You know what is the matter with me when the weather is beautiful and it feels like sunny, Southern California? I want to wear shorts and sandals, and enjoy the warmth, that’s what. But can you do that while on pilgrimage to the Holy Land?
I’m here to tell you you can if you are prepared (or blessed).
There are a couple of things you have to keep in mind though, as you never know when the “shorts monitors” will ruin an otherwise perfect day.
Rule #1: It’s always better to beg forgiveness, than it is to ask permission.
Following the above rule has worked well for me in the past, and continues to work pretty well even in the Holy Land. Not acting like a jerk is very helpful in executing this rule, too.
Coupled with this is the fact that as disorganized as the Church is, there is no hard and fast “shorts rule” in place. Some sites will have a sign saying “no shorts,” while others will say nothing about it. Some will enforce it, while others don’t.
Honestly, I didn’t know about shorts being outlawed in places that rely on dumb tourists visiting them while possibly wearing shorts anyway. Disinterestedly following Rule #1, see, it never even occurred to me that wearing shorts would be a problem.
I mean look here where my wife and I renewed our wedding vows at the Catholic Wedding Church in Cana. I didn’t pack a tuxedo, nor did my wife pack a wedding gown. Though to his credit, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr seems to have packed the right attire for the occasion.
Rule #2: Be humble and of contrite heart.
Let me make a mental checklist of the Holy Places I have visited so far while wearing shorts without a problem.
The Stella Maris Convent Church (built atop Elijah’s cave on Mt. Carmel).
The Church of the Transfiguration (built atop Mt. Tabor).
The Catholic Wedding Church in Cana of Galilee (see above).
Three up, three down. What could go wrong? Nothing, as far as I knew.
After promising that we would stay hitched for forever in Cana, we headed on to Nazareth for Mass at the Basilica of the Annunciation. This is the church that was built over the house where Our Lady lived when Gabriel the Archangel visited her with a choice piece of news. News which she agreed with to our everlasting thanks and praise.
As we were walking up towards the basilica, there were a few vendors on the sidewalk hawking rosaries, and keffiyehs. A keffiyeh is the headdress that Arab men wear, savvy? I had promised a friend of mine that I would buy them one, so I entered into a transaction for two keffiyehs before entering the church.
The other pilgrims from our group continued to stream past the gate into the basilica’s compound while I finished up my purchase. The street vendor said, “God bless you,” and with a bag of keffiyehs in my hand, I too entered the gate.
This action of mine was immediately met with shouts of “No shorts! No shorts allowed in the Basilica!”
The guy sounded serious, so Rule #2 went into effect. Who am I to start an inter-religious incident because I was clueless about wearing shorts while I’m on vacation? I made my apologies, turned around, and figured I would just head back to the bus.
Rule #3 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
But I had a benefactor in the form of the keffiyeh vendor. As I was thinking I was done for, and turned solemnly down the street without looking back, he called out to me, and ran to my side. He recognized my plight, you see, and had an idea for making everything right.
With a mixture of a few words and lots of body language, he beckoned for the bag of keffiyeh, which I handed him meekly. With utmost care he removed the red patterned cloth from one of the headdresses, wrapped it around my waist, and tied it just like Daisy Duke tied the loose ends of her checkerboard shirts.
In a flash of inspired genius, my keffiyeh had become a makeshift sarong.
As I again entered the gate, the “shorts monitor” glared at me, but allowed me into the compound, and to what was to be a remarkable visit to the place where Mary had answered “yes.” This minor miracle was like the clue that Dr. Henry Jones noted in his (fictional) Grail Diary in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,
“Only the penitent man shall pass.”
So, so, true. Especially if you have help from a street vendor who just might have been an angel.
Whose kindness allowed me to go to Mass, and venerate the home of Our Lady…
When I was safely inside the basilica, lo! I spied Our Lord dressed in a way that might make the shorts monitors of the world blush.
*All photographs belong to the author.