modesty in mass

A millennial woman’s perspective

Yes, I know what you’re thinking: another preachy, judgemental blog post on modesty. *Eye roll*.

You’ve probably already labeled me as a traddy in your head, and that’s OK, even though it isn’t true.

But bear with me for a few minutes, hopefully this post will be a bit different than others you may have read on this subject.

As I sat in Mass yesterday and saw a beautiful young woman dressed in a light, breezy, low-backed sundress with spaghetti straps, it occurred to me that while virtually everyone has opined on modesty in Mass, I’ve not heard anything out of the age group that transgress these standards the most frequently: millennial women.

I”m a millennial woman, so here are my thoughts.

I’m not going to throw Bible verses at you, quotes by eloquent saints, portions of the Catechism or even draw from other articles about modesty. I”m going to, hopefully, provoke you to think about what we are actually doing when we dress immodestly in Mass.

And to be clear right off: I’m not judging you or anyone—I was there not too long ago, and it has taken me years to fully realize how the virtue of modesty is important. But the fact is, God deserves our best, you deserve better, and we as a Church deserve better.

What we’re doing by dressing immodestly for Mass

  • We are not fully recognizing the immense, universe-shaking, eternally significant event that is occurring in Mass: the transubstantiation of bread and wine into God Himself. Pause and think about that for just 2 seconds: GOD. God is literally present in the Mass and will be consumed by you during communion. Would you want to approach God wearing what you are?
  • We are disrespecting God’s house. See #1.
  • We are distracting the priest from performing his most important duty: performing the sacrifice of the Mass as Alter Christus.
  • We are distracting other Mass participants, mainly male but also female.
  • We are being super prideful and using the Mass as our personal runway, essentially telling everyone there that we couldn’t care less about them and their spiritual lives.

Now let’s talk about the most common critiques of those realities.

Common critiques about the issues of modesty in Mass:

If you can’t concentrate on the Mass because of what I am wearing, YOU are the problem and should seek help

The problem with this mentality is that it shows an enormous ignorance of how much power a woman yields. We have incredible power, ladies. God quite literally made us to be beautiful, and therefore we will naturally turn men’s heads. We all know this on some level; we’ve all felt that rush of adrenaline when a guy checks us out! Its addictive. The problem is the Mass is the one event on earth, and the Church the only place on earth, where we can’t let our pride and need to be desired overcome what is really important: revering, adoring and worshiping God.

Additionally, this response is dripping with selfishness, and abandons all responsibility we have to protect our brothers in Christ.

God couldn’t care less what I wear to Mass, He accepts me as I am

God doesn‘t accept you as you are, He wants the BEST for you. He wants you to be holy. He wants to divinize you. And so He certainly cares what we wear to Mass because it affects others, i.e., it causes other people to sin, and reflects poorly on our estimation of our own value.

If God didn’t care what we wore to Mass, why do priests wear vestments? Why do nuns wear habits?

If the Priest is distracted then he, along with every other man who is distracted, is a perv

Nah. We know this isn’t true. If every man who is attracted to us is a perv, then I guess we’re all going to have to be lesbians. Which is sad because the human race is going to die out super fast.

Again, men are visual creatures. They were created by God to be attracted to women, which is what gives us the enormous power I referred to earlier. While God can give extraordinary graces to men who are striving to be virtuous and chaste, if we parade right in front of them wearing next to nothing, then we are the problem. Not them. They are doing their duty, we aren’t.

What I’m wearing isn’t immodest, especially in comparison with what I wear outside of Mass

Modesty is in the eye of the wearer, right? Nope. While levels of modesty can be subjective, e.g., whether skirts 1″ v. 2″ above the knee are appropriate, we should all be able to agree that the majority of your body should be covered at Mass. I mean really ladies, we’re there for 1 hour, 1 day a week! Again, this is the most holy and reverent thing you will ever do in your entire life–you are literally dressing to meet God–how you look during Mass SHOULD look different than what you wear to Target, out to dinner or to an amusement park.

When I was living and studying in Rome, every time I stepped foot into a church, whether or not Mass was being said, I had to dress according to the Roman Church’s dress code: No shorts, bare shoulders or miniskirts.

The dress code for St. Peter’s Basilica & all Catholic Churches in Rome.

They are very strict about these rules–I’ve seen female tourists kicked out of a Church because they were wearing daisy dukes and tank tops.

So if modesty is purely subjective, why would the entire city of Rome, the home for all Catholics in the world, enact such strict rules? One would imagine they have learned from experience and are immune to the political correctness and feminist culture that glorifies the sexualization & objectification of women.

This isn’t a big deal, go away traddy

That’s what I said too until one day a few years ago it dawned on me: that super cute guy sitting a few rows behind me that I’m trying to impress may be someone’s husband. Then I started thinking……well, what happens when I’m married? Do all beautiful, scantily-clad women in Mass just cease to exist? The thought of that happening to ME was terrifying, and humbling; from that day forward everything changed and modesty became a priority.

Also, have we ever stopped to ask a man what he thinks about whether women should care what they wear to Mass? I guarantee you if you ask a man serious about his faith, his answer will be a resounding, profound “YES”. Men striving for virtue don’t want to objectify women. Single men are actively fighting temptation every day in real life in order to practice chastity, not to mention the pornography thrown at them online and on TV every day, and by dressing immodestly what we’re telling them is “I don’t care about your virtue. I want to be admired and thought beautiful, so if you’re lusting it is your fault”. Is that a Christian attitude?

And ya know what? Good men–men that truly love women and want to respect, love and cherish us–don’t think highly of women who dress immodestly at Mass. They view us as stumbling blocks, and in many cases…pathetic…because we clearly don’t know our own value, and don’t respect men or God.

So yeah, it’s a big deal.

One more thing…

Our Moms, Grandmothers or other older female family members grew up in a more relaxed, casual church in which all these norms were being questioned–so they may have no issue at all with women dressing as they please in Mass. But the sad reality is, it is because of that attitude that we have this epidemic today. So, regardless of whether they have dressing standards for Mass or not, let’s be the generation to change that status quo.

2 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    July 5, 2019
    Reply

    Good post.

    I agree with everything except I want to add my own experience. I wasn’t prideful and I think a LOT of women do not dress to attract attention, they are simply unaware of how their dressing is perceived by others. Many women are utterly naive and think themselves being “humble” by not caring what they wear. They think it is humble to assume no one is looking at them so they just wear anything they want.

    • catholicinitiative
      July 9, 2019
      Reply

      Thanks for the comment! While I do understand where you’re coming from and agree there are women who are oblivious and naive and therefore don’t know how they affect men, this is different than modesty. The point is everyone should care how they dress at Mass–not caring does-not-equal humble, and dressing casually does-not-equal humble. If this was true, as I implied in the article, priests would wear potato sacks at Mass to be humble. But again, I do agree that many of us need to come to a realization that “yes, this skirt is too short”, or “make sure to wear a camisole underneath that sheer blouse” not out of judgement but simply in order to inform those who may not know.

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