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Our readers asked:

Should people wear black to Catholic funerals?

Richard G. Malloy, SJ Answers:

Symbols matter and communicate. What we wear “says” something. One would not show up at a Philadelphia Eagles game in a NY Giants jersey and expect to go unnoticed. A man who takes off his wedding ring before going on a business trip to Las Vegas would be questioned closely by his wife.

Funerals are times of sober reflection, prayer and celebration of a deceased person’s life. If I am not going to wear black, I need to think about what my attire communicates. Does my choice of dress or suit say I care about the person and appreciate and understand the profundity of the occasion? Or do my jeans and tee shirt or tank top say, “This is no different than a quick trip to Target.” If I choose not to wear black, why do I choose to wear the outfit I wear?

This “wiki how” thigamagig actually contains a lot of practical wisdom for those attending funerals who are clueless as to what is considered appropriate. Don’t go to a funeral all “hootchied up” (“hootchy” = too short, too tight, too much”). Know that your dress speaks. Know what you are saying.

The Author : Richard G. Malloy, SJ
Richard G. Malloy, S.J., Ph.D., is Vice President for University Ministries, the University of Scranton, Scranton, PA, and author of A Faith That Frees (Orbis Books).
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  • Barbara Wheeler

    I always wear black to funerals (and business clothes to church), but I wonder whether the questioner had something else in mind: Now that the funeral celebrant wears white rather than black (as he did when I was a child), should those who attend signal their confidence in the Resurrection by wearing what they might at Easter? All-black clothing definitely puts us, the congregants, in Dies Irae mode; the liturgy now has a different tone, and one wonder whether the congregation’s clothing should too.

  • Rev Chris

    I do believe that clean, pressed, modest clothing is essential for attending all special occasions, but the color of the clothing is no longer as important as it was during the Victorian era.

    Some people now actually instruct their funeral attendees to wear bright colors. The practice of inappropriate clothing is a hot topic for many church goers as we see confirmants and first communicants wearing ridiculous and immodest clothing in church.

    Someone somewhere needs to do a better job educating their parishioners as to what’s appropriate.

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