Could you please address the issue of dressing modestly at Mass?
Telling people how to dress is always dangerous and highly controversial, so let me diffuse some of the heat of the issue with a true personal story. Once when I was much younger, I simply went for a ride with my parents who said they were going to go to my aunt and uncle’s house but not go inside. It was late evening, and I was already dressed in my pajamas (powder blue in color with a Transformers logo). I felt no need to change, since we were not planning on going inside and I could remain in the car. However, when we arrived at our relatives’ house, we were invited in. I felt terribly embarrassed and self-conscious about how I was dressed. Yet, I was forced to go inside and one of my cousins quickly pointed out that I was dressed in my pajamas. Scarred for life by this simple incident in my early life, I now know the importance of dressing for the occasion.
So, the point I’d like to make is that we should dress appropriately for any event and all the more so for Mass. Mass should be the most important event of our week, where we come to “God’s house” to worship our Lord. If you’ve ever dressed up for a nice dinner or been to a wedding (see Mt 22:11-13), you know the importance of appropriate dress. Yet you may ask, “Does God care what we wear?” Yes. He cares a bunch! We are creatures of body AND soul, and not only should we prepare our souls to worship and receive our Lord in the Eucharist, but we should prepare our bodies too. We do so in part by properly clothing them (done by all reasonable humans after the Fall of Adam and Eve). The way we dress does communicate something to God and to our community. It is important to think of what your dress communicates.
Finally, to get to the modesty issue…for those who wish to communicate to God and to our community that they have beautifully created bodies: Please do that on your own time. You really don’t need to impress God in this way at Mass. God knows what lies beneath. And the rest of us, creatures of sin that we are, simply don’t need to know. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from…halter tops, spaghetti straps, short skirts/shorts, low-cut shirts, muscle shirts (that goes for males and females!)…you get the point! Perhaps a good rule of thumb would be if you would be embarrassed to wear it to dinner with your pastor and I, then you probably shouldn’t wear it to Mass–the Lord’s Supper. I’m not out to embarrass anybody, but please try seeing how you dress at Mass as an opportunity to reverently prepare your body and mind to participate in the Eucharist, and to help others to do so also.
If you would like submit a question, please write it out and place it in the “Ask a Priest” box in the vestibule or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.