An anecdote about Super Bowl Sunday Best for Mass

Here is an interesting anecdote from a friend in Kansas City, MO.

At the Oratory yesterday [TLM], there were tons of red ties and dresses but no jerseys or sweatshirts. At the Novus Ordo parishes though (at least the two I asked about) they were filled with stadium wear.

And it’s not like those people were on the way to a game or Super Bowl party in the morning.

But the people who go to the TLM are the problem and they must be suppressed.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Lurker 59 says:

    For a time I lived in a more rural area than where I am now. Sundays (any Sunday) during football season, the pews were filled with people wearing their “NFL Best”. On one hand, it very well could have been, and often was, the best piece of clothing that these people had. They truly were dressing up as far as they knew, and as far as they had been catechized (Fr. Bob often talked about the sportsball in what was labeled a sermon). On the other hand, it really was dragging one’s idols before God. On my foot, if I really must put it down and play the curmudgeon, intentionally dressing in team colours to be seen at Mass is the same thing, just of the highbrow type.

  2. TheBackPew says:

    Indeed they ARE the problem, beginning with that pesky, scapular-wearing football player who kicks game-winning field goals when he is not praying his rosary with his growing family or speaking out against abortion.

    They must all be suppressed because unlike their hand-holding, felt-waving, jersey-wearing, brethren down the street at St. Nonrigidus of the Enlightened, they still accept, believe, and profess the timeless teaching of the Catholic Church. And while that sort of prehistoric behavior can be annoying at times, it crosses a hard agenda line regarding sins of the flesh. Specifically and most annoying, when it pertains to homosexuality.

    “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.” (CCC 2357)

    TLM communities accept this along with the rest of the catechism and yes, even Vatican II. They simply believe the TLM to be a better expression of the council documents than what we ended up with in 1970 and beyond. They don’t want to force the TLM on anyone. They only want to celebrate Mass, offer maximum glory to God, and be left alone to worship God the best they can.

    It’s not about a rigid attachment to the liturgy. It’s about a rigid attachment to the teaching of the Church and specifically, the passage above and the associated scriptures. The TLM communities are in the way of those who want to change the Church’s teaching on sodomy for reasons one prays are not true but actions would suggest otherwise. And as long as these communities are allowed to worship together and reinforce each other in their common belief and Catholic heritage, they will continue to be in the way. They need to be broken up, scattered, and assimilated into the “less rigid” communities.

    Like the Borg, the Berg say, “Resistance is futile.” Twenty centuries of martyrs would say otherwise. And to paraphrase the faithful Obi-Wan to his former pupil who had succumbed to temptation and become possessed by evil, “Strike us down and we will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

    And we know how that worked out.

  3. hvratstpls2 says:

    Outward appearances for those in the gear, ( NO parishes) as opposed to focus on the Mass and Our Lord: TLM Oratory…but with a sprinkling of , shall we say “team spirit”…ie red ties and dresses…

  4. teachermom24 says:

    Just wondering: were the red ties and dresses because of the Super Bowl or just incidentally red? If they were because of the SB, they may as well have been jerseys or sweatshirts. Holy Hour at our TLM parish was cancelled last night: “Enjoy the Super Bowl.” I don’t get it.

  5. VForr says:

    Excellent anecdote!

  6. Legisperitus says:

    Nice to see Harrison Butker, a traditionally-inclined Catholic, make the winning field goal for the Chiefs.

  7. Jenson71 says:

    This is a prime example of the holier-than-thou attitude that can be so repulsive by Traditionalists. Mass attendance is dwindling, and some bent up prude has the gall to ask their non-TML attending spies what the crappy Catholics were wearing to Mass and bitch about it in their bubble of self-righteousness.

  8. Jenson71 says:

    There’s a lot of beauty and holiness in the TLM. It should be in every diocese. I love it.

    Yet, by virtue of its uniqueness, it can attract some of the biggest self-righteous jackasses who use it as a cocoon for their own ego stroking.

    Exhibit A shown above.

    It’s why this generation of traditionalists will always be a minority. They want to be a minority.

  9. iamlucky13 says:

    I wouldn’t have realized the super bowl was this past Sunday had father not informed us that we weren’t allowed to complain if his homily was too long, because he was going to finish it several hours before the game begins.

    I didn’t notice what others among the laity were wearing, but I don’t expect it would have been football related, because unless I missed hearing about it, I don’t think the local team was in the game.

  10. Imrahil says:

    On the other hand, it really was dragging one’s idols before God.

    No, it is not. It is dragging a legitimate and honorable pastime you really dearly love, perhaps much more than your work, before God; which is where it belongs. The outcome here may be disagreeable indeed, but there’s nothing idolatrous about it. I know there is a regrettable habit around of thinking “my neighbor A loves the thing B too much I think good for him” and then accusing him of idolatry about it. It smacks, to me, of both Philistinism and Protestantism, an unhealthy combination; in any case it’s wrong. Even if the love really is inordinate and sinful, such as if you’d squander money you’d have needed to support your family on the pastime, or if you’d miss Sunday Mass to be a spectator (I say spectator because there might be a case to say that the actual players are excused occasionally), it’s still not idolatry precisely.

    On my foot, if I really must put it down and play the curmudgeon, intentionally dressing in team colours to be seen at Mass is the same thing, just of the highbrow type.

    That is an interesting observation, though. Fortunately, for the reasons given above, there’s nothing wrong about it. Wearing stadium wear is at the very least not ideal, possibly wrong, but all of that precisely because it’s not highbrow enough for the Sunday. Even with them, though, the chief point is they actually do attend Mass. And if even that problem is minor, the problem of dressing in team colors is not a problem at all. It is not a problem to be a football fan.

    And the Catholic at Mass is every part of the person he is; certainly all things not sinful about him.

  11. Imrahil says:

    Dear teachermom24,

    there is no obligation to attend a Holy Hour at some specific time, and it takes some organization, and all. Hence there’s nothing wrong about not having one occasionally because the organizers and the presumed attenders have decided or are expected to decide to indulge in some worldly (but not sinful) pleasure.

  12. sjoseph371 says:

    Hey, it could have been worse, I guess . . . . . the men could have been wearing their respective team’s cheerleading outfits . . . . so there’s that.

  13. elijah408 says:

    In days long past I was born and raised in CA. I grew up in a Jesuit parish and I kid you not, one of the “Extraordinary Ministers of Communion” wore a Dallas Cowboys Tony Romo jersey at Mass and while distributing communion.

    I’ve pretty much seen it all! Just so sad.

  14. dinsdale says:

    Much like an incident at a NO Mass I attended years ago when the local NFL team was in the playoffs. One of the intercessions during the Prayer of the Faithful was “Go [team name]”.

  15. RESPONSE from the sender at the top of this post:

    This is a prime example of the “who am I to judge” hypocrisy of those who condescendingly attempt to place those who assist at a TLM (or TML as he/she wrote) into a narrative that fits their needs.

    I do not wish for your reader to have to suffer in a pool of self-triggered repulsiveness so I will provide a deeper look into my self-righteous mind at the time.

    The only thought I had Sunday morning concerning attire was when I was choosing a tie. I came across a red one with gold trim and it caught my eye likely because yes, I was also thinking ahead to the Chiefs playing in the Super Bowl and hoping that our kicker and parishioner would do well. I did not pray for the team’s success because there are many things more important for which I should pray. I do admit asking Our Lady to intercede for Mr. Butker to do well, not because he is such a good Catholic man, but because when he misses an important kick, the anti-Catholic vitriol on social media explodes and I was concerned for the souls of those potentially triggered to spray it.

    During Mass I noticed several people wearing red ties and a large number of red-hued dresses proportionate to other colors. I subsequently noticed the complete absence of jerseys and sweatshirts and briefly thought that it was probably a different scene at the very liberal parish near my home. I was not edified by this thought nor did it give me a sense of any sort of righteousness. If anything, I was sad. I was received into the church at that parish many years ago and over time learned that what I was taught there in RCIA was as Catholic as what I might have learned at the Methodist church down the street. Actual quote: “Maybe you are being called home to the Church to help change its position on artificial contraception.” Sin was something from the 50s. Confession was available once a month. Purgatory is not something they are concerned with as the community collectively releases the souls of their departed brethren to heaven in a nice little rite that they developed and celebrate before Mass starts. Souls are being lost there and it has nothing to do with what they are wearing though outward attire, like a rash, can sometimes indicate a problem on the inside.

    I thought nothing more of it until later in the day when unprompted, my sister said that her NO pastor, facing a congregation clad in Chiefs jerseys and sweatshirts, apologized for having to wear green vestments. That then made me wonder about a much more traditional NO parish and simply curious, I later asked a priest friend there what he saw and he reported seeing quite a few.

    Had there been even one or two jerseys at the TLM, I likely would have never noticed or thought about it. My VAK learning style is a “visual.” Short of a blindfold, I cannot help but notice things. In fact, I do spend much of Mass with my eyes closed for that very reason. I do apologize for my observation triggering one of your readers and hope this clears things up.

    PS: Mass attendance is only dwindling at NO parishes. The Oratory (ICKSP) has doubled if not tripled in attendance since we started there and the one time I went to the FSSP parish in KCK it was standing room only. The SSPX are doing very well here also.

  16. WVC says:

    What an excellent response from the originator of this post.

  17. Jenson71 says:

    I’m tempted to respond, but I’ve said enough.

  18. The Masked Chicken says:

    I could not even tell you which teams were in the Super Bowl, as I stopped watching football in 1989! Besides, I find it sad and ironic that some college students, supposedly trying to develop their intellectual capabilities by going to college, are given scholarships to participate in a sport that is likely to give them chronic traumatic encephalopathy. A 10 million dollar salary as a professional isn’t going to be much use when you can’t remember your own wife’s name or develop early onset dementia.

    As to dress at Mass, now, this is a bit of rash judgement, no? How do you know those red ties at the TLM weren’t meant to represent their commitment to the Holy Spirit, eh? Did they tell you they were supporting, the Chiefs, was it? I have red ties. If I happened to wear one last Sunday, could you conclude that I was displaying my loyalty to a football team? Believe me, I teach in a college town, a rabid college town, and yes, on Saturdays, many people at the NO morning Mass dress in the school colors, because they are going to the game, immediately afterwards.

    I realize that there is proper decorum to be maintained at Mass. Red ties and red dresses are not idolatrous. People dressing in jerseys at the NO Mass on Sunday could be, but you have to be careful of rashly judging. I have had to go to Mass in clothing so used in graduate school that someone tried to give me money, thinking me a homeless person (it was the best I could do, at the time). Yes, people might be thinking more about The Game than about God at Mass, but that is not idolatry, per se. It is a disorder attachment. If they were idolatrous, they wouldn’t be at Mass to begin with, since idolatry is worshiping something other than God and going to Mass at least points to the possibility, at least, of some recognition of the sovereignty of God.

    Likewise, for all you know, a person who wears a jersey might be going to visit their sick son in the hospital immediately after Mass and the son might be a Chiefs fan.

    Simply thank God that they are at Mass and ask God to give them a greater amount of prudence in dress, if it is appropriate and necessary as God sees the situation. Then, leave it alone.

    Now, if someone comes dressed as a cheerleader, while it still might not be idolatrous, that would be immodesty and something should be said, kindly, to avoid scandal. Wearing jerseys or sweatshirts may be scandalous, but so is jumping to conclusions and condemning someone’s behavior without knowing all of the facts.

    The Chicken

  19. hwriggles4 says:

    One observation:

    I went to 5 PM Mass Sunday evening. I was thinking that most Catholics attended Mass earlier on Super Bowl Sunday because the attendance at 5 PM Mass was about half than it normally is.

    I also have to add that both the priest and the deacon didn’t make any mention of the game during the Mass and I didn’t notice any football jerseys.

    One reason I attended evening Mass is I helped the Knights at the parish closest to me that morning with our monthly breakfast and one of the women’s groups there had good luck with selling cakes, chicken wings, and pulled pork for parishioners to buy and take home for the game. Seemed like good timing for a fundraiser.

  20. Gabriel Syme says:

    Its sad that people would wear football tops to Mass. There are several Bible stories concerning this kind of thing. Plus, our outward attire is a window to our internal dispositions.

    We have the same problems in the UK. People often attend Novus Ordo Masses dressed to a standard that would see them refused entry to a City Centre bar or restautant, or which might give a bad impression at a job interview, wedding or funeral.

    Of course, Mass isnt a fashion parade to show off our expensive clothes etc. But we should all make the effort to present ourselves as best we can. No one can do more that that, be they rich or poor.

    Some clergy are no doubt to blame for allowing standards to slip to this level. When I was a kid, my football (soccer) team, who wore red, beat the Irish-Catholic founded team which wore Green, one Saturday (in a cup final). At the Novus Ordo vigil, the priest emerged wearing red and opened the Mass by joking about this and making faux-apologies.

    And remember the infamous pictures of Fr (now Cardinal) Dolan celebrating mass wearing a large hat shaped like a piece of cheese (which I think is to do with the NFL team Green Bay Packers).

    My own opinion is that priests can feel the Novus Ordo lacks something and so they try to fill the perceived void with humour or personality. A bad idea.

    Cardinal Gregory is on record as saying people are welcome to wear shorts and flip-flops to his Masses and generally dismissing the notion that any effort should be made.

    I often attend an SSPX chapel and a few years ago, a new prior was assigned there. During his first Mass, at his notices / announcements, he set out his expectations for various aspects of Chapel life.

    One of these was that all men should be clean shaven at Sunday Mass, and wearing a shirt and tie. At the time, I always wore a collared shirt, but without a tie. And I was not always shaven.

    Now, I am always shaven and always wear a tie with my shirt.

    If you demand more, you get more. Sadly, the mainstream Church seems to have forgotten this.

  21. WVC says:


    While I agree with the sentiment that in these confusing and disorienting times we are called to extraordinary levels of patience with each other . . . I can’t really come up with any legitimate excuses for someone wearing a football jersey to Mass outside of “my house burned down and this is all I have left” type of situations. If there’s any event after Mass that requires a jersey – folks can just change their danged clothes after Mass (I’ve done this on numerous occasions). Do it in the bathroom or in the car, for goodness sake. That’s a really poor excuse for one to give for one’s inappropriate attire, and it reveals a disordered understanding of what is happening at Mass. It may be an earnest misunderstanding, but it’s clearly a misunderstanding. The fact that such a misunderstanding happens more often on the NO side just supports the reality that the NO and TLM are substantially different liturgies that have substantially different effects on those who worship through them (which is just to say Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi)

    If most of those same slouchy-dressed folks were called to attend a meeting with the President or Prime Minister or some high dignitary or the Pope or whomever is of earthly value now-a-days, they would not go in a football jersey and say “Hey, you know, they’re playing later and I wanna show my team spirit.” And, yes, many today WOULD dress like slobs to meet high dignitaries, but that’s not so much a sign that slobbiness is next to godliness, but that the fallen standards of our fallen world are somehow even lower than they were just 20 years ago (and they were already pretty low back then)

    On the other hand, anyone harping on folks wearing specific color ties or dresses or whatnot – seriously, mind your own business. Of all the nits to pick, that must be the nittiest. But, then, I’ve heard tell of Jansenist Traditionalists who will berate women for wearing the wrong color veil. The jerks we will have always with us.

  22. Mac in Calgary says:

    I’m a CFL fan, not NFL so red jerseys at Mass in hockey season mean Go Flames Go!
    I sorta get it — I wore a clan tartan tie to church on the Sunday after Burns Day.

  23. palestrinadei says:

    Here has been uncovered an extra advantage, if only for this year, to the traditional calendar. No priest had to apologize on Sunday for wearing violet.

  24. Gianni says:

    I saw a lot of red at church. I thought people were getting a jump on St. Valentine’s day. Living in Northeast Ohio, our team is best symbolized by ashes, bitter gall and myrhh. Never occurred to me that anyone in the Cleveland and Akron area would support the Chiefs.


  25. Cincinnati Priest 2 says:

    Imrahil: I’d be a little careful about saying that this is not at least a minor form of idolatry. Granted, the wearing of football jerseys may not be per se idolatrous, but it is part of the increasingly prevalent culture that says that my sports affiliation is my identity (rather than my status as a son or daughter of God) and seems at least to hint that the Mass is secondary to one’s sports affiliation. Similarly on your point about holy hours. Yes, it is not immoral to cancel one (as many priests do for example for civic holidays). However, the fact that we might feel obligated to bend the devotional life to the world of entertainment does not speak well of adherence to the First Commandment.

    From many years of pastoral experience, I have had countless struggles in every parish with coaches and parents of young athletes insisting on playing sports on holy days of obligation (at the expense of their Mass obligation), wanting to cancel or reschedule events during whole seasons because, after all, their children’s practices are more important than the spiritual life, and so on.

    We are certainly living in a culture which has sports as an idol, so people are right to be concerned when they see even subtle signs of it.

  26. Dicop says:

    I can’t say I ought to judge how others dress for Mass because I assume everyone else there is a better Christian than me. But I do care about how I dress. Mass is an important occasion. Why shouldn’t I dress like it’s important? So for me it’s coat, tie – even pants! – shaved, teeth brushed, fasting from midnight.

  27. Imrahil says:

    Dear Cincinnati Priest 2,

    it really is quite simple: it is not idolatry not to have a Holy Hour and not to go to it. Consequently, it is not idolatrous either to have one, and have it regularly, and then occasionally call it off once a year when there’s a Super Bowl (and another one time when there’s Independence Day and all people are at some parade and whatnot; you get the idea). On the contrary, the second situation is by a long way better and more pious compared to the first (and you sometimes do not get to choose what the alternative is).

    Also, people might occasionally be logical, and the logical consequence would be not to start a regularly scheduled Holy Hour in the first place if the consequence is to be accused of idolatry for the one time, or the three times a year, or whatnot, where you call it off.

    I do not, as you may have guessed, even oppose that. (Note that “nothing is to be preferred to the work-of-God” from the rule of Benedict, while its interpretative meaning in which all our life is a service of God applies obviously to all Christians, applies in its more literal sense to Benedictine monks, and not laymen. It does even apply to, say, Jesuits; “getting the breviary done as some duty, reverently but quickly, and then work on the lecture to be given tomorrow” is compatible with a Jesuit charism, though not with a Benedictine one.) Even if someone does oppose it, though, there really is no need to drag the First Commandment into play. You can say “shows the priorities are somewhat wrong” without it.

    We are certainly living in a culture which has sports as an idol,

    No. Our mainstream culture may hide a lot of superstition of the classical sort, where the question of idolatry really might come into play. But on the surface, it does not have either sports as an idol, or anything else really. A grumpy cultural pessimist might say this is because we are not good enough, not religious enough, to be idolaters, and that while those in Western culture do not idolize, they are still of than the heathens who do. On that who’s-better I’ll pronounce myself agnostic. Be that as it may, it is clear that the specific vice of idolatry is not, at least not on the surface (superstitions, as I said, set aside), part of Western culture.

    But even if we did,
    so people are right to be concerned when they see even subtle signs of it.

    No. Even if, especially if, something is a real problem, the thing is not to look for subtle signs of it, but to identify it outright and avoid it, but not do so overly nitpicking.
    A very obvious example for that is that the problem of racism. That really is a wrong ideology, and also one that really is a problem – sometimes. Yes, the leftists are right in so far. What they are not right in is precisely their approach to see “subtle signs of it” everywhere. The obvious consequence being, “if I’m called racist whatever I do, I might as well be one.”

  28. Imrahil says:

    I meant, It does not even apply to, say, Jesuits. Also, this was no Jesuit-bashing; that much applies to the good Jesuits as well.

  29. The Masked Chicken says:


    St. Thomas, in his commentary on rash judgment makes an exception for older people, who, through experience, have a heightened intuition about things. They might still be wrong, but less likely so. Now, in one sense, I think TLM goers and even orthodox Catholics are old souls in the sense that they rely on the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church. I think they rightly size up the situation at many NO Sunday Masses with regards to dress at less well-catechized churches. My church is very orthodox and and Order church, so people dressed in jerseys on Sunday might get a tsk-tsk from the crowd. Some churches are so badly catechized that nary a word will be said.

    I have been told (someone correct me if I am wrong) that one reason we dress up on Sunday is that our finery is a recalling of the white garment we received at baptism showing our innocence and virtue. If this were explained from the pulpit, might it not convict some people?

    Your point about changing in the car is well taken. There are exceptions (I had no car and walked to church), so I was just urging caution.

    The Chicken

  30. robtbrown says:

    Mac in Calgary says:
    I’m a CFL fan

    So am I. I used to watch regularly, not so much anymore. And I have an f-ball buddy in the CFL HoF.

  31. leftycbd says:

    The recessional hymn at my NO mass this past Sunday was:

    “On Eagles’ wings”

    It didn’t help.

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