While I'm off enjoying New Baby the fabulous Maria Grazia Swan is filling in for me with guest posts. Enjoy!
* * *
I remember the first time I set foot in an American Catholic Church. I was fresh off the plane and totally clueless.
You see, back home, in order to go to mass and not get publicly humiliated and asked to leave, you had to follow a strict dress code. I’m talking about the female part of the population—seems like males could do no wrong.
Pants were not allowed, no excuses. Head covered. Sleeves had to be long enough to hide the elbow, skirt to cover the knees, and you HAD to wear stockings or knee high socks.
Most Italian churches are big, I mean, really big, maybe because in general there is only one church per community. So you might ask how would the priest know if you were dressed appropriately? They actually checked us out. An old priest would walk down the aisle and look us over. If something appeared out of place they would motion for you to get up and walk to the end of the row. By then everyone would be staring at you.
The head scarf was an easy fix, even a clean handkerchief (yes, we used real handkerchiefs to blow our noses) would do. Sleeve length was negotiable. It got sticky when the priest questioned if you were indeed wearing nylons or not, he would feel your legs to make sure. Not making this up! If you had pants, you were gone, no questions, just the hand pointing to the massive double doors at the back of the church.
The walk of shame.
So I was stunned when I went to my first mass in the Cathedral of the Phoenix diocese. I saw women walking up to take communion without covering their heads and wearing sleeveless sun dresses. OMG!!!!
My kind of church!!! I became so comfortable with the new experience, at some point I forgot about my Italian up-bringing.
But it all came back to me two years ago in Rome. I went to visit Saint Peter Cathedral and got kicked out because my sleeves weren’t long enough. No, I wasn’t wearing a sun dress, but a knit top with cap sleeves. How about that?
I don’t go to church much these days, but when I do, the ease of the American Catholics always puts a smile in my heart.
Maria Grazia Swan