I used to belong to a parish in a tiny little Midwestern town replete with antique shops, equestrian feed stores, Victorian houses overgrown with ivy, and acres and acres of cornfields. The parish was generally theologically sound, with two pro-life priests and many family-friendly programs, although the music and preaching left much to be desired; the hymnal didn't contain a song composed before 1981, although the "choir" and accompanying band seemed particularly to favor the the execrable protestant pop song Breathe
, invariably sung in high-pitched, emotional female voices that caused me much grinding and gnashing of teeth, and you'd be hardpressed to come away from the weekly sermons with the impression that Jesus was anything other than just a really "nice" guy who didn't demand much from us except that we be "nice" to one another and make it into heaven, where everyone would sit around being "nice."
After two years at this place, I was ready to run screaming from the chapel and never look back, God bless them all. I particularly tired of having within my line of sight and prominently displayed at every Sunday Mass
tight-fitting jeans, miniskirts, bra straps exposed from tank tops, bare backs, bare shoulders, and flip-flops. And these were often worn by adolescent girls accompanied by parents who should know better
Personally, I grew up rather clueless about such things. I didn't understand, as an awkward teenager, that my body could actually be attractive to men, and that certain clothing could accentuate my physique. I simply wore what I wore, and thought no more of it. Thus, I can see why so many young ladies show up at Mass looking as if they're about to go to a nightclub, or to the beach. Girls do not necessarily instinctively know (especially in today's society) how to dress as they should--and this is why it is up to parents
) to teach their children. Mothers, after all, are no longer naïve or ignorant; having dated, married, and, naturally, experienced physical intimacy, they know exactly what men find attractive and what sort of clothing serves as a distraction. So the fact that so many girls are showing up to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass looking like Britney Spears clones shows that parents aren't doing their jobs. (And if the mother is not, then it is incumbent on the father to take up the charge.)
Of course, attending the Traditional Latin Mass, one has the opposite problem: too many wives who go too far in the other direction and equate modesty with frumpy, androgenous, utterly unfeminine clothing, and then look judgmentally on women who wear tasteful dresses, don heels, aren't afraid of their femininity, and generally put some effort into looking their best in the presence of Our Lord and King.
In any case, my dear parents, and especially my fellow mothers, let's go over a few no-no's for attire at Mass:
--Bra straps: There's a reason they're called undergarments. They belong under your garments.
--Halter tops: If you feel the need to expose your neck, back, chest, shoulders, and armpits for the world to see, at least have the decency to wrap a pashmina around yourself.
Better yet--just scrap the halter top for a classic blouse and jacket--like this.
--Cleavage: Beyond obvious.
It's hard enough for Father to focus on the presence of Our Lord in the depths of his soul while he is giving out Holy Communion; he doesn't need to be distracted as you bow to receive the Sacred Host (most likely in your hands, but that's a post for another day).
--Tight jeans/slacks: Jeans are for play, not for Holy Mass. As to slacks, this is usually the hardest one for women to grasp. I'll be as frank as possible: the eyes of the most chaste heterosexual man in the world are still naturally drawn to certain parts of the feminine form. God made women beautiful, and He made men to find them beautiful---all healthy, normal, and good. But women tend to be unaware what a powerful effect our beauty can have on men, which is why covering up is so essential. It's not prudery, but common sense. No one is suggesting scrupulosity, but simply being sensitive to our dear brothers in Christ, who battle mightily every day in ways we can never dream of just to stay pure. Let us not make their struggles harder--especially when they seek refuge at Holy Mass, hoping to find a moment's respite from the struggle, only to encounter yet more bared flesh. God forbid that our dress or comportment should be a source of their sin, or that they should go up to receive Holy Communion unworthily because our appearance has tempted them to impure thoughts! I have heard from young men who have said immodest dress at Mass has done just that. Have no doubt we will be called to account. We are
our brother's keeper.
--Skirts shorter than the knee: At every parish, one always has the middle-aged woman who thinks her legs are too shapely to cover up and puts them on prominent display, perhaps even when going up to do the readings at the lectern. My dear ladies, for the love of God, short skirts are inappropriate
at Mass. For one, when you sit, they hitch up. For another, they just look tacky. Remember the dignity to which we are called--the same dignity of the Mother of God herself! God calls us each to be as she is--queenly, noble, regal, pure. If we only understood our worth and dignity in the sight of God, we would think, speak, and dress
--Shorts: Would you wear shorts to visit the Queen of England? Then why on earth do people think it's appropriate when visiting Our Lord and King at Holy Mass on Sunday? I can only chalk this up to an abject failure to understand Whose Presence you are in, or the mistaken notion that "God doesn't care." He cares about everything
we do, and His desire is to lift us up out of the mire of human sin, neglect, and indifference, to exalt us to the dignity of the sons of God. Part of that involves knowing who HE is--the All-Holy, All-Knowing, All-Powerful, worthy of the greatest reverence and awe. Shorts at Mass don't exactly scream that.
--Flip-flops: See the above.
One could go on and on, but the sermon will end here--for now...