Thursday, April 27, 2006

Should there be a dress code for Mass?

Should there be a dress code for Mass? I believe so. It is a testament to faith and to obedience when one bends towards God and away from society and culture.

In 1921, Pope Benedict XV said this about the indecent dress of women at Holy mass:

“ cannot sufficiently deplore the blindness of so many women of every age and condition; made foolish by a desire to please, they do not see to what degree the indecency of the clothing shocks every honest man, and offends God. Most of them would formerly have blushed for those toiletries as for a grave fault against Christian modesty; now it does not suffice for them to exhibit them on public thoroughfares; they do not fear to cross the threshold of the churches, to assist at the holy sacrifice of the Mass, and even to bear the seductive food of shameful passions to the Eucharistic Table where one receives the heavenly author of purity.”

But to what extent is apparel considered modest? Even among ourselves we can disagree. Some women believe that pants are sufficient covering, others believe that necks, wrists, and ankles should be covered. We do, however, have an excellent interpretation of modest by a member of the hierarchy. On Sept. 24, 1956, the Cardinal Vicar of Pius XII standardized modesty in dress for women,
“A dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers breadth under the pit of the throat; which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows; scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knees. Furthermore, dresses of transparent materials are improper.”
Some may argue that this is pretty radical dress. While modest dress according to this may be difficult to find, I believe we should look to our motives. If they are pure and are to lead us to holiness, then we will find apparel which will be pleasing to God and we will not sin against modesty. We should remember that even though it is man’s responsibility for his own actions and desires, it is equally our responsibility to remember that the nature of a man is to be visually based and therefore visually stimulated. We should remember in choosing appropriate apparel that we do not sin against our fellow parishioners and be the stumbling block in their faith and distract their attention to the Holy Sacrifice.

Women are not the only ones who should be held to a high standard. Men are held to a higher standard. After every Scripture passage regarding how women should be is followed immediately by how the man should be.

Appropriate dress for men should be a coat and tie; or, at least, a collared shirt and nice slacks. Too many young men today wear pants with their underwear hanging out and tee-shirts which have inappropriate slogans.

Priests should be more forthcoming regarding speaking out about modesty. I have visited parishes in which there are signs which state that “Women wearing pants should not enter the Church,” as I have been to parishes where they have boxes of chapel veils that they pass out to the visitors on their way in to help “cover” the women.

In both parishes I have belonged to, the Pastor’s have spoken out against immodesty. They have done this both within their homilies and also within the parish bulletin. Recently, my current Pastor posted this in his weekly bulletin:

“APPROPRIATE DRESS IN CHURCH: The dress code is slipping somewhat and I would just like to call everyone’s attention to appropriate clothing for wear in church. Please remember that we are in the presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament, when we come into a Catholic Church. Here at the Cathedral, this should especially be true. Please use common sense in dress. “T”-shirts, especially those with messages in poor taste, are not what one would call dignified dress for the Eucharistic Presence. I am not asking for everyone to wear a very formal dress or a formal suit to Holy Mass but please let respect and reason prevail. Let us not be a source of distraction for others but rather a means of promoting prayer and respect for Our Lord. We are all called by God and our manner of dress should show our respect for the Presence of Christ in our midst. I thank you for your cooperation. God bless you for your respect for Our Lord.”

It is not exactly what the Cardinal Vicar pointed out, but this message is a start. Hopefully more priests will speak out and the women of the parishes will start to heed the message and turn away from sin. Matthew 5:27& 28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” As women and brides of Christ, we should not continue to encourage men to break the seventh commandment. For in our dress we are as guilty of sin as the man who looks upon us.


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