Summer Dress at Mass

05-22-2022Letter from the PastorFr. Don Kline, V.F.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

For as long as I can remember, the issue of appropriate attire for Holy Mass has been present in the lives of most conscientious Catholics. Recently, my brother priest, Fr. Richard shared with me that a distraught parishioner came to him for advice. Her issue was that, on the prior Sunday, someone next to her in the pew called her out because of her choice of clothing. Validation from Fr. Richard was what she was seeking regarding the correction she obviously resented. However, after a glance at her wardrobe choice, he was left with a clear understanding of the reason she may have had the unpleasant interaction.

Without getting into the specifics, let’s just say there was not much left to the imagination in her attire that day. Her choices left him sad for her, because her choice of attire spoke loudly to him about the fact that she was convinced that she had little to share with others outside of her sexuality and her body. It seemed that her perception of herself was not healthy or realistic.

The modesty police, I am not. I admit, so many St. Bernadette parishioners dress very appropriately for Sunday Mass. Thank you! I don’t want to call a person out at Holy Mass to tell them what is appropriate to wear and what is not. One never knows where another person may be in their understanding of modesty and true beauty.

Instinctively, it seems, when we consider the topic of modesty in Church, people exclusively think about what women wear and not men. This is unfair and not at all true. Excessively tight, revealing outfits, shorts, and beach attire have been seen on both men and women in our pews.

Put simply, when we dress for Holy Mass this summer, we owe it to the person who sits to the right and left of us to not be a distraction by how we dress, particularly as the temperature climbs in the summer months. The hotter months are always challenging for us because it is difficult to cool such a large space. The good news is, we will all have something to offer up for those suffering in Purgatory!

There is a sense today that how a person reacts to our clothing choices is their problem, not ours. But as Christians, what do we owe others? Is it fair to be a near occasion of sin by our fashion choices? When we worship Our Lord together as a community, should we try to be an authentic witness of respect and virtue?

The Catechism includes two profound paragraphs about modesty. Lacking in specifics concerning shorts or ‘yoga pants’, our Catechism takes a step back to reflect on modesty and its purpose. Concerning the topic of modesty, it might be worth discussing these paragraphs as a family. I have discovered in marriage preparation that parents shy away from these types of discussions to the detriment of their children.

“Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of person and their solidarity. Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet.” (#2521, 2522).

As a rule of thumb, tight fitting and revealing clothes are not appropriate for Holy Mass. It does not show charity for others. It does not express the dignity that is to be shown to Jesus in His Real Presence in the Eucharist. God is calling us to something better!