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From England on the Influence of Dress


People Commenting
Dear Doctor Horvat,

First, may I congratulate and thank you for all your work on Tradition in Action which helps all of us who want to maintain the true and authentic Catholic faith. It's good to know that we are not just small isolated groups battling, or sullenly resisting, the tide of Modernism that is destroying the Church and the societies in which we live.

I very much agree with your views on matters of dress, courtesy and etiquette. Modernists, of course, say it doesn't matter how we behave or dress, particularly in church - it's how we feel that counts. They seem to imply that shorts and a T-shirt follow the norms of the Gospels better than suits or dresses, and that Our Lady would have much rather worn (had they been available) jeans and a tank top, than weighed down in a cumbersome long robe and veil.

I believe this shows how so many people's attitudes have become subjective. If they feel fine in a tank top in church, never mind what fussy old clerics think - let alone God! Clearly, the spirit of our age is more about indulging one's personal feelings and tastes rather than conforming to an external standard.

This refusal to conform goes so far as to deny the very existence of a standard of objective reality. How people dress in church is a pretty good indication of where they stand on doctrinal matters. In my observation the more traditional the worship the more conservative the clothing of the congregation and the more respectful the behavior. Those who are scrupulous in genuflecting to the tabernacle or kneeling on both knees before the exposed Blessed Sacrament demonstrate their belief in the real presence of Our Lord and the respect and honor they owe Him. Those who don't bother either pain Our Lord through their ignorance of His divine presence or insult Him by their rudeness.

Modern procession at Oxford
Photo A

Corpus Christi procession sodality girls
Photo B

Blessed Imelda Sodality girls
Photo C

Women in Veils praying
Photo D
I thought you would be interested to see this Photo A of two youths (taken from the Oxford Oratory web site) at the Corpus Christi procession last year.

Can anything more graphically illustrate the hollowness at the heart of the modern church? The actual procession was quite traditional with priests in copes, a canopy. Thurifers, etc (yet with no girls casting flowers and hardly a veiled woman in sight). But how could the priests even allow this young woman to participate in the procession, let alone bear a banner dedicated to Our Lady? How could anyone with the slightest inkling of what the Blessed Sacrament is dress like this in the presence of their Lord and God?

To dress like this anywhere is surely to present an occasion of sin, but in a procession in which the faithful have the privilege of displaying their public devotion to Our Lord truly present, it is an eye-popping display of ignorance, contempt and naivety - what?

I suppose if I had tackled the girl about her dress - I wouldn't and in any case I was not there - she would probably have replied that offense was in the eye of the beholder and that Jesus did not mind (how does she know?) and that He would not want her to wear a dress and veil anyway. Yet I'm sure if she was a bridesmaid, she would be more than happy to wear a glamorous dress. In other words, it's right to add to the glory of a bride but not to similarly honor Our Lord and God.

In contrast I add some pictures [Photos B and C] that show how beautiful it is when young ladies dress appropriately in honor of Our Lord and Lady. The photos are taken from the Mater Ecclesiae (New Jersey).

Photo B displays the Sodality Girls of Blessed Imelda leading a procession on the Feast of the Assumption in 2009. In their modesty, purity and dignity, these girls mirror and honor the virginal perfection of their Queen and Mother. Photo C shows the same sodality girls in their dresses and sashes humbly kneeling to receive their blessed candles on the Feast of the Purification in 2010. Apart from a bare arm, this is a wonderful inspiring display of virginal devotion.

The last picture [Photo D] shows two young women in Ireland praying at the feet of Our Lady. I find this very beautiful and moving. [In an article on the veil,] you once wrote, "I have heard many men admit that they stand in a kind of awe at the beauty and mystery of a veiled woman. Clothing is never without a meaning, and a man intuitively understands that the veil represents a gentle submission that lies at the very essence of womanhood and femininity." How very true. Their beautiful example would inspire many men to piety and the practice of their faith. And nothing would proclaim the restoration of traditional faith more than to see Catholic churches full, as they once were, of veiled women and girls kneeling before the tabernacle and shrines.

Please carry on with your vital work of countering disorders in the Church and showing how all parts are vital in the Catholic whole. Lose one and eventually all goes. Abandoning the veil and the Marian dress codes does not lead to more sincerity and apostolic purity: Via ever more casual dress, it leads to indifference and apostasy. The girl in the first Photo A has assumed worldly fashions in the practice of her faith, and whatever thoughts she inspires in young men they are certainly not about Our Lady of Lourdes. Whilst the devout witness of the two young woman in the last Photo D would bring me to my knees to pray with them.

I am sure you in Tradition in Action could write a far more eloquent piece than this, but I think it's important to stress that how we dress, particularly in church, is important.

     Yours in Jesus and Mary,

     Andrew Carter, United Kingdom

P.S. - I have just taken part in a wonderful, fully traditional Corpus Christi procession, having the honor to support the priest's cope. The weather was beautiful as Our Blessed Lord was carried through a garden on a carpet of rose petals strewn by girls in white. Amidst clouds of incense, He was enthroned and adored by the kneeling faithful. I had been discussing this letter with my fianc'e and she decided to wear what would be appropriate to a Royal Garden Party: elegant jacket over a summer dress, although one with a long full skirt and instead of a big hat, she wore a white lace mantilla. In short, to prove a woman can look stylish, elegant and attractive, but modest as well. You don't have to be a frump to be pious.
Posted June 10, 2010

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