Wednesday, July 7, 2010

There, But For The Grace of God.....

Yesterday, I was stunned to see the lector at Noon Mass approach the altar in a dress I can only describe as beachwear. I found it difficult to look at the woman who was doing the readings and instead turned myself in the chair so that I could hear her but not see her. What's wrong with people, I thought to myself, that they think it's ok to come to Mass dressed that way? Such disrespect for the Blessed Sacrament, I thought. I asked God to forgive me for being so judgmental and as I reflected on this later in the day, I thought how uncharitable I was to react this way.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying there isn't a wrong and a right way to dress for Mass. But I have no idea what this person's station in life is. Perhaps she is a convert to the faith and had no catechesis to teach her a respectable way to present herself at Mass. Maybe despite the way she was dressed, she's a more faithful and charitable Christian than I am. Maybe she never had parents to show her a right and a wrong way. There, but for the grace of God, go I!

How timely then, that the priest's homily today centered on all of us being called to follow Jesus and how He shook the religious establishment in His time to the core by eating with sinners and tax collecters. Father went on to explain how we are not capable of seeing "the big picture" as God does, and therefore, we should leave the judgment to Him and concern ourselves with our own spiritual well-being. Something in Matthew made Jesus call him to be one of His disciples though he was considered one of the lowest forms of life in that society. Was I much different than the skeptical and judgmental Jews who would sooner spit on Matthew than look at him when I found myself repulsed by the lector?

None of us have the ability to look into another person's heart and see what God sees. There must be something very good about a person who would brave 100 degree heat to walk to church to read. A person isn't drawn to making that kind of commitment because they're an exhibitionist and they just want to scandalize people at Mass, right? Could it be that this woman is simply in love with the Lord and has no idea how offensive her manner of dress is? In the proper time, one would hope that someone could charitably instruct her in modest dress for Mass, but until then, I need to concern myself with my own lack of charity. There's plenty I need to fix before I have the audacity to think I can instruct another.


  1. I have been in this situation more times than I can count. The funny part is, I think I have been on BOTH sides of this situation more times than I can count! I am a convert, and having the customary "convert zeal" offered to lector and sing and anything else I could in order to be a part of the life of the church. God bless our priests who never spoke to me about my choices of dress or even songs, who waited for God to work in me and grant me wisdom and maturity. Nobody crushed my joyful zeal, they allowed me to grow under God's gentle hand. Now I say that, but I STILL have the audacity to be made uncomfortable by others' faux pas or simple ignorance. Of course, there is always the obligatory posting in the church bulletin at the beginning of summer, about appropriate church attire, but our local social climate is diametrically opposed. :) SO...there are always challenges. I think having multiple teens and young adults in the house reminds me that people are always evolving, and that the person who comes dressed inappropriately to church is at least _in church_. I agree that it's tougher when that person is front and center. But know you have a sister in "crime" and a least a prayer partner ♥

  2. Your points are very well made and very well taken! Father Check actually reminded me once that the fact that someone makes the effort to get to church on a regular basis, especially when they're not obligated to be there, makes them an inherently good person. Someday, if we're lucky, we'll get to Heaven, where we may find out that God never noticed what we had on our bodies in church because He was only looking at what was in our hearts. Thanks for the comment Kelly!


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