05-07-2023Letter from the PastorFr. Don Kline, V.F.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have many weddings here at St. Bernadette. It is a real blessing, but it can be challenging when it comes to modest dress, especially for the bride and the bridesmaids. And weddings are not the only time people struggle to find the perfect attire. For as long as I can remember, the issue of what apparel is appropriate to wear to Holy Mass has been an issue for most conscientious Catholics. A brother priest once shared with me that a distraught parishioner came to him for advice on what she was wearing to Mass. Her issue was that on the prior Sunday, someone in the parish called her out because of her choice of clothing. She came to the priest hoping that he would see her perspective and approve of what she was wearing. However, one glance at her wardrobe choice gave him a clear understanding of why she may have had the unpleasant interaction with the parishioner.

I appreciate how many people do wear their Sunday best when they come to Mass. Sadly, there are still some people who choose to wear clothing that leaves very little to the imagination. Immodest wardrobe choices often reveal more than a person’s physical body. Immodest clothing can point to the sad reality that some people feel they have little to share with others outside of their sexuality and their body. Immodest clothing can say a lot about someone’s self-perception, a self-perception that is usually not healthy nor realistic.

The modesty police, I am not. As a priest, I don’t want to call a people 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. What I can do is ask you to please prayerfully consider how to address dress. A few simple questions may help you decide what is appropriate attire for Mass or in public for that matter. Does my clothing glorify God or glorify me? Who am I trying to impress? Could my clothes be a distraction to others?

Instinctively, it seems, when we consider the topic of modesty in Church, people exclusively think about what women wear and not men. This is clearly unfair and not at all true. Excessively tight, revealing outfits, shorts or beach attire are seen with frequency on both men and women in our pews. Beyond the modesty issue, casual attire may show an inner disposition that may reveal a casual approach to God and our faith. Sunday attire says something about one’s respect for God and for others. To be clear: God loves you right where you are at, and He made you in His image. You reflect the beauty of God in your modesty and how you dress for Him and His people.

When we dress for Holy Mass this summer, we owe it to God and 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 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 about shorts or yoga type stretch pants, our Catechism takes a step back to reflect on modesty and its purpose. 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. Despite our freedom from puritan conventions, we simply do not want to or we are afraid to talk about things sexual.

“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 and revealing clothes are not appropriate for Mass. It does not show charity for others or respect to God. And 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!

God Bless,

Fr. Don Kline, V.F.