Let’s talk about modesty


After watching some of the American women’s outfits in the Olympics, vs what other countries in the same sport were wearing,  the subject of modesty has come up.  In fact, I found myself pulling against the American women’s beach volleyball teams because they were clearly inappropriately dressed.  I realize that playing volleyball on the beach means wearing beach wear, but you know? We’re in a sports arena now.  In London, England, far from any beach, and while there’s sand…I just don’t get it.  If they’d worn some kind of shorts over the bottoms, it would have been fine. 

But my personal tastes aside, this brings up the question of modesty.  What does the term mean? How do we describe it?  Personally, I would say that modesty is wearing what’s appropriate for the event.  This is true for both sexes, and the place I see the most inappropriate clothing is at Mass.

First, what is modesty?  Is it a dress code? I don’t think so.  Dressing modestly does not mean returning to Victorian England and buttoning up to just under the chin.  It’s not a Pharisaic law. And decidedly, what’s appropriate for one venue is not going to be appropriate to another venue.  And sadly, dressing to split the difference, especially if one of the places is church, fails most of the time.  Modesty, though, is an attitude of self-respect.  I think it’s a discernment process.  What are my principals, and what am I trying to project to other people?  I don’t want to judge people based on their clothing, or judge people, period.  I know modesty can be different for everyone.  I do know immodesty when I see it, though.  It says, or shouts “I don’t care what other people think of me.”  Pajamas in Walmart is immodest.  A swimsuit in Macy’s is immodest.  For guys, a sleeveless shirt and backward baseball cap is immodest, worn anywhere but the gym, or home.  For me, I only wear knee-length shorts, and I have come to realize that t-shirts no longer become me.

This post may seem to flow badly, and I might tweak it at another point, but maybe not-it’s just thoughts inside my head banging to get out…

So, let’s get to dressing for Mass.  What you wear to Mass shows something about how you prepare yourself to be with God for that hour each week.  I realize everyone’s busy, but when do you prepare for Mass?  Do you try to get there early?  Do you try to have everyone ready, and barring any disasters with little ones, leave with enough time to get there?  Personally, I know what Mass I’m going to by noon on Saturday.  If I’m going to Vigil Mass on Saturday, everything I’m doing stops two hours prior.  We iron our clothes, which means we’ve decided what to wear.  And the question is this: When I’m going somewhere important- to interview for a job, to dinner with the President, to a wedding, to a funeral, and so on-do I dress appropriately?  If I pay attention to what I wear to go to one of these events, why shouldn’t I do so when I go to Mass, which is the most important thing I do every week?  Oh, Mass isn’t that important to you?  I see.  And He sees.  So please, wear Mass appropriate clothes.  No, you don’t have to wear a suit.  A nice shirt and slacks would be nice.  A simple dress.  Something that doesn’t call attention to you, because everyone should focus on the altar at Mass.

Yes, I know there are times when you just cannot dress right, and you have to go to Mass, and so on.  This is where planning comes in.  How would you feel if the priest was late?  I know how I’ve felt when the deacon didn’t arrive in time to process the Gospel.  Always try to plan to arrive at Mass early.  You know about how long it takes to help the kids, and your husband or wife get ready.  Build it into your plan for the day.

So…think about where you are, who you’re going to be with, and try to develop an attitude of modesty.

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One thought on “Let’s talk about modesty

  1. I agree with you about proper attire at Mass. It’s something we constantly remind our children because some weeks, they’ll try to wear clothing more appropriate to hanging out with their friends or cutting the grass. But we persevere because one day, God willing, they’ll finally understand.

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