but do parents realize the message they’re sending their kids when they wear dress clothes to work, but go to Mass in jeans? Come on people … the Creator of existence has made Himself FOOD for you… put on a tie!

  5. A. J. D. S. says:

    The observation that “Catholics get dressed up for work, and dress down for Sunday” is very well-made. It’s one of those points that really make you stop and think for a minute.

  6. Faith says:

    I think everyone knows why attendance in Boston is so low.
    But last weekend, I heard a comment that I think hits the nail on the head. It isn’t that the people of Boston aren’t Catholic anymore, it’s that they’re anti Church authority. They aren’t going to listen. Yes, we’ll receive the Eucharist, but that’s all.

  7. Mike says:

    The banality of the sermon, of the liturgy, is a big part of this problem of non-attendance. And as pointed out, our culture is anti-obligatory in a huge way.

    We vacationed in Maine last month. I try not to judge–we can’t judge souls–but, boy, I think you can spot a priest who doesn’t really pray a mile a way. (Perhaps this work the other way ’round too.)

    You can’t give what you don’t have…and that’s also relevant to Boston–my hometown!!

  8. Flambeaux says:

    I disagree that Catholics get dressed up for work and dress down for Mass. No one dresses up for work anymore, as far as I can tell. I certainly don’t. My work uniform is shorts and t-shirts. If I feel like dressing up, I’ll wear sneakers rather than sandals.

    I suspect most people wear to Mass what they wear to work.

  9. lmgilbert says:

    Things that might help get the faithful back to Mass-

    a) There was a pastor emeritus at Our Lady of the Wayside in Arlington Heights, IL who *as a hobby* used to go out of an evening and visit two or three homes in the parish. I don’t think he limited himself to Catholics, either. In this way he was able to show a pastoral concern, bring people back to the practice of their faith, regularize marriages, preach the gospel.

    Since the negligent didn’t come to Mass, he went to them.

    b) In “The Diary of a Parish Priest” (The Newman Press, 1964) Fr. Theodor Blieweis describes his much more extensive labors along the same lines in Germany after WWII.

    He writes, ” Anyone with even a nodding acquaintance with the Gospels knows that Our Lord himself went into people’s houses, teaching, healing, and forgiving sins…

    “The parish priest is still required to be the good shepherd of his parish, to look after the flock entrusted to him. And this means all of them, including those who do not come to him but whom he must seek out in their own homes if he is to get to know them…

    Personal acquaintance with ones parishioners is prescribed by Canon Law. Some dioceses have enlarged on this. One German diocese has laid down that every family, in town or country, must be visited….

    I see that ABE Books has one copy of this book available for $12.00.
    If any priest or bishop wants to borrow mine, please write me at leegilbert28@att.net

    c. At one point many years ago I was aware that an evangelical publishing company had put out a series of post cards that said, in various humorous and touching ways, “We missed you last Sunday….”
    Is this too “hokey” for our sensibilities? I haven’t the slightest doubt that many people would be touched to receive any such thing. How could they be offended? Many people leave I am sure, because of the typical anthill anonymity of the large urban or suburban parish. If someone would only acknowledge their existence!

  10. doanli says:

    Something that our last pastor did that I love now.

    He wasn’t afraid to remind the congregation that Mass was not over until the priest left the “room”. Ushers were instructed not to give out bulletins to those who left earlier than that.

    We need more of that, I think. (I haven’t left too early since!)

  11. lucy says:

    Preach the truth and they will come.

    I witnessed this years ago when we had a very fine young priest, who also wore the cassock, his biretta, and walked around with his beautiful German Shepherd. This young priest preached the truth, drew many to his weekly catechism classes and more than a few were converted as I recall. Of course, when he spoke the truth in church, one or more parishioners were offended, wrote our bishop, and soon he was gone. Now, I will admit to knowing about several of his own shortcomings that also precipitated his removal, but he did a lot of good while here as well. This includes leading us to the traditional form of the Mass which we followed him to. I will be eternally grateful to him and I hope that he recovers enough in future to have all faculties back.

    Preach the truth and they will come.

  12. lmgilbert says:

    The paragraph beginning “Personal acquaintance…” should have been in quotes as it is Fr. Blieweis’s writing. I don’t know if the new code of canon law contains any such provision.

  13. RichardR says:

    Imgilbert’s points are well taken. Unfortunately many of the newer (younger) priests in our diocsese have made it very clear that, while it is acceptable for the women of the parish to bring in meals to the rectory, they (the priests) are above visiting the parishoners except in extreme circumstances (i.e., to annoint the dying). The younger priests convey an attitude of superiority and aloofness that is quite strong. Obviously, this is not a reason not to attend Mass although I suspect that in Boston a disrespect or fear of the clergy, based on the sex-abuse scandles, may be playing a greater role than the homilies or us of the OF of the Mass.

  14. Frank H says:

    You can always tell that our elementary school is having it’s big fundraiser dinner/auction… Lots of folks at the 5pm Saturday evening Mass decked out in suits and dresses!

  15. AnAmericanMother says:


    We feel like it’s the exact opposite with our young priests here. Our rector is busy every hour of every day, he has meetings until well into the evening most days, but the younger priests are happy to come to dinner (or to our choir party, which was a rousing success this year in part due to a strong contingent of the Men In Black – our parochial vicars and two priests in residence at our parish). They are FAR from aloof or superior, we talk about everything under the sun from classic military films (one of my husband’s hobbies) to dog training (and you know who brought THAT subject up).

    Our parish had an interesting outreach ministry a few years ago — the young professionals club actually went and knocked on every door in the neighborhood, starting at the church door and working their way out for a month. I’ll have to check to see if more folks came to Mass, but in any event it was great not only for relations with the surrounding neighborhood but also for the young men and women who did the ground-pounding.

  16. RichardR says:

    You are lucky and blessed. It is not so everywhere.

  17. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    Even people in the archdiocese of Boston will come to Mass if they are given encouragement. Let me share a story of a small parish with a rather aloof pastor. He’d rush off to his home on the Cape the minute Sunday Mass was over and return midweek, he gave homilies he downloaded from the internet, the staff was run by a very progressive (and aggressive) DRE (director of religious ed). Needless to say, the parish was dispirited. Then two years ago a priest from Africa arrived for a month to take over. The pastor took off almost the day after the African arrived, but the visiting priest made do. He decided to walk around town to meet people. He dressed up in a shirt from home — one with a large color picture of the Virgin Mary, front and back! — smiled at everyone he met, and chatted with shop owners, policemen, whoever. At Mass he simply and earnestly explained the Gospel message. By the end of the month, every Mass at the parish was standing room, and people were coming from other towns, too. People would wait in line for confessions, which he stressed. It wasn’t just a novelty factor: This African priest lived his faith and spoke from the heart. He is still missed. (Unfortunately, the parish has sunk back into its old rut.) But the point is: People wanted to buy what he was selling.

  18. La Sandia says:

    At one of my old parishes, I would walk past an African-American Baptist Church and see the people arriving for Sunday Service. The men would be wearing immaculate suits and ties and the women wearing tasteful and modest dresses and sometimes hats. Then I would arrive at Mass and most people would be wearing jeans and many women wearing spaghetti-strap tank tops and even halter tops and strapless dresses during summer. At another parish that I’ve attended, I even saw a guy drinking coffee DURING MASS! The way most Catholics dress for Mass says that they really don’t care enough about the liturgy and the Eucharist, that it’s just something to get out of the way before the afternoon’s football game. Only at TLM parishes have I seen all or most parishioners dressed with the dignity befitting the occasion. Those Baptists really put us to shame, and I suspect that many Protestants (especially traditional-minded Anglicans considering Rome) would find the casualness with which a typical Catholic congregation conducts itself to be a stumbling block to conversion.

    I do believe that the clergy are more culpable than the congregations though, for not showing by example that the Mass is an awe-inspiring event to be celebrated with the utmost dignity and reverence. If Father ad-libs the Mass, wanders the aisles awkwardly during his stand-up routine, er, sermon, and promotes cheesy and irreverent music, the people will follow, although many (especially young people) will stop feeling the need to wake up early on a Sunday morning.

  19. lux_perpetua says:

    RE dressing up for work/down for Mass.

    I actually get the same problem with work that i do with mass. many say things like “that skirt is so pretty… but you know we dress casually around here, right?” I even explained once that i dress nicely for work because i often go to daily Mass and never want to feel like i cannot walk into a church. but no, i think that the dressing down of our culture and its ramifications is a phenomenon which does not confine itself to the Mass

  20. TJerome says:

    Massachusetts Catholic, I’m surprised your pastor didn’t clean up his act after being shown up by his replacement. Oh well.

  21. Bornacatholic says:

    I personally know two Priests in the Diocese of Palm Beach County, Florida, who think that a Christian Catholic fulfills his Sunday duty simply by going to Church – even a Protestant Church.

    I know this to be a fact because I lost a bet with the individual who made that Confession to each Priest and was told by each Priest that what the individual Confessed was not a sin.

    Satan is The Pusher in the Rye; shoving souls off the cliff into Hell in the fields of Indifferent wheat sown by the Spirit of Vatican Two.

  22. Ellen says:

    I’ll admit to missing Mass several years ago. I had had it up to my eyeballs with banal songs in inclusive language and wimpy sermons. Then I wised up and realized I was only hurting myself. I went to confession and found a church that was orthodox.

  23. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Not a surprise. I had a fellow Jesuit scholastic who believed he satisfied his Sunday obligation by attending Mass celebrated by his Episcopal priest friend. He took personal offense when people stated that he was mistaken.

    It was tough enough trying to convince my fellow Jesuit scholastics to observe the 1 hour fast before receiving Communion. That went double when we had Daily Mass at 5pm and evening graduate classes at 5:30. Oh, the bad old days.

  24. Henry Edwards says:

    La Sandia: “If Father ad-libs the Mass, wanders the aisles awkwardly during his stand-up routine, er, sermon, and promotes cheesy and irreverent music,” …..

    ….. then what will his parisioners think is dress befitting the occasion?

  25. TJerome says:

    Henry Edwards, precisely. The priest really sets the tone. If he takes the Mass, the language, the rubrics, and the readings seriously, his parishioners will too. There are a lot of younger posters here who were spared what many of us went through in the 1960s/70s. It was pure agony for those who really cared. Unfortunately many voted with their feet, never to return. There was (and is) very little introspection on the part of many of these types of priests, because really, it’s all about them.

  26. Carolina Geo says:

    Here is another problem with attire in church. Even when priests do address the issue, they do so in vague, noncommittal terms. For example, this blurb was in the bulletin of the cathedral in Savannah, GA, when I was visiting a few weeks ago:

    It was not that long ago that people attended Mass in their “Sunday Best”. Church clothes were special, after all, they were only worn for a couple of hours a week. The idea of “Sunday best” should be honored; churchgoers of all ages should dress appropriately. We could learn a lot about church attire by observing how non-Catholics dress when they attend church. Are we treating our Lord too casually?

    While the pastor is to be commended for drawing attention to the need for proper attire at Mass, he needs to set some specific guidelines. The term “Sunday best” is not a term that young people understand anymore, as they have no frame of reference to it. If the pastor were to specify, for example, that men should wear ties and slacks and women should wear skirts that hang past their knees and have their shoulders covered, then parishoners would have a better understanding of what the term “Sunday best” actually means. Otherwise, a person might think that “Sunday best” means his best beach shorts, or her cutest tube top (which is what someone at the cathedral was wearing that Sunday).

    I think that in many parishes, priests are too afraid of upsetting or alienating parishoners. After all, a person who gets upset and doesn’t return to the church the next Sunday is one fewer person to feed the coffers. But the opposite is actually true. People are attracted to rules and guidelines; we long for instruction in our spritual lives! A priest who establishes himself as a stickler for the truth and for appropriate decorum will be one to whom people will flock on Sundays – simply to hear the Gospel message that he is spreading.

    These are my opinions; they are worth exactly what you paid for them!

  27. Carolina Geo says:

    I should mention that the Mass that I referred to above at the cathedral was their weekly Traditional Latin Mass.

  28. RichardT says:

    Ellen, precisely my experience.

  29. nanetteclaret says:

    Re: Dress at Mass.

    Remember, we are dressing for the Lord, and not for anyone else. The Lord gave explicit instructions for the priests’ vestments in Exodus, and Genesis 3:21 tells us that the Lord God made clothes for Adam and Eve out of skins! In addition, St. Paul says in I Timothy 2:9 that women should wear modest apparel. So to say that God is not interested in what we wear to church is contradicting Holy Scripture. (In addition,I know I’ve seen a verse in the Psalms that tells us to “worship the Lord in holy array” but I can’t find it now.)

    Also, one of the things Our Lady told the children at Fatima is that people would begin to wear clothes which displease Our Lord. We would do well to listen to Our Mother and not wear just any old thing. I always wear a skirt and a chapel veil. People used to comment on it, but their inquiries gave me a chance to explain that it is because of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I think people were really surprised when I said that, but I am a convert, so Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is hugely important to me. Otherwise, I would have remained Episcopalian – or Presbyterian as I was brought up. I view it as an “outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual” gratitude to the Lord for bringing me to His Church.

  30. RichardT says:

    As for priests visiting houses, my parents’ priest does this regularly, but in the 20 years since I left home, living in very different parts of the country, I haven’t heard of another priest doing it.

  31. Girgadis says:

    I whole-heartedly agree with the observation that “the decline in Sunday itself” has much to do with why people don’t bother to go to Mass on Sunday. St. Therese once referred to Sundays as our day of Heaven on earth, yet how easily is this treasure disregarded in favor of some sporting event, brunch at a trendy restaurant, or other earthly allurement. When I was a child, all of Sunday’s activities revolved around Mass, followed by dinner at my grandparents’ house with all of our aunts, uncles and cousins. I can think of a local seaside resort town that observed “Blue Laws” that kept retail establishments closed on Sunday until about 25 years ago. It’s no coincidence to me that as these traditions have deteriorated, so has participation at Mass. There is no sight more depressing to me than people sloshing around in their shorts and flip flops on Sunday morning with a cup of coffee in their hand and absolutely no intention of going to church. The other thing that raises my ire are those who tell me they don’t go to church anymore because, I quote: “I wasn’t getting anything out of it” to which I respond “how much did you put into it?”

  32. JonM says:

    It would seem that there is a need for different approaches and this is where prudence comes in!

    Many people need positive encouragement; assertive yes, but tempered. Think lion at the pulpit and lamb in the confessional.

    For those who are tempted to skip because of bane lyrics and the like, I suggest bringing a prayer book or privately praying during Mass (e.g. instead of singing inappropriate songs). When Mass has felt like a Protestant service, I have tried to meditate on Christ’s life and sacrifice.

    I like the programs of neighborhood outreach. I think that tact is required because so many are afraid of brow beatings from those of other sects.

    This is a critical issue and needs more focus in order to get out of the decline we are in.

  33. Supertradmum says:


    Most professional places I have worked, colleges, universities, government offices, have very strict dress codes which include no jeans,no sandals, etc.

    As to dressing up on Sunday, out of a congregation of 350 at our Mass, one of four at our parish, there are two of us who wear skirts or dresses, the vast majority wearing jeans. But the worst dressers are the forty-year old ladies with their daughters in mini-short-shorts. The extraordinary ms wear Capri pants and sandals and that is considered dressed up. The altar girls frequently wear flip-flops. Father has a note in the bulletin two years ago mentioning these things and he was practically lynched and told to mind his own business.

    I bless this priest and pray that his ideas will start something. Bye the way, I know some deacons who have taught that Sunday Mass was no longer obligatory. I corrected them, but much damage was done.

    I am embarrassed by the shorts and the low tops. My example, sadly, has not created a following, although some of the old, old ladies tell me I look “nice”.

    If one wears a hat or veil, one is trying to “draw attention to one’s self” as I have been told.

  34. Revixit says:

    For the record, I can remember people wearing shorts and other casual attire to Mass in the early Sixties. Without air conditioning, men did not wear jackets or long-sleeved shirts in the summer months.

    Nobody has mentioned the fact that when people retire, they no longer buy clothes for work so their wardrobes soon become smaller as clothes go out of style or “shrink.” On a fixed income, and living in very uncertain economic times, most don’t feel that they can afford to put a lot of money into new dressy clothes since church is the only place they might wear them and since their disposable income tends to be going for medications and doctor visits. As they get older, people are also less willing to be uncomfortable for the sake of fashion, and often have medical reasons for wearing athletic shoes instead of dress shoes.

    While I’m sure Jesus appreciates us being neat and clean when we come to church, I think He is more concerned with the state of our souls than with the stylishness of our clothes. If we’re looking around to see what others are wearing, we’re not doing what we should be doing at Mass. If we happen to notice someone who is wearing something immodest, we should pray for the person to realize that that clothing is inappropriate for church. [This strikes me as a variation of “Jesus doesn’t care how we dress.”]

  35. Supertradmum says:

    I am sorry to disagree with Revixit, but one can get a dress or skirt at a second=hand store for 2 dollars, whereas jeans start in this area, around 35 dollars. Also, the older people are the ones dressing well, at least not too many jeans, while those in their forties look like they are either going to the county fair or the beach. I grew up very poor and we still had a special outfit for Sunday, which we did not use during the week. That was true for my entire family, aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents, etc., all from immigrant stock and dressing up on Sunday.

    Same with Easter and Christmas, when we got new Sunday clothes for the year. I am tired of the argument that nice, dressier clothes cost most than Capri pants, blue jeans and trendy sandals. A man can buy a pair of fake Dockers at the Dollar Store 10 dollars and 5 on sale.

    I just think that people, especially the thirty and forty somethings, do not really believe in the Eucharistic Presence.

    I have attended two events where the Princess Ann of England was in attendance and believe me, we were all dressed to the nines. She is just a human being. God Almighty comes to us at Mass.

    As to casual attire in the sixties, that was not my experience. Men still wore shirts and ties to Mass and women dresses or skirts in the sixties, well into the seventies. Things changed drastically in the late seventies, early eighties. Even when I was a graduate student at ND in the early eighties, the vast majority of girls and ladies wore skirts or dresses to Mass on Sunday, but then, I went to the smells and bells Mass.

  36. Supertradmum says:

    apologies, Princess Anne with an e, and technically, Anne, Princess Royal.

  37. bernadette says:

    I lived in the South in the early 1960’s when I was a teenager and attended Mass at a parish with no air-conditioning. I never, ever saw shorts on anyone at Mass. It would have been considered to be totally inappropriate, if not downright shocking. At the worst you might have seen a man in his shirtsleeves without a coat. For the ladies it was dresses, slips, stockings, hat, and gloves. Now it is nothing to see women in dresses with no backs, teenagers in ridiculously short shorts.
    I wasn’t Catholic at the time but decided to enter the Church in the 1980’s. The RCIA instructor told us that it was no longer considered a sin to miss Mass on Sunday, just not a good idea. I remember telling myself a few years later when I was missing Mass for months at a time, “This isn’t a good idea but I am so busy with job, kids, grad school.”

  38. AnAmericanMother says:

    I’ve been to Mass in the Bahamas in July, fer cryin’ out loud.

    Everybody was dressed ‘to the nines’, the men wore nice Oxford shirts and ties – the ushers were sweating in suits. The women and girls had pretty, ‘dressy’ dresses and HATS. Not a pair of shorts or heavy metal T-shirt to be seen anywhere (thank goodness we packed a nice set of ‘Sunday’ clothes!)

    And don’t tell me people in the USA – even retired people – can’t afford a nice Sunday dress or suit. These people lived on a remote Out Island and may have had an income of $B 200 a week, if that.

    It gets hot in the choir loft, and I tend to wear lightweight cotton or rayon tank dresses because I have a wool choir robe over. BUT I have a nice jacket to slip on when I get out of uniform, and I always have something in my hair, even if it’s a clip with a bit of fabric attached.

    And the Goodwill and Salvation Army are standing by with $10 dresses and $20 suits for the real tightwads.

  39. Alice says:

    When I was teaching CCD, the DRE would give the rock ’em sock ’em sermon on hell to parents who weren’t taking the kids to Mass at the beginning of the year (and if there were complaints, Father supported him). :) I think it worked, too because most of my kids did start coming to Mass.

  40. Many of you seem to be focused solely in the issue of Sunday attire.

  41. q7swallows says:

    Dear Fr. Matthew,

    “The faithful Mass-goers need to have their good habits reaffirmed and motivated.  However, the people who urgently need to hear the message are not in the pews most of the time.”

    Perhaps those faith-full Mass-goers are ready for the apostolic challenge of becoming such irresistible Christians in the rest of their daily lives that when they ASK others to come to Mass and the sacraments with them, they will not be refused!

    That is the vocation of the laity. And because it’s difficult, we tend to want to deligate it to others–especially priests.  While priests do have their own evangelistic activities, we laymen need to remember that it is primarily OUR job to bring the sick, the lame, the blind, etc. to Christ (through  His priests) and you give them back to themselves and us better than when they arrived. Granted, it’s an on-going process but . . . .    

    Leaven is supposed to go out of itself and elevate the dough.

  42. smallone says:

    Why do so many Catholics seem to act like they are at the equivalent of a 10 minute oil change place when they attend Mass? They leave as soon as they are “done” (I.e., after receiving). I never encountered anything like this as a Protestant, even in more liturgical churches. Is it catechesis (or lack thereof) or culture?

  43. AnAmericanMother says:

    The attire (or lack of it) is a symptom of what’s going on under the surface. An outward and visible sign, if you will.

    If you dress to appear in the Presence as though you were going out for a burger or to walk the dog, it sends a message to everybody who observes you that neither where you are nor what you are doing is holy, transcendent, or even important.

    Perhaps it’s something of a chicken-and-egg problem — lack of catechesis, absence of guidance and instruction from the clergy, failure of parents to instruct (and give a good example) — but you have to start somewhere. And the easiest thing to do is to dress like you mean it. Then (as Kipling said in one of his books) you will begin perhaps by acting but end by living. And that will affect others around you, whether you can see it or not.

  44. Henry Edwards says:

    AnAmericanMother: lack of catechesis, absence of guidance and instruction from the clergy, failure of parents to instruct (and give a good example)—but you have to start somewhere.

    No amount of catechesis, guidance, instruction, …… by themselves will have much appreciable effect on anybody in any reasonable amount of time.

    But just three things — ad orientem celebration, reception of communion on the tongue while kneeling, and use of sacred music — would in due course take care of the attitude/reverence problems of those now attending Mass. This would also give the youth now leaving reason to stay, and bring back some (though, realistically, not all) of those who have left.

    Sound easy, like could be done along with the new translation? Sure–except perhaps for the sacred music, which take a bit longer. Apparently, what’s hard is for the Church to decide to get serious.

  45. chironomo says:

    Many of you seem to be focused solely in the issue of Sunday attire.

    Fr. Z – perhaps this is a good indicator of what many see as one of the major problems in liturgy as practiced in the parish. It is both a cause and a consequence, a symptom of modernism and a behavior that perpetuates the attitude that spawned it! As many have said time and again “Fix the music and you’ll fix 90% of what’s wrong with the liturgy”, I would say “Fix the attitusde towards how we dress, and you’ll fix the remaining 10% of what’s wrong”.

  46. Supertradmum says:

    Sunday observance has declined as the number of shops being open, sports events, college and school events, even soccer practice have increased on Sundays. One holy priest told me a long time ago that a Catholic, unless called to be a doctor, fireman or policeman, should find a job which does not require Sunday work. Family time and prayer should be the things we do on Sunday.

    The necessity for prayer underlies all these problems. A lay person is called to holiness just as are the religious and priests, but we need to make time for an adult, consistent, and deep prayer life. We are the Sunday people, as Ignatius, Justin, Barnabas, John, Clement, Tertullian, etc. have shown in their references to Sunday Mass. Bad catechesis, yes, but a lack of love which stems from a lack of prayer is the reason for a lack of Sunday observation. If one loves Christ, one will find Sunday a joy.

  47. TJerome says:

    ‘Many of you seem to be focused solely in the issue of Sunday attire.’

    I think, Father Z, the reason that many of us cradle Catholics are focused on this, is because we are embarrassed by the decline in attire on Sunday compared to other Faiths. When I was young, even the garbageman in our parish wore a suit and tie to Church on Sunday, perhaps, because like most of us, he believed he was attending something that was very important.

  48. AnAmericanMother says:

    Henry Edwards,

    I think everything has to work together, and the exact proportion of instruction, improving the solemnity of the Mass AND reception by the faithful, dress, and music that can be instituted probably varies from parish to parish.

    If one encounters a great deal of resistance on one point, move to another. We are fortunate that this is a fairly orthodox parish, although ad orientem celebration would be difficult because of the proximity of the altar to the steps. A temporary altar would have to be set up against the reredos (which at least is there) . . . if we go back to facing the east on a regular basis, we will have to get a large crane in because the altar is three enormous blocks of marble that must weigh TONS. But at least it is possible because the sanctuary is laid out in a fairly traditional manner.

    Music has changed substantially for the better and has continued to improve. I’ll add an observation here that seems pertinent to me on the subject of dress . . . dress at the choral Mass is far more formal than others, and particularly more formal than the Sunday evening ‘youth Mass’ which seems to be the refuge of the blue jeans &c. crowd. The “youth” are nowhere to be found, it’s populated by superannuated hippies and folks who squeaked under the wire for their Sunday obligation. I get plenty of comments from people (including clergy) that they would just as soon see that Mass disappear. I think they mean the music, it’s pretty awful, the usual banal, repetitive stuff with goofy guitar chords. My husband is their substitute guitarist, he despises the music because it isn’t particularly good (he’s an old rocker and not a bad player at all) and it certainly isn’t particularly religious. But he says a gig is a gig . . . .

    In our parish, I actually approached a EMHC that I know pretty well about receiving on the tongue (we’re in the choir loft – I receive on the tongue from a priest when I can) and she was very understanding and cooperative.

  49. lizfromFL says:

    Well, I am going to go out on a limb here and hope I don’t offend anyone. But IMO the vast amount of moms who are working outside the home now, combined with families moving across the country from one another, has helped to contribute to the decline of Sundays. I will add that I am a working mother too. When I was a kid in the 80’s my mom did not work. On Sundays we went to 9:15 Mass and then changed clothes and went to grandma’s down the road for Sunday dinner and relaxation (card games, football, whatever). Maybe dad would do some chore like fix grandma’s screen door. Nowadays, Sundays have become the day to check the ads and do your shopping run, and prepare for the next workweek. It is no longer a day of rest. While I have missed Mass here or there, I would consider myself faithful. I have a few “church outfits” and so do my kids (yes, from Salvation Army!)and we usually go at 9:15, then go to CCD. We don’t do a Sunday dinner though. And we end up running lots of errands. I think if I were home this would be different – I might have more time during the week. That’s just my thought.

  50. catholicmidwest says:

    Take it from the Vatican: Dressing for church is all about coverage. Getting all dressed up with your body parts hanging out is worse than wearing coveralls and boots.

  51. catholicmidwest says:

    “The observation that “Catholics get dressed up for work, and dress down for Sunday” is very well-made. It’s one of those points that really make you stop and think for a minute.”

    Why? Why do you think you have to dress up for church?

  52. catholicmidwest says:

    Is this all there is to this topic: clothes and fashion?

    Fr Z remarked that “Many of you seem to be focused solely in the issue of Sunday attire,” and he’s right.

    What about the rest of it?

  53. Henry Edwards says:

    AnAmericanMother: In our parish, I actually approached a EMHC that I know pretty well about receiving on the tongue (we’re in the choir loft – I receive on the tongue from a priest when I can) and she was very understanding and cooperative.

    Perhaps I missed something that went before. If you approach an EMHC and stick out your tongue but not your hands, doesn’t this make it clear enough? What’s to understand?

    Setting aside the question of what’s the point. The person who’d think of receiving on the tongue probably already has a reverent attitude. Hmm … Will giving you the Host on the tongue likely make the EMHC more reverent?

  54. Supertradmum says:

    Dear catholicmidwest,

    I think there are at least three reasons why one should dress up for Sunday Mass. Firstly, decorum dictates that there are certain dress codes for certain areas of life. If one goes to a concert or an opera, at least in most places, one dresses up, unless it is the “student” viewing. Decorum helps us rise to an occasion and enter into actions which are special and unique. Customs dictates decorum, but so do good manners. An example would be the wearing of a head covering when one meets the Pope. Even POTUS’s wife and aide did that.

    Secondly, how we dress affects how we act. I have taught college and high school and I can tell you that a dress code makes a huge difference in the behavior of the students at any age. Places where girls and guys can sit in blue jeans with large holes on purpose and piercings everywhere cannot expect the same behavior from students as places, such as TAC and other Catholic colleges which have dress codes.

    Thirdly, we honor God both externally and internally, as we are made up of body and spirit. Our spirit radiates out, from the heart, mind and soul. How we are inside is reflected on the outside. We are not either disembodied spirits or animals, and we honor the Creator and Savior, opening ourselves up to the Holy Spirit by changing our outward appearance in order to conform to a dignity and recognition of who we are in the Presence of God.

    Reverence may be easier when we stop and change into our Sunday “best”, rather than dashing around and not seeing Mass a a special, sacred time which takes both inward and outward preparation.

  55. catholicmidwest says:

    Oddly, none of this is necessary, Henry. You just stride up there, looking like you expect it to happen the right way, and almost always it does. Most EMHCs won’t make a scene in church. And if they look like they’re going to act up, glare at them like a junior high school math teacher singling out one little anti-intellectual punk in the 3rd row. No problem, no scene. The majority of Catholics hate confrontation more than anything, and the more liberal they are the more true this is, although they may ramble on otherwise in their too-frequent self-conscious moments. Call them on it and they’ll collapse angrily, but they collapse.

    The Catholic church is quite oblivious to the needs and care of its members, but this rather crappy property does have a great flip side: It’s not necessary to ask anyone’s permission, etc, for much of anything. No one is keeping score. Lots of verbosity but very little action all around, you know. So do yourself a favor: Don’t ask for permission, just stride up there.

  56. catholicmidwest says:


    It may surprise you to hear that at St. Peter’s Basilica, many women don’t wear head coverings to papal masses. However, if you show up with legs, arms &/or midriff showing you’ll get escorted out the door as soon as they catch you. Coverage of body parts is the name of the game.

    I’ve taught in both public and private high schools, in atmospheres with uniforms and without. Jeans, tennis shoes and the like don’t cause the problem you cite. Risque clothing does; expensive or pretentious clothing does. In atmospheres where uniforms are not required, you get a wide diversity of clothing, including brands which are used to exert financial claims, styles which telegraph gang membership and sexual availability. These are the the chief problems with non-uniform student dress. The best thing that uniforms do is level the playing ground, such that the doctor’s kid looks like the factory worker’s kid, and the gang member looks like the girl scout. You could have a uniform consisting of a certain brand of jeans and a school t-shirt and it would do the same thing and be an improvement over free-choice dress clothes. Free choice dress clothes are often risque and sometimes identify a lot of information about the wearer, some of it completely undesirable in social groups with clearly defined goals.

    To your point about exteriority and interiority, if you’re the sort of person to whom clothing makes that kind of interior statement, then by all means do what you think is right. But recognize that not all people operate the way you do, in part because it’s just not that simple for many people.

  57. Revixit says:

    It is true that people in my parish wore shorts to Mass in the early Sixties; the fact that this didn’t occur in your parish doesn’t mean it didn’t occur in mine.

    In my current parish, older people do wear jeans, sweatshirts, other casual clothing, to Mass. And when I say older, I mean people over 75, up into their nineties. It is certainly not just younger people who dress casually on Sunday morning.

    The people who always dress up for Mass in my parish are the ones who have money and enjoy flaunting their extensive and expensive wardrobes. They are also the ones who talk about how people really should dress better for Mass. They would have a good laugh over anyone who showed up in a dress or suit from a thrift store.

    I still think that being neat and clean and spiritually prepared for Mass is more important to Jesus than how much our clothes cost or how dressy they are. That’s not quite the same as saying Jesus doesn’t care what we wear, Father. I’m saying I don’t think Jesus loves the rich with their fancy clothes better than the poor with their simple clothes, that He cares more about what’s in our hearts that what’s on our backs. He did say it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven.

  58. Revisit: I believe you just did it again.

  59. Supertradmum says:


    I understand the gang thing re:uniforms, but my point was behavior in adults as well as younger people changes with clothes. Women sit differently when wearing skirts and dresses, for instance, than they do pants. As to exterior and interior, the Church has always taught that modesty is more than dress; modesty is how one speaks and acts as well, which is why the sin of cursing is a sin of modesty, if the phrase does not take the Lord’s Name in vain, which is part of the First Commandment. Modesty and decorum are signs of a civilized and sensitive people, who not only care about themselves, but others as well. Tight jeans are immodest, and clothes which blur gender lines are suspect. Women who wear pants all the time, except for riding or cleaning, may have a problem with femininity, and we are not teaching our girls what it means to be womanly by allowing pants and jeans all the time.

    I have been to myriads of churches in Europe and many women wear matillas or such. Granted, tourists are not asked to do so, but many in many areas there are still customs which dictate head coverings. When I have attended Papal Masses in St. Peter’s, I noticed both covered and uncovered heads, but no jeans, no bare arms, no shorts, which is totally appropriate. Again, modesty is more than coverage.
    And womanly attire more than fashion.


    The richest couple in our parish wear jeans and I wear dresses and skirts from the second hand store. Clothes has nothing to do with money. I do not know how someone would know where people bought their clothes. We are not dressing for show but for God and respect for each other. I am embarrassed by the immodesty of my fellow ladies at Mass and pray for the young men so that they do not notice. And, both men and women should not be a source of temptation to others.

    I cannot afford jeans, but I can afford Goodwill stores, or the clothes closet for people on low incomes. I was in Mississippi after Katrina, and many ladies in the South still found a dress to wear to Mass, given to them, of course, at the time. Crisis did not change culture.

    I am convinced, if one really believes one are in the Presence of the Creator of the Universe and Our Saviour, and the Holy Trinity, one would dress up.

  60. AnAmericanMother says:

    Henry Edwards,

    If you approach an EMHC and stick out your tongue but not your hands, doesn’t this make it clear enough? What’s to understand?

    The first time I did this, the EMHC freaked out completely and dropped Our Lord. (Oddly enough, it was a young black man, not a superannuated hippie). Fortunately I had my hands together in front of me (what the altar server director calls ‘neutral prayer position’) so I simply opened my hands. So rather than risk that, I have asked all the ‘choir loft regulars’ and they now know what to expect.

  61. AnAmericanMother says:

    Supertradmum, revixit

    As a fellow thrift shop habitue, I doubt VERY seriously that anybody could tell when I’ve been over at the Goodwill or the Smyrna Thrift Shop. Plenty of nice designer stuff that wound up there for one reason or another. And it’s not out of style either (although there is a big segment of the Atlanta population that’s into retro fashion).

    revixit: In our parish, the very wealthiest parishioners wear what I would consider very nice but not flashy clothes — modest but well tailored of quality fabric. The nouveaus are the ones who wear obviously expensive stuff because they don’t know how to dress, but over time they seem to figure it out by watching the old money (they didn’t get their money by being stupid, you know).

    And that’s the key. The more people who set a good example with nice but modest clothes, the more other people will follow. You have to start somewhere. And be patient.

    And for pete’s sake don’t start worrying about what other people are saying or thinking about your clothes. What does it matter? Just dress with respect for Our Lord and all sorts of good things will follow.

  62. AnAmericanMother says:


    Obviously there’s not a lot of gang activity in our parish in NW suburban Atlanta . . . :-D

    Seriously, though, I think kids (especially teenagers) need a lot more guidance about their clothes. We always made a distinction between “party” clothes and “church” clothes. As they got older I told them, “If you wouldn’t wear it to a job interview, don’t wear it to church!” That kept the clothes modest – in both senses of the word.

  63. catholicmidwest says:

    I’m trying to tell you something Supertradmom, and you’re just not hearing me for some reason. Not everyone is you. Let me repeat it. Not everyone is you.

    There are all kinds of reasons why someone might wear what they wear. And it may be none of anyone’s business why that’s so. As long as it’s not horribly distracting (read blinking neon), or horribly immodest (read body parts hanging out), or horribly commercial (read 4 inch slogan or big designer label), I don’t see what your investment in it should possibly be.

    If it makes you feel good, then wear your dress clothes. If you want to see dress clothes in mass, look down at your own clothes. Be happy. And quit bugging other people. It’s not very charitable.

  64. catholicmidwest says:

    I have an example for you. I’m not saying everyone is like this, but some people are. Have you ever heard of a lady named Temple Grandin?


    It’ll do you a world of good to watch it. Go ahead. NOT EVERYONE IS YOU.

  65. catholicmidwest says:

    There are a myriad of reasons, and when you look at a person, you will never know what the reason is if they don’t come up to your own clothing standard. Maybe they’re poor, maybe they need to do the laundry, maybe they have a neurological problem, maybe they just hate dress clothes like I do. You don’t know. You’ll never know and that’s FINE. God knows and you can let him make up his own mind what he thinks of it.

    As long as it’s not disruptive, I don’t see what the possible investment is. This is the kind of thing that makes people hate religion, you know.

  66. Girgadis says:

    catholicmidwest, unless you are clinically autistic and truly cannot to stand to wear a certain kind of clothing, the fact that you “hate dress clothes” is no excuse to go to church looking like a hooker or a rag-picker (and I am NOT saying YOU dress like either of those, just that too many other people do and they CAN’T blame it on autism). I would much prefer to wear my casual clothes and running shoes everywhere I go, but the good Lord is deserving of more, so I make more of an effort for Him than I do for dinner with my family.

    Frankly, I have no idea what other people think of the way I dress, nor do I know which of my fellow parishioners have money and which ones don’t. All I know is that not enough Catholics come to Mass on Sunday, and of those that do, too many act like they’re doing Jesus a favor just by showing up, and they wouldn’t be caught dead meeting the president or their favorite celebrity in the get-ups they wear to church. Too many Catholics have put their Sunday obligation at the end of their to-do list on Sundays, hence the uptick in late afternoon and evening Masses. That way, after some of our Catholics are all finished with their sporting events, brunch, shopping and trips to the beach, they can squeeze Jesus in at the end of the day on Sunday, rather than make Him the focal point of their day.

    You never know how your outward behavior or manner of dress is going to influence someone else. Wouldn’t it be nice if, by dressing nicely and modestly for Mass, you got one of the scantily clad women to think twice about the way she dresses?

    Sorry, but this attitude that “Jesus doesn’t care” how we look and what we sing and who distributes Holy Communion and what vessels are used to hold His Sacred Body and Blood and how we regard the Sabbath is what helped give rise to the need for this discussion in the first place.

  67. lizfromFL says:

    While I agree that people should dress appropriately for Mass, I tend to think we should be glad for the people that are making their Sunday obligation – then worry about the clothes. I had one priest mention appropriate dress (“dress like you’re meeting the King!” he said) – but I wouldn’t want to be too mean spirited toward the people who are actually AT Mass. We can lead by example on this one; if enough of us dress appropriately, many people will think twice about being too sloppy for Mass. The thing is, how do we get more of us to Mass regularly???

  68. TJerome says:

    I went to a typical Midwestern parish in the 1960s (before the “reforms” of the Holy Mass) and we had poor, middle class, and rich parishioners. Strange that you couldn’t tell the classes apart unless you were a fabric afficionado. Men wore suits and ties, women more dresses, hats, and gloves, the kids wore suitable clothes. No one looked like a slob. I think we have a bunch of elitists today who expect that the “less fortunate” are incapable of dressing and looking nice for Mass just like we have some bishops who believe the average Mary and Joe Catholic cannot understand terms like “ineffable.”

  69. catholicmidwest says:

    I don’t go anywhere dressed like a hooker, Girgadis. That’s exactly my point. THEY dress up. It’s every bit as possible (maybe more!) to look like a hooker in expensive dress clothes as it is in jeans, so don’t jump to any insane conclusions.

    What’s more, I’ve been all over in my clothes, stuck up snobs notwithstanding. My clothes are fine for me. And what I’m wearing is none of your business because I’m covered. If you were to stare at me in church, I’d stare right back at you, because you would be the one acting up, not me.

  70. catholicmidwest says:

    This is an interesting thread. It appears that people think that what you wear to mass is more important than how many Sundays in a row you go to mass or what you do when you get there. Apparently many people are busy assessing the garments of others. Fascinating, weird but fascinating.

  71. Revixit says:

    Over at the Curt Jester, there is an L-Mart (Lenten Mart) and one of the “products for sale” there are Inward Binoculars:

    “Are you in the habit of fault watching? Where you watch others and catalog their faults like the most obsessive detail-oriented bird watcher?
    Then you need the Inward Binoculars. Instead of training your eyes on others these Binoculars focus inward to reveal your faults. First start at the lowest magnification levels since it is more than likely your faults will be easily seen at this level. As you progress in the spiritual life you can increase the magnification. The fault comparison algorithm is not computed on others compared to yourself, but yourself compared to Jesus. The inward binoculars work best when you keep your eyes on Jesus.”

    Presumably the inward Binoculars would also tell you to stop looking at what others are wearing and just be glad they are at Mass.

    I am not saying people should not dress nicely for Mass. Wear the nicest clothes you have, as I do, and you may influence some others to dress better.

    I am saying that I don’t think we should look down on the many people whose clothes are old and/or out-of-style since we don’t know if they could afford to buy new clothes. I suggest we pray that they have enough to eat and can afford to buy the medications they need.

    I have noticed that some of the people whose clothes are old and out of style spend considerable time on their knees after Mass while better-dressed parishioners are chatting and laughing in the nave or the aisles. Who is showing more respect for Jesus then?

  72. catholicmidwest says:

    Revixit, you said, “In my current parish, older people do wear jeans, sweatshirts, other casual clothing, to Mass. And when I say older, I mean people over 75, up into their nineties. It is certainly not just younger people who dress casually on Sunday morning.”

    That doesn’t surprise me. I can tell you from experience that some people find dress clothes and dressy hose and shoes, much more difficult to manage as one gets a little older. Skin becomes thinner and more delicate, bleeding and blistering more easily. Feet and hands change shape. Bodies change shape. Tags poke and seams bite. If a person had touchy itchy hard-to-manage skin when they were young, it can become nearly intolerable with a little age. The experience of wearing dress clothes can preclude any other sensation and make it quite impossible to pay any attention at all. I don’t doubt that older people are showing up in loose comfortable clothes that provide coverage. All you hotshots in here will too eventually, if you’re lucky to live long enough.

    Just so we’re clear on this: Dressing in normal average clothing has nothing to do with orthodoxy and it has nothing to do with dressing like a “hooker.” Dressing to the hilt and then scoping out everybody else during mass is the weird thing here. That’s not what mass is for. Some of you all put the Dutch Reform folks to shame, you know that?

  73. catholicmidwest says:

    So…. back to the real topic: How come so few Catholics show up at mass weekly? (Check out Fr Z’s points 1-4.)

  74. Supertradmum says:


    OK, honest time. We are poor. No one in our family has been able to work since December of 2009, except for very part-time, as we were all laid-off. Before that, we worked for a non-for-profit organization, for the love of God, which paid very little. We have been on food stamps and charity for nine months, and now I have managed to find a part-time job, which will not pay all the bills. We have lost practically everything.

    Today, as every Sunday,we shall dress up for Mass with clothes from the Goodwill and the charity shop, which give s out clothes free. I have never dressed so well! We have our everyday clothes and our Sunday clothes, not for ourselves, but for God. I believe, just like the nuns in habits and priests in their clerics, that a lay person must also be a “sign of contradiction” in the world, look and act differently than those who are secular. Then, people will be attracted to the Gospel, wondering where we get our joy and peace. Be a sign of contradiction.

    By the way, there are both three down’s syndrome men and one autistic woman in our parish and they dress up for Mass and never wear jeans to church.

    As to Mass attendance, Sunday is the culmination of a week of prayer and graces received and responded to by those who turn to God. If Mass attendance is down, I think Catholics have replaced God with another god in their lives, such as money, work, even human relationships. I know some middle-aged Catholics who every Sunday meet with their siblings for breakfast, but do not go to Mass. Even family can be a distraction, if the family is not focused on God.

    Sunday begins and ends the week. If we begin with God, we shall be in His Presence the entire week, and this is our Faith. We are the “Sunday people” or nothing.

  75. TJerome says:

    o…. back to the real topic: How come so few Catholics show up at mass weekly? (Check out Fr Z’s points 1-4.)?

    Because we don’t like the way our fellow Catholics dress, catholicmidwest!

    ps: I hope you get the joke, some folks here are humorless

  76. catholicmidwest says:


    If that’s important for you, and it’s an important part of your worship, then do it! It’s fine. It probably connects to things you were taught, and in a mysterious way that God has used that in your life. It’s wonderful that you’ve gone to all that trouble; that itself is an act of love for God. God honors that and you should too.

    But not everyone is you. Not everyone is spiritually identical. I’m a convert. I’ve been Catholic for more than 25 years now. I can’t say I really understand the Church yet and probably never will. But I do know that, at least for me, this is not about clothes. I promised God more than 25 years ago that I would stick out this conversion no matter how I felt at the moment, showing up physically come hell or high water, and I’m doing my best to manage that. Clothing had nothing to do with that life-changing decision, made after decades of work. [I have no idea what I was wearing at the time I promised that but I was clearly wearing something ;) ]

    I have a graduate degree in philosophy as a consequence of that fight. I lost but I won that fight. And now I’m here. And I’m in my everyday clothing because I don’t think of it like you do. My mind, heart and soul are here, and that has been one of the big turning points of my life.

  77. catholicmidwest says:

    PS, I’m not wearing clothing from Goodwill now, but I used to. My grandfather was a protestant minister and a tenant farmer; my parents were poor. I didn’t realize I was poor as I showed up at my grandfather’s little church as a child, because we all were. I wore whatever we had, and I still do. Life goes on. It’s not about my clothes. For me, it never was.

    But I think I was raised differently from you. It doesn’t matter. We’re both Catholic now. God bless.

  78. catholicmidwest says:

    Oh, and one of my parents came from this huge family of sandy-red-haired English Southerners. I have the worst skin ever. Synthetic stockings can make me blister in about an hour. My clothing is loose and as all cotton as I can manage. I don’t like being touched. And I must be this county’s biggest user of sunscreen. I have hats and I wear them. It’s a curse, but it’s my curse. Dress clothes? No thanks.

  79. nanetteclaret says:

    Supertradmum –

    Do not worry what others think of you when you cover your head to meet the Lord. Yesterday evening after the Vigil Mass, one of the ladies asked me where to get a chapel veil. She said that she and some of the other ladies had decided to start wearing them and that I was her inspiration. I have worn a chapel veil or hat to every Mass since I converted almost 5 years ago, so it has taken that long for the ladies to decide to do it, too. I always made it clear, from the very start, that the reason I wore the chapel veil is because of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. If anyone says that you are trying to be too pious or call attention to yourself, just offer up that little annoyance in reparation for their not knowing any better. Whenever I started to feel uncomfortable about covering my head, I knew that I couldn’t be disrespectful to Jesus, and that thought overrode any qualms I may have had.

    catholicmidwest –

    I think you are being too sensitive about the clothes issue. You are confusing being “appropriately” dressed with being “extravagently” dressed. As Loretta Young (a devout Catholic) said, “Wearing the correct dress for any occasion is a matter of good manners.” We are going to meet Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, and we should be dressed to meet the King, not in attire fit for washing the car or doing yard work. While those clothes may technically cover us, they send the message to God that He is not really special and that attending Mass is just one more thing on our “list of weekend chores.” If a person wears sweats to Mass, how is that different from wearing sweats to Walmart? It’s not.

  80. catholicmidwest says:

    Really, nanetteclaret?

    Then why aren’t they at Walmart instead? Why do they even bother?

    BTW, showing up at mass or not really is the topic of this thread. Why do Catholics have such low attendance rates at Sunday mass? (25-30% I think Fr Z says above)

  81. Supertradmum says:


    At the end of my last post, I think I addressed why Catholics are not attending Mass. They have lost their Faith and God is not first. Revelation 2:4

  82. catholicmidwest says:

    People who’ve actually left, when asked, say that they just drifted away. This is the #1 reason for leaving, according to the Pew Report, which may not be perfect but it’s the only thing that’s really tabulated. We certainly are not keeping honest track of these things. I think just drifting off is certainly a loss of faith, but it’s apparently not a lightning bolt sort of thing most of the time.

    Also high on the list is not being fed spiritually or being treated badly, snobbily, etc. I can believe this wholeheartedly. Catholics can be very, very tricky on some subjects, and they run in cliques something awful. Spiritual companionship and teamwork is next to absent in many parishes, and certainly only available for the “lead clique” in doubtful quality, when it is present.

    About half of Catholics who leave go to protestant churches, and a fair number of those to evangelical protestant churches. I’m not really sure they’d agree with you when you say for them God isn’t first. In fact, I think they’d yell good and loud about that. Seeing God in some Catholic parishes can be a really, really tough proposition. Catholics can act very badly sometimes and a large number of them can seem to be quite oblivious to how they look when they do that. Perhaps if more Catholics behaved in a socially decent manner while preaching the Gospel in its fullness, which is what they’re supposed to be doing, they’d fare better.

  83. Supertradmum says:

    Father Corapi claims it is because of sin, especially against the sixth commandment, divorce and remarriage without annulment, and because of contraception.

  84. catholicmidwest says:

    Well, I hate to tell you, but that’s not exactly accurate, if you talk to the people who actually left, instead of assuming you know what they think.

    About 1 in 10 Americans is ex-Catholic now. About half of those become unchurched and some of them do say that the things you mentioned enter into their decision, but many of them also say that they simply don’t believe any of it anymore. And I mean, if you didn’t believe in God anymore, why would you care what the Catholic church said about the heaven or hell aspects of birth control, for instance?

    ON the other hand, about half of that 10% become protestants. These things you mention are not the largest reasons they switch. They say that they switched because 1) they found something they like more, 2) they’re unhappy about how the bible is taught in Catholicism (which they would say is next to not at all), and 3) that they are dissatisfied with the atmosphere at mass (which probably needs no explanation whatsoever).

    Just so you know.

    The above information is from the Pew Report, Faith in Flux, published in 2009. It’s not perfect, but it’s the only thing new out there. We certainly aren’t honestly keeping track of this stuff.

  85. Supertradmum says:

    Some, like Ms. Rice, leave because they do not like the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. In her case, she sided with her son, instead of the objective truth.

  86. catholicmidwest says:

    One case does not data make, Supertradmom.

  87. catholicmidwest says:

    Survey Methodology, Pew Report, Faith in Flux
    35,000 respondents


  88. Supertradmum says:

    In addition, working in RCIA in different parishes, about 25% of those who are in the classes, are fallen away Catholics, who are returning. The main reason they left in the first place is either irregular marriages, that is, marrying outside the Church to a non-believer and then falling away, including using contraception in the marriage; and secondly, growing up in homes of Catholic parents who did not practice their Faith, or educate their children in the Faith, so that as adults, for them, the RCIA is an adult choice from something they experienced outside the family, such as being engaged to a practicing Catholic, or, as one man stated ” finally waking up to the Truth of my Baptism”.

  89. Supertradmum says:

    I use Ms. Rice as an example of others who have done the same thing, but are not interviewed in polls. There are, sadly, older Catholic couples, who leave the Church rather than deal with their children who have chosen homosexual lifestyles. Some of the protestant churches are more easy-going on this issue, as we can see in the American Episcopalian Church. In fact, one of the priests in my diocese left years ago and became an Episcopalian over the issue of homosexuality. He rabidly is supporting gay marriage in Iowa, as the issue is coming up in the next election-that is, an effort to overthrown the current judicial decision in effect, which allows same-sex marriage in the state, by the choice of politicians who are against it.

    I also believe that, although the Pew Foundation has fair polls, that not all the categories are necessarily clear, (I read the poll results when it came out), and that people are not honest with themselves on the real reasons for leaving the Church.

  90. catholicmidwest says:

    The Pew Report data is a snapshot in time, and as such should be seen as an indicator of instantaneous rate. At the time of the survey, the people outside the church (ie not in RCIA) would have been considered unchurched and those returning and attending mass would either have been considered unchurched or RC based on their response, but probably the latter since all that prevents return is usually Confession.

    Data shows that ex-Catholics are about evenly likely, on average, to join some other church or remain unchurched. Once they’ve left the Church, they’re rather unlikely to return since that ratio of leaving to returning is 4:1. Thus, at the very most you’re seeing less than a quarter of the ex-Catholics in your local area in your RCIA group.

  91. catholicmidwest says:

    Again, I know you know of individual cases. So do I. But individual cases are just that, individual cases. There is a very limited amount that can be learned from them about the general direction and reasons for leaving. In order to understand the dynamics that are shaping the demographics and reasons why people come and go, it’s necessary to have data.

    I also understand that you might think that people redact their reasons. Always, always, some of that goes on, no less with your individual cases than with large numbers of people in a statistically valid survey. But, and here’s the important part, you don’t have the knowledge to survey people with statistical safeguards built in like someone who does it for a living does. What you are telling me is quite seriously hearsay, and I’m as aware of that stuff as you are. Probably anyone reading this has their own pet cases and they’re probably all different.

    PS, the Episcopalian Church, a common and humorous target of Catholics everywhere is not particularly large, nor is it representative of most protestant bodies in any way, shape or form.

    And yes, we (RCs) have a megalithic gay priest problem. Perhaps this is why the Episcopalians get so much of our scorn (transference maybe?). They probably deserve it, agreed, but based on the size of the Episcopalian body, it’s an odd phenomenon. They comprise about 1.4% of the American population. I think I know ONE.

  92. Supertradmum says:

    Agreed, and the majority of those in my area who have left, are not going to church at all, as all the denominations are down in attendance, especially the evangelicals, Methodists, Evangelical Lutherans, and Presbyterians, which have suffered the worst drop. Where I am, the denomination which is not really one at all, but a genre, which is getting the most fallen away Catholics, is the Pentecostal church. The fallen away Catholics these churches are “getting” are by far minority groups, especially immigrants from Mexico, who were never properly catechized. Those of us involved in Church ministries in these areas have seen this trend for about ten years. The emotional exercise of Faith is a drawing card.

    I doubt that the Latinos in our area, the vast majority who do not speak English, have ever been polled. One of the priests works with these groups and has shared with me the large numbers who have never learned or been introduced to the teachings of the Catholic Church, although baptized Catholics, and join a church simply because it has a 17 foot painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the foyer. This priest is trying to teach the immigrants the Catholic Faith, so that they actually know what they have.

    Another priest, in Moline, Illinois, a Neocatechumenate Priest, has been so successful in his parish, that there is now standing room only at all his Masses. And, he preaches the hard truth, does not mince words, and is altogether a holy man.

  93. Supertradmum says:

    I meant to mention that the parish in Moline is a majority Latino parish.

  94. catholicmidwest says:

    Representative instances of these phenomena are probably both included in the survey methodology. What you are seeing are particular instances.

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