Manners, Customs, Clothing

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Modesty in Dress at Church

Fr. Ronald Brown

I spoke recently in the pulpit about modesty in dress, mostly as it applies to men. When these little ‘gentle’ reminders come up (which the Church requires her priests to do from time to time), I have to say that our men at the Chapel are to be highly commended in their efforts to dress in a Catholic way, i.e. in a manner that shows respect to themselves as temples of the Holy Spirit. Also we should reflect in our manner of dress that we are in the presence of God and visitors in His House. Truly, how little the good Lord asks of His people.

Congregation Latin Mass

A reminder to the congregation to dress well and modestly

The bottom line is that we dress in a respectful clean fashion, and not like those of the "New Church" who have lost their way and look as if they are going to spend a summer day on the beach! Even with that, we behold the sad souls who go to local "New Church" institutions who are not even fit for a nice day on the beach!

Unfortunately, here I address my words to our ladies prior to it becoming necessary to give the ‘gentle’ reminder from the pulpit. I'm very concerned that some abuses continue. Even after years of reminders from myself and even others, we are seeing low-cut blouses. The Holy Father, Pope Pius XII, stated that a "blouse is not considered decent if it is cut lower than 2 fingers below the neck."

While I understand the difficulty in obtaining decent and modest dress for ladies (no, Father does not wish anyone to dress like an old frump, or from the pilgrim times!) the reality is that modest clothing can be found, and is worn by most at the Chapel. If it is a matter of adding a button, using a pin or what have you, then we must make the effort to dress appropriately.

sign of peace, mass

Extravagant dressing, women in pants and shorts offend God and one's own dignity
Back in early 1900's Our Lady of Fatima stated very clearly (can you imagine her words now, in the year 2011!) that Our Lord was gravely offended by those who wear immodest clothing, and that many souls go to Hell for this offense. If the words of your priest - nor those of the Holy See and even our great Saints - do not impress on you the gravity of this offense, would anyone dare ignore the Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ?

I have attached below an exhortation to priests as regards this issue. I take this matter seriously, and again I remind everyone of you of the Catholic duty, for the salvation of your soul, that requires you to dress as a "temple of the Holy Ghost" and to look modest in the House of God.

I also advise that if this gentle reminder does not suffice, I will address this personally with souls in the confessional.

Parents also have a grave responsibility to make certain that their little ones learn, at an early and precious age, the "golden gem" of modesty in dress. How sad when we see the general manner of dress in our degraded society! Let us never sink to that level, because to do so will eventually sink us down to the very depths of ruin.

With my priestly blessing for each of you,


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Exhortation to Those in Authority

Cardinal Donato Sbaretti

1. When occasion arises, the parish priest, and especially the preacher, should, according to the words of the Apostle Paul (2 Tim. iv, 2), insist, argue, exhort and command that feminine garb be based on modesty and that womanly ornament be a defense of virtue. Let them likewise admonish parents who allow their daughters to wear indecorous dress.

2. Parents, conscious of their grave obligations to their offspring regarding education, especially religious and moral, should see to it that their daughters are solidly instructed from earliest childhood in Christian doctrine. And they themselves should assiduously inculcate in their souls, by word and example, love for the virtues of modesty and chastity. Since their family should follow the example of the Holy Family, they must govern in such a way that all its members, reared within the walls of the home, should find reason and incentive to love and preserve modesty.

girl, Mass

The veil is commendable, the tank top already opens doors to immodesty at Mass
3. Let parents keep their daughters away from public gymnastic games and contests; but if their daughters are compelled to attend such exhibitions, let them see that they are fully and modestly dressed. Let them never permit their daughters to don immodest garb.

4. Superiors and teachers in schools for girls must do their utmost to instill love of modesty in the hearts of the girls confided to their care and urge them to dress modestly.

5. Said Superiors and teachers must not receive in their colleges and schools immodestly dressed girls, and should not even make an exception in the case of mothers of pupils. If, after being admitted, girls persist in dressing immodestly, such pupils should be dismissed.

6. Sisters, in compliance with the Letter dated August 23, 1928 by the Sacred Congregation of Religious, must not receive in their colleges, schools, oratories or recreation grounds girls who are not dressed with Christian modesty, or, if once admitted, they should not tolerate this. Said Sisters, in addition, should do their utmost so that love for holy chastity and Christian modesty may become deeply rooted in the hearts of their pupils.

7. It is desirable that pious organizations of women be founded, which, by their counsel, example and propaganda will combat the wearing of apparel unsuited to Christian modesty, and will promote purity of customs and modesty of dress.

8. In pious associations of women, those who dress immodestly should not be admitted to membership. But if, perchance, they are received, and after having been admitted, fall again into their error, they should be dismissed forthwith.

9. Women and girls who are dressed immodestly are to be debarred from Holy Communion and from acting as sponsors at the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. Further, if the offense be extreme, they may even be forbidden to enter the church.
Cardinal Donato Sbaretti
Prefect of the Congregation of the Council
Rome, January 12, 1930
This article was first published on the
Holy Rosary Chapel website

Posted February 24, 2011

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