The Perth Cathedral parish bulletin published this week a very interesting announcement about the Australian-Irish Heritage Association of WA holding their annual service of thanksgiving at the Perth Synagogue.
Probably aware of the ways in which many Catholics dress to attend Mass on Sundays, the writer of the announcement added a very diplomatic paragraph on the required dress code for the Synagogue.
It read: "Please note that men should have their heads covered (skull caps will be available at the Synagogue at a nominal cost) and appropriate dress for women could include a skirt which falls below the knee and a top with sleeves. Shorts should not be worn".
It was very diplomatic, yet very firm, allowing it to be read between the lines that anyone dressed in an inappropriate manner - let alone immodestly - would not be allowed in.
While I congratulate the Jewish organisers of the event for not succumbing to the temptation of human respect, and standing by their dress code - Catholic visitors could take it or leave it - I wonder about the magnitude of the furore that any parish priest would cause if he dared suggest a similar dress code for his parishioners!
Can you imagine the reaction of some - if not many - churchgoers if the parish bulletin had dared suggest something like the Jewish dress code mentioned above, adapted of course to Catholic worship?
Moreover, it would be seen as sheer madness if the parish priest - a sure candidate for martyrdom - were to announce: "Please note that women should have their heads covered. Veils will be available at the church porch at a nominal cost."
Perhaps, just perhaps, at the beginning of the third millennium, we could learn from the Jews a few hints about how to dress in church, and do away with the T-shirts, bermudas, mini-skirts, tight pants, shorts, and the like.
Modesty and chastity are still listed as virtues in the Catechism, just in case someone may have forgotten.
So, thumbs up for the Jewish dress code and, above all, to their courage in standing up for their principles of respect in a house of prayer.
RAYMOND DE SOUZA