I remember when I was a child we had a "Mass outfit,” which was usually a very nice dress that we waited for Sunday to wear. These clothes were only worn to go to Holy Mass or to some other very important event. As time went by, this custom was lost and in my youth I used to go to Mass wearing jeans and a t-shirt.
Nowadays we see people going to Mass with the same clothes they wear to go to the club or to play sports. But can the clothes we wear interfere with the graces we receive? Does God care how we are dressed for the holy sacrifice of the Mass?
The answer is yes and no. Yes, the way we dress interferes with the graces we receive, but it is not because God is concerned about our clothes, or that He will give more graces to the best dressed, as if it were a contest. Our Father is infinite love, mercy, and justice, and would never judge us because of our clothes. However, He also respects our freedom very much and will give us the graces according to our intention and willingness to receive them.
Leonard of Port Maurice teaches us: "Here is the most suitable way to attend Holy Mass fruitfully: it consists in going to church as if you were going to Calvary, and to behave, before the altar, as you would before the throne of God, in the company of the Holy Angels. See, therefore, what modesty, what respect, what recollection are necessary to receive the fruit and the graces that God usually grants to those who honor, with their pious attitude, such holy mysteries."
So, in order to attend Holy Mass in a way that we can take advantage of all the countless graces granted by such an attitude, we need to be aware that we are participating in the same sacrifice offered by Jesus on Calvary. This awareness is reflected both in our behavior when we stand before the altar and in the way we dress for this act.
It is not easy to have this awareness today because there is a big campaign to desecrate the liturgy, making it difficult to see what really happens in the Holy Mass. That is why it is important to make an effort to dress in our best clothes to participate in this great moment, because this attitude helps us to remember where we are going and what we will witness there.
Father Joseph Kentenich, founder of the Schoenstatt Movement said, "A pious man kneels to pray, but kneeling to pray also makes a man pious." In other words, the way we behave externally expresses what we have inside, but in the same way, if we change our exterior attitude, it will also influence our interior, our soul.
I can testify that exactly this has happened in our house. A few years ago, we began to be more concerned about our clothes for going to Mass. The boys wear dress shirts and the girls wear skirts or dresses. This care with the dress reflected directly in the feeling that we have when we participate in this great mystery. Our manners became more restrained, the side conversations practically ceased, our gaze was more turned toward the altar, the gestures of reverence to the Blessed Sacrament became more intense. Another fruit is the testimony that we give to the other people who are present. Several times they have come to praise the way our children dress and they themselves say that they need to be well-dressed to receive the King of Kings.
I invite everyone to have this experience. Social class doesn't matter; it is not a question of wearing expensive clothes, but of this concern to choose, within what you have, the most appropriate clothes for such a sublime moment and such an extraordinary grace that is to receive God Himself, with His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in our hearts, through the Holy Eucharist.