Choosing the Rite Outfit

Until about 4 years ago, I usually wore jeans and a hoodie/sweater to Sunday Mass. After all, jeans were nicer than my usual soccer shorts or sweatpants, and I was comfortable in that. I figured that the point was not what I wore to Sunday Mass, but rather that I was there every week, participating fully, actively, and consciously. My parish seemed to be on my page, wardrobe-wise. Some people dressed up, but most people dressed casually, and it wasn’t uncommon for some kid to show up in his or her full soccer uniform, right down to the cleats. “Come as you are,” was my policy and that seemed sufficient.
Junior year of college, I transferred to a school where everyone dressed up for Sunday Mass. Girls wore skirts, dresses, heels, cardigans, and jewelry. Boys wore dress pants and collared shirts. A guy in a tie and blazer would be much more on the bandwagon than a guy in a tee shirt. It was different than what I was used to.
It made me think, though. Which is better? “Come as you are” or “Bring your best to God”?
…Kind of. I thought a lot about appropriate Sunday Mass wardrobe and here’s what I’ve got. There are pretty much 3 basic questions I ask:
Is it modest?
This is the most basic one. If my clothes invite anyone to lust, then it’s not appropriate to wear anywhere, including Mass. Disqualifications include skin tight, too short, featuring cleavage, or words on the butt.
Does it reflect the importance of the event?
When people do or attend something important, we dress up. Think of an audience with the Pope, a graduation, a wedding, meeting the President. The most important day in the liturgical calendar is Easter Sunday, and we’ve always dressed accordingly. Every Sunday, year round, is a “little Easter.” Sundays are not counted in the 40 days of Lent because we are celebrating the Resurrection. Every Sunday is a re-celebration of Easter Sunday. That’s a big deal, so I wear something nicer than I would wear if I were going to the mall or a friend’s house.

Is it reverent?

What the heck is a humeral veil, you ask? It's the cloth over Pope Benedict XVI's hands in this picture.

What the heck is a humeral veil, you ask? It’s the cloth over Pope Benedict XVI’s hands in this picture.

Mary, Jesus’ Mother, always magnifies the Lord and leads us to him. John the Baptist announces and prepares the way for Jesus’ ministry on earth: “He [Jesus] must increase; I must decrease.” Did you ever wonder why priests wear a humeral veil during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament? Part of the reason priests wear that when they handle a monstrance that holds Jesus’ Precious Body, is to draw attention to the Eucharistic Lord and away from themselves. We are all called to direct everyone’s attention to Jesus, and what we wear speaks even when we’re silent. If my clothes will encourage anyone to look more at me than at him, I won’t wear it to Mass.
The end result is that I wear a dress or skirt (sometimes dress pants/dress shirt) Sunday Mass. Cardigans are key. My shoes are a little more casual: usually Toms (not flip-flops), and sometimes I wear heels. If, due to some unfortunate, unavoidable, unforeseen circumstance, I am not able to dress up for Mass, then I go with the “come as you are” principle (For that reason, I give people the benefit of the doubt. For all I know, they were out of town the night before, had car trouble, couldn’t get home to change before Mass, and can’t go to any of the other Masses because Great Aunt Ruth needs their help all day.).
In closing, here’s an interesting video about what priests wear to Mass, what the vestments symbolize, and what priests pray when they vest. Enjoy!
Do you have any tips on Mass wardrobe? Is appropriate attire for weekday Mass different than Sunday Mass?

Retreat Recap 2012: Better Late Then Never

I’m back! Since my last blog, I’ve had a lot going on in my own life and just didn’t carve out time to write. In July, 23 participants, 7 team members, and a couple of Franciscan sisters enjoyed the Puritas Ministries Retreat. Some highlights included meeting a lot of first-time attendees, learning about love languages, encountering God in Mass, Reconciliation, and Eucharistic Adoration, lots of questions/answers with the team, and dancing!

The retreat was wonderful, thanks to a slew of volunteers who gave of their time to demonstrate God’s love through contributing their gifts of hospitality, prayer, music ministry, finances, and a whole bunch of other important behind-the-scenes responsibilities. Thank you so much, from all of us!

We discussed what it means to be pure of heart: emptying your heart of what is not of the Lord, and filling it with what is.

Tall order, right? It’s okay. Breathe. We’re all a work in progress because purity is a constant pursuit. There is no standing still. We are in constant motion, either toward or away from God. We are all called, despite our pasts and our brokenness, to courageously move toward God. A pure heart requires daily maintenance.

How long has it been since your last Confession (tip: I used to go a couple times a year, but going once a month has tremendously helped me grow)? Do your friends encourage you to move toward purity and a better relationship with God? Are you participating in Mass, at least on Sundays and holy days of obligation? Do virtues and values illuminate all your activities and relationships, or just when it’s comfortable? In what ways are you pursuing purity and getting to know God more personally?

I am praying for you!

Texting Boys

Every month, I write a check for a Verizon plan that includes unlimited text messaging. I send and receive an average of around 2,200 texts/month. I’ve thought, “Oh I need to text Mom about that thing,” only to discover that I already did, 2 minutes ago, without my brain registering it. I’ve even texted in my sleep (not even in T9!).

However, for the past couple months, I’ve been doing a little experiment in my social life: avoid texting boys.

Don’t leave yet. Hear me out.

If you have ever labored over crafting the perfect text message to someone of the opposite sex, you are familiar with the process. In (usually) 160 characters or less, I attempt to express an attractive balance of wit, depth, humor, class, mystery, and whatever else I presume will entice him to text me back. Once this flawless text is composed (and maybe edited/approved by a friend), I take the plunge and hit “send.” Then, of course, I re-read it. Now I’m inconspicuously peeking at that little, glowing rectangle about four times more frequently than usual. When he texts me back, there’s that little “!!!” frenzy in my brain as I hit “unlock” and “view now.” I read it and try to stifle a grin that would raise suspicion from anyone who isn’t supposed to know. Then it’s back to business: time to compose another digital masterpiece. Timing is key. Too soon might make me seem over-eager, but if I wait too long I’ll come off as cold or he’ll lose interest in the conversation…

Sound familiar?

When building a relationship (yes, even friendship) with someone of the opposite sex, texting and chatting online do not boost communication; they cripple it. Why?

Body language accounts for 55% of the overall message. Tone of voice accounts for 38%, and words (the literal meaning) account for 7%.

Naturally, men and women already have a preexisting disadvantage in understanding one another. When I text, all I have is words. The recipient is left to guess my tone, hand gestures, posture, and facial expressions.

That means the recipient can literally create the sender into whoever she wants (or doesn’t want) him to be:

Think of all your friends who have used texting to get to know someone of  the opposite sex. Think of the last time you or your friend was in the texting phase (a sub-phase of the talking phase). How did that go?

For the last two months, I’ve opted out of texting in favor of going ahead and using minutes when it comes to talking to boys/anyone I don’t know well. At first, I was kind of legalistic about it, but now I ask myself things like, “Is this an attempt at building the relationship?” “Is this going to put me on an emotional roller coaster?” “Am I flirting?” If I answer yes to any of those questions, I don’t text. That has helped me be more balanced.

Making the transition wasn’t as uncomfortable or shocking as I thought it would be. I simply explain something along the lines of, “Hey I’m actually doing this new thing where I don’t text boys. I promise it’s not a cold-hearted thing- I just feel like I lose too much of the other person. Let’s talk in person or at least on the phone.”

I’m happy to report that it has been well received every time.

Marriage is what brings us together today.

A little boy who I love very much recently asked me to help him with a school presentation about the Sacrament of Matrimony. I couldn’t keep it to 10 sentences like he had requested, and I couldn’t write it by the time he needed it. However, I think it’s blog-worthy. Take a look so it is not in vain!

The happiness that every person desires can only be found in heaven. God wants us to be happy with him in the next life, so he gives each person a vocation (either to marriage, the priesthood, or religious life), which is the primary way we are to grow in holiness and journey towards heaven. Marriage is, above all else, a path to Sainthood.

It’s not a perfect analogy, but marriage is the best image we have of the relationship between Jesus and his bride, the Church. For the Sacrament of Matrimony to be valid, one man and one woman must vow to love one another freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully, until death parts them.

  • Free: Entering willingly into the marriage, free from addictions such as alcohol, pornography, masturbation, and anything else that impedes love (you cannot give yourself if you do not have dominion over yourself).
  • Total: Giving a complete gift of self, holding nothing back.
  • Faithful: Reserving married love for only that one person. Faithfulness demands thoughts, words, and actions that honor God and both spouses.
  • Fruitful: Open to conceiving, accepting, loving, and raising any children with whom God blesses them.

If, on their wedding day, the bride and groom do not meet these requirements, the Sacrament is not conferred. There may be a wedding and a legal marriage, but not Matrimony. Love is doing what is best for the other person, even when the warm feelings fade. That is the way God loves us, and anything less is a counterfeit. Married love means self-gift, sacrifice, selflessness, and commitment. Couples are able to love in this way through the grace they receive in the Sacrament.

Masturbation: What’s the Big Deal?

As the Creator of sex, for which I think we’re all grateful, God knows the absolute best way to use it. When we choose to express our sexuality as it is intended to be expressed, tremendous graces and blessings enter the world.

Sex is the marital vows, translated into body language. My anatomy expresses the reality that I am someone’s gift. Sexuality is not meant to be self-serving. Sex is designed to be a complete, life-giving, faithful, free gift of self, and its purposes are the built-in results: babies and bonding.

Masturbation, however, turns sexuality in on itself. Masturbation is all about me: my pleasure, my desires, my loneliness, my stress, my sleepless nights, my gratification, my “whatever.” Masturbation is incompatible with love (doing what’s best for the other person), and that is why it’s a mortal sin. There is momentary pleasure, but no openness to life, no giving, and no receiving. It is a band-aid approach for whatever struggle the person hopes it will relieve him or her. What appears to be a remedy only brings shallow and temporary relief, but never healing.

In fact, it usually deepens the wound, especially because masturbation is so addictive. Addiction is an assault on freedom. Between fixes, an addict (to drugs, masturbation, cigarettes, pornography, alcohol, or anything) may feel stressed and on edge, consumed by her craving and anxiously seeking an opportunity to get the next fix. An addictive behavior limits a person’s ability to love, because she cannot give what she does not possess. Until she dominates her own desires, they enslave her.
If you are struggling with an addiction, talk to a counselor or priest who can help you overcome it. You are not a freak, a loser, or a lost cause. You are also not the only one who struggles with your addiction. God—who desires to free you from every entanglement so that you can experience true love, joy, peace, and happiness—loves you. God’s grace is bigger and stronger than masturbation and/or any other addiction we face.

I don’t struggle with the temptation to masturbate, but it has burdened friends I love very much, both male and female. For added perspective, here are some other Catholics who are talking about this issue:
“Natural” by Steve Gershom
“Light of Hope” by Steve Gershom
“Love Life Podcast – Not Quite Sex” by Matt Smith at Life Teen