A few days ago, an item appeared in one of our leading tabloids which I think is long overdue. It seems the Catholic Church has at last cast a critical look on the Catholic faithful’s manner of dressing when going to church.
I said it had been long overdue because since I left a subdivision in Cavite to return to my old house in Quiapo twelve years ago and resumed attending masses and rites in the famous shrine of the Black Nazarene, it is only now that I heard the church criticizing improperly dressed churchgoers, especially women.
The Ministry of Liturgical Affairs of the Archdiocese of Manila issued an order to the parochial heads, chaplains and rectors to remind their parishioners to dress properly in going to church especially when attending masses. The ministry issued a dress code to the parishioners which I hope will be strictly observed. Dressing properly in a place of worship is paying respect and reverence to the Almighty God.
Fridays and Sundays are my regular days of attending masses at Quiapo church. On regular days, I visit the church for short thanksgiving payers. And what did I come across normally– women attending masses like they are going to a party or a marketplace. They invariably wear sleeveless blouses that afford you a peek into their breasts. Sometimes, they sashay into church in mini skirts or short blouses which their navels on display. Some even come in shorts. Men, for their part, are clad in shorts and wearing slippers. Some wear sandos. Thee impropeerly dressed churhgoers even line up to receive communions.
It is not only the dress code. There is also the problem of the text code. Massgoers openly send and receive messages through their cellular phones. Some even answer a call during offertory. It is really quite disturbing when you are in the middle of a fervent prayer and someone beside you is talking over the phone or sending messages.
Sundays, I attend the seven o’clock mass. Compared to the succeeding eight or nine o’clock masses, the 7 a.m. mass is attended by a lesser number of people. But I still come across families attending this early morning mass..Some parents allow their children to establish their mini-playground among the pews. They play or loiter around while the mass is going on. I myself used to bring my two ‘apos’ to church but they are properly admonished before leaving the house on what to do and what not to do inside the church. There is only one rule—sit quietly and pray and never play or talk.
Once, while the mass was in progress, four churchgoers—three men and a woman– joined me in the pew I was occupying while the congragation was singing the Papuri. As soon as we sat down on our pew, the woman beside me pulled out her cellphone and began texting messages. I threw her glances but there was no reaction at all. I intently stared at her but she ignored me and continued tinkering with her cell phone. I whispered to her that we are in church. She instead looked at her companions and giggled. Annoyed, I stood up and joined the other standing churchgoers to cool off my irritation. Then I heard the officiating priest sermonizing that the devil is everywhere, even inside the church. This made me smile. After the mass, I talked to Fr. Corpuz who is assigned to that church and complained about the woman’s behavior. He was visibly annoyed and explained to me that he is already tired of reminding people not to use cellphones during mass. This led me to review in flashback the many times I attended Fr. Corpuz’ masses and could not remember any instance when he mentioned that using cellphones during mass is a big no-no.
Other times I noticed couples—possibly boyfriends and girlfriends—attending mass together. And I was scandalized whenever (and this is often) a woman leans on her boyfriend’s shoulder and pretenda to sleep…in the middle of the mass!
It was my mother who taught me church and liturgical functions. In my hometown then, women attended masses properly attired, wearing veils over their heads. Maybe church dignitaries found the veil too old fashioned or passe that the veil became extinct. But the disappearance of the veil has been compounded by the diminishing hemline of dresses and skirts.
But the church seemed to have finally tackled the problem of the proper dress code in church. The church finally came up with guidelines, citing that there had been increasing numbers of people who attend masses or other liturgical functions garbed in a way that simply prove “disrespect to the sanctity of the House of God and the Sacredness of the Liturgical Celebrations”.
Relative to this, the Ministry for Liturgical Affairs released posters that show the proper dress code during mass. Men are allowed to wear collared shirts or T-shirts, pants or slacks, polo shirts or long sleeve-shirts. Women can wear blouses with sleeves or collars, office or school uniforms and dresses. Disallowed are hats, jersey shorts, spaghetti straps or tank tops, skirts or skimpy shorts, sleeveless shirts or those with plunging necklines.
I still cannot justify how this thing came to pass. Why must the church issue this kind of circular to its parishioners? Are these people not thinking of their behavior and the manner of dressing in the proper place and time? If we only respect ourselves, there should be no need for these circulars and posters.
The circulars and posters should also include banning the cellular phone inside the church or to put them off before going in. This will minimize disturbing other churchgoers who are in the midst of prayers. Children have to be disciplined about church behavior.
The church is not the place to parade our newest wardrobes like a fashion model. Nor is it the place to display our latest acquisitions like a new cap, sun glasses, new cell phones, bags and our latest boy/girl friends.
Churches are now employing security guards aside from the many uniformed men that man the flow of people in the church, perhaps they too can help in maintaining proper decorum in the church. Let’s wait and see.