Monday, July 29, 2013

More on Modesty at Mass

It's not just women, either!
Another reader – one who has shared “inappropriate attire” stories before - emailed the following to me after my July 27 post:

I read your post today about the woman's dress at Mass and I couldn't help but be reminded of my own experiences. A woman with two young daughters appeared at Mass as an EMHC with her top pinned under her arms and her breasts two-thirds exposed. I watched while men avoided her or looked up at the ceiling, women shaking their heads after receiving Communion, and young boys almost falling into her. What a disgrace.

After Mass in the parking lot, I asked if I could speak with her privately away from her daughters. She sent them off with her husband. I explained to her how she was the talk of the people gathered after Mass, but that I chose to speak to her like a mother rather than a gossip. I explained to her how it is our duty as good Christians to admonish sinners and counsel the wicked, and that the outfit she was wearing was disgraceful, and should not have been worn outside her bedroom – let alone at Mass.

She cried, she shouted, "You are not a Christian! Would you like to tell my husband what you said?"

I said of course I would (what a dumb question). “Please bring him over here, and I will ask him what he gets out of wife dressing like that in public.” I continued with, "You have two beautiful daughters.  To set a good example is your job; being a temptress is not acceptable. She walked away.

Later that evening, we returned to the Church for a function. Fr. M came looking for me, and I thought, here it comes. But instead, he came to me and hugged me and said, “You did the right thing today; you admonished a sinner and counseled her as a mother would.”

It turns out that the woman used the Church bulletin to cover her chest and went to Fr. M. and apologized to him, and asked for his forgiveness. He said she told that I had also spoken to her husband, and told him what I said; Fr. M said he agreed with me. She wanted my name to thank me personally, and Fr. M told her he would be seeing me and would pass the apology on to me.

I wept when he told me this. I told Fr. M that her husband was the real hero of the day, as he could have agreed with her for peace, but instead he loved her enough to stand up to her and her wrong choices. [Although it would have been better if he’d said something ahead of time!]

Another example: We were at Mass and a mom, her son, and her daughter stepped into the pew in front of us. The daughter, about 14 years of age, had on a bikini with a shear sarong over it, and was soaking wet; she must have been grabbed out of the pool to go to Mass. My husband and other men were staring at the ceiling. Finally, the woman behind me got out of her seat and told the mother to take her daughter to the back of the Church immediately, which she did.

One more: Fr. W at Mass, right after Communion called out to the women in attendance and told them to wear underwear, and for their husbands to see to it that they did... to avoid their bouncing their way up and down the church. I was mortified.

Another friend emailed me with details of the “dress code” that is publicly posted at many SSPX and CMRI chapels. He notes that “People call them schismatic and not real Catholics, but they would not hesitate to correct and instruct in charity, rather than to take a chance of offending God.” Would that we were all a little more concerned about offending the Lord!

At any rate, here is the dress code from the CMRI, also posted in most SSPX chapels (or something very similar}.

Dress Code

If this is the first time you are attending the traditional Latin Mass here at Mount St. Michael, you will notice that our parishioners do not dress casually for church services. Since the changes that came about after Vatican Council II, few parishes have any kind of dress code. We still believe that modesty and appropriate attire are necessary, especially in church out of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. Please observe these minimum standards of dress for attendance at church services at Mount St. Michael:

• Women and girls must cover their heads. (Chapel veils or mantillas are available for loan in the vestibule.)
• Women and girls must wear dresses or skirts that cover the knee completely when sitting or standing; slacks, shorts, sleeveless, tight or low-cut clothing or dresses with long cuts or slits are to be avoided.
• Men and boys should wear suit coats and ties.
• Jeans and other casual attire are inappropriate for attendance at church services.

If you’re not a “traditionalist” and you don’t wear a chapel veil to the Novus Ordo Mass (or even the EF Mass), fear not. You are not actually required to do so, but it is a very appropriate way to show reverence, and once you start doing it, you begin to feel naked if you attend Mass without a veil.

On her way to Mass?
On another blog I found a post on “Modesty at Mass: The Case for a Catholic Dress Code” which was written just prior to the changes in the liturgy in December of 2011. It suggested that a change in attire at Mass would accompany the changes in the liturgy. No sense reinventing the wheel – I’ll quote the post in part:

The way many people dress to Mass is completely offensive. Strapless tops, cleavage, skirts that hardly cover the derriere, shorts, tracksuits, cut-offs. Tank tops. Midriffs. Minis. How this became acceptable is a mystery. How to change it, is not.

A simple solution could restore churches everywhere to basic dignity: a dress code. Think this is radical? It’s not. The Vatican has one. The Vatican prohibits anyone from entering who is wearing:

· Shorts/skirts above the knee
· Sleeveless shirts
· Shirts exposing the navel
· Shirts for women that expose cleavage

In fact, I checked to see if this was true, and discovered the following info on a travel website:

Vatican Dress Code

Proof positive!
To enter the Musei Vaticani, the Sistine Chapel, and the Basilica di San Pietro you must comply with the Vatican's dress code, or you will be turned away by the implacable custodians stationed at the doors. (Also no penknives, which will show up under the metal detector.) For both men and women, shorts and tank tops are taboo, as are miniskirts and other revealing clothing. Wear a jacket or shawl over sleeveless tops, and avoid T-shirts with writing or pictures that could risk giving offense.

We’re not even talking Mass here!

Back to the other blog post:

Why don’t all Catholic churches have the same standards? It is the same Jesus Christ present in the tabernacle. It is the same discipleship the priests share with the pope. The human beings on their knees are the same people trying to live lives of holiness and chastity in a world that works to undermine them at every turn.

A Catholic dress code could be instituted with a relatively simple, three-step action plan:

Stage 1—Recruit code enforcement. The priests and deacons would recruit lay women of charitable but forceful demeanor, approximately two per Mass depending on the size of the parish, to enforce the dress code. These women would be trained to stand outside Mass and gently but firmly request those in violation of dress code to change. This stage would likely take eight weeks. I assure you, there would be no shortage of eager volunteers.

Stage 2—Announce the coming change. Just as the Church has been doing with the coming liturgy changes, parishes would include a weekly insert into the bulletin explaining the simple, four-pronged dress code. Priests would alert parishioners at every Mass. (The media would help with its usual hit pieces.) This would be done for four weeks consecutively before dress code beings.

Stage 3—Grace Period. For two weeks there would be a grace period, where the newly trained women would give warnings to those not dressed appropriately that in the future, such attire will not be accepted, but still allow them into the House of God. This allows them to practice confronting those dressed inappropriately and allows the stubborn, skimpy dressers to avoid the humiliation of actually being sent home.

Once the dress-code period becomes official, there will no doubt still be much angst. People will wail and gnash their teeth in their desire to attend Mass dressed in PJs or two-inch skirts. People will claim the Church is so draconian and unwelcoming and that Jesus would never send people away!

Sure, Jesus spent time with residents of the red-light district. But let’s not forget, Jesus also flipped tables in a rage when he saw his Father’s house disrespected. He also reminded us in a parable in a recent gospel that the man who showed up to a royal wedding not wearing the proper attire met a dreadful fate. Jesus was clear throughout the gospels: What you wear matters. He went to his own death in a garment so fine that men gambled for it.

Couldn’t have said it better myself!


  1. Great job to the emailer!

    Well, if it's any comfort to you, Dr. Jay, my parish actually puts clothes on and has the Latin Mass.

    I do wear my mantilla at the Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo. My parish is like an oasis. You leave there and go somewhere else you wouldn't believe the sights. If you walk up in a regular parish around here dressed modestly and wearing a veil, you get the ugliest looks and scoffed at. Why? Because I'm traditional. I choose not to wear skirts that barely cover me. For whatever reason, people are hostile to tradition. Catholic identity needs to be restored. We need another St. John Vianney! He'll order these women you speak of out of the church to go put decent clothes on. But what do people say? "Ohhh God doesn't care if I come to the Holy of Holies half naked. God doesn't care if I disrespect the Holy Eucharist and corrupt His House." Oh really? He does care. He clothed you for a reason and it wasn't so you can flaunt your body off in front of everyone in front of Him, either. So if he cares then so do I! I care because I'm a Catholic striving to be a saint and I don't like seeing my fellow Catholics acting like hookers in front of the Most Holy and Blessed Sacrament. I try to make reparation (that's right. Reparation needs to be made!) for it by loving the Lord in the Holy Eucharist by dressing modestly and getting down on my knees for Holy Communion. After all, He's God! If we understood that, we wouldn't have to have these discussions, now would we?

    God bless!


  2. A little girl said this, people. And she saw the Blessed Virgin.

    "Certain fashions will be introduced which will offend Our Divine Lord very much. Those who serve God ought not to follow these fashions. The Church has no fashions. Our Lord is always the same." -Bl. Jacinta of Fatima


    "Wrong is wrong even if everybody is doing it, and right is right even if nobody is doing it." -St Augustine

    God bless!


  3. Wonderful post Dr. Jay.
    I remeber those days for myself not really caring ...just showing up in whatever I chose to wear.
    Oh how things are so different today.
    Since my re-version back completely to Holy Mother Church I would never attend Holy Mass in anything but the PROPER ATTIRE and with my chapel veil, it is a part of me these days.
    You see Jesus is the only one who can change hearts, along with HIS MOTHER of course .
    I NEVER want to offend my precious JESUS ...never .
    Back in those days of my Novus Ordo Parish ...I saw everything and anything ...and what was people's respons. ..hey at least they are here for Sunday Mass....yikes .
    Why does the local parish NOT post something about dress code...
    I think theyare afeaid people will take themselves and their collection somewhere take
    But I give glory to God ...thanks again !

  4. Yep, got to love those ugly looks Hannah ....
    Catholic Identity needs to be restored ..well said .
    And yes we are Traditionalist ....we Love Jesus and live for GOD ALONE.
    Let us together make REPARATION daily for these CRIMES and OFFENES against Jesus !

    To God be the Glory !

  5. "My parish actually puts clothes on" - LOL, Hannah!

  6. Amen, Jeanne! :)

    Makes me happy to know there are Catholics like you out there!

    I love being traditional. Pope St. Pius X (Nooo I'm not SSPX...) said that the true friends of the people are the traditionalists, not the innovators.

    "Since my re-version back completely to Holy Mother Church I would never attend Holy Mass in anything but the PROPER ATTIRE and with my chapel veil, it is a part of me these days."

    I'm the same, except I was baptized into the Church, so it wasn't a re-version. First of all, what you wear to Church is NOT something to be taken lightly, like most people do. If that piece of bread is God, then treat Him right for pete's sake! It's all so simple for me to understand yet it's such a big deal for Catholics. It's such a big deal to worship God properly for one hour. One hour! Can you not spend one hour with Him without taking the things of the world with you? But, It will all change one day. The Church will be purified. Our Lady and the Saints have said so. Let's just wait and pray...

    God bless!


  7. "LOL, Hannah!"

    LOL Hehe! Well, it's true. Mt parish is full of true Catholics that love God and treat him properly at Holy Mass. Lots of women wear veils and dress modestly. Most men wear suits. We have an altar rail, so loads of people are not allowed in the Sanctuary. The rubrics are followed properly. We have an excellent RCIA team that teaches the whole truth of the Faith. That's where I learned the truth! We have a Latin Mass every sunday morning with a choir, of which I'm a part of. I love singing Latin! And of course, the architecture of our Church is beautiful. I thank God for my parish. It's a gem in our Diocese.

    God bless!


  8. Hannah, where is your parish? Does it have a website?

  9. Thanks Hannah.
    How blessed you are dear....
    Correction on my part ...even though I used the word re-version.
    I was born and raised Catholic but I did not know any of this ..I did not know the complete TRUTH or live the complete TRUTH till I completely came HOME Our Catholic Faith
    I really belive someone must have been praying for me non-stop because I was knee deep in grave sin.
    in 2009 I hit rock bottom , I was sick and tried of being part of my dysfuncttional and evel and wicked life style ...
    Jesus and Mary came and rescued me ...then I began to study the faith and take life seriously.
    Then I "stumbled" across St. Franics de Sales ...where the Canons of the Institute live and have the TLM ...I went one Sunday and knew I was HOME...I wept for joy.
    A little bit about me Hannah ...and others who might be interested ...our stories are so important to tell and share .
    GOD IS GOOD ....well HE did come for sinners , thanks be to God for His Mercy and Love!

  10. Wow, Jeanne! Thanks!

    I love stories. I received my Sacraments of Initiation in 2009 right there at St. Agnes. Best day of my life.

    Now, I just try to spread the truth to those who will listen. People have to hear the truth. Christ will vomit the lukewarm out of His mouth. I'm trying to help people to not be lukewarm. It sure isn't easy...

    God bless!


  11. Did you know there is such a thing as "A Papal Decree Concerning Modesty"? along with minimum standards that are to be kept at all times (not just at Mass)? and that priests are bound to preach on this subject on Marian feast days?

    This website is dedicated to spreading this information & will send free booklets to your parish or school!:

  12. Did not know this but I didn't know alot of things ...that is why I am on Blogs such as this ...thanks Dr. Jay !
    I am thankful for this information and I will check out this web page!

  13. Thanks, Inara; I will definitely check it out!

  14. I actually thought about the Vatican when I read your first post. I'm not Catholic, but I knew enough when we were in Italy and visiting lots of churches (not for Mass) to know that my skirt should be long enough (I may have a grand total of one dress/skirt that wouldn't meet that requirement) and that even on very hot does when I was wearing a sundress I should have a sweater with me to cover my shoulders. I was actually surprised that women weren't supposed to cover their heads. And I did see tourists get turned away for wearing shorts that were too short (saw it happen a lot at Florence's Santa Croce in particular). I was traveling with a friend who is Jewish and she commented that she would never go into a church not modestly dressed and is surprised that many of the tourists we saw were probably nominally Christian or even Catholic and didn't seem to know any better.

  15. Elizabeth - how amazing that you know what many Catholic women don't! The rule about covering heads was a change in Canon Law, I believe. The old code of Canon Law (1971) did require it, I believe, but the 1983 revision (the current code) does not.

  16. PS to all you "regulars" who read the comments: the above Elizabeth is my niece. Common sense runs in the family, ya know! ;-)

  17. I've been researching headcoverings for a book I'm working on & have lots of relevant info if it's something you're interested in ~ too much for the combox, but I'd be happy to email it!

  18. I wonder if in cases like the teenager in the bikini, the parents were hoping the priest or someone else would say something to the girl. She wouldn't listen to them, so they thought maybe if a priest spoke to her she would do better? I'm not saying that was a great idea, but I can see how they would come up with that logic.


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