Modesty at Mass

08-13-2017Catholic ThoughtsDavid Lins

I had a great conversation with a tremendous woman of God a few weeks ago. The topic is a tricky one: modesty at Mass. There are three very important points to remember...

1. Modesty is important. We know that we are about to join together in God’s house. How would you dress if you were going to meet President Trump, have lunch with Tom Hanks, play a round of golf with Larry Fitzgerald, or have an audience with Pope Francis? I’m guessing no short shorts. No muscle shirts. Nothing off the shoulder. No ripped jeans. As Catholics, we know when we attend Mass, we are coming to spend time with Jesus Christ in the flesh! Should we place any less emphasis on our attire? We have no excuses.

On the other hand, there are people who do not know that the Lord is truly present. The bottom line is...

2. We do not know another person’s story.

You might be tempted to judge a young parent dressed in a baggy tee shirt and sweatpants. After all, when you were a younger, you still managed to wear your Sunday best and be on time. Except maybe this parent is carrying the weight of a recent miscarriage and hasn’t recovered yet. She is trying, but she needs mercy and fellowship while she finds healing.

You might be tempted to judge a teenager who is dressed immodestly. After all, you never dressed like that when you were a teen. Except maybe this teen’s mom bought the outfit and encourages this type of clothing. No one in her family goes to church and she was invited by a friend. She needs patience and kindness while she discovers this is her new home and it has different expectations.

So, what can we do?

3. Set the tone with the effort you and yours put into dressing up for Mass. Pray for those who don’t (not in a spirit of judgement, but love). Focus on what you need to change first. Reach out with warmth. Pray for the efficacy of all our ministries, but especially our youth ministry programs. When struggling, remember: it is not your job to tell a stranger whether or not they can attend Mass or receive the Eucharist. That responsibility belongs to the presider or people he has specifically designated to do so. As presider, he may be aware of circumstances you aren’t.

Maintaining personal reverence without judging the heart (or appearance) of another is not always an easy task, but when you realize those stories were actual people from my past…that the young parent now leads a Bible study for mothers and that the teenager has now become a Catholic missionary…you realize the effort is worth it.