Once upon a time I had lots of ideas about how things should be, especially when it came to the behavior of people in Church.
Then God helped me mess everything up.
. . .
A long, long time ago I did not wear ripped jeans to Mass. When I saw someone who did, I did not think too much about it, but I felt that it was wrong. After all, we need to respect God and each other. We need to put effort into Church.
These days I do not wear ripped jeans to Mass. When I see someone who does, I sometimes feel a twinge of guilt. It is quite possible that they are wearing those jeans because they are living a much holier life. Perhaps they are not only wearing through their limited clothing, but then spending their time in more profitable ways than puttering around thrift stores looking for clothing which looks nicer.
There was a time, more recent than the long, long time ago, that I wore ripped jeans to Mass.
There was a Salvation Army donation site down the street and I would walk there to drop off things I deemed unneeded, but the closest thrift store was too far away to justify the gas money to get there. My only option for clothing was the local Wal-Mart. One day, when I was there buying food I saw a rack of clothing on clearance for $1.00.
I could not decide which shirts and skirt to get. So I bought five items, knowing that I could take them home to get my husband’s opinion. I would then return all but two during my next grocery run.
I ended up keeping two shirts and a skirt. I was very happy since it was just in time for Holy Week. I wore the skirt to Church every day that week.
Before that though, I always wore the same jeans.
I did not have anything to give to God during this time. I could not make the typical fasts during Lent because I had no money to give. I could not afford to drive to the nearest city to volunteer. I could not cut back on food because we were already eating the cheapest of legumes and white flour. I told my husband that when his clients finally paid him, we would buy pasta to celebrate. In the meantime though, there was no way to justify the expense of pasta when flour and salt were so much cheaper.
And so I prayed. It was only natural that I should kneel several times a day on the rocks in front of a local grotto.
By the end of Lent my jeans were ripped at the knees.
Eventually the issues which had tied-up my husband’s old attempt at a retirement fund were cleared and we had some money to move to an area with better employment prospects.
I continued to wear the jeans for another month, until I got a new old pair from a sister. In the meantime, when I found a random daily Mass I probably scandalized people by wearing ripped jeans in Church.
These days I have several “respectable” options to wear to Church, thanks to a good job which not only paid enough for me to afford clothing, but both required decent clothing and also provided the opportunity to live in an area where I can walk to stores with cheap clothing.
I don’t wear ripped jeans to Mass. But when I see someone else in ripped jeans I am reminded that there was a time when I would actually bend my knees in prayer enough to tear my jeans. I am reminded that there are faithful people nearby who are suffering from real poverty. I am reminded that every moment I spend shopping for myself is a moment that I did not give to God in the service of others.
I don’t wear ripped jeans to Mass. But I thank God when I see someone else doing so.