One might wonder, why do I have to dress "properly" for Church? It's what's inside that counts, not the "packaging", isn't it?
Alright. I'll be the first to admit that I would never brag myself of being a very good Catholic, though I try. I skip mass a lot. I don't understand why. I mean, all the rest of my family members are "good and proper" Catholic, never missing a single attendance of Sunday mass in years. I guess I'm the black sheep in the family. Not that I'm proud of it or anything. It's just a plain fact.
Note: I'm glad to say that it has changed. Now I attend mass regularly. Praise the Lord for using my wonderful husband to change my heart and took me back to Sunday mass. ^__^
Some of you might know that I used to spend several years living in Texas, USA, for school and work, so yes, I can say that I have been blessed experiencing cultures and lifestyle of both the East and the West. Many Americans (or Texan) culture I had absorbed in those years are not applicable once I'm back in Asia. Many of the habits adopted during those years I dropped once I stepped back in Jakarta. However, one custom I carried, and still carry with me until this very day: when you go to Church, prepare not only the heart and the soul, but also take care to show up with appropriate attire and wholesome look. You dress up when you go on a date. You dress up for job interviews, for work every day, for PTA meetings, for cocktail parties, for your spouse, boyfriend, for dinner with the in-laws, for ladies night with your girlfriends, for clubbing on the town. So, why not make utmost effort to dress up and look your best for those weekly "meetings" with Your Creator?
Houston, the city where I lived, is a big city. If I'm not mistaken, it's the 4th biggest city in the US after New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. However, unlike in East Coast and West Coast, the Texans - famous for their easy manner and sunny disposition - are very casual. People basically look like they just threw on a baggy T-shirt and sweatpants or shorts to go the mall, grocery shopping, eating at restaurants, or strolling the mall. The women barely wear any makeup. You would never find that "casualness" in Jakarta, where image and keeping up appearances are everything and people dress to impress the second they walk out the door. Perhaps that's a generalization, but mostly that was what I saw.
Having said it all, Texas also has a strong conservative Catholic influence, and despite their everyday casual they DO dress conservatively for Church. Most of the ladies wear lovely dresses. Not just skirt. Dresses. Men wear pressed shirts and pants. Some even wear suits. Khakis and polo shirts at most casual. No jeans. No shorts. No sneakers. No sandals. And note this: the ladies cover themselves. Yes, in a "secular" country like USA, the Texan Catholic ladies cover themselves at Church. No mini skirts. No tank tops. No skintight clothes. No midriff showing.
No sloppiness. No immodesty. For men and women, boys and girls alike.
Amazing and hard to believe, if I didn't witness it myself, Sunday after Sunday after Sunday.
There, the term "Sunday clothes" suddenly made sense.
So you can imagine my shock, when I came back to Indonesia, to Jakarta, and saw what I saw at the Church there. Jeans are everywhere, worn by men and women alike. The boys wore those baggy shorts that look like something they'd wear for basketball games. Sneakers, even flip flops are prominent. And, wow! I was blinded by so many skin shown by the ladies. Looks like skintight tees and hipster jeans are basic staples for most Jakarta young girls' wardrobe. Even the moms wear spaghetti strap dresses and minis. Some younger moms even wear sexy shorts. Hello... Is this a Church, or a mall?
Don't get me wrong. The ladies look absolutely gorgeous. Moms craddling babies still look slim and trim like teenagers. But, please Girls, Ladies, Madames, don't you think you should dress more appropriately and properly for Holy Mass?
When I go to Church, my intention is to have that special meeting with God. Ok, God is everywhere, yes, but you know what I mean. I take pleasure in seeing beautiful things and beautiful people. But looking at women who show off TOO much of their bodies? And especially, in a Church during Holy Mass? Oh no...
"I can wear whatever I want!"
"It's the men's fault if they cannot keep their eyes from straying!"
"Who are you to tell me what I can and cannot wear!"
"Are you jealous that it is I who is the center of attention, and not you?"
"At least I'm showing up for mass, unlike you with that spotty attendance!"
Alright. Now let's try to run this scenario in your mind. By the way, I read this on the internet somewhere, it was a sermon written by a Catholic priest, but I couldn't find it again, so I'll just write my own version.
Here I am coming to Church for mass wearing... a HUGE hat, topped with a carnation of attention-grabbing peacock feathers sticking up two-feet high onto the air. Strutting confidently, to the front pew, I'm pretty confident that the hat is gorgeous and the latest fashion straight from the runway, not paying attention to the jaws-dropping and people whispering along the church aisle. People just can't stop staring at the spectacle, including YOU.
"Who does she think she is, coming to mass wearing a hat like that!" you are thinking vehemently.
The mass is getting started. The priest says a prayer. The choir sings beautifully. The blue-green peacock feathers are swaying gracefully to the music rhythm. THIS, is supposed to be the time to focus on God. However, people cannot concentrate. Everybody's eyes, including the priest's, and YOUR eyes, keep coming back to the peacock feathers, swinging lazily from side to side, they even seem to grow more prominent and annoying by the minute.
You become upset because you cannot worship peacefully.
Finally the mass is ended. People are leaving the church. You are waiting for me in front of the door.
"Miss, please, next time you come to mass, do not wear that hat," you say.
I look down at you haughtily and answer with loud voice: "I can wear whatever I want! Are you jealous that people are looking at me instead of you?"
You reply. "It's not the case! That's a very nice hat you have there. But it's so showy it's DISTURBING to those who want to worship! WE too, have the right to pray without distraction!"
I look straight at your low-cut top that shows your cleavage and your low-rise skintight jeans that shows the shape of your lower body. "Same goes with those immodest clothes that you're wearing, especially for young boys and our male mass-goers!"Ok, this is just fiction, of course. But you get the point, rite. Can you imagine if your male friends get back at your body-showing church clothes by coming to mass wearing speedos, muscle T-shirts, or bicycle pants? Hey, afterall, you Ladies are allowed to wear mini skirts and hotpants! Well, even if the man has an amazing body, it would not be something I would want to see when I come to church for Sunday mass! And I don't think you would, too.
I read this once. A woman who constantly shows off too much of her body for all the world to see is like a hostess who frequently uses her best china plates and silverware to feed just about everyone, not just her honorable guests, but also mice and rats of the house. (Ouch)
So, my lovely Ladies, let's start making a change by dressing more appropriately for church, shall we? There are many beautiful, fashionable outfits that are modest and suitable for church. Didn't our Lord create women as beautiful creatures?
Let's be attractive! NOT attract-ing!
What do you think, Ladies?
Tips n tricks:
- If you, like me, do not own a single pair of jeans that are not low-rise nor tight, try to wear rather long, loose tops that cover your buttock area. It's not very convenient for the worshipper who sits behind you to accidently see your butt-crack because your jeans are so low.
- If you insist on wearing tank tops or spaghetti straps to Church, layer it with something: cardigan, crocheted top, lacy shirt, whatever. Tank top also can be worn underneath a low-cut top.
- If you cannot sit down comfortably without tugging at your skirt every five minutes or so, it means your skirt is just too short.
- No hotpants for church. Period.
- Look pretty! Polish your nails, use a little bit of make-up, cute accessories, shoes and bag. Looking modest is not equal looking frumpy! You come to church to worship God. Have a little respect, will ya.