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Arrow Question / Issue:

"I seem to be getting no place regarding conduct and dress at Mass in my local church. If I leave and go to another church, I cannot be registered. My faith is badly shaken on this topic. I feel the priest could care less about me... I do not know if this makes sense, but I feel that lack of respect for the Eucharist and the Mass, is a denial of transubstantiation. We take it on faith that Jesus is truly present in the tabernacle... If we dress or act improperly is that making a statement as to what we believe or not believe... Don't we have a moral obligation to help others not just physically but also spiritually?"

 

Arrow Answer / Resources:

[click link(s) below, as applicable]

Thank you for your feedback. Let me start by praising you for your concern about, and efforts regarding, the matter of proper conduct & dress in church. In this very confused age there, unfortunately, can seem to be so few who care about this terribly important matter – sadly, this can even include priests. In fact, one of the big problems we currently face in this matter is the lack of clear guidance / direction / leadership from the top. The bishops & priests should be speaking out, but this typically does not occur. In fact, some of them directly contribute to the problems you mention. For the laity, this makes things much more difficult.

Secondly, for whatever it is worth, I would like to apologize for the way things have been handled by the priest. That is really unfortunate. By expressing your concern to the priest, you are doing a 'service' (so to speak) for God and for your neighbor – and even for the priest himself. When you find that you don't get a warm reception for your good efforts, think of Our Lord who was sinless, yet who was crucified by His sinful creatures. And also keep in mind that "Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

I would not assume though that your efforts have been futile as sometimes things may take time to have an effect. However, humanly speaking, there may be a limited amount that can be done by the laity in any given parish – especially if the priest is not cooperative as you indicated previously. Nevertheless, on the supernatural level, much can be done with our prayers and other good works.

Rather than let your faith be shaken by the unfortunate situation, pray hard for the priest – who should both care & know better – and for the flock (who, sadly, may not know better). If it be God's will, maybe you will eventually effect a positive change. In the meantime, be secure in your knowledge that you ARE on the correct side of things wanting proper dress and conduct in church. Scripture clearly backs this up. For example...

"Give to the LORD the glory due his name! Bring gifts, and enter his presence; worship the LORD in holy attire." (1 Chron. 16:29)

"Therefore, we who are receiving the unshakable kingdom should have gratitude, with which we should offer worship pleasing to God in reverence and awe. For our God is a consuming fire." (Heb. 12:28-29)

You can find more resources concerning these matters on our site (for example, try here).

Also, know that you are not alone – many of your fellow Catholics are concerned due to these issues. Unfortunately, this is not an easy situation to resolve without clear leadership at the top. But still there are people like you here and there trying to rectify things, which is the bright spot in all this. You may not see the fruits of your efforts (hopefully you will!), but I am confident they will be rewarded (if not here, then later by God). It is a loving act that you do both for God and your neighbor. So hang in there.

Regarding your other comment, we would agree with you that lack of respect might seem to be a sort of (at least indirect) denial of Transubstantiation/the Real Presence. It would also seem to be very offensive to our Lord and a scandal to others. Faithful Catholics certainly may find this situation to be very upsetting (it is for us too). However, it is certainly possible both with your good efforts & good example to effect some change in your parish. For example, in the case you mentioned, why not ask the parish manager to include an ad in the bulletin regarding proper behavior in church? Perhaps this instruction would be useful to your fellow Catholics – and perhaps your parish would even allow you to write up the material yourself (if you would like). As you mentioned, there is a moral obligation to help each other spiritually and the fact that you recognize this and have concern for your fellow Catholics who, as you indicated, may have some bad habits – and may not realize the serious consequences for their behavior – is to your credit.

As for going to another parish, know that you are not obliged to attend or register at a particular parish. You are free to register at another parish of your choosing. I am actually registered in a parish outside of my territorial diocese. This is certainly allowed. (Although perhaps a little more complicated if children in need of sacraments are involved.) If I could make a suggestion, consider a local parish (hopefully there is one) that lawfully celebrates the Traditional Latin ('Tridentine') Mass. Parishes that celebrate this reverent, awe-inspiring Mass (which is VERY much different than today's common 'English Masses' – and NOT just the language) often tend to foster better dress & behavior. Like many other Catholics, you may find this very reverent & holy Mass (which, again, is VERY different from today's 'English Mass' – and NOT just the language) to be a refuge from disorder & confusion (and yes, even scandal) that you have experienced. For a list of such parishes, try the 'Tridentine Mass Listings' link here. If you are not yet familiar with the Traditional Latin Mass, please try here. I warmly invite you to attend this exceptionally holy, reverent Mass. If you persevere, I feel confident it will bring you an abundance of spiritual fruit and greatly strengthen your faith.

God bless you.


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