US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Summer heatwave dilemma: How should we dress for church?

By Scott Alessi | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

With temperatures hovering around 90 degrees here in Chicago--and even higher in other parts of the country--it is once again the time of year for people to start arguing about what constitutes proper church attire in the dog days of summer. For some, comfort is critical, especially when your parish doesn't have air conditioning. For others, it doesn't matter how much you sweat, just as long as you are wearing nice clothes (never mind that they may not exactly look as nice as when you put them on).

The Washington Post today takes a look at this long running debate, with examples of how different church communities address the issue of how to dress on sweltering summer days. The story quotes Our Lady of Lourdes parishioner Ann Cabiness, who even has her own internal debate: “I know I’m in the wrong. My mother would not approve," said Cabiness, who attended Mass in a tank top and knee-length running pants, mostly because she was headed to the gym after Mass rather than because of the heat. “But would it be better that I not come?”

The parish, like many others around the country, placed a notice in the bulletin about proper attire during the summer. Our Lady of Lourdes pastor Msgr. Ed Filardi told the Post that he did so at the request of women in the parish who complained about the attire of other women, but that he himself didn't really see a problem with the way people were dressing for church.

Often the question seems to be one of concerns about modesty, that people are showing too much skin in church and causing a scandal. But as Molly Jo Rose wrote last year in a Sounding Board for U.S. Catholic, being casually dressed doesn't have to mean that you're not being modest. Still, others argue that even though you are dressed modestly, the Mass is an important event and the clothes you wear should reflect that.

Speaking as someone who generally breaks a sweat the minute I walk outside, even in shorts and a t-shirt, I have no problem with people dressing comfortably for Mass (within reason, of course). I usually don't notice if someone else in church has on shorts, sandals, or other warm weather attire. What about you? Do you think summer is the time to keep cool and dress casually, or suffer through the heat by wearing your Sunday best?