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Andy reflected on his week. He spent countless hours trying to make sure that his clothes sent right message. He had “dressed for success.” Only his best effort would do for Zenon. He imagined what would have happened if he had shown up at Zenon in his cutoffs. Probably same thing that would occur if he met with a major client while donning his Speedo. If he knew anything, Andy knew that clothes did indeed send a powerful message. They say, in their silence, that, this event is worth effort. Andy realized that not only did he insult God with his lack of effort, but he also sent wrong message to his little boy.
Upon arriving home from Mass, humbled executive decided to see just what Church had to say about proper dress for Mass. In Catechism of Catholic Church, he found such guidance in section devoted to Eucharist, “source and summit” of our faith. He reflected upon words, “Bodily demeanor (gestures and clothing) ought to convey respect, solemnity and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest.” (CCC #1387) Andy found further insights in section devoted to personal modesty: “Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing...it inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist allurements of fashion and pressures of prevailing ideologies. Modesty...exists as an intuition of spiritual dignity proper to man.” (CCC #2522-24)
Powerful reminders. Ideas that are lost in America today, Andy thought. The Church’s insights made him reflect upon his youth when his whole family went to Mass in their “Sunday best.” To appear in Church in anything less caused a scandal back then. Sunday was special, it was important, and it was holy. What happened? What have we done? Have we lost our sense of sacred? Have we now “casualized” our culture to point of a complete loss of decency? Is nothing set apart and sanctified? Andy recalled reading a recent article on how businesses now have several “levels” of casual attire to try and combat various interpretations that are creeping into workplace. Like many people in corporate America, he knew that once we opened Pandora’s Box of “casual” then everyone’s personal interpretation had equal value, like it or not.
Andy reflected on Catechism’s words and on message he sent to God, his fellow man and his son. Did his choice of clothing convey respect for Real Presence? Was he bending to “allurements of fashion” by pretending to honor God in his finest cutoffs? Did he kowtow to “prevailing ideologies” by equating Sunday Mass attire with a morning of golf? Did virtue of modesty really disappear or was it just bludgeoned into obscurity by a self-indulgent culture? Andy thought about how ironic it was that his old company’s dress code prohibited cutoffs and T-shirts, but somehow he decided God did not care.
It was hard to imagine confusion he sowed in his son Colin’s mind. Here was an impressionable little boy who idolized his father. He was trying hard to understand how two events declared “important” by Dad were treated so differently. The sad part is, Andy knew there was really only one important thing. In his search for proverbial “better life” he had forgotten its Giver.
The following Sunday family was assembling for Mass. As his Dad rounded corner to kitchen, Colin spotted him and his face was wrinkled up with confusion. “Dad,” he asked, “Why are you are all dressed up? Do you have to go to work today?” “No,” said Andy with a smile, “but I am going to have a long talk with my Boss and enjoy a banquet with Him. Ready to join me?”
Gary Shirley, his wife, and three children are members of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Kennesaw, Georgia, where Gary serves as catechist in the adult education program.