This morning I had an argument with my daughter before we left for church. She wanted to wear her converse high tops to church. I told her absolutely not. She said, “Everyone dresses down in church. I’m the only one that is dressier”. I said, “We are going to worship God in his house and you will dress accordingly”. Even my husband said my grandmothers would be going crazy in this conversation. I went a little further to post a funny Facebook status about my early morning battle of the wills with my daughter. My cousin commented, “Gosh, That’s your hill to die on?”.
I didn’t understand the meaning of what my cousin said so I had to google what “is that your hill to die on” really means. I found things like pick your battles, do you really want to insist on your point of view on this, you are making your stand, etc. After giving it more thought, the comment bugged me.
So here it is. Here’s my “Hill to die on” on the topic of church.
I frequently attended church with my grandmothers during my childhood, through my teenage years and into my early twenties. My grandmothers were devout Catholics. They attended church regularly, observed all of the Holy Days, recited prayers in Italian and English and knew the purpose of every saint. I always admired them for that. As a little girl when I would enter the church with one of them and get settled into the pew, they’d softly whisper in my ear, “This is God’s house and we have to behave in here”. I did what I was told. I sat quietly and didn’t dare to act up because I was in God’s house.
As far as I am concerned, my grandmother’s were geniuses. Their lessons were simple, to the point and appropriate. Here’s what they said about being in church:
1.Dress respectfully. Remember you are in God’s house.
Lately I’ve noticed that people are really beginning to dress down in church. I’ve noticed athletic shoes, sports jerseys and sweat pants. Once I sat behind a man who’s cloths stunk as if he’d been out late, slept in his cloths and got up and went to church in the same cloths. Yucky! I realize that God probably doesn’t care what people wear to church as long as they go but what happened to Sunday Best? What happened looking your best for God?
2. Arrive on time.
I’ve seen some people arrive as late as the reading of the Gospel, which is about the half way point in an hour long Catholic Mass. I’d be ashamed beyond belief to walk in church that late. Walking into church late pulls the attention away from the person on the alter who is speaking, praying or reading. It’s disruptive to the people who had the decency to arrive on time because now the on time people have to shift their attention from the Mass to whether the usher is going to ask them to move over to make room for the tardy ones. Traffic delays beyond our control do occur but if the delay is bad enough to make me 15 minutes late, out of respect for others, if I found myself that delayed on my way to church, I’d turn around and go home.
3. Don’t be disruptive to others.
Today I sat on the left side of the church at the isle in the back. There were multiple families that arrived late. Too many to count really. Well into the first reading this young family arrived and sat in my pew. The mother fumbled around in her bag crinkling plastic to open a snack and a find a toy for her toddler child. To make matters worse, they reeked of fried food. The toddler began to talk to his mother as if they were in a room alone and it was okay to be loud. The mother shhh’d him periodically but it was ineffective. It slowly began to wear on my nerves. I literally had to put my finger on my right ear so that I could tune this child out and focus on what the Priest was saying. The fact that I even had to do that made me angry. Thankfully his mother finally removed him.
Today’s mass was about getting epiphanies and revelations of God’s presence in our lives. I cherished every word of the Priest’s homily especially when he told us of a personal experience of his own. I felt God’s presence today, yet I struggled. I struggled to accept that people are going to arrive late and I have not control over it. I struggled to tolerate the noise of this family next to me. I struggled not to judge the people who couldn’t leave their football jerseys and sweat pants home until after church.
After church my husband and I took our daughter out for lunch and I explained to her why we don’t wear converse high tops to church. I told her the three basic principles of church etiquette that my grandmothers taught me. As she prepares for her Sacrament of Confirmation in May, I want her to keep these things in mind. She understood.
So what’s wrong with me? Am I turning into a fuddy duddy because I believe people should dress and behave a certain way in church? Have I lost my ability to accept others as they are even if they are late, improperly dressed and disruptive in a place of worship? There’s nothing wrong with me. It’s called having a set of beliefs. It’s only one of many hills that I will climb to die on during my lifetime. I’ll stand behind this one for the rest of my life. My grandmothers taught me well and I know they’d be proud to see me on this hill.