Luab: Are we back to bigotry?

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By Evelyn R. Luab

Light Sunday

Saturday, January 11, 2014


I WAS very upset when I heard someone say that council members of one of my favorite churches are seriously thinking of setting rules regarding proper attire for anyone who wishes to attend mass and receive Holy Communion. I pray that the plan can still be nipped in the bud.

There was a time, a long, long time ago, when I wrote against this type of narrow mindedness when people who wore sleeveless dresses were denied Holy Communion. Of course it fell on deaf ears.

Today that kind of bigotry still exists when one is provided a shawl when one’s short sleeves (not even sleeveless) do not meet the specifications of a certain church. Of course we can always be told: “Don’t come to our church if you won’t adhere to our rules.” However, there are times when one gets invited to a church wedding or a friend’s wedding anniversary, and one must go because of a strong friendship to the couple.

At one time I was wearing a very short sleeved beige suit ensemble with sleeves just over my shoulders. I was handed a shawl that looked very incongruous with my formal suit. Fuming, I looked upwards at the crucifix and said, “Lord, this isn’t what you died for, but I’m offering my silence to you in obedience instead of sitting on the shawl.”

When I heard of the possibility of my beloved church setting such rules—wow! This is the first time (if this pushes through) that these rules will be adapted by my church. My answer to this is, “How dare we close our doors to people who want to come?”

I’ve always admired my particular church for allowing even beggars to enter the church, for allowing mentally disturbed but harmless people to come near the altar. Now we discriminate because of attire?

What next? Shouldn’t we be glad that our brothers and sisters come even if they cannot follow certain criteria for attire?

What if all they have are shorts or ukay-ukay clothes, which sell for three for P100? Clothes sold in this manner are often sleeveless because they came from temperate countries.

Looking back to the first coming of Jesus, he was dressed in swaddling clothes. When the shepherds came, probably some were bare-chested because many men, including Filipino men, go walking about baring their chests. When the neighbors came to visit the next day, I’m even thinking that they came in very ordinary clogs, slippers or maybe they were barefooted. Did Mother Mary or St. Joseph shoo them away? Did the angels bring placards saying, “Come and adore in proper attire?”

No, I’m not making fun of church leaders, lay or clergy, who deem that it is their right to insist on the wearing of proper attire.

I’m sure when Pope Francis, whom many of us have learned to love, said, “To know your sheep, you have to go down and smell like sheep,” he meant something good. He wants us to understand our people, to love them. How can we now say, “Stay out because of your attire”?

Yes, I’m terribly upset and I’m hoping that whoever thought of such an idea may read my article today. I’m sure that the women who followed Jesus, tending to the needs of the disciples, were not told to follow a dress code!

The women who followed Jesus up the hill of Golgotha also were not told, “You cannot join the pilgrimage because you are not in proper attire!”

I always thought that members appointed to any church council carried a deep faith. What should matter most is the internal. Purity of heart, bigness of heart and a heart that goes all out to loving God is a person’s ticket to be allowed to be a member of the church. What is the church, after all, if not a haven for the poor, for the needy, for those seeking solace, for those wanting to connect in love with the One God who loves us all.

As early as 1950 when Fr. John Patrick Delaney gathered hundreds of us in one tiny chapel on the hill. He taught us that there is no discrimination in the house of God. Today when we want to gather more people so they too could feel God’s love through us, how dare we pass judgment on who can or cannot enter the church and avail themselves of the pleasure of attending mass and receiving Holy Communion? Please! How can we be the judge of anyone?

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 12, 2014.

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