Dressing Modestly in Church

This past Sunday at the Holy Trinity Mass at St. Christopher's in MV, a scantily clad teen participated in the Mass as an usher. It was beyond shocking at her lack of regard for her dress. I approached her during Mass because I felt she was being highly disrespectful. This teen was upset that I encouraged her to dress appropriately, especially as a Mass participant. She said, she didn't have time to change her clothes... and Jesus says, COME AS YOU ARE. Hmm... I think she needs a bit of deeper understanding about the need for modesty and a healthy sense of shame. I know some Parishes require all Mass participants to wear choir robes as they serve our Lord. It's a good idea.

With that said, I think it is the time once again to address the issue of modesty in our parishes for both men and women. It seems like people need to be reminded to DRESS THEIR SUNDAY BEST. What does Sunday Best mean? It does not mean sleeveless and cleavage showing tops, halter tops, ragged and baggy jeans, tank tops and skirts above the knee. Modesty means to be decent and respectful towards others as we are worshiping God and we are in the company of heavenly Saints and angels! Modesty calls forth the good in each other through edifying behavior and dress.

Unfortunately, many men and women are quite naive about the impact on others of immodest dress. Modesty in dress and respectful behavior around others and especially at MASS, is governed by the principle of not offending others and not being an occasion of sin for others. St. Augustine said, "in all your movements, let nothing be evident that would offend the eyes of another."

Moreover, our Catechism expounds upon these principles of modesty. "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 the person and their solidarity. Modesty protects the MYSTERY of the other and their love. It encourages patience and modesty 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." (nos. 2521, 2522)

As followers of Christ, we might ask ourselves as we dress for Mass, "what am I stating by what I am wearing?" Should we all wear choir robes before entering Mass? A close friend of mine raised that idea. It certainly would cause each person to focus more on the Mass than on the distraction of others clothing. Since that reality is not possible or most likely probable, the question needs to be asked by the individual, why am I dressing this way? Is it to draw attention to oneself and pique and arouse the curiosity of another? If so, then modesty has been violated and the virtues of humility are not evident as the other feels the need to showcase their defined body to possibly promote others to an occasion of lust. We are obviously not serving love.

Let me know your thoughts and let's discuss this topic at Parish World News.

In His Service,

Vanessa Browne
A concerned Catholic woman

CLICK HERE to view "Modesty, Modesty, wherefore art thou" a blog by Paul Dion, STL.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you, Ms. Browne. Many times, we ignore modesty when we prepare ourselves in the morning to go to Mass. May your letter enlighten people and open their eyes. And what a great article by Mr. Dion.

Anonymous said...

Improper dress is a problem with all ages and sexes.
In the article by Ms. Brown, the teen she spoke to said "Jesus said 'come as you are'". This is a line from a song that is sung at church. It does not refer to dress, but to say everyone is welcome.
I found an alternate version that goes like this:
Come and repent, that's how He wants us,
Come and repent, why stay away?
Jesus is waiting, there to forgive us,
Come and repent; let's not stay away,

Source is

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ms. Browne. I was at the same Mass and could not believe they let that girl usher the way she was dressed. My mother also was distressed about it. But it is not just teens, men & women need to dress properly. This really needs to be addressed,especially in the summer months where I've seen short shorts, and skimpy tops. It's just my observation but the "holiness & reverence" once present in every Catholic Church, has been missing for a long time. Peace...