Mandy Erskine is an international Catholic speaker and inspirational storyteller. She has been speaking and sharing her Catholic faith and passion for Chastity for over 10 years. Her focus is restoring our human dignity through sharing the truth about God, who created us to be male and female in his image and likeness. She has been described as inspiring, refreshing, funny, and life-changing.
And the Congregation Applauded
On any given Sunday, in parishes around the world, millions of Catholics sit in pews, recite prayers, hear the good news, and receive the most precious body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
If some of us are honest, we have to admit that this has become a routine thing to do and that we don't pay attention during the readings, or the homily, or the eucharistic prayer, or the announcements. I find my thoughts trailing off throughout the Mass.
On one particular Sunday, my thoughts were focused on the people in church. I noticed one gal’s super-cute shoes and thought how I’d been looking for a similar pair. I also noticed a lot of people wearing clothes that weren’t appropriate to wear anywhere, or even to try on in a store. I wondered—trying hard not to be judgmental—why the gal in front of me thought it was okay to wear a sheer-backed shirt so everyone could see her bra; or why another young gal thought it was okay to wear a baggy T-shirt that looked like a muscle man’s shirt, with the material under the arm cut out down to her waist. Then there was the woman wearing a dress that had openings throughout the back, the man wearing gym shorts and a holey T-shirt, and the gal with the skirt shorter than her sweater. Why did these folks think it was okay to dress like that for Mass?
I realize Jesus wants us to come as we are, but why do women think they need to look sexy at Mass? Why do we feel it necessary to have our cleavage on display? Shouldn’t we be more interested in what is actually happening at the Mass, in the changing of wine into the blood of Christ or the host into the body of Christ?
That Sunday I think Father was wondering the same thing: why such inappropriate attire at Mass today? Typically, before the final blessing the priest will share some announcements. But on this particular day, Father asked us all to sit down. “I hope you listen carefully to what I'm about to say and take it the right way,” he said. Well, that made me perk up my ears—an ounce of drama to end the Mass? Oh, goody!
He proceeded to ask us to dress more appropriately for Mass. “Especially the females,” he said. I was even more intrigued as I saw the rows of women in front of me squirm a little and adjust certain parts of their attire. Father said, “From this day forward, I do not want to see any more cleavage at Mass.” I wanted to jump up and say, "Hallelujah, brother!” As he spoke, I was checking my own choice of clothing. Was my dress too short or the top too low? Was I showing anything that shouldn’t be out there for the world to see? I got a little self-conscious, like the women in front of me.
At the end of his announcement, the congregation applauded. We are fed so many lies about what is beautiful and pleasing, especially us women.
Spandex, leggings, bike shorts, running shorts, tube tops, bathing suits, slippers, etc., are not appropriate. If you are coming to Mass, you are meeting your Maker at the holy altar! I think of the maidens who came unprepared while waiting for the bridegroom (Matthew 25:1-13). They had to go buy more oil for their lamps, and while they were gone the bridegroom came, and they were not let in because they were not prepared. It is important to honor God by coming to Mass prepared.
Really, what is comes down to—and what I believe Father was trying to get across—is rediscovering our dignity. There is nothing as powerful as one who knows and lives out one’s dignity, whether male or female.
Recently, my grandmother passed away, and I went through her photo albums. I found so many pictures of my grandmother, her sisters, and brothers, and I was blown away by their dignity. The way they portrayed themselves, carried themselves—clothed themselves—was so pure and confident, it was inspiring.
I asked my granduncle if it was easier to live back in those days or if it’s better now. I loved the answer one of the cousins gave. He said, “Back then, things were simpler, and I liked that.” I would have to agree. Although I was born in 1980, 45 to 50 years after these pictures were taken, I admire the simplicity they portray. I think that is how we should look in our attire for Mass. Keep it simple, keep it covered, and rediscover our dignity.
Don't get me wrong. I have made serious mistakes in choosing my attire. I have gone to Catholic weddings wearing outfits I was uncomfortable wearing. I thought the skirt was too short or the heels were too high, but I wanted to look good, in hopes of snagging a husband. We ladies especially want to be captivating. I fell into the trap of sharing a little too much because I believed that is what it means to be beautiful. But you cannot be beautiful without confidence or dignity. Dressing immodestly is not beautiful—it’s just a mess, believing the lies of the world. Thank God I have recognized my past misguided decisions and now make an effort to show my dignity to the one who truly matters: the Lord!
When preparing for Mass, think about the fact you are going to meet Jesus in the Eucharist. What attire is going to be pleasing to him? We should want to look nice, but not for anyone but Jesus.
There is something so beautiful, so captivating about modesty. Not only are we leaving something to the imagination, we are allowing ourselves to be known for more than our physical assets. Besides, if we are going to Mass, we should be going to encounter our God and Father and his Son and to be inspired by the Holy Spirit—not scoping the crowd for our next date.