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A sad experience at church May 23, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, Dallas Diocese, disaster, General Catholic, North Deanery, sadness, scandals, Society.
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My family and I had a troubling experience after Mass the other day.  At a parish where a number of really very good things are occurring, there was a sort of celebratory Mass being held for the parish school shortly after the completion of the usual Friday Mass.  Since it was going to be a crowded Mass and there were some activities associated beforehand, many people arrived early for the celebration.  I am sorry to say, we were scandalized by the dress and behavior of those in attendance.  We were scandalized to the point of needing to get our children out of the church building as quickly as possible so that they would not see the copious amounts of legs, breasts, and riotous behavior on display. 

I know the pastor of this parish well, and I know he has reminded his congregation at times about appropriate behavior and dress at Mass.  At the usual ‘school’ Mass at this parish, dress among some of the teachers used to be a problem, but it seems to have gotten better.  Well, those same teachers must have felt some pent up need for exhibitionism, because they were among the very worst offenders of decorum Friday night.  I posted some photos a couple of weeks ago of inappropriate dress at Mass, drawing a complaint from a regular reader over the revealing nature of the dress.  I removed those photos.  But I am tempted to put them back up, because what we saw Friday night was much, much worse.  One teacher had on a tight kind of wrap around top that was cut so low it appeared parts were about to burst forth from the compression.  Another teacher’s skirt was strictly notional.  While some readers of this blog may not need examples of inappropriate dress, it appears that many, many people in the broader church culture DO need such reminders.  I may do a post on this specific topic again – my wife thinks it would be a good idea.  The worst bit was, the inappropriate attire was far from limited to the adults – many of the students and other young people ‘assisting’ at this Mass had definitely taken some cues from the notional adults – my first sight upon entering into the sort of narthex area was of a group of teenage girls wearing attire that would have been unthinkable for a young woman to wear a few short years ago. 

I wish the problems were limited only to the attire, but, sadly, they were not.  The atmosphere in the sanctuary had all the reverence of a college kegger.  People would NEVER behave this boisterously at a movie theater, concert hall, or a city hall meeting as they did before our Eucharistic Lord present in the Tabernacle.  I don’t know if anyone was trying to pray and gather themselves prior to that Mass, but I pity them if they were.  There was also an effort to take a graduation photo on the steps leading up to the altar; this doesn’t strike me as a ‘best practice.’ 

Some will say – what’s my problem?  Why do I have to be getting in people’s business, telling them what to wear?  There are many reasons.  First, such dress can be distracting to other people assisting at Mass.  We receive more or less Grace from God depending on our level of participation in Mass.  Seeing provocatively dressed women can be very distracting to many people, especially men.  It can distract them from participating in a prayerful, loving, thankful manner at the Mass.  Secondly, such attire can lead directly to sin.  If a man sees a provocatively dressed woman, his thoughts may wander into unfortunate places and he may even committ a mortal sin. The women so dressed and the object of that lust is complicit in the commission of that sin, and the sin becomes hers as well.  Given that we have 100% presentation for reception of Communion at Mass in today’s church, it is possible that people may receive unworthily within seconds or minutes of having committed a mortal sin.  A related reason is that women dressing in this manner must needs examine their conscience for their reasons for doing so – if they are married and yet enjoy eliciting certain reactions from men by their dress, there is another potentially serious occasion of sin.  Fourthly, what kind of example does this set for children?  I cannot speak to the other parent’s motivations, but as a father I don’t want my children exposed to that kind of dress, and I would not allow my daughters to dress as I saw many dressed that sad day.  Finally, once again, this is the house of the Lord.  This is not a protestant church where there is hope of a sort of symbolic presence of the Lord – as Catholics, as members of the Body of Christ, the One True Church instituted by Jesus Christ, we have our Lord present at every Mass in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.  Should we not dress appropriately for that Real Presence?

I pray for those whose dress caused scandal on Friday.  The dominant culture certainly says that flamboyantly revealing dress and ever more casual, irreverent behavior is the way to go regardless of the setting.  People should be free to ‘express themselves.’  But the ways of the world are not the ways of God’s chosen people.  We are called to be apart from the ways of the world, to conduct our lives in a manner that resonates with the Truth Christ has revealed through His Church.  And that Truth has always stated that modesty, not sexual flamboyance, is a virtue.

How long, Lord?

Comments

1. Colleen Hammond - May 23, 2011

Joining my prayers with yours.

2. Mary - May 24, 2011

This is also a distraction and sin for women (and girls) who have an innate competition if you will.

This sort of dress (or lack of) has occurred in other parishes as well. We may not be able to control it in society at large, but certainly should have standards within our own Churches (not that any written ones should be necessary).

Is this the cause of the modernizing and undressing of our churches? How have we lost respect and reverence in our most holy of places?


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