Slobs at Mass




Father Z, with his comments, brings us the remarks of Bishop Tobin in regard to the way too many people dress and act at Mass:

The Holy Mass – “Let the Whole World Tremble”

After attending Sunday Mass in Florida not too long ago I came across the following admonition in the Sunday bulletin: “Please come to Mass early enough not to disrupt. Leave late enough not to insult. (The Mass does not end until the final blessing). Worship reverently enough not to distract. And dress proudly enough not to offend.” [Excellent.  Fathers, jot that down.  No, wait.  You are ignoring this.]

“Now that little blurb contains some very useful reminders,” I said to myself. It addresses a recurring problem in some our churches these days – an habitual lack of reverence for the sacred mysteries taking place in our midst, especially when the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is being offered.
While all of the points in the bulletin article have merit and should be observed, the reminder to “dress proudly enough not to offend,” might be the most relevant, especially now as we enter the hot and humid, casual days of summer. The sloppy and even offensive way people dress while attending Mass is something I’ve witnessed personally and regularly receive complaints about.

You know what I’m talking about; you’ve seen it too. Hirsute flabmeisters[Well done! Just the other day I taught my altar boys the word “hirsute”.] spreading out in the pew, wearing wrinkled, very-short shorts and garish, unbuttoned shirts; mature women with skimpy clothes that reveal way too much, slogging up the aisle accompanied by the flap-flap-flap of their flip-flops; hyperactive gum-chewing kids with messy hair and dirty hands, checking their iPhones and annoying everyone within earshot or eyesight.  [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]

These displays reveal a gross misunderstanding of the sacred space we’ve entered in the church and the truly sacred drama taking place in our midst. C’mon – even in the summer, a church is a church, not a beach or a pool deck.

Every member of the worshipping community should dress appropriately for Mass, but the obligation is even greater for those who fulfill public ministries during the liturgy – ushers, lectors, servers, and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. [Reduce the number of lay people in those roles and you help to avoid a problem.] Because they’ve assumed a public role in the sacred liturgy and are in the public eye, it’s important that they give good example to others in the way they dress, speak and present themselves during Mass.

And what about the trend I’ve seen increasingly in recent years, even in our cathedral, of people coming to Mass carrying their water bottles and coffee mugs? Do they really need to be hydrated or caffeinated during that hour they’re in church? Is it a sacred space or an airport terminal? [Ehem… I’ve often written that many suburban parishes look like municipal airports.  When our churches are ugly, will people be filled with awe?] And I wonder how many people even think about the Eucharistic fast (one hour before receiving Holy Communion) when they prepare for Mass? I’m old enough to remember when you couldn’t have any food or beverage, except water, from midnight before receiving Holy Communion. It was a sacrifice, to be sure, but also a clear reminder of how special it was to receive Holy Communion. [Ehem… Your Excellency… check out my poll!  HERE]

And while I’m venting, I still find it inappropriate and disrespectful to have a church full of people talking and creating a boisterous atmosphere before Mass, [Do I hear an “Amen!”?] completely ignorant of the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and the spiritual needs of their fellow parishioners who wish to spend a few moments of quiet prayer with the Lord. The Church should always provide a sanctuary of quiet, peace and prayer for anyone who wants to escape the barrage of noise and technological intrusions of our daily routine and enter into the presence of the Living God.

No moment reveals our attitude of respect than during the actual reception of Holy Communion.

I’m not one who has a strong preference for receiving Holy Communion standing or kneeling – both are approved by the Church and both can be either reverent or irreverent depending on the disposition of the person. Nor am I one who will fight over the merits of receiving Holy Communion in the hand or on the tongue. Again, both are approved by the Church and can be either reverent or irreverent. [Ehem… clearly one is superior.]

I am frequently amazed, however, over how many of the faithful, young and old, simply don’t know how to receive Holy Communion properly. This ignorance reached its pinnacle a couple of years ago when one lady, a Confirmation sponsor in fact, dropped the sacred host I had placed in her hand and then looked at me, giggling, saying, “I guess I’ll need another one of those,” like she had just lost her favorite snack cracker.

It’s easy folks, really. As you approach the minister of Holy Communion you bow reverently and when you hear the words, “the Body of Christ,” you simply respond “Amen” as you extend both hands carefully or put out your tongue. And note, you’re required to consume the host then and there and not take it with you down the aisle or back to your pew.

The title of this column was taken from a letter of St. Francis of Assisi to his friars, in which he reveals his profound respect for the Holy Eucharist. He writes: “Let the entire man be seized with fear; let the whole world tremble; let heaven exult when Christ, the Son of the Living God, is on the altar in the hands of the priest. O humble sublimity! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the universe, God and Son of God, so humbles himself that for our salvation he hides himself under a morsel of bread.”

Would that we might display even a fraction of that reverence when we go to church, attend Mass and receive the Holy Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ!





Go here to read the rest.  Ah, the Slobbification of America.  Most people treat this as a minor sin, if it is a sin at all.  I respectfully disagree.  Disrespect for God is a grave sin, and habitual negligence in dress and behavior at the Mass where God, the Creator of the Universe, comes to us on the altar, can rise to such intentional disrespect through callous indifference.


11And the king went in to see the guests: and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment. 12And he saith to him: Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? But he was silent. 13Then the king said to the waiters: Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 14For many are called, but few are chosen.

Luke 14:  11-13

More to explorer


  1. Personally, I always wear a suit to church, except when I am at home and usually hack the three miles or so to church. Then I always wear a jacket and breeches, never jodhpurs – I wouldn’t wear them to a show, so it doesn’t seem right to wear them to church.

  2. As a rule, if there’s an attractive woman dressed inappropriately at church, I keep my eyes on the tabernacle at all times. It’s allowed me to develop both my piety and my peripheral vision.

  3. I attend the Latin Rite Mass, the Mass of All Ages, so there is never an issue of inappropriate dress. I consider it a sacrilege to enter God’s House and participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass without the respect and decorum that God deserves.

  4. It’s so close to being a true story that it’s embarrassing. Through my fault, through my fault, through my most ridiculous fault.

  5. I was one of those slobs for a long time. T-shirt and jeans at the Saturday Vigil Mass, that was me.

    I did shorts – once. South Florida, 2008, on our anniversary. I had the brilliant idea to take a five month old baby on vacation because I thought US Air was going bankrupt and I didn’t want to lose my miles. Anyway, we all showed up at Mass- late – and most people were wearing shorts, flip flops or other inappropriate attire for church. The large video board on the wall behind the altar was annoying too.

  6. ALL, I repeat, all, electronic devices should be checked at the door upon entering. This not only ensures the absence of ringing, texting, clicking, gaming and whispering in the church, it guarantees no one leaves until after the final blessing and recession.

  7. My favorite is the woman with shorts and Jersey #37 who after receiving Communion beats a hasty retreat to the door as she chews on the Host. I’ve deduced that she only has one Jersey. Well, at least she shows up every Sunday.

  8. The fifty foot communion rail has a white cloth the runs the entire length.
    When it’s time for holy communion, the faithful kneel down side by side, and place their hands under the cloth while receiving Holy communion.

    Our little slice of heaven on earth is Holy Rosary. Our Pastor is remarkable.
    During the TLM he has thirteen alter servers. All young men.

    The girls sing like angels from the choir loft.

    We are so blessed to have Fr. Donald Libby.

  9. I’m surprised that t-shirts are listed as appropriate on that poster. I also think that skirts can be appropriate if they’re a reasonable length. I once heard a priest read the dress code for the White House, and say that we should at least show the same level of respect in church.

  10. Pinky wrote, “I also think that skirts can be appropriate if they’re a reasonable length.”
    I think so, too. After all, a jacket and skirt is now considered formal business attire for women.

  11. I am still fighting to have the Blessed Sacrament restored to the main church from the sacristy. The reason given is to protect the Real Presence from disrespect, insult and ignorance, Reasons I find valid. Pastors need to reassert their authority in bringing about respect for the Real Presence in Church and at Mass. Sometimes, it seems like a cattle barn with individuals turning their back to the tabernacle and sitting their backside on the back of the pew, something you would not do in another person’s home. Taking God out of His home for a concert is the most heinous insult and not having God in His house for the faithful is unconstitutional, against the First Amendment.

  12. I always wonder about Newman Centers at Universities.. Students are dressed as everybody else.. Especially in cities in AZ, or CA. Nobody is saying something. And they go to confession like this. Whereas, the confessional is just a chair next to the sanctuary. – a la Medjugorie..
    Students dressed with almost nothing distributing Holy Communion. You can see the insertion of the Musculus Gluteus Maximus.. and pectoralis major..
    Did that start in former communistic countries, where neighbors needed not to know where families where going on Sunday? But what do we risk today? when going to Mass? When Priests are addressing this topic they risk losing their “job”. I know at least one, who was discriminated and forced to leave his parish because he addressed exactly the same topics, as found here. Now this priest is working at a Dairy Farm…

  13. Above, Jonathan commented: “ALL, I repeat, all, electronic devices should be checked at the door upon entering.”

    My cell phone (which does not connect to the internet or have apps) always goes off before I enter church. Using it during Mass it not a temptation for me.

    However, I do know people (my wife, for example) who use their smart phones as an electronic missal; it also contains their daily prayers and other useful items for worship.

    I admit that when I first saw it, I reflexively thought that these people were being disrespectful, not fully participating in Mass. I knew that my wife was using it to help her participate in the Mass, but it still felt … wrong. However, the more I thought about it, the more I came to see it as another step in the use of technology in Mass.

    Some people may not like the comparison, but at one time no one had missals in Mass. They simply listened to the proclamation of the Word. But, with printed materials gradually (starting with those who could read and afford it) missals were introduced. Today, we take it for granted.

    In fact, my wife finds the phone missal useful because all of the text for the Mass is in a line. She just has to scroll: no flipping through the book. As a major plus, she can increase the font size, making it easier for her to read along.

    I realize that the glow of the cell phone might be distracting to people who can’t help looking over at it, curiously wondering what my wife is doing. But, it doesn’t ever make any noises. The only distracting thing would be the glow. But, as we go to Mass with the same people near us week after week, they all know what she’s doing by now. So, I don’t think it hurts any one else’s participation at Mass.

  14. Nicholas – Interesting. I’ve never seen that, but I can imagine it catching on. Still, as a traditionalist at heart, I think there’s something meaningful in the setting aside of our daily conveniences at Mass. “Holy” means “set apart”, whether it’s not mixing fabrics in the old law, or Friday as a day of penance currently. Then again, font size matters, and I’m not questioning her.

    This whole original issue, appropriate dress in church, is another one that I can’t get too upset about in practical matters. I often attend 5pm Mass. I’m sure that some of my fellow attendees just got off a shift at McDonalds, or spent the morning with a sick baby, or just pulled into town after a long drive back from vacation. I understand that we don’t all get to dress in our finest before the “last chance” Mass. I remember a traditionalist woman who nearly missed Mass because she couldn’t find her veil – that’s completely missing the point. If I were a priest, I would definitely nudge the 10:30 crowd toward better attire, but practicality wins over anything.

  15. part of our reverence at Mass shows in our behavior as well as in our clothing. That’s why we stand t listen to the gospel. We are to be intentional about our worship, lifting up our hearts – Sursum Corda and we can do that better and more naturally if we come in the frame of mind for worship.
    It helps me to read the readings of the Mass before Mass ( i receive in my email and read when I get awake in morning.

  16. Thank you for this most needed commentary on the respect for the Blessed Sacrament. All the points you have mentioned are so very important. Attendees at Mass should stop to think of how they are dressed. Would they would go to a wedding, funeral, home of a friend for dinner, etc., any other occasion other they working in the yard in what they have on.

    The other point that I would like to mention is infants, toddler, very young children who are restless during Mass. Young parents (not all but most)do not remove their children when they begin to fuss, scream or otherwise act out. I love children had three of my own and five grandchildren but until they can be reasoned remove them or put them in the nursery. This fussing is especially a problem during the homily or the Consecration.
    Thank you.

  17. Pinky,

    I read that to mean “t-shirts with a collar;” i.e. polo-style shirts. But perhaps not. I admit the word t-shirt was a bit jarring to see under that column.

  18. What if Christians acted as if they really believed Jesus Christ is their Lord, Savior, King, and God? What if Catholics behaved as if Jesus Christ is present in His body, blood, soul, and divinity during the Holy Mass and when the Most Holy Sacrament is in the tabernacle?

    Something would be different, I’m sure.

  19. I’m sorry but the Novus Ordo Mass itself is the problem. As a former Protestant who went to several different denomination’s worship services, it isn’t much different (except the Protestant’s dressed appropriately and the music was decent). There isn’t really much reverence found. The priest rarely genuflects (unlike in the Latin Rite). The Eucharistic Prayers are almost word for word the prayers the Anglicans or Lutherans say. The Mass as a Sacrifice has been diminished through the reformed liturgy (which has been Protestantized). The Altar is a table (Protestant) where the priest faces the people (Protestant). Communion is given in the hand by the laity (diminishing its sacredness.) The priest sits in a chair (Protestant) while a layperson or deacon reads the Gospel. Most people come dressed as if they are going to a sporting event or community lecture and that is the norm rather than the exception. The constant talking, socializing, and holding hands while saying the Our Father is a distraction, adding to the feel of simply a social event. The Gospel readings have eliminated pretty much everything concerning sin, judgment, God’s wrath, and Hell so there is really no sense of the fullness of God who is both Merciful but will be our Perfect Judge.

  20. Piety has its own good manners. Learn them. It’s a shame to see those ‘pious’ people who don’t know how to attend Mass — even though they go daily, — nor how to bless themselves (they throw their hands about in the weirdest fashion), nor how to bend the knee before the Tabernacle (their ridiculous genuflections seem a mockery), nor how to bow their heads reverently before a picture of our Lady. – The Way > Holy Mass > Number 541, Saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer

    It seems to me “slobs at Mass” are letting the Holy Spirit’s Gift of Piety go to waste.

  21. Thank you for this posting. For years, I have noticed the declining standard of dress at Mass and have wondered why more priests don’t call the congregation’s attention to it. As I was growing up in the 60’s, I commonly saw people dressing in their BEST, no matter what that may have been, in order to be reverent and modest during the celebration of the Holy Mass. This continued through the end of the 20th century, but as we have moved into the 21st century–a more casual society in so many ways–the casual attitude has now passed into people’s attitudes toward our Lord and the celebration of His Sacrifice.

  22. I love this post, but I find it so funny that you used a picture of Bill Murray as a slob. His sister is a Catholic Nun, so I think that he should know better. LOL

  23. I’m not sure if this “advice” is a FAIL or an EPIC FAIL. I’m withholding judgment. I wish the author had.

  24. Sorry but, I didn’t like what you wrote my brother. Pretty much leaves out the homeless who lack the ability to iron their clothes. Seems a little vain to judge some ones state of dress. Considering you probably don’t know state of mind nor financial situation of the person you accuse of these “offenses.” I feel your passion and reverence, but it could have been communicated in more of a diplomatic way.

  25. “but it could have been communicated in more of a diplomatic way.”

    I sometimes suspect that the conversation on the road to Hell tends to be full of diplomacy and soft words.

    “Pretty much leaves out the homeless who lack the ability to iron their clothes.”
    Not at all. Those who lack better garments are wearing their best. As for the vast majority of people who attend Mass, they demonstrate their indifference by their dress. I am old enough to recall when people would always dress up to go to Mass. I was raised in a family with almost no spare cash, but we could always afford good clothes for Mass. The problem for almost all attendees at Mass is not money but lack of any sense of the importance of the Mass.

  26. While I can agree that there is an over abundance of ignorance regarding the sacredness of the Eucharist and Mass in general, I feel the conclusions drawn to be in substantial error.

    Often times I or others I know have attended Mass in less than our best not out of irreverence but because Mass is important enough to us that we aren’t willing to be late for the sake of vanity.

    Furthermore, our mission as Christians and Catholics is to spread the Good News to all and sundry. It’s very hard to listen to Good News when you’re being shamed for your lack of knowledge. Nothing you said was untruthful but neither was it compassionate and that is the main failing in your argument.

    Working as a youth minister, I have witnessed teen girls whose desire for Reconciliation was so great that they rushed from a baseball game in their uniforms to receive Communal Penance only to face shaming from others in the parish because those uniforms are so form fitting.

    I think God was less concerned with their attire and far more concerned with their ardent desire for a closer relationship with Him. When we reduce ourselves to shaming others instead of educating them we become the impediment to the growth of that relationship.

  27. “When we reduce ourselves to shaming others instead of educating them we become the impediment to the growth of that relationship.”

    I’d say there has been remarkably little “shaming” of anyone for the last half century in most churches, including the Church. The one great commandment that people seem to live their lives by is “Thou Shalt Not Judge!” Thus we get a watered down Christianity with the unofficial slogan, “God loves you just the way you are!”

    We are all children of our times and antinomianism under the rubric of nonjudgmentalism is the popular philosophy of the day, and woe to those who have the temerity to point out that it is rubbish. As CS Lewis noted in his The Screwtape Letters:

    “The use of Fashions in thought is to distract the attention of men from their real dangers. We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger and fix its approval on the virtue nearest to that vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under. Thus we make it fashionable to expose the dangers of enthusiasm at the very moment when they are all really becoming worldly and lukewarm; a century later, when we are really making them all Byronic and drunk with emotion, the fashionable outcry is directed against the dangers of the mere “understanding”. Cruel ages are put on their guard against Sentimentality, feckless and idle ones against Respectability, lecherous ones against Puritansm; and whenever all men are really hastening to be slaves or tyrants we make Liberalism the prime bogey.”

  28. Thank you for a well informed post. I have but one comment. I take a water bottle to mass every time. I drink during the entire mass. I also have a rare disease that attacks my lungs. I drink water to keep my airway moist so as not cough during the entire mass. I prefer the water to the oxygen tank carried toMass with my toddler aged children. It’s funny I worry about being judged for it but I’m too busy enjoying the sacred space of the litergy.

  29. Of course, account must be taken of local conditions. Even the Church adapted her liturgical vestments to take account of climate. The difference between “Gothic” and “Roman” was not aesthetic, but severely practical. “Roman” vestments were worn in Mediterranean countries over a cassock; “Gothic” were worn over thick fur-lined or sheepskin-lined coats in unheated churches in Northern Europe.
    The very name “surplice” (super plicia = over the skins) explains the difference between that garment, knee-length, loosely cut, gathered to a round collar and with bell-shaped sleeves and the Roman cotta, straight-cut with a square collar and short sleeves and reaching to the hip.


    James 2 Get with it please
    My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

    2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;

    3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:

    or are you admonishing us to be white washed tombs!


    James 2
    My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

    2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;

    3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:

  32. “A legitimate medical reason is of course acceptable. My wife is the solo singer every other Sunday at Mass and she has a water bottle at those times.”

    Do you expect everybody to bring a note and pass it around the congregation so everybody knows about their medical condition? Does that happen while the priest is processing into mass, during the readings, before communion? How does the note-passing thing work?

  33. Rather than building up a strawman to attack, maybe you should consider this:

    The concept is so good that I actually know of several blogs that use a form of the idea of scandal as a guideline. (phrased much more pithily, if rudely, as “Don’t be a (male body part)”)

    Two wrongs don’t make a right, and you might consider that you’re not only assuming the worst here, you’re assuming the worst of a significant number of those reading the advice.
    Shockingly, people can usually tell the difference between people who are dealing with something and those who see nothing special about the Eucharist; same way that it’s obvious to most reasonable people when parents are trying to keep their kids quiet, and when they’re neglecting to even consider other folks.

  34. You, and others, can’t “tell” anything about another parishioner. You may THINK you know something, but you may not. I guess you don’t want to err on the side of charity. That is, of course, your decision.

    I could as you if you are being a Richard Cranium, but that might be considered rude as you try to justify people’s judgmental comments by doing ultra-mind reading. Don’t know, go with the charity and stop worrying about their clothes, how loud their shoes are (the slap-slap-slap of flip-flops is bad, but the clunk-clunk-clunk of cowboy boots are fine, as are the click-click-click of high heels.
    I guess it’s all fun and games until someone resorts to pseudo-profanity to make their non-point.

  35. If you are sincerely attempting not to “poke” others in the eye, you have most definitely achieved a truly epic fail, from your very first comment.

    If not, then you are not worth the time already wasted, since it’s not even amusing.

  36. “or are you admonishing us to be white washed tombs!”

    Not being slobs would be sufficient Fred. This is a case where you have a vast majority who could dress better and come to Mass looking as if they were wearing “vile raiment”.

    As Bishop Sheen observed: “Just think of the way people dress coming to Mass. They would not go to the home of a visiting duke the way they come to see the Lord God of Hosts.”

  37. Thank you for the link from Bishop Tobin – it is worth sharing.
    God does see and know each one of us intimately! He knows where we are in our progress to Him.
    Our respect is shown in how we prepare for mass when we choose how to dress, That respect is primarily for God, but also our fellow worshipers. And self-respect. One shopping foray into the world convinces me too many people have low self esteem! Tthey could dress better than they do! Why so sloppy?

  38. “Why so sloppy?”. Anzlyne asks.

    Indifference to all things holy.
    Maybe this moral lethargy that has swept through the country like a virus is having an impact on society revealed on the outside, (clothing choices]

    The inside of man, his heart, is being exposed on the outside?

    Just a guess.

  39. Unlike a darkened theater, a church affords the opportunity to glance at the seats to find traces or stains left by uncovered bodies, creamed hands, and the treads of shoes holding dirt from outside, Be careful about putting your hand under the pew, there may be a wad of gum there parked. Oh, also mind those jacket zippers which engrave carelessness into the wood while forgetting the wooden Cross which began the reason for attending the Church.

  40. Thank you @Anzlyne and you are most welcome!
    It should be evident poverty is NOT synonymous with slovenliness. After all Our LORD had nowhere to rest his head yet the soldiers could not bring themselves to tear his tunic without seam.
    There is a man I see at Mass, he has a pious look to him. I have seen his bicycle and the clothes he wears. He does not appear to be well off. I see him him in what appears to be the same clothing. They may be the same clothes [cargo shorts and a white T-shirt] but they are always very clean. PS, he receives on the tongue.
    Wasn’t there a time when some clothing was set aside and designated Sunday Best?
    In my parish this year, a note was sent to parents regarding Confirmation attire: Dress for young women: no “see-thru”, strapless or spaghetti straps. I wondered why those who on the day they to receive the pure and Holy Spirit, and most likely with their parents approval or condonation, may be an occasion of sin for others.

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