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Adore the Lord in Holy Attire – On Proper Dress for Mass

May 24, 2010 370 Comments

Last week we had a discussion on the women wearing veils in Church. One of the themes that emerged in the comments was that the discussions about what to wear in Church should be broader than just a veil. More specifically BOTH men and women should consider how they dress when going into God’s house. Hence I would like to explore some background issues and  enunciate some principles. You of course will be able to add to them.

1. Scripture – There is very little in Scripture that seems to spell out the proper way to dress for sacred worship. There is the general directive to Adore the Lord in holy attire (Psalm 96:9; Ps 29:2) But this seems more an allusion to holiness (God’s and ours) more than to clothing per se. There are directives for the Passover meal that one should have staff in hand, with loins girt and sandals on their feet (Ex 12:11). But this seems a specific rule for the Passover meal only and hardly something that would done in the synagogue or temple. To gird one’s loins meant to pull up the lower part of one’s outer garment and tighten the belt. This exposed the lower legs and allowed greater mobility for them. It was a sign of being flight or of being at work. It is the ancient equivalent of “roll up your sleeves.”  (more HERE). As a general rule Jewish people would not show their legs unless circumstances strongly required it. They would surely not come to the synagogue or the Temple in this manner. Scripture also speaks of Phylacteries and Prayer Shawls. But these sorts of clothing and accessories seem to have come under some critique in the New Testament (Matt 23:5) and their use was not continued in the New Testament Church worship.

2. Church norms and rules – There are no official and specific Church norms or requirement for lay persons who attend Mass mentioned in Canon Law or the Sacramentary. Surely for priests and other clergy there are many rules and norms but I am unaware of any currently binding norms for the laity. Although the veils were once required for women, the 1917 Code of Canon Law was abrogated and the current code is silent on any requirement.

3. Hence it seems that Culture supplies most of the norms regarding what is considered appropriate attire for Church. And, alas our culture is currently quite unhelpful to us in this regard. Here in America we have become extremely casual about the way we dress for just about everything. It seems we almost never dress up anymore. This has changed somewhat dramatically in my own life time of just less than 50 years. “Sneakers” or “tennis shoes” as we called them were for sports or running around and playing in the neighborhood. But we would never even think of wearing them to school and certainly not to Church. I remember having a special set of shoes just for church. In the 1960s, it was also expected that I would go to Church in formal, pressed trousers, a button down shirt, and, except in the hottest months, a tie and even a suit jacket in winter. My sister and mother always wore a dress. Pants would not even have been considered for them. For the younger girls a skirt and a blouse might be OK but preferably a dress with a hat or veil.

But things changed dramatically around 1970. The photo above right was taken in 1969 at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton, Massachusetts. It was the end of an era. Within five years neckties were lost and jeans and a t-shirts came to be the norm. Most of the women as we discussed lost the veil, and dresses gave way to more casual pants suits and then also to other more casual things like jeans etc. Shorts for men and women, unthinkable in previous years also began to appear in church as did tank tops and other beach attire. Within ten years the culture of dressing up for Church was almost wholly abandoned. Now  wearing a tie to Church would seem stuffy and formal.

But this is where our culture has gone. It is not just Church. Years ago when my family went out to eat we almost always dressed up. Maybe it wasn’t a full neck tie but at least trousers and a button down shirt. Maybe not a formal dress for mom and sis, but at least a skirt and blouse. A restaurant was considered a semi-formal outing. School was also considered a place where things like jeans and informal t-shirts were out of place. Going down town to shop meant we changed out of shorts and put on something appropriate. Shorts were basically for running around the house, playing in the yard and such. But you just didn’t go out to more public settings wearing shorts and flip flops or even sneakers.

Pardon me for sounding like and old fud but I am not really that old. My point is that culture has changed,  and changed rather quickly. This has affected the Church as well. What were fighting is a strong cultural swing to the extremely informal. Most people don’t even think of dressing up for most things any more let alone Church.

4. Hence at the cost of seeming old and stuffy I might like to suggest a few norms and I hope you’ll supply your own as well:

  1. Men should wear formal shoes to Church. We used to call these hard shoes (because they were) but today many formal shoes are actually quite comfortable.
  2. Men should wear trousers (not jeans).
  3. Men should never wear shorts to Church.
  4. Men should wear a decent shirt, preferably a button down shirt. If it is a pullover shirt it should include a collar. Wearing a plain t-shirt without a collar is too informal.
  5. Men should consider wearing a tie to Church and in cooler weather, a suit coat. Some may consider this a bit too stuffy and formal but who knows, you might be a trend setter!
  6. Now as I talk about women I know I’ll get in some trouble!
  7. Women should wear decent shoes to Church. Flip flops, beach sandals etc. seem inappropriate.
  8. Women should not wear shorts to Church.
  9. Women, if they wear pants, should never wear jeans to Church. Some nice slacks that are not too tight can be fine.
  10. Women should consider wearing a dress or at least a skirt in preference to pants. It just looks a bit more formal than pants.
  11. Women should wear a nice blouse (if they are not wearing a full dress). The blouse or shirt they wear should not be too tight.
  12. Sleeveless garments are pushing it a bit but can be acceptable.
  13. Women should never wear tank tops, tube tops, spaghetti straps, or bare midriffs to Church.
  14. Well, you may have at this list. Add or subtract as you will.

A final thought: Clothes say something about what we think, what we value. They also influence how we behave and feel. That our culture has become so casual about everything says something about us. I cannot exactly articulate it but it seems to say, “nothing is really all that important.” But that is not true. Going to God’s house IS  important. Being ministered to by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is astounding. Casual attire in these circumstances is simply inappropriate if we really think about what we are doing, where we are going and who it is we will meet. It does not necessarily follow that we must wear tuxedos and formal gowns. But decent semi-formal attire seems wholly appropriate. Sunday is special, God’s House is special. Somethings really ARE important and our clothing and demeanor ought to reflect this truth.

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Comments (370)

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  1. J says:

    Wow, monsignor! A challenge to the flock! Bravissimo, e grazie!

    You have done something that our Church needs more of, I think. You have challenged us.

    I beg your pardon for a personal remark:

    As a father of four and a teacher for the last six years (half of that middle school and high school students, half undergraduates and graduate students), and a very young-looking man in my late twenties, I get drastically different reactions from people on first encounters based on the way I dress.

    If I commute to work on the subway wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and a backpack (in the summer time while not teaching), I’m a punk, I’m grunted at, and glances slide off of me with nary a smile.

    When I commute to work on the subway wearing a tie and jacket (the rest of the year), people always call me “sir”, my random smiles are returned, people say “excuse me”.

    It’s not a matter of class deference. What I wear is my first statement to everyone I meet about how seriously I take them. They appreciate my willingness to take this whole tragicomedy of our existence with the appropriate tone at the appropriate time. They see it for what it is: an act of charity. I used to say, when people asked me how many languages I intended to learn, “all of them.” Because I consider learning languages an act of charity. It opens one up to so many more friendships. It opens up the possibility of conversation. So does dress. For me on Sundays, it opens up conversation with God.

    I do wonder, sometimes, if there isn’t something I can do to distinguish my “Sunday best” from what I wear the rest of the week. I think someone mentioned this (The Anchoress?) last week.

    • thanks for this testimony. The old expression “clothes make the man” may not be perfect but does express that our clothes often affect the way we are regarded. I too am regarded very differently when I am in My clerical attire and when I am on my day off and just wear a casual shirt.

  2. Cathy says:

    Thank you for posting this! It needs to be brought up much more often in parishes, at the very least in the parish bulletin. In Italy and other countries they won’t let you set foot inside a Catholic church unless your shoulders and knees are covered. Europe is quite modern but I’m grateful that their churches are still in their right mind about proper clothing.

  3. Linus says:

    Very brave of you Msgr. Let me help a little, the ladies can get mad at me instead. Decent women and girls whould dress decently at all times. They should dress as if Christ were standing by their side – and indeed he is. When I was in school in the fifties the rule was full skirts, hems no heigher than three inches above the ankle, loose blouses, no exposed arms or brest bones, this all applied to the cheer leaders too. Looking back at the old year book, the gals still look great to me. Beyond that the particular plague today seems to be shorts, tight slacks, form fitting dresses, etc, plunging neck lines, bare arms, foundation body skulpting under garments designed to arouse interest ( what other purpose could they have). All these things should be avoided by decent females of all ages.

  4. james says:

    You forgot baseball hats. Men shouldn’t wear them in restaurants — let alone in a church!

  5. Mrs.Barbara Spelling says:

    I whole hearty agree with you! I was very shocked last summer woman carring our lord to the alter wearing tank top &very short shorts! Mass looks just like pit stop on the way to picnics or school sports events! Is it to much trouble to show how much we love our Lord by taking time to dress up for him. Is lack of proper dress showing that they don’t care. Lack of love. Wish US Bishops would set a dress code for Sunday Mass. And week day Mass! Proper apparel can be bought very cheaply& benefit others. Good Will ,Salvation Army! Women watch the length on skirts &dresses. Don’t make priest have to divert his eyes there are only so many places he can look! EWTN&Vatican have very good dress codes!

    • kirsten says:

      i wish! modest nice clothes could be bought , at almost any price, easily. its just not true in some areas. you have to really hunt, and go out of your way, *especially* if you are not size 6-12. i am a size 16/18 and most Goodwills don’t have any clothing i would be willing to wear in my size. oh i have found a few treasures, but “easily”? not hardly.

      take a look in most clothing stores, the clothes for most people of any size are appalling, and for plus size ladies? i have a choice, wear sack or something skin tight. There is a REASON i learned to sew again.

      i have also had to learn where the Muslim stores are in order to find skirts of a modest length in some seasons! right now i am fortunate that a plus sized store had a decent dress at a reasonable price, and all i had to do was change the buttons on it. but that was a real find.

  6. Andrew says:

    Thank you, Monsignor. I agree completely. You mention: “Pardon me for sounding like and old fud but I am not really that old.” I am only 28 and wear a tie everyday to work (I’m a school teacher) and to Mass and a suit in the colder months (not many in South Louisiana). Oh the comments that elicits! “Where are you going so dressed up?” “What’s the special occassion?” “You’re making the rest of us look bad.” That last one of course is not meant to be a compliment all the time. Although, it is nice to hear a simple “You look nice today” from people. As for Mass, I cannot for the life of me understand how this notion of ‘come as you are’ came to be taken so far.

  7. Old Buckeye says:

    My reply to those who would say “God doesn’t care what you wear to church” is “Maybe not, but don’t YOU care what you wear to visit God?”

    • You are right it is really more for us in the end for all of us are “Naked before God” (Heb 4) ut it is what we are saying and expressing that is really what is at the heart of clothes

  8. David says:

    Dear Monsignor, and fellow-readers,

    Having come so late to the discussion on the post of 19 May, I hope you will excuse my revising and expanding a comment I was kindly permitted to make there.

    A. I would like to take up some matters related to men’s dress, especially where anyone can shed light on questions:

    1. What, if anything, is 1 Cor. 11:3-16 known – or thought – to have to do with (a.) 2 Cor. 8:7-18, and (b.) the tallit or ‘prayer shawl'(assuming it was common in the diaspora, or indeed the Holy Land)?

    2. Do we know anything about when (to use the terms) ‘Jewish Christians’ stopped wearing the tallit, or what ‘Gentile Christians’ did in the early days of the Church?

    Prsumably this was a ‘customary’ rather than a ‘dogmatic’ decision/development?

    If I am not mistaken, most – or much – ‘liturgical’ dress (still happily in use, in different Rites) of those in Orders (Deacon, Priest, Bishop) derives ultimately from dignified contemporary, or ‘secular’ official, dress from after the time of the Edict of Milan (313) and the formal public tolerance of Christian worship. (But perhaps the murals of the earlier Church – compared with those of the synagogue – in Doura Europos tell us something about Christian,and Jewish, dress?)

    3. What do brothers (and priors, and abbots, et al.) in various orders with cowled habits do during the Offices, and the Eucharist, and does it vary depending on their liturgical function?

    And what of their footwear? Are sandals common, or quite the opposite?

    4. The little 14th-century ‘pleurant’ statues sculpted by Claus Sluter for the tomb of the Duke of Burgundy in Dijon have got me wondering: are all of the wonderfully cowled or hooded robes in fact habits of various orders, or did some laymen just dress like that, then?

    Here, we move to a more general matter, for, while part of the impression of ‘contemporary culture’ is that “nothing is really all that important” – or, in the words of a popular song from the early 20th-c. about clothing fashion puts it, “anything goes”- this is only part of the picture. Another part is that these are often maniacally culturally ‘uniformitarian’ and ‘fashion-conformistic’ times – and in a very complicated way, with all sorts of well-defined ‘fashion sub-cultures’ (or whatever) with very rigid distinctions freely adopted and scrupulously observed – and socially enforced(!). To borrow a French state-ideological term, there is a lot of ‘laïcité’ of a very bossy, intolerant sort with respect to dress about, these days, in (much of) the English-speaking world. It would seem properly Christian to politely but firmly resist that, when encountered.

    Personally, in just these cultural circumstances, I think it would be marvellous to see some Christian laymen going about in public quite licitly looking like ‘pleurants’, with faces impenetrably shaded deep in hoods (climate, season, and weather allowing), just as some Scots wear kilts (though not on a daily basis, outside regiments or bands), and some fellow-citizens or visitors from non-European cultures wear splendid caftans (or whatever the various technical names, unknown to me, may be, of many, many different kinds of ‘robe-like garments’).

    This is not to say anything against proper decorum, or properly decorous dress, or behavior, but, I hope, a seconding of your call, Monsignor, to think about what is truly decorous and modest in order to practice it (which includes ‘modest, decorous diversity’), .

    • 1 & 2 . It seems the use of the tallit fell off almost right away as the Church went largely to the Gentiles. I Cor 11 makes no mention of it and even goes so far as to say men should pray with heads uncovered.
      3. My understanding is that they pull their cowls back for prayer in Church.
      4. No idea here.

      • kirsten says:

        as a member of a historical re-enactment group. (SCA) i may be able to help.

        Many of the traveling orders of preachers, and most of the brothers, had cowled or hooded outer robes. partly this was for travel, as the more mundane full cloaks were cumbersome, AND they concealed the fact that this was a person in holy orders….which meant a possibility of scandal, or a increased possibility of being robbed….

        Lay persons throughout the middle ages wore hoods. a hood is a short capelet over the shoulders, with attached hood. with or without a liripipe (long tail off the back of the hood) in depictions it can look like an attached hood to a tunic, if you dont see color differences.

        the only lay people i am aware of who wore attached hooded tunics or clerical like robes, were members of tertiary orders, who WERE in fact wearing a type of vestment.

        please note: there were some hooded tunics worn by civilians in some periods as rainwear/etc, but usually they were leather or short. and didnt look like the clerical robes

  9. Don says:

    If you were to look at photos taken at baseball and football games from yesteryear, you would see men wearing coats, ties, and hats ( not baseball hats ) to the games. People would dress up to travel by air, and train. Society today in general is extremely casual, and, so are our societal attitudes. The rise of the non-denominational protestant churches with their “come as you are, if you don’t like ‘churchy’ churches, we are your church, and God doesn’t look at you on the outside but on the inside” mentality, has probably infiltrated all denominations, including the Catholic church. The question is, has the modern day casual mentality also led to a modern day casual attitude towards God? I imagine it has.

  10. James says:

    I’ve often thought that if pilgrims can’t get into St. Peter’s Basilica with certain revealing clothing items, then those same items should be frowned upon in our churches here in the US.

  11. Duane says:

    Here here. It needs to be said now and again. For those who may be inclined to take offense to this gentle guidance, let me add two considerations:

    1) If you believe in the Real Presence of the Eucharist, what does the manner of your attire say about your belief? While Jesus most certainly accepts us as we are, he also commands our conscience. Think of Mass as an appointment with the risen Lord.

    2) We are fond of saying that clothing doesn’t matter or that we care only about what is inside our hearts or minds, but often our actions in secular society contradict this excuse for dressing down during the liturgy. Do you attend carefully to your grooming and attire for a date or important career function? If you are fastidious in preparation for a night on the town then in your heart you really do sense the value, inward and outward, that clothes create.

  12. Alfred says:

    Dear Monsignor,
    Happy to read your article. However, I was most gratified to read your “Final thought”.. I felt that it was the central thought of your article, and the most important point to be considered when deciding how to dress up for Church attendance. Imagine a person visiting the King of Kings Who is to have a conversation with him, and the person shows up dressed like he doesn’t care…. Would we do the same to a person who we consider important? As an example: In India, if one attends the funeral service of a relative or even a neighbor – a stranger, one wears appropriate clothing – generally a black/white or plain outfit, certainly no fashions on display. This we do as a sign of respect for the deceased and for the grieving relatives. So we do choose what we wear out of respect for others, even strangers, but we won’t give similar treatment for He who we call our God. So what does that say about us…
    Actually, there is a deeper question to consider: Is it possible that our way of dressing to attend Church is a reflection of our inner beliefs about God’s presence in the Church? If we truly believed that we were going to enter the presence of God Himself, would we be so casual about our dress (and our behaviour in Church as well)? Our professed beliefs do not seem to match our actions.
    Sometimes, I consider the way Muslims worship on a Friday at their mosque. The call to prayer that comes from the mosque is open, loud and unabashed. The Muslim men line up outside the mosque on prayer mats with their heads covered, all wearing respectful attire. The prayer is made with the eyes closed and with all accompanying gestures, in full public view and no one is ashamed of his demonstrated religious behaviour. I think to myself…these people really believe in and are proud of their faith, it is clear from their actions. I doubt that many of us Catholics could be similarly assessed based on our behavior in Church

    • Yes, I think that our casualness in regard to Church does reflect a struggle with deep faith. It is also, as I point out, a wider cultural phenomenon that tends to make us less reflective on these things.

  13. dianne says:

    Just so you know where I’m coming from, I’m 60 years old. I think that Msgr. Pope’s suggestions are to far reaching to be widely accepted. I think that at least at first we should concentrate on the most extreme offenses. I am thinking about the provocative way young ladies dress these days. One recent Sunday, the young lady behind whom I was sitting, got up to lector. I could see the outline of her underwear through her dress. Others were wearing clingy knits. I have frequently seen very short shorts. I really believe that these nice young ladies do not mean to be provocative. This is just the style these days. I really hope that someone in positions of authority, priests, parents,ect., will offer a word to the wise.

    • Yes, it is true that some issues are more egregious than others.

      • Dianne (not the same as above) says:

        Msgr and Dianne,

        As you say, yes there are more egregious issues. But that doesn’t mean this shouldn’t be addressed. There are more egregious sins than showing impatience with someone but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t take it to confession. If we don’t correct our venial sins they can eventually lead to mortal sins. If we don’t adjust our attitude about showing respect for our Lord in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar by dressing more appropriately we’ll be unlikely to adjust our attitude in other things.

        Msgr., an addition to your list. Men are supposed to pray with their heads UNcovered but women are supposed to pray with their heads covered. :-)

  14. wjb67 says:

    Certainly there are regional differences as to what constitutes “proper” dress at times. I live and attend church in a seaside community. Our parish is three blocks from the ocean. It is not unusual to see congregants wearing shorts and other summer wear including sandals in the summer months. There is always a variety of dress among our congregants…but I also think it’s the least of the concerns and least important consideration when one sees our church full (or nealy that) at all our weekend masses. Our parish encompasses a wide swath of socio-economic classes from the very wealthy to the recent immigrants, and often the clothing habits reflect that as well. I tend to not expect some people to wear a thee piece suit to church, nor do I expect some to show up wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shorts (at least not the eucharistic ministers). Certainly we have limits of bad taste. The teenaged girl who showed up for midnight mass wearing a tank top emblazoned with the word “BITCH” in sparlky letters got her share of dirty looks (she has since made more reasonable choices in attire). However, I think we, as a community, are fairly content without turning church services into a fashion competition akin to Project Runway meets the Third Reich. The parish I grew up in was very much like that…which might explain why fewer and fewer people (myself included) would show up on a sunday. The plummeting attendance and tithe led to the decision to consolidate the congregation with another parish and close the church, convent, and school.

    • Cynthia BC says:

      I am trying to wrap my mind around the “Project Runway meets the Third Reich” analogy.

      I’m not familiar with the former reference (being a fud along with Msgr P), but what I get from the latter is the implication that those who expect appropriate attire are Nazis. I believe that’s harsh and unfair.

      When my family travels – including when we’ve been at the beach – we pack church-appropriate clothing. Mass should be taken seriously regardless of its location. Even on vacation one should be able to manage at least “business casual.”

      • Katherine G ERT says:

        Project Runway is a fashion TV show, with Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn. To my understanding (though I’ve never actually watched it, just heard about it) it’s about producing the best designer. Designer Christian Siriano was a winner of this show. I think what wjb67 meant by the reference is that some people come dressed to church like say, a supermodel (Heidi Klum), versus the people who strictly adhere to a type of dress code for church. Teenage girls and young adult women are strongly influenced by the TV shows out there (Sex and the City, Project Runway, America’s Next Top Model) and may think it’s ok to wear what is worn in those shows anywhere. It’s not, and those kinds of clothes can garner the wrong attention. Anyways, just giving my explanation of the reference.

    • DM Reed says:

      This post epitomizes why we have a problem with modesty. We should be worried less about becoming “Project Runway meets the Third Reich” and be worried more about why we don’t worship or dress like Catholics.

  15. Hugh says:

    I think the issue of what one wears to Mass is a superficiality; a manifestation of the distractions we lumber ourselves with. Are we to assume that the creator of the universe is at all interested that a dishevelled tramp does not come to worship in polished ‘sensible’ shoes and a clean starched shirt and tie? Somehow I think He will be more interested with what is in his heart, and so should we.

    It is undoubtedly a fact that a lot of people judge others by their outward appearance (which is why I wear my best clothes to Mass when I am involved as a Minister of the Word or as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, not for my own sake but so as not to distract from the importance of the celebration), but that is a weakness of the human condition and not something to be encouraged I would suggest.

    • Well I guess there is a pretty fundamental disagreement here Hugh. In the end externals are not all but they are important and they bespeak what is going on in the inside. Agere sequitur esse. We are body persons. We are not not abstrations or disembodied intellects. Since we have bodies, what we do with them is important and manifests our soul to a large degree. I don’t think that our concern about this is a weakness but is rather a reverence for how we are made. It is true our concern about such things can go out of balance but in essence it is a valid concern

      • Hugh says:

        Ideo dico vobis, ne solliciti sitis animæ vestræ quid manducetis, neque corpori vestro quid induamini. Nonne anima plus est quam esca, et corpus plus quam vestimentum? Mathew 6: 25

        Ultimately all a set of clothes tells one about another is that they own that particular set of clothes. There are many crooks who don a pinstripe and sit in the pews and many a saint with nary a stitch; and a set of vestments is no guarantee of what lies at the heart of a person unfortunately.

        A suit and tie is a cultural fad as was the Ruff, doublet, slashed leather jerkin, and paned trunk hose with codpiece in the 1500’s, and will no doubt seem as ridiculous to people in 500 years time as that ensemble seems to us now.

      • J says:

        Dear Hugh,

        That passage has nothing to do with *the style* in which *one chooses* to dress.

        This one does: Mt. 22.12–13

        12 Et ait illi: Amice, quomodo huc intrasti non habens vestem nuptialem? At ille obmutuit.

        13 Tunc dicit rex ministris: Ligatis manibus et pedibus ejus, mittite eum in tenebras exteriores: ibi erit fletus et stridor dentium.

        If you read Monsignor Pope’s original comments, you’ll see that his list is not about particular articles of clothing in themselves, but rather as falling under the category of “appropriate semi-formal attire”, which category is the focus of his comments.

        Ultimately all a set of clothes tells one about another is that they own that particular set of clothes *and chose to wear it today*!

        The passage you cited is about commissioning the disciples for missionary work! It’s about needs being met, not choices (as the later passage from chapter 22 is).

      • Yes, I agree with J. The text you quote is about not being anxious that we will lack clothing and other essentials. Further, Hugh your conclusions are far too extreme. It is just not common sense to say that clothes don’t matter at all or taht nothing can be concluded from them. I would concur that too much could be made of them but you are but it’s just plain wrong that clothes say nothing at all.

    • Daniel says:

      I agree with Hugh’s point here.
      It makes sense to me that since clothing is frequently more symbolic than practical, it is appropriate to show through some gesture (men putting a ribbon around our neck for special occasions) that some things are particularly valued. It is a particular cultural expression, but these are necessary. It does not make sense to enshrine one particular historical manifestation (e.g “the way people dressed in the good old 1950’s”) of respectful attire.
      To suggest as a theological statement that God, as “King of Kings” demands our use of a tie or that women wear a dress rather than pants seems absurd. Indeed, if this were the case we would be obliged to wear our tuxedos and ball gowns. God has made it clear through the Prophets and Jesus that clothing too quickly becomes a hang-up for people, and especially displays of clothing in a religious context…The symbolism of clothing can too easily shift from a show of respect to simply a “show”.

      • Daniel says:

        Just one more thing…Quoting the New Testament in Latin does not bring anyone closer to the point, and smacks of elitism. If you want to demonstrate a point of exegesis, use the koine. If you simply want to make a point, use the “lingua franca” for the blog, which is English…

      • J says:

        I agree.

      • J says:

        You’re missing the point in the same way Hugh was Daniel. Monsignor Pope is not trying to “enshrine one particular historical manifestation…of respectful attire.” He’s only calling for respectful attire, and listing what that means for the people who demonstrably don’t understand.

      • Yes, J is right. I am not saying we have to be exactl like the 50s but it seems pretty clear today that our clothing is almost completely casual and that says something which I don’t think is good.

  16. Fred says:

    I can’t wear jeans to Mass on Saturday morning? I wear business suits to Mass during the week, and business causal on Sunday. What’s the matter with that? Tell some Hard Hat that he can’t duck into Mass on his lunch break because he’s wearing overalls. Father, stick to telling our slutty women put on decent clothing and leave it at that.

  17. Caleb Stoever says:

    I find it very ironic that people believe so deeply in regional differences. If you go back to first and second century documents there were no regional differences. The words spoken and the faith professed in Rome were the same as in Alexandria. Why is it that Americans want to believe that we are still individuals on a parish by parish basis. Msgr. Pope– well discussed topic and I as a young man agree that it’s time to bring back formal attire to it’s rightful place.

    • CastingCrown says:

      While I agree with the thrust of your point, I don’t know if your argument is very strong. While the faith was the same in Rome as in Alexandria, practice of that faith had some variation (e.g. fasting). I’m not saying it was a free-for-all, but it wasn’t strictly uniform either.

  18. Carl says:

    I think your comments are spot on. We are now getting into the season when I feel I have to sit up front and after returning to my seat after communion to keep my eyes down or closed after praying, until all have finished receiving communion. The dress of both women and men is disgraceful.

    Another point is that some see a big difference in going to Mass and just going to church for other activities. I find that even those who dress properly for Mass, throw everything out the window when they come for training or other ministeries.

    • Yes, this I suppose too is a manifestation of the over all casualness. As I said in the post we would dress up more whenever we went out of the house, even to a restaurant or movie.

  19. Kristen says:

    I get that we want to be beautiful on the outside and inside and present our whole hearts raised, body and spirit to Christ on Sunday – it is after all the climax of our week. However, I think it’s also important to note that there are no formal declarations from the Church on the proper attire for Mass. That said, your opinion Msgr., is appreciated.

    I dress up for work everyday. By Sunday morning, I loath my boring dress pants. Dresses and skirts are not an option often in my cold climate. When I trudge to Mass in my work clothes, I’m about as excited as a child in front of a plate of broccoli. I made the decision some years ago to dress for Jesus – to dress in clothing that puts me in a prayerful mood and makes me want to dance before the Lord like David. Sometimes, that involves jeans, heels and the pretty new shirt I want to show Jesus. Whenever possible, that involves a dress or skirt.

    I take modesty very seriously and am conscious of how much skin I show. I know we have a problem with modesty in our culture. That is a serious issue that should be addressed for both genders. I, however, don’t feel any pressure from God in prayer to dress more formally in Mass. I DO, however, feel pressure from judging eyes around me to dress in a certain way they approve. I also know that I judge people in terribly ratty clothing. In that moment in Mass, what bothers me most about this situation, is that I allow something as little as a baseball cap or a mini skirt to distract me from the Eucharist I kneel before. I guess, in the end, a prayer I often turn to in this situation is:

    “Rend your hearts, not your garments and return to the Lord, your God.” Joel 2:13

    This is one bible passage that pretty clearly tells me that dressing a certain way at Mass is well and good, but that I need to be utterly committed during this time to creating a deep interior holiness to face the coming trials by witnessing love in action, whether the trials be the driver who cuts me off on my daily commute or facing the perils of contraception in our culture. Either of which, I could do in jeans or ankle-length dresses.

    • Serena Conn says:

      Kristen, I grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness and women are simply not allowed to wear slacks in their churches or in their door to door magazine work. I have gone door to door selling WatchTower magazines in below zero weather and a foot of snow wearing a dress. The trick is to wear a very long skirt and wear thermal underwear beneath. Also wear thick wool socks. Then wear boots to cover the socks and the bottoms of the thermals. Since you live in a cold climate also, I thought you might appreciate these tips.

      • kirsten says:

        while i often choose to wear pants, out of both practicality and modesty (finding good skirts is harder than finding decent pants) i do have to agree…
        you can layer a LOT more underneath a skirt or a dress for warmth than you can under pants!!!!

        for that matter, i have been known to layer pants under my skirts! but then i am always cold.
        oh, and a slight advice? wintersilks is a company that sells silk long johns and thermals. ranging from very light weight to polar. i am SURE there are many other companies who make such things, i just know that one…silk lining socks, worn under any other pair of socks, makes for much warmer feet

      • Kristen says:

        While I appreciate that you think you are trying to help me (not that I need help adding more clothes to my closet ;-)…I think it’s absolutely ridiculous to wear underwear plus thermal underwear plus an ankle-length skirt plus thick wool socks plus boots to Mass. That’s five articles of clothing, six if you add a slip, just on my lower half! Who am I jumping through that hoop for? The Lord hasn’t called me to that in prayerful discernment and the CHURCH has NOT made any request of me either. Plus, I think that looks like I don’t care more than any of the other clothing options I discussed – surely you mean winter, snow boots that are extremely casual and intended for sledding and chopping wood. Thick socks do not fit with more stylish boots.

        Besides, when did showing my calves become immodest? I wonder if there will be throngs of people who don’t make it to heaven because they don’t accept that their bodies are created good without any clothing. The fear of immodesty and lust has led so many to believe the body is inherently bad and devoid of life-giving love. Outside of the acceptable caveat of childbirth, many Christians genuinely believe that the body is the cause of sin, but that their souls will rise above that to go to heaven. It breaks my heart when Catholics believe this largely Puritanical/Protestant heresy.

        I CAN’T WAIT until I am in heaven and can be naked without shame – prancing around in my best outfit, my birthday suit! Thank you, Lord, for creating my calves, my thighs and my heaven-approved breasts! In a fallen, broken world, my body doesn’t see the light nearly as much as it could if lust wasn’t around. Stupid sin, makin’ me wear all these clothes and hide the original goodness the Lord created in the garden…in His image. That’s right, we are made in the IMAGE and LIKENESS of GOD. Let’s not forget that under our seven layers of clothing.

        I’m glad leggings have made a comeback, as a side. They help extend the dress/skirt season in the spring and fall months…without wearing my camo boots for warmth!

        BTW, Serena, I’m sure you have a fascinating story about converting from being a Jehovah’s Witness to becoming Catholic. You should start your own blog!

  20. Vince C says:

    I completely agree with Father and this point. I live in Arizona where the temperatures sometimes stay in the triple digits for weeks on end in the summer. My community is also heavily LDS who never fail to wear appropriate attire to their services (including shirts and ties for the men–often jackets) no matter what the weather. I figure if they can do it for their services, I can do it to meet Jesus in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

    As far as the old saw of excluding “dishevelled tramps” from Mass: the question is not about people who just wander in to a Catholic Church during Mass, but for the average parishioner who plans on attending Mass every week. As was mentioned, even the poor can find something a notch above daily garb to wear for special occasions. Even poor people dress up for weddings and other special occassions. My grandfather was a poor Mexican laborer most of his life, but when he went to Mass, he always wore his best white shirt and coat.

  21. David says:

    Dear Monsignor,

    If you will excuse a second comment:

    Thank you for your reply to Hugh, above. We (however broadly that should be taken) should try to give proper attention, together, to what-all is appropriate, respectful, and – ‘diversely’ – decorous.

    The scene in Zeffirelli’s ‘Brother Sun, Sister Moon’ comes to mind, where St. Francis and his brothers come before the Holy Father: ‘very Seventies’, perhaps, but also very well-imagined with an eye to history and Faith. St. Francis does not excoriate the Holy Father for the richness of his vestments, the Holy Father does not anathematize St. Francis for arrogance in seeking permission to practice ‘Apostolic poverty’ thus clad – as far as I can see, they each implicitly recognize the licit appropriateness of both.

    I think, too, of the old joke: just because you can pray while brushing your teeth, it does not mean it is equally appropriate to brush your teeth in Church.

    ‘Abusus non tollit usum’, an abuse does not take away the possibility of proper use, but it must be possible both candidly and charitably, humbly to seek to distinguish the range of appropriate ‘use’ in any given circumstances.

  22. Serena Conn says:

    Two summers ago, I was looking for a new dress and couldn’t find one. At the third store I visited, I asked the manager why there were no dresses. He said their buyers told them that women don’t wear dresses anymore so they didn’t provide dresses for the stores to sell. I told the manager that women don’t wear dresses because they can’t find any to buy! When I do find a modest dress in a store, my husband tells me to just go ahead and buy it because I never know when I’m going to come across another one. And that, Msgr., is why women wear skirts and blouses so much. You can find them more easily in the stores, although decent skirts are somewhat difficult to find.

    Additionally, at my old parish I would schedule the lectors and EMs. It was very hard to get people to understand that if they wanted to lector or EM that they had to dress properly, especially the younger girls who dressed as if they were going clubbing. At special Masses, such as Easter, I would always schedule the people who dressed well. Sometimes the others would get upset and say I was playing favorites but, when the Bishop came or the church was going to be packed, I felt a responsibility to make sure the parish put its best face forward.

    • kirsten says:

      it is indeed VERY hard to find decent length skirts or dresses…. when you do, you have to buy them right away even if they are not on sale, sigh.

      if someone cannot find any in your area, find out where the Muslim clothing stores are, they always have long skirts. i gave up trying to find decent skirts in most mainstream stores.

      and the poor girls dressed to go “clubbing” i feel for them, like many other younger people that is the only “dressing up” they know how to do….

    • It seems to be very frustrasting to be a woman in these circumstances. I have had many women tell me how hard it is to find decent and modest clothes for themsleves or their daughters.

      • kirsten says:

        which is why i am back in college for fashion design. Since i know a lot of women would LIKE nice clothes that are reasonably modest and cannot find them, i figured there was an untapped market!

  23. Cynthia BC says:

    How to address inappropriate attire is a topic that frequently comes up among my fellow HR professionals, particularly at this time of year. A while back one of them drafted several “policies” that clearly demonstrate our exasperation at what people wear when they show up for work (and at managers’ lack of backbone when it comes to holding their staff accountable). Below is an example:

    M E M O

    To: All Employees

    From: HR

    Re: Skin

    HR has tried to address what appropriate attire is in the workplace with numerous policies in the past but has found that they are not effective as people are still showing too much skin in the workplace, therefore, HR is rescinding all previous policies regarding workplace attire and is replacing them with the following Dress Code Policy which will be effective immediately.

    Dress Code Policy

    There are two options regarding how you want to choose to comply with the company standards of dress.

    The first one is that you can come to HR and have HR mark on you with a Sharpie Permanent Marker the places on your body that need to be covered by clothing. If you choose this option, you will need to wear your swimming suit to work on Friday, June 4th and you must be prepared to stand, in your swimming suit, in the HR office so that HR can mark you up. You will be required to return to HR, in your swimming suit, when the marks wear off so that your lines can be redrawn. If any of your Sharpie Permanent Marker lines are visible during the work day, you are showing too much skin and thus subject to discipline up to and including termination.

    The second option is that you can check out a purple choir robe from HR and wear the choir robe over your clothes to prevent showing too much skin. And to avoid any issues with feet or other inappropriate footwear, you will also be required to check out a pair of white fishing boots to wear while in the office. You must keep your choir robe zipped all the way up and have your white fishing boots on from the time you enter the building to the time that you leave the building. Anyone who chooses this option and who loses the choir robe or boots will be required to replace them at his/her own expense.

    HR will have sign up sheets in the break room for you to indicate which option you choose. You must decide no later than end of business on Thursday. Please let HR know if you have any questions.

  24. Vijaya Bodach says:

    Coming from a very poor background, my mother still stitched us a Sunday dress from a not-so-old sari of hers so that we would have something more appropriate to wear to church. And she only had one or two good ones to wear herself. It is about wearing your best to meet your Lord.

  25. Saul Menowitz says:

    I am a 40-something Catholic, married with 6 kids. I always wear a suit and tie to Mass on Sunday, and the kids dress up. Here’s how I got to this point: I realized that if I were invited to the White House to visit a President for whom I have no respect, I would get a haircut, shine my shoes, have my suit pressed and buy a new shirt out of respect for the office of the presidency. Now, if I truly believe the Master of the Universe is present at Mass, shouldn’t I at least dress as well as I would for the POTUS? That’s my reasoning. It hit me like an epiphany one day, and I switched from casual slacks to a suit and tie. By the way, I hate wearing a suit and tie, so I also do it as mortification and an offering to God. I think those that dress casually for Mass because “Jesus will accept me no matter how I am dressed” are just making excuses.

    I would also submit that if any woman of good will knew the impact their manner of dress had on men – INCLUDING THE PRIEST! – they would cover up. Not blaming women here, just recognizing the difference in our sexuality and the weakness of men. I doubt any woman of good will would want to be responsible for the fall of any man, esp. a priest.

  26. Alfred says:

    The Church of which all of us belong to is one body – the mystical Body of Christ. Therefore we are bound by one set of rules – one Catechism of the Catholic Church. It also therefore becomes each one’s duty to look out for the other and therefore, if a form of dress is felt to be inappropriate by many, that form of dress ought to be avoided, as a way of helping others who are not as strong, and who may become distracted – this is for those who feel that appropriate dressing is not important to show respect to the Lord. It is true that no dress code has been specifically provided for Church attendees, but that is because the Church hierarchy relies upon our good sense and understanding as to what constitutes proper dress. Obviously underlying the dress sense is “great respect”. I suspect that if we do not demonstrate an ability to correct ourselves, we may have dress codes decided for us, which will be drastic, but deserved.
    So Dianne, (by the way I am just 10 years younger than you, so am of the same generation), Mgr.Pope’s suggestions are necessary even if they are “far-reaching”. They have to be far-reaching, because they have to reach far.. as far as we have all strayed in our sense of propriety that was always necessary when attending Church. Mgr.Pope is tackling an attitude – a reckless disrespect demonstrated by Churchgoers when they enter His Presence; he is not commenting on degrees of recklessness – i.e. a girl who wears clingy dress or (re wjb67’s post) the teenaged girl who showed up wearing a tank top with the word “BITCH” written across it; or “tell the slutty women and not the gents” [re Fred (“Father, stick to telling our slutty women put on decent clothing and leave it at that.”)]

    Wjb67, I would respond to your post thus: If you were out of a job and desperate for one, and had applied for a job, the interview to be held in summer in your seaside community, would you dress casually – shorts and sandals, etc? Or would you dress smartly inorder to impress upon your interviewer that (i) you thank the interviewer for the opportunity; (ii) you take that job offer seriously, (iii) you are a smart person capable of handling the job; and (iv) your external appearance is a reflection of your capability; (v) etc? So if these are the yardsticks/parameters that we use to demonstrate that we want something material and will do what is necessary (i.e. even wear smart apparel to an interview in a seaside community) why won’t we demonstrate at least that much desire to the Lord when we attend His House – the Church, by wearing appropriate clothing?

    To Daniel: You said “ The symbolism of clothing can too easily shift from a show of respect to simply a “show”. “ True indeed. But how about the symbolism of “no respect” that is directly apparent when people wear inappropriate attire to Church? If people overdress, there is a chance that it may become a show, but if they underdress as in dress badly, there is no question of a chance.. it is already disrespect

    To Kristen: The passage “Rend your hearts, not your garments and return to the Lord, your God.” Joel 2:13 has nothing to do with telling about dressing in any way at Mass or otherwise. It refers to the ancient method of expressing grief and sorrow before the Lord by tearing one’s garments. So the prophet instructs his listeners to tear their hearts as in change their hearts and orient them to the Lord rather than expressing their grief by mere tearing of garments.
    Regarding the points you made in your post: It is true that there are no formal declarations on proper attire for Mass, but see where that has landed us…. we have posters on this forum, one describing a girl attending Mass wearing a see-through outfit going to read at the Lectern, another one wearing a tank-top with the word “BITCH” written across it attending Mass, and I personally could write about many similar incidents and I am sure you too have witnessed such derogatory displays of dressing. Then it forces Church authorities like Mgr.Pope to take up the (I am sure) distasteful task of reminding us about the necessity of proper attire. Other priests too privately express such necessity but are attacked when they refer to such things. I remember an occasion, a while back, when a priest who pulled up a lady for attending a Mass wearing an extremely short dress was told off as “having a dirty mind”. Do we wait for the Church to bind us to dress in a certain manner or do we self-regulate? Are we concerned about the good of others or are we for ourselves alone? No doubt that there are people who will not get distracted by the dressing/attire of their neighbors in the Church, but there are also many weak Catholics (including myself) who get distracted from the Eucharist by people dressed inappropriately like wearing baseball cap or a mini-skirt, etc. Perhaps you should think that you are helping us weak Catholics by avoiding distracting us, and I am sure that we are all grateful for that help. I remember, many, many, many years ago when I was an altar-server, how strange it felt to hold the paten while the priest distributed Holy Communion, when ladies came to receive Communion wearing low-neck dresses. And what about the priest distributing Holy Communion interacting with such ladies? Are priests not human? They are already subject to a barrage of skin on TV and everywhere. Do we want to test their endurance some more? Who knows which is the straw that breaks the camel’s back?

  27. K. Louise says:

    My husband’s grandfather dressed in suit and tie to visit the barber!

    My question regards men who are bald. What does one wear to church if he needs to protect himself from drafts since he is bald? Unless he wears a wig or perhaps the hood of the pleurants, any head covering on a man will elicit corrections from ushers and many well-meaning parishioners. Then he must patiently, or not so patiently, explain during Mass that the pastor has given him permission to wear a hat or reveal that his health requires it.

    Personally, I usually wear a skirt and a top with sleeves to Mass. I have a few dresses that I wear for special occasions such as Christmas, Confirmations, etc., but it is hard to find a dress that fits. After reading this blog, perhaps I will try a little harder to find more dresses.

    • THere was an older man in my parish some years back with the problem you describe and he wore a very subtle and close fitting skull cap, kind of a yalmulke but one that covered more of his dead than a yarmulke usually does. I think a skit and blouse are just fine by the way. I suppose a dress is a bit more elegant in most circumstances but a skirt and blouse are also very nice.

  28. Katherine G ERT says:

    I grew up going to church with my very classy Italian grandmother. And got a good laugh while she very loudly criticized what people were wearing to church, namely the women. I vividly remember the time that she literally threw a fit because a girl sitting near us (she was in her mid to late teens) was wearing a miniskirt (VERY short I might add), a tank top, and 5 inch platform flip flops to church (how could she walk in those things?) Since my grandmother has passed, I have kept her words, and the memory of her style very near and dear to my heart.

    One question I do have (and maybe other crazy hospital workers who decide to do church after a long night shift can attest to this) is, is it ok to wear scrubs to Sunday Mass, or should we bring something to change into? Scrubs are very casual, but on the other hand, the last thing I want to do after a 12 or 16 hour shift is change into something that might be a little more form fitting than scrubs. Most people in church seem ok with it, and I haven’t gotten any dirty looks yet.

    Oh, and my grandmother never wore pants unless she was exercising. She was always in a skirt and blouse, and nice shoes, and of course her Chanel No. 5 perfume. I do think that our culture has gotten much more casual, and I do agree that it is a reflection of the attitude that nothing matters. On the other hand, even if people are casually dressed for Sunday Mass, I’m happy that they are there. There definitely have been times where I’ve shown up for mass, daily or Sundays, not at my best. God doesn’t see me at my best all the time. Wow, I would make such a bad lawyer because I see all sides of things…..good thing medicine appears to me my calling.

    • Sounds like your grandmother was a classy lady. I am aware that some people have to wear work attire to church due to a tight schedule. We do have medical personel in scrubs and other medical attire. SOmetimes too police officers and emergency workers attend in uniform. In proposing these norms I do not wish to be so rigid as to make attendance impossible. THey are general norms tht admit of exceptions.

      • Katherine G ERT says:

        Thanks! My grandmother was hilarious to sit next to in church. At my brother’s confirmation, when Bishop Gonzalez was asking the kids questions, she’s sitting there answering them as loudly as she possibly could (my brother and his classmates got off so easy because of her – they didn’t have to answer any questions!). I’m laughing and my dad is pinching me to make me shut up, and I look over at him, and he’s laughing so hard that he’s crying. She wasn’t shy about telling the priests what she thought about certain things, either.

      • Mary says:

        I know I’m quite late to this conversation, but I would urge medical workers to change out of scrubs before going to church as a matter of hygiene. Scrubs can get contaminated with germs that can spread to the general public when the scrubs are worn outside of the hospital or doctor’s/dentist’s office. Please don’t wear them to church. (I know this is an unpopular view, but I know that seeing scrubs in public makes some people (e.g., those who are particularly vulnerable to infection) very anxious. Scrubs are not a “uniform” like a police officer or military officer’s uniform — they serve a different purpose.)

  29. Tapestry says:

    I have ‘church clothes’,I don’t wear dresses of any sort, perhaps because it was insisted by my Mom when I was a child to wear a dress. She always wore a dress, nylons, high heels and hats to church, restaurants and shopping trips down town.
    I wear my church clothes only to Mass when they have been worn several times they are my
    special occasion clothes. I have 3 or 4 nice tops and 2 pairs of black slacks, I have good shoes for Mass too, ((I don’t wear nylons nor heels they hurt my feet)
    It is rare I wear sandals, but if its a very hot summer day I have been known to…I figure if the Franciscans can wear sandals to church so can I.
    My husband would be more difficult he wears a leather jacket and all his shirts are button down but
    he can’t seem to wear slacks, its always jeans but at least its his good jeans and no tennis shoes!
    We never wear tshirts to church, not even my kids were allowed to do that, hats can really be a problem because you can’t see the altar with hats in the way… I remember this from church when I was a kid so though
    its a nice thought hats will never see a real comback. Veils .. well when I hit 70 I will wear veils.

  30. Ruth Ann says:

    I agree with Msgr. Pope and most comments. Both church attire and church decorum have eroded terribly in our contemporary culture.

    Might this issue be addressed by the local pastor to the parish council? Perhaps together they can work out some realistic dress guidelines and a method/campaign for persuading the flock through education and guidance from parish leaders and through parish organizations. The parish bulletin and homilies could also be places where the topic is approached.

    A beginning might focus on eliminated the most egregious forms of of irreverent attire. After that skirmish/battle is won, then the focus might turn to the less atrocious forms of dress.

    Keeping it local is also a way of taking into consideration the local culture and socioeconomic status of members.

    To my way of thinking the clothing of those in church needs to be 1) modest, which minimally means not too much skin exposure, 2) clean, and 3) in good repair, which means not torn or ragged. Beyond that there is latitude for personal taste.

  31. teo matteo says:

    when i was a kid and i asked, “what do I wear?” my mother would simply reply,(yell) “put on some church clothes!”
    I knew exactly what she meant.
    Now that i have two children of my own when i tell them (yell) “put on some church clothes!!” they know what I mean…

  32. Woodrow says:

    The clothing issue began to change when the Mass changed from Latin to English. As a child, my parents made all of us put on our Sunday clothes. Coat and ties for the males; dresses and veils for the females. Then the Mass changed. Suddenly, it was not a reverant religious ceremony but a folk song concert! No one wears “Sunday clothes” to a concert! To this day, most Masses are still concerts. I just found a parish that has only Latin Masses said at it. For Father’s Day, I have asked my family to attend this parish to experience the “Old Latin Mass” of my childhood. They have agreed. I further told them, however, that we would have to dress up and wear proper attire. They have agreed. Perhaps, then, the problem is the way the Mass is celebrated today or since Vatican II. Just a thought. God Bless you Father. Thank you for becoming a priest.

  33. Brian says:

    Do you apply these guidelines for attendance at daily Mass? What about when it is 90, humid, and the Church has no AC?

    • Woodrow says:

      I remember a Sunday when it was hot, muggy and there was no AC. And it was a morning Mass, no less. Father gave the shortest homily I have ever heard to this day: “It’s hot in here!” God rest his soul.

    • kirsten says:

      i work at a medieval re-enactment event for two weeks in August every year. it is outside, in tents, no AC. in Pennsylvania near a small lake. heat index hits 118 some years. i have heat exhaustion issues. i have been *hospitalized* several times a year for heat exhaustion.

      its about choosing your fabrics. todays (shudder) clothing is mostly polyester, which doesn’t breath, is hot, and sticky. cotton is better, linen is best. even suit or summer weight wool is better than polyester!

      if i can manage to WORK in , if not ideal medieval wear, at least a linen full length long sleeved dress. or a sari in a pinch, then i am certain people can manage a short sleeved shirt and pants/skirt or linen dress for a couple of hours.
      you can always change back into beach wear after church, cant you?

    • What’s so hard about these norms in hot weather? You don’t HAVE to wear a tie. As for me I NEVER wear shorts in the church or outside. I just don’t wear them. I survive the torrid DC summers fine. Torusers and a button down shirt are just fine even in the heat. As kristen says, it can help to have certain fabrics, eg cotton or linen.

      • Brian says:

        For daily Mass too, though? Unless one brings a change of clothes, or goes home to change afterward, this involves wearing ‘dress’ clothes daily, and in many cases, drenching them in sweat.

        I think people ought to dress formally for Sunday Mass, but I don’t think the same expectations should be there for people who are going to Mass daily. That would seem to me to be a overly rigorous burden.

  34. Alexander says:

    Dear Woodrow, I had the same experience when was attended the Latin Mass (I am too old now and home bound). I am ready to put my signature under your reply.

  35. Shawn says:

    I stumbled upon this blog via a tweet from a friend of mine. As a Protestant I can attest that this isn’t just Catholic issue, its a cultural one. When I grew up I had 2 pair of shoes, sneakers and church shoes. I had one good outfit that was for church. There was no question on what I was wearing. My father always wore a suit and tie(he was a deacon and usher). When I was old enough I helped him usher and was told by him I had to wear a suit and tie as well. The only people in our church that didn’t dress up were the men who lived at the rescue mission. However once they earned a bit, they all seemed to get decent clothes to wear(they didn’t want to stick out). I have since moved away from my home church. When I was looking for a church in my new town I was shocked at the way people were dressed. The older folks still had on their suits and ties, but people my age(35) were mostly wearing jeans and a t-shirt! There was a teenager there with shorts(in the winter) a t-shirt and was wearing a baseball cap! I couldn’t believe it. In my old church an usher would have told him to remove his hat. And if an usher didn’t say anything(and no one around him either) the Pastor would have stopped the service to ask him! People need to dress better at church than they do at McDonalds!

  36. Secondeve says:

    Yes, I remember, “wear your church clothes!”It still works in our house of 5 daughters. Not only does it matter what they wear to God’s house to honor Him, but, it is also a sign of the honor they give to their own bodies: feminine, lovely, self-respecting, and beloved. Thanks father!

  37. Pat010 says:

    While I whole heartedly agree with the basic premise of respectful attire, a modicum of restraint in imposing strict rules which impede a person’s attendance at Church. Dressing like a jockey doesn’t mean you ride a horse. Indeed clothes aren’t much of an indicator of one’s worth, truth, or closeness to God, look for instance, at politicians.
    As a teacher coaching basketball in the 70’s, we had a Saturday morning time at the gym. When we finished, I said I was going to stop at church to visit the Blessed Sacrament if anyone wanted to come. It was just across the parking lot. All but two came, dressed as high school boys would be expected to be dressed on Saturday in Sept.
    We went in the back door and silently knelt in the Chapel. We had no sooner arrived and settled than the pastor swept in the back door and started loudly berating the boys for being there with improper dress. I approached him and told him that I had invited them in after gym and that it was my responsibility. He looked disapprovingly at my attire, but didn’t voice what his facial expression made obvious. After a few moments he left.
    On subsequent Saturdays, I made my visit, but unfortunately, I was alone. Even those who were riding home in my car, waited outside until I came. How very sad. What was missing was common sense, instead, the boys were given a sense of being rejected because of another’s code of proper dress. How many stay away for that reason? How many stay away because we don’t make them feel welcome whether children or adults. The lepers?
    It would be better if we stressed more the welcome to the House of God. A growth of understanding of Who is in the house will bring about the desire to present one’s self with the best they have both inside and out.

    • Sad story but exceptional situtations such as you describe need not fall under the general norms. WHat I am proposing are general norms for general situations. Exceptional cases such as visits are suject to different norms I’d say but cannot be included in general norms .

  38. Maureen McCabe says:

    I thought the photo was just pre Vatican II. In 1st grade we learned songs in Latin. We weren’t singing in Latin anymore by 2nd grade. I was in 6th grade by 1970. Now I am a middle aged woman who probably usually wears pants to church, not jeans and never shorts… occasionally a skirt if I can.

    I live in a very casual part of the world. A friend who goes to a United Church of Christ church says Catholics in our area dress up less than Protestants. I am not sure if I can judge that. Our former pastor was very tough with the eucharistic ministers, no jeans, no shorts even if you were not scheduled but just trying to help out he’d banish them from the altar. I notice clothing he would not have tolerated creeping onto the altar with a new pastor.

  39. Mary says:

    Msgr, Thanks so much for posting this. I was raised in the 50’s and we always dressed up when going outside the home (shopping, restaurant, etc.) For Mass, it was your “Sunday best.” In my teens, my dad dressed up for Mass even tho he was dying of cancer. However, in recent years I’d stopped wearing pantyhose almost completely (my last 2 jobs were business casual – WOW, you should see what some folks consider business casual). But as I’m a lector and EMHC, I’ve gone back to the sticky hose. Yes they’re more trouble, but it makes me feel so much better because it’s like a sacrifice I’m making for my Lord & Savior. When and why did we lose sight of the value of sacrifice? I often wonder just how much time people take getting ready to worship almighty God, and if they take more time getting ready for a party or job function …Kudos to the young gentlemen who dress up!! God bless, Father.

  40. Alfred says:

    To Brian: One of the posters here – Saul Menowitz has a similar issue – he hates wearing a suit and tie, so he beautifully converts the problem into an opportunity – he offers up that mortification to God. I suggest that when it is hot and humid and the Church has no AC, the discomfort experienced could also be offered to God as a form of penance. That apart, I am sure we cannot put our own comfort above the respect that we have to give God, especially when we enter His dwelling place.

    To Pat010: I don’t think that the issue here was about being what you dress. (“Dressing like a jockey doesn’t mean you ride a horse.”) It appears that the issue raised by Mgr.Pope in this article was about giving respect to God in His own residence, by all that is done therein, including by the dress that one wears in the Church.

    Regarding the incident you have narrated: That incident can be seen in another light. Clearly the boys felt rejected after being berated for being in the Chapel in improper attire. But when they did not enter the Chapel on the subsequent Saturday or later, was any effort made to explain to them that dressing properly when going before the Lord is important and therefore the pastor was justified in scolding them, but perhaps they could carry a change of clothes the next time? Was any effort made to explain the importance of the Blessed Sacrament and how reverence ought to be shown if they went before the Blessed Sacrament? I don’t think that common sense was lacking on the part of the pastor. He had a duty to impress upon the students that they should not come into a Chapel in basketball tops and shorts probably all sweaty after practice, and he did his duty – perhaps in a less than pleasant manner. The boys’ feelings were hurt.
    The greater damage was done to the boys when no one explained the issue to them and why they were shouted at, and that the pastor was correct, and even if not, they could offer the Lord the hurt they felt as a means of obtaining His grace; instead they learnt the wrong lesson – you get upset with the pastor, you stay away from the Church. Besides, the dress code that the pastor enforced wasn’t his as you have suggested. It is the proper code of conduct when you go before a great and important person, more so if it is He whom you call Lord and King.
    In my opinion, those who stay away because we don’t make them welcome, have got it all upside down. We are the beneficiaries of a visit to the Blessed Sacrament or of a Mass or of a Church service, the Lord is not. So, if we feel that we are indeed gaining great value, we will try to get in, without waiting for a welcome. So to equate not attempting to welcome people with treating them like lepers, is far-fetched to say the least. If we value the gifts we get from the Lord, we will seek Him out and not require to be made comfortable before we approach Him. We do not do that in our daily lives so why do we expect differently in the Church? If we were to be offered a valuable freebie, I suspect that we wouldn’t wait to be welcomed to the venue of distribution but would be there before daybreak, waiting for the gates to open.

  41. Annie says:

    Amen to dressing up. I taught school for more than 20 years, both public and private. When I started in the early 1960’s, children dressed decently. In Catholic schools uniforms were required, but some principals decided that “free dress day” should be a reward for good behavior, selling a lot of chocolate bars in a fund-raiser, or some other achievement. We teachers hated free dress days, because the students thought it was just a fun day, a day to kick back and relax, not to take much seriously. When the children were in uniform they knew it was time for learning. I noticed that in some cities, even the public schools are adopting a uniform for elementary students. It saves parents a ton of money, and there is no clothing competition among the girls. Students are more willing to get down to business.

    • You areright. Clothing really affects the way Children behave. Another annoying trend I expereinced in Catholic school was when they would have gym, all the kids were told to come to school in sweats and go to all their classes in them. It seemed like the tail wagging the dog. One gym class should not affect the whole day.

  42. Theresa Henderson says:

    My Grandparents were both teachers; he taught college level mathematics and wrote mathematics books, and she taught grade school. they always dressed in “Sunday Got to Meeting ” clothes. Grandpa always had 8 dress shirts and 7 of them were in the wash on Monday. He always wore wingtips, even when he worked as a hydraulic engineer and walked the plant floor. Gramma used to complain about the metal shavings in his shoe soles ruining her kitchen floor.

    My Mom had ONE dress which she made herself, for church and wore jeans and Dad’s shirts aroudn the house, because they were in a constant state of building our house.

    Mom always made dresses for my sister and me, and the boys had shirts and black or blue slacks for Catholic school, and tennis shoes were allowed for boys, but girls had to wear uniforms and something like saddle shoes or penny loafers. Dad wore dark green, heavy duty work clothes every day except Sunday and then he wore navy slacks and a white shirt with a white teeshirt under, and he smelled like fresh ironed cotton clothes all the time. Mom always made sure even his work clothes were pressed and neat. HIs multicolor hankies all week long changed to a crisp white embroidered hanky on Sunday.

    Dad didn’t own any jeans until all of us six children with Dad got together and bought a farm, and then one of my brothers bought him a pair of farmer jeans and flannel shirts for winter. He always had a hanky hanging from the back pocket, and another in another pocket, And when Dad died last June the grandkids all wanted one of his hankies or a square from one of his flannel shirts. They all associate the scent of sun warmed cotton with him.

    Clothing depends on the Mass at our parish.. the early Mass has mostly elderly who dress in Sunday dress; the next Mass is families with small children and my guess is some families are lucky to have anything that matches… the two Masses after that are a lot of folks in casual business to almost beachwear/shorts in summer as we have all lakes and summer cottages around here.

    I am very uncomfortable around girls who wear low cut jeans and belly exposing tops to church, because I ahve watched the men around such girls have a difficult time not looking.

    Me? I love to dress up, in dresses and nice clothing, because most of the week I am in my “studio grubbies” all covered with paint, because I paint paintings and also restore statuary.


  43. adele says:

    I think that the main idea that Monseignor suggests here is that we should all take the time before coming to
    Church to consider where we are going and Who it is we are going to glorify…and dress appropriately. That
    does not mean we have to put on a fashion show for the rest of the parishioners or look like we accidentally
    ended up in Church when we were headed for the beach! How difficult is that? Clean, appropriate attire that is
    modest in all ways, for both men and women. These items do not need to be expensive or of the latest haute
    courture ( I remember in the 50’s when women often did this with their hats ) nor should they give offense to
    the rest of the community by being vulgar or too casual. The fact you are on vacation need not be the first
    thing you announce when presenting yourself at Sunday Mass. We too live in a tourist town…and during the
    summer months for the most part you can tell the natives from the tourists without a scorecard. I think the fact
    that women in our culture now seem to go just about anywhere in pants it will be difficult to demand skirts and
    dresses be the de rigeur….as long as they are neat, clean and not clingy. Modest dresses are difficult to find
    for women of all ages…but surely if one shops long enough the possiblity exists. If you really want to see a
    change in your own parish suggest to those responsible for the bulletin to publish a list of proper attire for Mass
    for both men and women…perhaps a list drawn up by the parish council with the pastor’s approval. And I might
    suggest starting with a print-out of Monseigor’s above suggestions…to start from. We all can certainly do better
    at this…all parishes everywhere. In our parish all lay participants including the Extraordinary ministers as well as
    the lectors wear a special robe covering their outer garments. Now if we could just get rid of the sneakers on the
    altar servers….that is another whole topic. Good luck to all who make this attempt at reform….and re-institution of a simple dress code for proper church attire!

  44. Sandra Jones, CPA says:

    Some years ago I wrote the pastor of a local Catholic Church saying that the Protestant son of a coworker (whose name coincidently was “Pope”) had attended his Sunday Mass as part of his Comparative Religion Class at a local Christian Academy. He had mainly commented on the extremely casualness of the dress, not to say slovenliness, of the congregants and perhaps the pastor could use this as a “teaching moment” for his parishioners. The pastor responded that God only cares about the heart and that the young man was probably being judgmental. I responded that since the young man was from the same socio-economic circumstances as his parishioners, he could tell from the way his parents dressed what was important and what was not: apparently Sunday Mass was not that important. Also who wants to look “too casual” for a teenage boy.

    I definitely agree about the men in shorts, particularly the old men whose fathers would have died before entering Church in such disrespectful garb. I’ve seen them come dressed that way for Eucharistic Adoration.

    I don’t understand the need for shorts. They live in air conditioned homes, drive air conditioned cars and go to air conditioned Churches. Are they preparing for spending extended time in a much warmer environment?

    • Yes to the pastor who said God only cares about what is in our heart, he forgets that we are body-persons. God is not only after our heart, but also our mind, intellect, will and body.

  45. Erin Manning says:

    I agree with much of what you write, Msgr. Pope. However, on your point # 11 for women you wrote: “Women should wear a nice blouse (if they are not wearing a full dress). The blouse or shirt they wear should not be too tight.”

    I will echo those other posters who lament the disappearance of dresses. While it is possible to purchase a dress, they are usually quite expensive and not necessarily modest (since many are designed with plunging necklines and tight fits, in fabrics that cling and reveal). If you see a woman at Mass wearing a nice, old-fashioned dress chances are she made it herself or has had it for years. For a woman living a vocation to motherhood (e.g., on a single income) dresses are frequently out of reach.

    But why, then, do even traditional-minded women wear knit tops instead of “a nice blouse?” A dirty little secret of the fashion industry is that most blouses these days are cut at least one bust size *smaller* than the size of the blouse; this is done on purpose to reveal, so to speak. I used to wonder why I couldn’t find a blouse that fit–now I know. Sizing up to avoid the problem doesn’t work as then the sleeves, etc. are too long or the blouse is too-big overall. And since many blouses are made in stretch-fabrics which are form-fitting, the problem is made worse–for many women, a blouse is the LEAST modest option available for Sunday Mass!

    Since these bits of fashion information are usually not things gentlemen are aware of (especially priests!) I share them to encourage charity when we encounter a woman in what looks like a casual knit top and skirt. She may not have as many other choices as one would assume.

    • Katherine G ERT says:

      What I have personally done with today’s dresses is wear a jacket over them. I buy the dresses that are longer in length, either at 3 inches above the knee or the long peasant skirt length, and cover them with a cardigan or blazer. I have found that even today’s strapless dresses can be made modest with the help of a jacket or cardigan buttoned up. I too have had problems with blouses/button-down shirts, mainly because they are not made to accomodate a bust, even and especially the women’s sizes. Also, the nice, modest dresses, are usually very expensive, as they tend to be made by high fashion designers. For example, Coco Chanel was one of the first creators of the woman’s skirt suit, and her suits are often passed down in families by generations of women. Of course, her very nice modest suits also will set you back about a thousand buckaroos and who has that kind of money these days?

      • Erin Manning says:

        Katherine, I do that too–in the winter! Here in TX when it gets to be triple-digits in the summer, a cardigan over *anything* is awful (I can’t even imagine a blazer). Of course, my biggest problem in finding dresses is that I’m 5’2″ tall. The petite department (what’s left of it) doesn’t sell many dresses, alas.

  46. Sarah says:

    I am a devoted, 20-something Catholic who believes we should dress in a way that glorifies God. But I have to say, I am a bit “put off” from the women’s recommendations (yes, you got in trouble! :)). Why so much emphasis on “not too tight” for women but no mention of modesty for men? As if we are the only sex responsible for purity? Men can wear pants too tight. This fad comes and goes, but is back right now. Men can wear shirts unbuttoned too low. Men can have their boxer shorts hanging out. Please don’t just give “purity” advice to women and leave out the men.

    Btw, if/when I do not have a skirt of slacks available to me (traveling, backed up on laundry, etc), my rule is to dress like I would dress on a date: nice jeans, heels, nice blouse, jewelry, make-up, etc. After all, God is worth *at least* the effort any potential spouse is worth. :)

    • Katherine G ERT says:

      I’m glad someone mentioned jeans and heels. That’s something I wear to church also if I do not have “church clothes” available for whatever reason. Dark jeans are nice, and flattering, and paired with heels, a nice top and a blazer can be quite dressy (that’s actually erring on the dressy side for me because I’m something of a tomboy!) For daily mass if I make it there, I’ve been known to show up in anything from scrubs to sweats (to my understanding daily mass can be much more casual), but occasionally I will dress up a little. I tend to observe what others wear to daily mass or Sunday mass and go from there with my own wardrobe.

    • OK Sarah, well noted. For the record we have had discussions on the blog pertaining to men and modesty:
      I have not noticed that men wear tight jeans much, but to be honest, I don’t pay that much attention to men :-)

  47. adele says:

    Not to turn this very worthwhile article into a fashion commentary but it might be worth mentioning (as the men here, and the Monseignor as well, appear not to appreciate) today’s fashions are designed for the most part for the
    under 25 female …not for the mature woman….regardless of price! However that being said it is still possible for
    most of us to find appropriate clothing for Church. As many have mentioned, the non-Catholics do not seem to
    have this problem. If you stand outside any Protestant Church you will notice the entering congregants in dresses, perhaps an occasional appropriate pant suit, and the men in jackets and ties. Try the same exercise in
    front of most if not all Catholic Churches on any given Sunday and you will think the “beach crowd” has been
    mis-directed. The irony is that only in the Catholic Church do we have the Real Presence…Jesus present to
    us in a SUBSTANTIAL way. Since so few times, if ever, are we reminded of this truth from the pulpit, it would
    appear we have either forgotten or rejected this truth. Yes, God cares what is in our hearts…but our clothing often indicates outwardly that our hearts are indifferent to this Reality. What kind of witness to truth are WE
    presenting with such indifference? Tomorrow I must attend the occasion of the funeral of one of our teen-age parishioners. A very sad event….and one at which I can almost guarantee everyone, from the youngest to the
    oldest, will be appropriately dressed out of respect for the deceased as well as for the family. Do we not owe
    the same respect to He who died for our salvation? After all, every Mass is a BANQUET as well as a re-presentation of Calvary’s Cross! Let us dress as if we REALLY believed that!

  48. Terry says:

    Although I am all for modesty, I feel that once modesty is accounted for, the issue of dress is rather more complex than is being given due.

    Apart from the difficulties a daily Mass goer can face regarding dress – quite likely attending Mass on the way to or from work, shopping etc. and having to do with whatever ‘work clothes’ or such – I can’t help feeling that clothes always bring judgement from other people (as has been noted above). In the past, the rich dressed well; the poor could not. Unfortunately there are still many poor among us, and often the same still stands. Although I like to wear trousers and a shirt (and my Dad always wears a tie to Mass), I am often very much aware that there are those among us whose clothes are ragged and unclean because of personal circumstances. Even today, clothes cannot be separated from making social statements (business suits, designer labels, gang clothes, goths, sports enthusiasts etc.).

    By “dressing up” I feel like I am setting myself apart from those less well off, and even from those who have a different “fashion sense”.

    I realise that it is before God we are presenting ourselves, and that he has a particular affection for the poor. The problem with dress is not the material clothes we wear, but the spiritual clothes – pride, vanity, worldliness etc, versus purity, humility, charity, etc. Once the problem of our spiritual “clothes” is addressed, the issue of our material clothes will solve itself.

    Mother Teresa was asked by Jesus to wear the clothes of the poor that she served – a simple sari.

  49. Jack Smith says:

    Good idea but it will never happen in Georgia. In our church flip flops, jeans (tattered), shorts and general sloppy attire are the norm. the priest never mentions attire, not even to his Deacon who is very sloppy and his running shoes are always visible under his Alb ( which he calls a dress). Old and young alike come to church on Sunday wearing clothes that look like they slept in them and not very clean either. The article makes for wishful reading but it will never be mentioned in Georgia (USA) by the priest and certainly not by the Bishop………

    • Thomas says:

      I guarantee that within driving distance of any Catholic parish anywhere in Georgia there are a dozens of little Protestant churches (Baptist, Pentecostal, etc) where the vast majority attend their religious services on Sundays wearing formal attire, many of them for multi-hour services in both the morning and the evening. There is no reason why modern Catholic Georgians couldn’t ever possibly do the same.

      Before I became Catholic, I was a white trash kid who “got saved” in a Pentecostal church. Jeans were only appropriate for youth group and retreats, not even for state-wide youth rallies. We wore business casual to Thursday night Bible study and we wore formal-wear to both Sunday services, year-round. All the teens belonged to a youth choir that sang every Sunday morning. To go up on the platform in front of the congregation the boys had to wear slacks, a button-up long sleeved dress shirt, and a tie. Most of us also wore jackets most of the time. The girls had to wear long skirts or dresses and at least mid length sleeves. There were other guidelines about hair, shaving, make-up etc.

      I had no nice clothes when I joined that church, the people welcomed me to everything and when i wanted to join the choir I was showered with clothes from older boys in the nicest way. There was a very strict policy in the church that no one should speak to new people about how they dressed (except maybe staff if absolutely necessary). Everyone knew that anyone who kept attending would gradually adjust their wardrobe, but we didn’t want them to stop attending because someone tried to hurry that process along before the new person was ready.

  50. esiul says:

    I should have written last night when your blog first appeared, but it was so late already. Should have known better, it’s not so late tonight but there are so many comments. Anyhow, I agree with you wholly. The priests should sometimes make mention of not so appropriate clothing. Has never happened in my parish, however it was uplifting when Father pleaded with the parents that the kids have at least washed hands when receiving the Eucharist.Thanks for all your efforts.

  51. Kristina says:

    On the issue of modesty I wholeheartedly agree. And I agree that one should be “dressed up” for church, however, “dressed up” is different for different people. I wear jeans and tshirts daily, my work only requires that I don’t wear jeans, so I wear decent pants, sneakers and a tshirt. I’ve worn a dress twice in the last two years, both times at a wedding, one was my own! So dressing up to me is to not be in sneakers and tshirt. I think that jeans can be made dressy very easily with nicer shoes, a nice blouse, and general effort in the appearance of hair and makeup. There are two parishes that I attend, one is technically my home parish, people dress WAY up, but not all in the right ways ( tight, revealing, generally immodest) and I know many people who act as if it’s a fashion show ( from hearing peoples comments and what they say, I’m not just assuming). At the other parish, immodesty Is rare , but jeans tshirts sweats, etc. Are not. In the first parish mentioned there is less sense of community and rampant use of contracteptives, and mire concern over reputation and appearances over actual interior spirituality. Again, I’m not guessing, believe me, I know. In the more casual parish there are families of 5 and 10, enough youth groups, bible studies, and clubs to service the metro area and more seminarians than any other parish in the archdiocese.

    My point is this: while I agree that modesty and appropriateness are important and that one should not take an overly casul approach to church, I cannot agree that dress is an indication of ones seriousness of the mass. Not that I think we should just “come as we are” but my “dressing up” sounds like it is very different from your “dressing up”. Perhaps the times they are a changing.

    • I tried to provide a range of possibilities and things to avoid. I am not trying to micro-define what dressed up means. There is clearly a range of meaning that is quite valid. THe main point is to consider if my clothing reflects some awareness of where I am and whom I am with.

  52. Father John Fleming says:

    I would also want to add to the list that young men do NOT wear baseball caps in Church. In Church tradition men do not cover their heads in Church (although the clergy may, eg birettas, mitres, zuchettos etc). And it is still regarded as an important mark of respect for men to remove head gear at solemn moments such as funerals. So what is it with the baseball caps?

  53. desmond says:

    dress as you want, decently so as NOT to disctract your neighbour or cause fashion parade.
    I go to a Roman catholic church for sunday mass in jeans, T shirt and slippers because its comfort and affordable to me and thats my daily wear. God does not want western dress in undeveloped countries

  54. Bender says:

    Once the problem of our spiritual “clothes” is addressed, the issue of our material clothes will solve itself.

    Well said, Terry.

    We should dress for the occasion, with understanding for the other circumstances of life on any given day and time.

    That can mean dressing as you would to spend time with someone you love, or it can mean dressing as if you were going to work. Sometimes the two manners of dress might be similar, but sometimes not. And if there is a conflict between the two, dressing to spend time with a loved one, especially The Loved One, is far more important than dressing the way you would to go to work. And it doesn’t gain you anything if you wear the finest and best sheep’s clothing in the history of the world if underneath you are a wolf.

  55. Maria Key says:

    Msgr. Pope,

    You make excellent points here, and I wish we would hear more priests exhort us to dressing well for Mass. However, we laity don’t need to wait for that. I’ve been applying roughly the same guidelines that you have outlined here for 20 years. The naysayers who say this will never work, simply haven’t tried it. It is difficult to find modest clothing for women (especially in a style that pleases teens), but it can be done, Furthermore, they don’t need a whole closet full of options. Two per season is really enough.

    As Terry mentioned above, it does get a bit trickier for daily Mass. If I have to choose between being going to Mass “as is”, or not going at all, I choose going “as is”. For example, I allow my son to ride his bike directly from soccer practice to meet us for Mass (which he attends of his own volition). I don’t require that he bring a change of dress clothes and change in the bathroom at Mass. Similarily, those who go to Mass on their lunch hour are going to go in their work clothes, even if that is overalls. I’d like to hear your thoughts on whether the same rules should be universally applied to daily Mass.

    • I think, for the reasons stated by you, that there can be some greater flexibility with regards daily Mass. Sunday is surely the day to get right. Mass is Mass but Sunday Mass is the great high feast of the week and speical decorum seems more necessary then

      • Ray says:

        don’t know of too many jobs that require you to wear flip-flops, t-shirts, or tank tops as part of the job. If it does, bring a jacket or an overshirt to wear at Mass. Just think ahead. The same goes for the lady whose son meets them at church after baseball practice.

        I have known priests who refuse to perform a marriage ceremony if the woman was wearing a low cut or strapless gown.

      • doanli says:

        There are a lot of immodest clothes, styles, on sale at stores these days. Especially for middle age women who don’t want to wear tight clothing which seems to be the trend.

        I like to shop at consignment shops and find a lot of beautiful modest clothing at very low prices!

  56. Mike says:

    Some of the posts here remind me of the behavior of Jesus’ desciples when the children all flocked around Him to hear him teach. Yes, we need to have reverence for the fact that we are entering the presence of the Lord when we go to church, but should we scold those who in their exuberance and excitement to be with Him forget decorum for a moment? I know that that is not necessarily what this blog is about- it is about degenerating customs, or norms of behavior, but once again the comments of many here seem to indicate that they KNOW what is in other people’s hearts based on what they see.

    • This is not an attempt to scold, at least on my part, but, as you point out, to engage in some reflection about how we who are already in the Church dress and what that means.

  57. Luci says:

    So many people seem to relate the issue of how we dress to attend Mass to a “CHURCH” vs Laity issue – patriarchy / Vatican II, etc. I lived for many years below the Mason-Dixon. One of my co-workers attended a large Southern Baptist church that I passed every Sunday morning. The ladies entering that church were DRESSED – suits, hats(oh my the HATS), heels – immaculately groomed. One Monday morning I commented on the “dress-code” to my co-worker and her response has stayed with me. She looked intently at me and said “Christ is my Lord, my Savior and my King. Because he has saved me I am a daughter of the King and when I enter the church I am entering the court of my King as a beloved daughter. I honor Him by attiring myself as befits His daughter.

  58. Joseph says:

    Sorry, but you lost me with dress code. Here’s my suggestion:

    (1) Never wear anything that will challenge your neighbor’s custody of the senses. Halter tops, off color t shirts, and daring hemlines may have their place, but not at the Holy Sacrifice.
    (2) If you can overpower incense, it’s time to pick a fresher pair of duds.
    (3) If people slip their spare change into your pocket instead of the collection plate, remember you are going to be greeting Your Father and Your King. Comfort is good, so is respect. Balance the two.
    (4) A wool suit in 90 degree weather is a greater deterrent to recollection than anything known to man. Use the brain God gave you. A short sleeve shirt, even a clean t shirt is not an offense to God. The stench of moulting sheep may be–and will definitely discomfort your neighbor.

    Pax et bonum.
    –Joe the Ox.

    • It’s not a dress code Joseph. It is my suggestion as to some things to avoid and some reasonable options. Now if you read my remarks then you will know that I did not say men have to wear a wool suit. A nice button down shirt (could be shor sleeved in summer) is fine. Nice comfortable trousers, fine.A tie is nice but I did not say it had to be worn. So I have in fact “used the brain that God gave me.” The point is that there are a range of options but some limits as your own first point seems to indicate.

  59. Hugh says:

    I’ll leave this topic with a couple of questions,

    To those who think that casual clothing shows a lack of respect I ask, by what objective standard to you reach that conclusion?

    Assuming that you come to the inevitable conclusion that no objective standard exists then, by whose subjective standard is everyone to be held accountable and therefore judged? Why? Why is their or your standard of more value or more correct than anyone elses?

    I will be at Adoration tonight with a few friends and will be in jeans and a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt. The fact that I will be at Adoration with friends should say more about my relationship with God than the fact that I will be wearing jeans and a T-shirt.

    I don’t deny that people think what you wear is important; my contention is that they shouldn’t and have no rational reason for doing so.

    • Well it seems you’re just being an iconoclast and hold an extreme poition on this Hugh. Life involves a little give and take and some senistitivity to both standards, and to what other people think. It is true that such things are not the ONLY things but they are factors as we negotiate life’s road. Insisting that clothing should be absolutely no factor is just not reasonable. There is a range of the acceptable so this is not just a matter of one uniform standard but the range has some limits. Such an insight is both reasonable and realisitic.

      • Hugh says:

        Really Father I don’t think ad hominems are warranted; an iconoclast!? And neither are my views extreme. The very fact that you bemoan the tendency for casual dress is surely an indication that a large number of people do not regard their atire as being disrespectful. Unless of course one assumes that they know they are being disrespectful but just don’t care, or are hoplessly naive or just stupid. Or could it simply be that cultural norms are changing and that the suit and tie are becoming less de rigueur?

        I’m certainly not advocating a free for all but I am confident that when people truely understand why they are at Mass and what is actually happening they will act accordingly. Wearing a particular set or style of clothing does not automatically translate into appropriate respect.

        Clothes do not maketh the man

  60. Annie says:

    I wear jeans and solid color t-shirt with no slogans. Sort of loose fitting, not revealing at all. I am middle aged. I am a Benedictine oblate and wish third orders would wear the habit. Jeans and t-shirt are my habit. There is a homeless shelter down the street from our inner city parish. There needs to be one person at Mass who looks more like potential visitors do. At work I wear the same jeans and t-shirt because I don’t work with customers.

    Our parish has a variety of people, jeans and t-shirt people all the way to entire families with the little girls in Dorothy sparkle shoes.

  61. Ted says:

    Can we at least prohibit game jerseys from being worn at Mass? I find it very disturbing that we are gathered together to honor the Lord on His day, and in walks father and son with their Eagles game jerseys. Is it game day, or the Lord’s Day? It’s like nails on a chalkboard!

    • Cynthia BC says:

      It wouldn’t be so bad if they were Redskins jerseys? 😉

    • Will Cubbedge says:

      Try enforcing a ban on jerseys in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. During football season, you’d have a schism on your hands. I once met a priest who had vestments with the Steelers logo on them (stole, chasuble,) just for mass on game days.

  62. Pam says:

    Firstly, thank you Msgr. for your posts — I read them & much appreciate. Your ideas here prompted two thoughts.
    The first being that I attend a rural, small, parish Mass and many of our congregation do wear rural clothing. As an example, a cordouroy jacket, jeans and a pair of boots would be typical. Everyone is neat and clean, but of a more rural ilk. Also, I have attended Mass in summer, lake communities where the clothing is “casual”. Immodest clothing should always be avoided, but I think “situational context” may be important. Even in the 60s when I grew up also, the 6:30 AM Sunday Mass had folks dressed suspiciously like they might be going to the golf course afterwards :-).
    The second thought is of a church my cousin’s family still goes to that never accepted Vatican II changes but that does “pledge allegience” to the pope and evidently is considered in communion with the Church, Their 1960’s dress code is impeccable, but their humility in accepting what the Church believes feels a little wanting.
    I guess in both cases, the expression of “in essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity” would be my take.
    BTW, thank you so much for the description of “girding one’s loins”! I did not know WHAT that meant :-).

  63. Annie says:

    I am in Columbus and of course am sick of the OSU football song and everybody wearing their jerseys everywhere. Midwesterners are very uncool about football. It used to be for the students but now is an industry. I once wore my school’s shirt and was asked about why I didn’t wear an OSU one. “I didn’t attend OSU.” I got a blank stare…

    Maybe we should all wear habits. Habits are good. It’s a great leveler.

  64. Gerry says:

    I look at it this way. If you were invited to a formal dinner with the president, would you go there dressed in jeans or shorts and a t shirt? How much more important is this formal meal with your Creator?

    • Pam says:

      Yes, I too want to participate in this timeless, awesome sacrifice with all the dignity, honor, and humility it demands. What types of social and cultural trappings are tied to it though may not be as important as is the attitude with which we approach it. Respectful attire seems important to me too, but maybe one person’s view of what that may be may vary from another’s. I am no fan of relativism, but in non-essentials like this I think there is value in approaching with charity. As a thought, maybe if people more fully understood just what is happening in the Mass, they may approach it with the dignity it deserves.

    • Erin Manning says:

      Gerry, while I appreciate the spirit of that question, I also think that it can be misconstrued. Most of us would wear a tuxedo (men) or formal evening gown (women) to a formal dinner with the president. Few of us would consider those appropriate garments for Sunday Mass…

      • Corby says:

        I know, it’s sad is it not, that we would wear a tuxedo or evening gown to meet the President but the thought of wearing that attire to the Holy Sacrafice of the Mass would almost be unthinkable?

  65. Rev. Andrew Morkunas says:

    Societal norms influence all aspects of our lives. Call it cultural evolution, but at what point do we say, “enough.” There has been many a time when I would greet people before and after Mass seeing what I consider appalling to wear during the sacrifice of our Lord. Influencing the standard of dress of the laity at Mass is no small task. How do you redefine a societal norm? Establish a standard within your own environs. As clergy we can set the standards for our own lay ministers in the liturgy. Who it be too much to ask our extraordinary ministers, lectors, cantors, altar servers, ushers to dress in suits, ties, and dresses? Set the example, return dignity to the sacred space and the congregation may follow.

  66. Eric Pinola says:

    I would say the more important factor is basic modesty. Being a man I only have a view from one side of this point, but I am sure men a guilty too.

    Women and girls should not have open (reveling) tops, or high-cut (reveling) dresses on. For my sake as a man and for the Priests, Deacons, and alter servers. I cannot believe what some parents allow their daughters to wear sometimes.

    There are the lude attire, normal attire, and very modest attire parishioners in our parish. I don’t think all women should wear an ankle length jean dress; but at least have some modesty.

    Eric Pinola

  67. elleblue says:

    No wonder children don’t know how to dress at Mass! Have you seen their parents? Wow, men in tight short and sandals, women in low cut and no back dresses!

    I’ve seen better and more respectfully dressed people at buddhist teachings. Women almost always wear long skirts or dresses and nothing low cut. Why you may ask? Because most teachings are given by celibate monks and it’s considered disrespectul to them and the teachings!

    I say, let’s follow their example at the very least!

  68. Domenico Bettinelli says:

    Msgr., I know it’s not the focus of your post, but I wanted to comment on the photo. If you had not said that this is a parish church in Chicago, I would swear that this is St. John the Evangelist parish in Canton, Massachusetts. This was my parish when I was growing up. This parish is an exact duplicate of my parish, right down to the Stations of the Cross on the wall, the grate used in front of the baptistry, even the type of marble used for the sanctuary floor and the altar rail. (I spent many hours in that sanctuary as an altar server.) Could you tell me what parish this is? I’m astounded and curious now. Thank you.

    • You may actually be right. I am not certain of the notation in the book I got it out of. It was my first communion manual and came out of the Archdiocese of Chicago. But the exterior view of the Church on the frontispiece may not be the same as the Church in the pictures of the Mass book I received. Now that you mention this, I looked more carefully and the Church on the Frontispiece has windows and other architectual details that do not conform to the interior views of the Church in the pictures inside the book. Hence I should think you are right. It must be St. John’s in Canton. I posted another photo of the Church in today’s blog as well.

      • Domenico Bettinelli says:

        Msgr., I saw the other picture and that must indeed be St. John’s. The altar piece behind the priest is very familiar. It’s actually mostly open structure with hanging fabric and behind it is the choir. To the right, as you look at the priest, is the sanctuary, and to the left was the altar server vesting room and we had to cross behind the altar piece to go back and forth.

        In any case, thanks for bringing back memories and giving me a look at my old parish. Now, I’m *really* curious how photos of a parish in Massachusetts got in a First Communion manual from Chicago.

  69. Mary W. says:

    I agree we should all dress more respectfully. Sometimes I sit and cringe at the short dresses I see young ladies wear or the grunge look of some young boys/men. I do believe we should show respect for the House of our Lord, but I also truly believe that God is more grateful that someone in shorts is sitting there and is at least there then someone who has shown up all dolled up and may not be really there. I am personally glad the days of the Sunday morning fashion show are gone, it makes it easier to concentrate on the Word of God than wondering what Edith or Hans is wearing and oh my gosh they wore that last week too!
    I think opening the door to all, no matter how they are dressed, makes us a more inviting Church. Would Jesus have turned away someone not dressed in their “Sunday best?” Dressing nice does not make you a better Catholic, it more cases than not, it just means you can afford to dress nice.

    • Corby says:

      If I remember correctly a parable from scripture (while I realize there is duality in the meaning) was the guest not cast out who came without wearing a wedding garment? While God is infinitely merciful and loving, He is also infinitely just and all powerful; He commands and deserves the utmost respect in our actions, words and dress, particularly at Sunday Mass.

      Affordability should also never be an excuse to not make an effort to dress as nice as possible for our Lord. Good condition second hand suits and dresses are readily available if we can’t afford new but many are too proud to look.

      • Laura says:

        Here! Here! I can’t afford to buy a lot of new clothes and dresses that are modest because they are extremely expensive. I always buy second hand. And it’s better for the environment. Why go buy a newly milled dress when you can buy something barely used that’s just as good? Many second hand stores sell clothes with the tags still on them. Obviously someone didn’t even bother to wear them.

  70. Nick says:

    The closest thing to a church norm regarding attire in Church that I have found is from para. 1387 from the Catechism:

    1387 To prepare for worthy reception of this sacrament, the faithful should observe the fast required in their Church. Bodily demeanor (gestures, clothing) ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest.

    Would it follow from this that, if my clothing does not convey the respect and solemnity of the moment, that I am not properly disposed to receive the Eucharist?

  71. susan s. says:

    Monsignor: Great picture!! Dressed up for the house of God.

    Where I live, no one dresses up for anything. Nothing. Ever. I only dress up for the traditional Latin mass on Saturday and Sunday.

    Luci, I love how the Baptist ladies dress (and they don’t have the Real Presence!) How did they keep that respect and Catholics lost it?

  72. susan s. says:

    I’m answering my own question above – how did the Baptist ladies keep that respect for the house of God: Because they are strong Baptist ladies, and we lost our strong Catholic ladies: The Nuns. The nuns who told you to get rid of the gum, stop talking, sit up straight, etc etc.

  73. G. Wodzien says:

    Shows an understanding of the importance of dress in Marriage.
    Mat 22:12
    But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

    Below is the connection between Marriage and the Mass
    Cat.1621 In the Latin Rite the celebration of marriage between two Catholic faithful normally takes place during Holy Mass, because of the connection of all the sacraments with the Paschal mystery of Christ. In the Eucharist the memorial of the New Covenant is realized, the New Covenant in which Christ has united himself for ever to the Church, his beloved bride for whom he gave himself up. 121 It is therefore fitting that the spouses should seal their consent to give themselves to each other through the offering of their own lives by uniting it to the offering of Christ for his Church made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice.

  74. Dawn Walker says:

    In Texas, jeans and boots are business attire in the board rooms. In Hawaii, floral shirts are the norm. There are different levels of sophistication-in different locations-that have developed due to the area and temperatures.

    On yet another hand-I have been to Churches on College Campuses, where students attend-especially-daily Mass. When it’s hot outside, they come to Mass wearing the shorts, flip-flops and jeans they had on during the day-for their classes.

    But they are at Holy Mass. Some every day.

    I would betcha Our Lord would rather they be there in the shorts, flip-flops and jeans they had on-than not attending daily Mass-because they were not dressed up.

    And yes, overall, Sunday Mass is (mainly) more dressy…but there are some shorts, flip-flops and jeans.

    But they are THERE. Receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion.

    God Bless.
    +Pax, Dawn

    • THe “at least they’re here” argument does not preclude an examination of what we say by the way dress. To invoke another rather common exprssion: there’s always room for improvement.

      • Dawn Walker says:

        Funny…this (College Church) is the only Church I’ve ever witnessed (in person) where the Daily Mass is full every day-5:30pm each day during the week.

        How many Catholic Churches can boast at their daily Mass-the Church is full? Each day? Well, at least while school (College) is in. Summertime daily Mass-there’s a handful of local parishoners at daily Mass. <-This, I am used to seeing.

        I only wish our daughters would attend daily Mass. They won't go, if they don't have time to go home, do their make-up and hair and change their clothes. We live 20 miles out of town. They would rather miss out. Instead, they watch TV, Twitter/Facebook and play games on their computer before dinner.

        One man at our Church attends daily Mass. He comes in each evening in the jumpsuit he worked in-before going home.

        Which is more pleasing to Our Lord? Our daughters-or the man in the jumpsuit?

        Okay, I'm done.
        Peace Be With You.
        +Pax, Dawn

    • E. Lee says:

      I live in Honolulu where church attire is casual, probably too casual. Shorts and t-shirts are common. Some
      women dress very immodestly in hot pants, low cuts(cleavage!), miniskirts,etc. This can distract the men, and
      embarrasses some women(wives,usually).
      Last year our parish priest admonished us for our informal attire. He’s from the Philippines where they dress more
      respectfully. The Filipinos are usually well-dressed. Nothing changed after his admonition.

  75. Jacqueline D. says:

    When I dress for church, I go with the anticipation that I am invited by Jesus Christ as the apostles were at the last supper. It is an important invitation, not casual, and my attire is only a part of the reverence I want to show our lord. This doesn’t mean I must wear expensive, or fancy clothing. My attire should be modest, clean, and send a message of reverence for the occasion.

    It saddens me to see young people wearing shorts and flip flops, women showing cleavage, and men wearing hats in God’s house as if they were just going next door to share a pizza and watch a ball game.

  76. Alex says:

    Perhaps the words of a wise monk, who was my teacher in two college level literature courses, might contribute to this discussion:

    “I want you to attend to your demeanor in a spirit of seriousness because demeanor expresses one’s disposition of heart towards oneself, towards other persons, and towards the social circumstances in which we find ourselves. . . So, keep in mind that the classroom is neither a locker room nor a dormitory.”

    And further:

    “We are to conduct ourselves as ladies and gentlemen; an undisciplined attire, therefore, is out of place. Our purpose ultimately is to grow in the intellectual virtues: that is, in wisdom (or the knowledge of things through their ultimate causes; science (or the knowledge of things through causality simply); and understanding (or the knowledge of the principles of things evident from experience, yet without scientifically demonstrable proof. This is the area of common sense.)

    A lifetime’s growth in those virtues does not readily happen when one’s mind is focused on ignoble purposes, or when the heart devolves to things that are manipulative, seductive, or base, and not truly beautiful.

    A reductionist mentality, though it can be brilliant, entertaining, and clever, eventually weakens the soul by its hybris (extreme arrogance) towards the mystery of life.”

    I think these words are weighted heavily with thought, and I don’t want to harm them with my own expostulation of them. But I might just say that although he was speaking about our classroom conduct, the same might apply to our church behavior, for in church we too strive to come closer to God and grow in fidelity and virtue. The intellect should be engaged at mass. That being said I leave these words for you all to think about, and hopefully reflect a moment before shooting back an answer.

  77. Paul says:

    Today’s church, at least here in America, is trying to conform; to avoid distinction; to fit in with the current culture.
    “Dressing up”means different things to different cultures. Hollywood drives the culture in America.
    “Dressing up” in Hollywood is like at the Academy Awards; the skimpier, the more “dressed up”.
    At a recent Spanish culture wedding a couple weeks ago, there was real competition by some attendees
    with the Hollywood culture. What a mixture of dress it was. Some young women nearly falling out of their dresses, and some older women with “old fashioned”, full length dresses and chapel veils. Older men in suit and tie, and younger men in shorts and shower clogs. The youngsters were obviously quite proud of their appearance.
    All these “outward” signs of change usually mimic quite accurately the “inner” attitude of the members of a religion. And, a pastor would no more mention any head covering for women than he would dare to mention the word contraception. All this goes together to help change the attitude from “God Centered” to person-centered. This will not get us to heaven.

  78. Geoffery Willims says:

    According to the article above it would seem that we must go to the secular culture to determine our mode/method of dress- How very sad; although at my church a couple of months ago it would seem that a young lady did just that when it came to decide what to wear to mass- she was leading the singing and responses. The sad thing was when she bowed to the altar when she came up to the platform EVERYTHING was showing, well, her underwear was- I guess we are thankful that she was wear them!

    I personally think the lack or respect that is shown at mass by the way we dress, No one genuflects when coming into the pew, instead of reflecting quietly and reverently before the mass starts; nearly everyone is talking loudly, laughing, kids running around- I cant begin to say how many times I have seen people chewing gum and go up to receive the consecrated host- I guess it’s a good thing that I don’t serve (YET), as I would tel them to spit out the gum before serving them.
    Many if not most people point to Vatican 2 as to the beginning of these problems- maybe yes may not,but it is certainly obvious at least to me that it seems to be the Beginning of these very serious issues in my opinion.

    Maybe the Traditionalist Catholic churches have something after all that we need to look at….

  79. Terri says:

    The way one dresses for Mass does, I think, reflect their “respect” level. I do believe there is a place for casual dress, but I think Sunday is a day we should dress respectfully……we are going to MASS to be with Our Lord! That doesn’t mean you can’t go with Jeans and a T shirt….but personally, I think the jeans should be “good jeans” and the T shirt should at least have a collar. Be clean and neat as well. Strange emblems which take on an almost occult meaning should NEVER BE WORN TO MASS. (believe it or not, I have seen a few in my parish) I am happy to report, one of the priests in our parish has laid the law down (so to speak) on lewd and immodest dress at Mass. Don’t see much of that anymore, thank goodness.

    And even though this doesn’t pertain exactly to dress………if receiving communion in the hand….HANDS SHOULD BE SPARKLING CLEAN. (we should be clean all over, paying particular attention to hands)

  80. Cynthia says:

    So glad to read posts like this, cos they get us thinking about some issues we take for granted. We should not see this as a way to dictact for people what to and what not to wear. This should help ups reflect on the way we approach issues concerning important things in our lives.
    One of the reasons I think faith is reducing in our lives is the fact that we have loosing that sense of awe and occasion as this news anchor puts it.
    Lets look at it this way, if we were invited to have dinner with the president or to receive an award, one would not hear some of the “I feel comfortable in them” comments. We would dress up in our best and try to look good and presentable. Or think about people going for an interview or some big social functions, people usually put on nice things.
    Again I repeat that we should not see this issue as trying to take away our “freedom”, rather it should help up when we are excising this freedome and make good choices for what we wear and how we wear them. There is really nothing wrong with putting on a jean and and nice shirt and shoes. The issue is to look good.
    The really good aspect of dressing up, especially to church, is to keep alive the sense that this is not just another of those casual events, but we are in the presence of each other, to worship our God and maker.
    Once we begin to casualise and trivilise everything, the begin to loose their meaning and after a while you hear some people saying, this makes no sense to me. Well may we you or I have removed the sense from it.

  81. Laura says:

    I apologize in advance that my comment will be long. I worked at a church as a youth minister. One of the topics we discussed was modesty and what we wore to church. I asked the teens to run an experiment and see if wearing a nice pair of pants, button down shirt, etc. made a difference in how they were treated in Mass. No one tried it out. They didn’t even want to. Instead they wore what they always wore: short skirts, low cut blouses, flip flops, torn up jeans, etc. I was very disappointed, but it seems that this is the norm of our youth. To top it all off, I’m not that much older than them. I’m in my 20s. What’s worse is that their parents, who are older than myself, wear the exact same things to Mass. It seems to me that it’s very difficult to encourage teens and older children to dress appropriately if their own parents won’t ditch the jeans for a nice skirt.

    And it isn’t just the teens that I’ve noticed doing this. Yesterday, I noticed a girl about 9 or 10 was wearing a tank top, daisy duke shorts, and calf high boots to Mass with her younger sister and her grandmother. Why did the grandmother not tell her to wear something more appropriate? And why is a young girl thinking that a “sexy” outfit is appropriate to have in her closet in the first place? I’m appalled.

  82. Russell Rentler, M.D. says:

    Dear Msgr:
    I just posted about this issue of dress on my blog and was directed by a commenter to your blog post here. My issue comes more from the point of those of us who have struggled with purity for years and find that the way people dress in Mass becomes a possible occasion of sin for us weaker ones. I have to be honest, I enjoy daily Mass at 630 AM (instead of Mass on Sunday) more because this is not such an issue.
    God bless you, for this post.

  83. kkollwitz says:

    “I cannot agree that dress is an indication of ones seriousness of the mass”

    In the parable of the Wedding Feast, the only person thrown out is ejected because he is not properly attired:

    And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:

    And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.

    Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

  84. Magdalene says:

    Interesting those that defend sloppy and immodest dress for Mass. I have heard the tired argument, “Well at least they (we) are coming to Mass”. Are they? Would they use the same amount of care to meet the Queen of England or the President? Does not the King of Kings deserve a little more respect than that? Are these the same ones chewing gum and thrusting out dirty hands to receive Holy Communion? Does it really mean anything?

    My sons were not allowed to wear jeans to Sunday Mass. And going to Mass on Sunday was not optional. This IS a SPECIAL occasion!

    The ‘at least they are present’ argument is a hollow one. The ‘everyone dresses like this’ or ‘we dress like this at board meetings’ does not cut it either. One is coming to the greatest act of prayer on the face of the earth: dress as if you know it! Everyone one else dressing poorly or in from the gym does not apply.

    Teaching religious ed to middle school, I always asked the girls to dress as modestly as they can so as to BE CONSIDERATE of others. When there is a girl in front of me (it happened last Sunday) in a short short thing, it distracts me so I know it distracts my husband and sons. It is calling attention to self. I know most do not even consider this. They need to.

    Yes, I am tired of the sloppy approach to Mass.

    Students on their way to class and so on is not Sunday Mass. I wore jeans then too. I never do now, not even for daily. I wear a dress or skirt. I might be the only female doing so. But how would Our Lady be dressed? That is my standard. What is yours?

  85. Savanah says:

    I understand how dressing up can be related to respect. However, the Lord judges the heart not the clothes. You are sitting in judgement here. Perhaps the church needs to spend more time focusing on spreading the word of Jesus instead of their silly rules. Would a beggar in rags be turned away? Are we always juding the outer appearance of people and never realizing that they are there at the mass too? What gives us the right to say they are any less because they dress casually? Nothing. The world is falling apart and yet these conversations of meaningless issues continues in the catholic church. Perhaps we all need to love our neighbor and stop judging them.

  86. John Laurence says:

    Thank you Msgr Pope for courageously taking on this explosive topic. Where is all the respect for priests these days? Everyone seems to want to opine according to their own comfort zones…and seem to be missing the whole point put forth by this humble priest. Attending mass is for worshiping God…period! It is not a ‘social’ gathering. It is not subject to a ‘democratic’ vote on how to approach it. It is about giving our all to the God Who created us. Dressing to look attractive…is itself a distraction from worship…either for the person dressing that way or for the ‘weak’ individuals who cannot help but ‘look’ at the many, many people who dress immodestly – which is a direct result of ‘doing one’s own thing’! LISTEN TO THIS HUMBLE PRIEST!!! He is trying to lead us to holiness!

  87. elias attea says:

    i just have say St Anthony of the desert,acts 7 48 that is St Anthony a hermit with the same clothes every day he never changed them nor did he wash yet God was with every day.

  88. Ray says:

    I agree with the tenor of this article. There ought to be an outward sign of respect for the sacrifice of the Mass and dressing casually or immodestly doesn’t cut it. That said, it seems that the liturgy of the Mass itself sometimes lacks dignity. I occasionally attend Mass in the Maronite rite and the Tridentine rite and find that the these ancient rites seem to foster a more reverant and dignified posture among the attendees. The Novus Ordo can be celebrated in a respectful way but there is often a casual approach by both the priest and the faithful that diminishes the sacredness of the Mass and leads to a more casual and immodest way of dressing.

  89. Paulmac says:

    I nearly always wear a tie to Mass on Sundays – and this is in Australia, which is at least as sloppy in dress as the US – but not necessarily on weekdays, when I would wear a decent shirt and a jumper (pullover, jersey, whatever you call it) in cold weather. Seeing our Prime Minister or your Obama in open-necked shirts with a suit always looks daggy to me. Most shirts we have are designed to be worn with a tie. As for claiming it’s better to be at Mass in scruffy jeans than not to be there is just an excuse. The operative word is “scruffy”. and more often than not it is a deliberate attempt to look scruffy. Decent, clean, modest clothes should be the rule.

  90. Charlene says:

    Interesting article and posts!!!

    I have seen the change in attire not only at Sunday Mass, but all through the culture I live and work in. My argument was accept a person where they were and don’t judge their attire.

    Although after visiting the Shrine of The Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville Al. for the last several years, has change my view and perspective. When I witness folks with sincere and true dignity worshiping Our Lord modestly dressed and with a real heart for PRAYER, left me in awe.
    This has had a lasting affect on how I present myself to our Lord at mass and in this journey called life.

  91. Marguerite says:

    I totally agree that we Catholics do not respect the Host of our Mass invitation. Some look upon attending Mass as an obligation, which it is, and so “I will go, but as I please.” I do wear a skirt or dress, and modest blouses. I even went on a spree buying hats, and I wear one every Sunday to Mass. I get lots of looks, and only a few others have been so brave to wear a hat sometimes. I guess I do look out of place..but as far as it goes, so do those who wear halter tops, spaghetti straps, tight low-cut jeans, midriffs, backless halter tops, flip-flops, and on and on….I hope the Holy Father decides to put a dress code for the Mass in the new Lectionary…especially for those “extraordinary ministers” who don’t usually dress that much better either.

  92. Jay Stann says:

    Where are the homilies that tie into the subjects of SIN, MODESTY, DRESSING to respect OUR Lord, and endless subjects that would teach the laity once again how to LIVE their faith in the home and in the workplace? I have not heard any almost since Vatican II..(in the place where I live)……….God forbid anyone rocks the boat and chases anyone away………….

  93. Laura says:

    I can not remember what encyclical it is (I believe it is on Modernism) but there is one that discusses appropriate dress. We do dress up for church and never appear before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament looking like we rolled out of bed. If you can dress up for an interview I am pretty sure it would not burden any of you to dress up for our Lord. Now if your reasons are you really do not have the means , then come as your are. I really doubt that is the reason for most of the immodest and disresrecful choice of clothing. At our church men women and children follow the recommended attire and the homeless that walk in from the street don’t seem to feel out of place, but you can tell even they make the attempt to put on their best for the Lord.

  94. Mary says:

    I believe that being at Mass is being in the court of The King. What we cannot see are the heavenly court about the altar. By dressing properly, we acknowledge that we are before The King of Kings and in His Presence. I wouldn’t go to the White House in jeans and a t-shirt for a state dinner. How much more important is our Lord in His Presence on the altar?

  95. Karen says:

    While I always make it a point to dress nicely when I attend mass, I think it’s more important for people to attend, even if they are dressed casually. I don’t think there is anything wrong with wearing a decent pair of jeans to mass. Women should be aware of not wearing short that are too short or right, or very low cut shirts. Modesty is essential, it’s inappropriate to dress as though one is going to a nightclub. But if it means wearing a clean pair of jeans and a casual shirt to attend mass, so be it. The important thing is to attend.

    • J. Stann says:

      I think you missed the point here. Would you wear a pair of jeans to the White House? Would you wear a pair of jeans to a formal dinner? We don’t think twice about dressing appropriate to impress others but we accept dressing down for our Lord at Mass? That doesn’t make any sense …….

  96. Jo Jo says:

    I always ask my kids “If grandma is embarrassed to sit by you at church then you should not wear it.” Modest also means not over dressing, too. Like school, church became a fashion contest and has the money to buy the expensive clothes.

  97. Sam says:

    To go into St. Peter’s in Rome, you cannot wear shorts, or very short skirts, or halter tops, tank tops, etc…the guards at the entrance offer shawls for cover up..there are even women ON THE ALTAR who wear very low cut tops and shorts 4 or 5 inches above their knees…how can the altar boys concentrate when they are staring at the woman across the altar who is trying to pull her skirt down a bit…unsuccessfully. And when men come up to receive communion from a woman whose breasts are flowing over, they get embarrassed…our priests are afraid to say anything…I’ve seen people go into Protestand Churches and Synagogues for services and they are dressed appropriately…the issue of what to wear need not be complicated…and I would not start with wearing ‘hard shoes’ … just simply at first…skirts below the knee, no haltars or tank tops, no spaghetti straps…but I would start teaching about this in the winter…explaining that if we were going to see the Pope or the President, we would dress appropriately…we come to worship the Lord Jesus Christ, present on our altars…people would come to understand in time…

  98. karen tappa says:

    I am a church organist and while appropriate dress is important, it makes me happy to see kids in church whether they have jeans or dress pants on. On the other hand, its the gum chewing I can’t stand. I wish priests would address that issue more. It seems to be worse during funerals and weddings.

  99. Barbaranne McGrady says:

    Clean, subdued and modest clothing should be worn to Mass. Get rid of Hollywood, and you will get rid of a whole lot of filth.

  100. Barbaranne McGrady says:

    Clean, subdued and modest clothing should be worn at Mass. Hollywood has done more harm than good. Get rid of Hollywood and you will get rid of a whole lot of filth.

  101. Lorraine says:

    Internal formation must take place before the external formation. What you see is only a testimony of what is going on spiritually inside the soul. For instance, beach attire in church would reflect a soul that equates going to Mass with going to the beach….it is just one more thing to do….with no sense of profound communion with the King of Kings.
    Immodesty reflects a soul that is caught up in cultural seductiveness and has no sense of holy ground.
    Internal formation is necessary, good shepherds must help souls to know the living Christ and respect their bodies as His temple.

  102. Ubipetros says:

    I always tried to wear a jacket and tie to Mass as an example to my children. Today is Sunday and I stayed the weekend on a business trip down south. My last pair of clean dress trousers are black and the temp is going to be a humid 96-98. My Yankee blood is tempting me to wear a pair of dress shorts and a short sleeve button collar shirt. So conflicted…

  103. Donna S. says:

    You may disagree with me, but I dress very conservatively and personally I find pants on women to be muchy more modest and conservative than I do a dress or a skirt. Pants keep you legs fully covered and that’s the way I prefer to be dressed when attending Mass.

    • Marika says:

      i agree 100% – in our culture today, where the majority of women have their legs covered by pants, dresses and skirts draw much more attention to their bare legs (even when wearing hose), and the fact that their private parts are much more uncovered than if they were “girded” by pants. Besides this, i would like to comment on many of the “conservative” families i have seen in churches, where all the women and girls in the family look like a bunch of in-breds – homely looking long skirts mismatched with high-necked, long sleeved blouses, clunky shoes, unstyled straight long hair and veils…people who have seen this “style” know exactly what i mean. Why don’t they just wear a burka – or cover the females in potato sacks down to the floor? To dress modestly is the point – but with beauty, so as to be pleasing to the eye without being proud or seductive. We are going to present ourselves before Our Lord, Risen and Present in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar – let’s not just focus on “covering up at all costs.” God has made us in His Image – let us present ourselves and our children to Him in a fitting and lovely fashion.

      • Tim says:

        Perhaps your a bit harsh let alone wrong, in judgment of the external dress of the females you have seen in Church – the ones in particular who “…look like a bunch of in-breds……”.

        If these clothes are all they can afford – and for THEM and THEIR standards – it’s all they have which is nice enough to wear to church, I think that the difference in standards, defined by YOUR judging them, says volumes about who YOU are.

        I would much rather go “before Our Lord”, as You say, dressed like one of them – …..then dressed all Cosmopolitan like – with a haughty attitude such as you have portrayed.

        God bless you – and shed focusing so much on the external that you forsake getting to know the person enough to be familiar with their soul.

      • Saoirse says:

        Marika says:
        June 13, 2010 at 11:52 am
        i agree 100% – in our culture today, where the majority of women have their legs covered by pants, dresses and skirts draw much more attention to their bare legs (even when wearing hose), and the fact that their private parts are much more uncovered than if they were “girded” by pants. Besides this, i would like to comment on many of the “conservative” families i have seen in churches, where all the women and girls in the family look like a bunch of in-breds – homely looking long skirts mismatched with high-necked, long sleeved blouses, clunky shoes, unstyled straight long hair and veils…people who have seen this “style” know exactly what i mean. Why don’t they just wear a burka – or cover the females in potato sacks down to the floor? To dress modestly is the point – but with beauty, so as to be pleasing to the eye without being proud or seductive. We are going to present ourselves before Our Lord, Risen and Present in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar – let’s not just focus on “covering up at all costs.” God has made us in His Image – let us present ourselves and our children to Him in a fitting and lovely fashion.

        …………………………..uuuuuuh Marika ? I haven’t a clue where you reside but all women and female children dress appropriately for Mass, and the Orthodox,Pentecostals etc the same–and I have yet to see what you observe. I’ve never seen sack dresses ,loose lanky hair or inbreds.
        and you give a very strange defense of trousers regarding “private parts”– ????

  104. Bob Rio says:

    its either we forget or don’t know what purgatory is really about that the suffering in purgatory is about the things we take for granite before the Lord. The way people dress today in church is appalling. No one wants to speak the truth because there afraid of ruffling there feathers. A good coach dose not tell you what you want to here but what you need to here. The priest should put signs in front of the church doors about in modest dress. In 1917 Our Lady told the three visionaries that the coming fashions would be of great offense to GOD and that many would go to hell for the sins of the flesh. Among the most guilty are we Christians. So much of our faith and Scripture are grounded in modesty and yet increasing numbers have been and still are violating it without thought or arrogance. St. Paul writes to the Galatian community: My point is you should live in accordance with the Spirit, and you will not yield to the cravings of the flesh. The flesh lusts against the Spirit, the Spirit against the flesh. the two are directly opposed.” Gal. 5:17. If we love our brothers and sisters we haft to speak the Truth. May GOD be with you.


    Dear,dear Monsignor, You have the courage of martyrs and the sensitivity of a new mother. I applaud you and am hoping you are also persevering. Don’t give up this excellent and necessary effort. You are up against myriads who believe that ANY standard can be raationalized against; it’s the custom here or wherever, dress doesn’t necessarilly indicate one’s interior disposition (really,it often does),financial situations, personal ease and comfort , etc.,etc, ad nauseum. I say, “GROW UP PEOPLE!” Too many of you are a serious occasion of sin as you present yourself for Holy Mass. First you examine and adjust your interior disposition (do you really believe that thids is really and truly the body and blood of Jesus you are approaching?) …then you dress accordingly. No excuses. There will always be bona fide exceptions (the key words are BONA FIDE) and that would mean that those dressed in less than the appropriate attire would be rare indeed and everyone would recognise that they were there due to special circumstances. Most importantly God would know. You can give it any name you want, but if lazinesss and I-can’t-be-bothered-to-change-clothes is the real reason you are dressed in shorts and flip flops, rest assured He knows.

    You are in a sacred place for a sacred purpose. Dress accordingly (surely you have a clue what that means), AND leave the gum at home.

    Just as a side note .. a little story from my teens. A pastor was presiding at a wedding. He approached the couple and could not avoid noticing that the bride was extremely well endowed and her wedding gown was extremely low cut. Very quietly he pulled his clean handkerchief from his pocket, shook it to unfold it and placed it across the chest of the bride. The ceremony then began.

    God bless you dear Monsignor. Would that we had more shepherds who were really leading their flocks

  106. M. Popham says:

    Our Lady of Fatima said “certain fashions will be introduced that will offend Our Lord very much.”
    She also told us in the Fatima Message: “more souls go to hell for sins of the flesh than any other reason.”

    Modesty first presupposes respect for the body itself as the Temple of the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. 6:19). or
    better put, with love and respect for God Himself present in my body, and then charity to one’s neighbor, who
    can suffer temptations and fall into sin if I do not dress and behave modestly.

    The essential guidelines that the Holy See gave in this matter are summed up in the one paragraph which
    A dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers breadth under the pit of the
    throat ; which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows; and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knees.
    Furthermore, dresses of transparent materials are improper.

    Regarding the above statement: AT the direction of Pope PiusXI, Donato Cardinal Sbaretti, Prefect of the
    Congregation of the Council, on the Feast of the Holy Family (January 12, 1930) issued this rule as to what
    constitutes modesty in dress. This statement is the most specific and in this sense the most authoritative
    ever made on the subject of modesty by the Church. No other Pope has changed or modified it.
    The statement was and still is binding in conscience. Note that the statement gives only the minimum
    requirements by stating, “A dress cannot be called decent etc…”Richard J Lloyd, “On Christian Modesty: The
    Natural Guardian of Chastity”, Reprinted from The Remnant, pp.2-3, Cf. Rita Davidson, Immodesty Satan’s
    Virute, Little Flowers Family Apostolate, 2001 Lanark, ON p. 121

    All that I have submitted comes from the informative booklet: Our Lady of Fatima Stressed…MODESTY IN DRESS,
    which can be obtained from, The Fatima Center. Toll free; 1-800-845-3047

    Dressing respectfully and modestly in church (Christ’s Presence) should be of paramount
    consideration for numerous and obvious reasons.

    • steve s. says:

      You stated facts which the Archdiocese should have stated. It is truly a shame that the laity are more versed in Roman Catholicism then the clergy. The clergy are lax and laid back, which is why we have the godless man we do in the White House. No murderer can make Just Laws! Fatima will be fulfilled and in fact we are losing our freedoms and Russia is spreading its errors!!!People are blind; the consecreation had it have been done properly would have resulted in Russia being converted to Catholicism. Our Blessed Lord wanted His mother honored the way she was in 1950 with the establishment of the Feast of the Assumption. The Bishops of the World do not have enough faith, just as John the XXIII ignored Sister Lucia’s writings and request.
      Woe to all of us for what is about to happen, because so goes the Catholic Church so goes the world!
      The nonsense of Vatican II has taken its toll, and most people do not even recognize sin…..
      Our world is so immoral that most people dress and act like lustful animals! It is in the music, talk, in church, it is everywhere one goes. There is no true charity, only humanism……and immorality.
      Look at how college students act on spring break, look at what they call beauty contest, no one can watch TV or go to the movies anymore, because of the trash they show as entertainment.
      Small wonder God is so hurt and unhappy with us. He gave to us His greatest blessings.

      • Kara says:

        I agree with you Steve and thank you for your comment. It’s so true. All of it! God have Mercy on us!
        I recently read a message given to Valentina Papagna of Sydney, Australia. (Read Below)

        21st March, 2010

        Visit In Purgatory with the Holy Angel.

        We arrived in a very large area. Many people everywhere. As we drew closer I noticed that they were all priests waiting for relief.

        They begged me to pray for them for relief.

        I came to a group of Italian priests. They stretched out their arms to me and said, “Valentina, you help all the others. Please don’t forget us. We count on you.”

        We spoke to each other in Italian. I said, “What happened to you all? There are so many of you. What have you done that there are so many waiting here?”

        They said, “Valentina, we disobeyed and didn’t speak the truth to those in our care, about confession, behaviour in the church concerning reverence, sacrilege in Holy Communion and the modernism creeping into the church which offends God very much. This is why we have to pay such a high price. Please help us.”

        All the priests were clothed in very dark brown pants and shirt, similar to a prison outfit.

        Lord, have mercy on all these Holy Souls.

        —Our Lord’s Requirements of dress as Given to Valentina—
        Our Lord says, “My church is not an ordinary house, My children. It is My castle and your King lives in it. There I am, night and day (in the Tabernacle). There, also is the Most Holy Trinity, there is My Mother, Mary Most Holy, there are Angels and Saints who praise Me constantly, but you, My children, give Me so little reverence. This upsets Me so much.”


        Modest clothing, both men and women, covering their flesh. For women – skirts below the knee, sleeves past the elbow. The Blessed Mother prefers feminine apparel rather than dressing like men. For men – long trousers and long sleeved shirts.

        (Regardless of the messages validity I think we owe God our COMPLETE Reverence and Respect as well as our complete Love. Love means Sacrifice…self sacrifice of doing what we may not feel like for love of God.
        If you truly beleiev the Eucharist is the Body ,Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present you would not dare to enter the Mass in anything other than your best dress and especially if receiving him in Holy Communion!

      • Bernie says:

        The apparitions of Valentina Papagna are completely false. Just google it and you will see the truth. Vatican II was a church council, therefore ligitimate. Those who refute it are flirting with heresy.

  107. L Canty says:

    The statement by the Blessed Mother at Fatima is SO TRUE. Last weekend I was in Norfolk VA at Christ the King and a christening occurred. The Godmother was literally falling out of the top of her low cut dress that was also too short and had spike heels. Others in the group dressed similarly, both provacative and revealing as they poised in front for everyone to pray for them and the baby at the holy water font with the priest and his assistants doing the baptism during the mass. I wished the priest said something, although at that time, I am certain he just wanted to be PC as he was all smiles to everyone, as was everyone in the church, but it was such a distraction. Unless you were blind, this cultural acceptance of such dress, which seemed apparent, is simply wrong. Frankly, neither dress, morality, or sins of the flesh, “which send most souls to hell” according to the Blessed Mother at Fatima, are hardly ever topic in the many churches I have attended across the US, so the sin continues to grow, not unlike this oil eruption with no solution, just pollution of our culture.

  108. Judy K. says:

    With the length of some skirts and dresses these days, dress slacks could be far more modest. I, too, am appalled at the way some folks dress for Sunday Liturgy. You would never find a Jewish worshiper wearing jeans, shorts, tank tops, to Shabat services. And here we are in the Real Presence of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and we dare to approach Him in such a fashion. I am sure that He weeps.

  109. nmm says:

    I guess I’m really an old fud at heart, ’cause I thought you were going to have a list practically requiring women to wear burkhas, but it’s close to what I wear every day.

    I think dresses and skirts are nicer, but some years the trends are so bare or short or tight, it’s almost better to err on the side of more casual. We seem to be in a fairly ladylike trend right now, though, and pretty, full-skirted, to-the-knee skirts are quite in vogue and look lovely on girls and ladies of all ages.

    This dress-down trend is everywhere, however. It’s appalling how badly people dress for even the most upscale restaurants and events. We old fuds dress up when we go to good restaurants but, more often than not, we find ourselves seated next to people in jeans and ratty tee-shirts with slogans and logos on the front of them. Kind of spoils the evening.

    In defense of Church dressing, part of the problem is that the lay people who are involved with the Mass are often very casually dressed themselves. It seems silly to wear a dress and heels and pearls and a casmere wrap and all that when the woman handing me Communion is wearing track pants and a Nike tee-shirt and a pair of sneakers, or jeans and Tevas. The strange thing is I’ve never been in a parish where the altar boys and girls aren’t read the riot act if they have jeans and sneakers peeping out from under their cassocks, yet the adult EMs dress like they breezed in while taking their dogs out for a walk, or something.

  110. nita ashhurst says:

    I agree with the dress code in the church,first we are not at the beach,nor in the grocery store.if we can dress
    beatifully when we attend party or wedding.why can’t we dress up properly in dressup accordingly.we go to church to worship not to dance the disco. nor going to the park.please lady’s respect yourself ,and the house of worship.

  111. female in Texas says:

    I’d be hard pressed to tell you what people wear at Mass, daily or Sunday. I’m not there looking at other people, I’m trying to pray. All this discussion about what people wear… Are the commentors spending their time people-watching or liturgy-watching? I get so sick of so many people in the congregation sitting there in the pew after Communion staring at everyone going up to and coming back from Communion. In my opinion they should be praying with their eyes closed or downward-looking ; or praying out of the missalette or a prayer book ; or singing the Communion hymn. I pray for them as I walk past them hoping they will lift their souls and hearts to the Lord instead of evaluating everyone else in the Church.

    • nmm says:

      How do you know what’s going on in their hearts and souls? Often it may seem as if someone is looking at you or looking at others, but their hearts, minds and souls are focused on prayer while their eyes are just sort of generally looking forward.

      Aren’t you the one evaluating everyone else when you watch them and where their eyes are and then decide you know what’s going on in their hearts and souls? If your eyes are downwards, how come you know — or think you know — where everyone else’s eyes are?

      • Rose Marie says:

        When I get this trite excuse for laziness and disrespect from my children I remind them of the passages the author missed. God asks for our best! The scriptures are rich in passages where God asks for the first fruits, the whitest lamb, unblemished sacrifices. God does notice and HE knows. If a factory worker has to rush from job to church to keep his/her obligation and only has time to wash his/her hands and run a comb through his/her hair God knows that is the best that could be done that day. Sadly we use the phrase “judge not” as an excuse to appear before the Lord in any manner of shabbiness, all because we just cannot be bothered. Sadly in the Roman Catholic churches, where the true presence of Christ unfolds daily, is where dress is the shabbiest. Protestant churches have not wholly sunk to where Catholics have. For those of us who know who is present, it is embarrassing.

    • Saoirse says:

      that’s all well and good that you are not afflicted by the sight of tank tops and butts hanging out of cut offs–it’s kind of hard not to notice this esp when they’re seated directly infront of you-……and if you are sooooooooooo pious—how is IT that you still see others watching who’s going to Communion etc ?………””Are the commentors spending their time people-watching or liturgy-watching? I get so sick of so many people in the congregation sitting there in the pew after Communion staring at everyone going up to and coming back from Communion”””

  112. Brian Browne says:

    It is no surprise that, with people like Charles Pope (who doubtless wears all sorts of fancy dress to impress his god), the church has lost touch with the younger genration.

    • Peace be with you too Brian. By the way it’s God, not god. Impressing God is a pretty pointless thing, I already had his love before I was ever formed in my mother’s womb (Jer 1:4).

    • Barb Hurst says:

      Brian: peace be with you! I am a mother of a 14 year old son and am very aware of what the “younger generation” things about clothing / modesty. I am thankful to God that my son goes to a phenomenally devout Catholic School in Manassas, VA called Seton School — and even here they strongly encourage modest dress, especially in Mass. Brian, I would challenge you to think about a good God who loves us so much that He gave himself to us — physically on the Cross and every single day at the celebration of the Mass. If you were to go out on a date with someone you loved and wanted to honor, would you dress up for them? Mass is the highest form of prayer — and the greatest gift from God. It’s not too much to honor Our Beloved Lord when we go to Mass for one hour…do you think? He died for our sins and gave himself completely so that we may have eternity in heaven…is it so much to ask that we honor him in our dress? May God bless you and fill you with his peace, Brian.

      Monsignor Pope, may God bless you a millionfold for speaking truth to God’s flock. I pray you may always have that boldness and courage to confront such modernism in our society today. I will pray for you, Father. Many blessings to you.

    • Dora G says:

      Thank GOD Monsignor Charles does not have to answer to you, Brian. He has to answer to Almighty GOD about how he has directed the flock and those he guides. This, too, is part of that responsibility. Everything has become so watered down that “the younger generation” no longer has anything to aspire to, to want to lift their hearts to. It’s really a shame, because what many young people truly hunger and thirst for is the truth and GOD. Those who have found the truth and ask GOD what He asks of them invariably end up attending Church often, dressing modestly, not shabbily, and wanting to please Him Whom they have found. I pray the same for you!

  113. steve s. says:

    So there is NO Formal Dress Code for the Church? NOT SO! The Archdiocese of Washington would do well to go to Rome and become Roman Catholics! Pope Pius XII put out a dress code for church, of course here in the US it was ignored, like most writings from Rome.
    Men should be dressed in suits or slacks with shirts and ties. Women should be in dresses, with sleeves just below the elbow and their blouses should be no more than two fingers off the throat. Pants should not be worn by women, as they are too form fitting and draw attention to a women private area. The same is true with sheer clothing. One should not be able to see a woman’s underwear.
    Everyone should have on dress shoes and not beach attire.
    God is our creator and He is the King of Kings, not some celebrity. Many people today go to church to be seen. I had the bad luck to have some 20 somethings in front of me with the guy fondling the girls privates
    at the Creed(Nervious Ordeal). The same guy handed out communion.
    The Cardinals and Bishops are responsible for the lax and laid back, causal feelings people have developed
    toward God and His Church.
    Roman Catholics need to be just that and know their church history!

  114. Jim says:

    What else changed in 1969? Hmm … see any connection?

  115. Jen says:

    I wanted to tell everyone interested in modest clothing about our family run store.

    We offer clothing that meats, and exceeds the dress code mentioned in the comment above by M. Popham

    “The essential guidelines that the Holy See gave in this matter are summed up in the one paragraph which
    A dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers breadth under the pit of the
    throat ; which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows; and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knees.
    Furthermore, dresses of transparent materials are improper.”

    Our on line store is

    Hope we can help in the battle to dress modestly!

  116. Colleen Hammond says:

    KUDOS, Monsignor!!!

    And I agree that it’s not just at Church that we ought to dress with dignity…but in all walks of our daily life. Remember the old commercial, “Curlers in your hair! SHAME ON YOU!!!” ???

    We’ve lost a sense of good manners and charity to others as well. Reverence and respect have taken a back seat to comfort and conceit.

    And I firmly believe that God DOES care what we wear:

    “And the eyes of them both were opened: and when they perceived themselves to be naked, they sewed together fig leaves, and made themselves aprons. And the Lord God made for Adam and his wife, garments of skins, and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:7,21)

    Why else did He make tunics for Adam and Eve to replace the fig leaf aprons? (The Latin Vulgate uses the word “tunicas”)

    I think one of the many reasons women get confused is because we don’t understand how easily men are visually distracted to 6th and 9th Commandment issues—sending their minds in the wrong direction and their feet into the Confessional to fix it. (Cf St. Matthew 5:28: “But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.”) And when we gals wear things that are “sexy” and knowingly cause other men to “look” at us, we share in the man’s sin. AND since all sins of impurity are grave (the Church defines that as mortal sin—as long as a person realizes it is grave and does it anyway)….YIPES!

    I won’t restate the Vatican’s guidelines for dressing with dignity as others have already done so, but I’ve put together a practical “Outfit Guideline” for us to ‘test’ what we’re wearing and see if it follows Rome’s rules:

    And just because we’re dressing modestly doesn’t mean we’re dressing like a frump. That was my concern, too…and one of the reasons I wrote “Dressing with Dignity”. (Shameless plug:

    I’m currently in the final stages of making a sign to hang in the back of churches to remind people that–when they’re in God’s House–out of respect for God and those present, a certain dress code is required.

    Good luck with your dress code, Monsignor Pope!!! And may God bless you!!!!!!!!

  117. Laura O @ Day by Day in Our World says:

    Seeing a Priest writing on this issue is wonderful. Watching the attire go downhill at a rapid rate to the current anything goes has bothered me for years. And I was born post Vatican II with no first hand knowledge of wearing a veil.

    I guess the thing that bothers me the most about the super casual dress is that almost every single one of those individuals has something appropriate in their closets that they are more than happy to pull out for a wedding, funeral, attending First Communion for a child, or quite possible to go to work. Sometimes the outfits are so distracting to me that I can no longer focus on the Mass without a quick prayer and hope of God’s Grace to leave the distraction behind me. Maybe that is why our family enjoyed the option of a weekly Latin Rite Mass when we lived near Delaware ~ everyone carried themselves with dignity and dressed respectfully!

    How we choose to dress can definitely affect our own mindset. If I went looking like I just rolled out of bed or am dressed for activities occuring after Mass, then I would be showing what really is important to me. Too bad that many not only dress in a manner that shows little respect, but they also treat Mass on Sunday as an obligation to get through rather than the extreme privledge it is to be attending. Both issues are ones I am currently working with my boys to understand and NOT fall into the trap of saying “at least I’m going to Mass.”

  118. Les says:

    If you were invited to a lunch at the Buckingham Palace, would you dare to come in a smelly snickers and wearing t-shirt? How about a state dinner at the White House? Why in the world you come to the house of
    God dressed disrespectfully? To incur His wrath? Think well on it.

  119. Frenchy says:

    I love all the positive comments above, you people are the pillars of the church.

    One note:

    Ask your priest too ask the lay people at the next mass to get a consensus as follows:

    ” All those who have attended a funeral in your life, raise your hand”
    ” All those who have attended a wedding in your life raise your hand”

    What are you currently wearing here today in church?
    You have more reverence for the dead and the married than you do of God’s house. .

    WHO is at fault here?

    Our clergy

    I have the most reverence for our priests, bishops and Pope however, They are the leaders of the flock.

    If you take ten men and give them a task of marching down a road from point A to point B for ten miles, they will follow a leader even if this leader takes them off course through a swamp. That’s human nature. WHY? because that’s what they are lead to do.

    We must pray for our Clergy, they will pay the ultimate cost for their poor leadership. Christ said, “by there deed’s you shall know them”

    Sadly to say however, some leaders of the catholic church today are more concerned about the thoughts and concerns of the lay people and their bosses than they are of God. They lost touch of the fact that Christ uses the bishops and the Victor of Christ here on earth to ordain a priest and that that ordination belongs to GOD and NOT to man.

    i am currently 50 years old. When I was a young alter boy, you feared your priest, it was a healthy fear and all the lay people felt the same. When the priest spoke, you listened. That was that. Today the average priest lacks moral catholic discipline. When they lack that discipline so goes the church, you have empty pews, you have moral change. “the blind leading the blind” In the civil work force, if you have bad leadership, you have failure.

    You folks above are most certainly the pillars of the church. We must stand and say our piece, you must not falter, we are whats left of the faith today. Remember, Christ said those that witness error and do nothing are just as guilty as those that commit the error.

    Please continue to pray for our priests and for the CONSECRATION OF RUSSIA as our Blessed Lady requested at Fatima. This was an order from God, not a request.

    God Bless you all.

    Frenchy (JMJ)
    Friend in Jesus Mary and Joseph

  120. Mike S says:

    One more thing: No clothing should be worn with writing on it. I am shocked when I see people wearing T-shirts with “Thor” on it or “Blue Devils” or names of sports teams, etc. When a person is wearing a shirt like these just mentioned, it is a distracting, but more importantly, it is telling every one who they really are worshipping. And it isn’t God!

  121. Harold Crews says:

    Speaking only for myself, sackcloth and ashes would probably be the most appropriate. But I make due with khaki’s or trousers, dress-shoes (oxfords), oxford shirt, sport coat and about half the time a tie. If it is going to be extra-ordinarily hot a short sleeve button down shirt is worn. But then these are just every day work clothes for me.

    As for women wearing pants I’d have to side with my late grandma; meaning an emphatic no. Pants on women would have to be so baggy so as not to be suggestive that they cease being feminine.

    But then I’m rather formal as my profession requires. I don’t wear any short pants, sandals of any sort, jeans or tennis shoes. Leather boots, khakis and button down shirt is about as casual as it get.

  122. Lily says:

    I prayer that every priest would give that talk in church. When I ran a CCD program, that was my one rule for Mass, not shorts. I had many parents mad because they thought I was being too strick.

    I pray for the day we can all unite on some of these issues.

    I agree it will go back to the priest. Don’t talk about the bishops? We are without shepherds (So Sad).


  123. Jessica says:

    I’m only 32, and a lot of my friends think I’m too old-fashioned when it comes to these things, but really–would anyone go to visit the Queen of England in ripped jeans, sneakers, and a Bob Marley t-shirt? I doubt it. So why should anyone think that that type of attire is appropriate for Holy Mass? I think these rules/guidelines you came up with are absolutely appropriate, and all churches should be following them. We had a preist in our parish about 10 years ago who always gave his “spiel” at the beginning of the warm weather about appropriate dress for Mass, and what he didn’t want to see. My mother NEVER let me wear jeans and the like to church! It was about being respectful when going into the house of the Lord.

  124. Elaine Shah says:

    I so agree with the article about the proper attire for attending Mass. I am extremely upset when I see people coming in shorts, jeans, tee shirts. I doubt they would go to a wedding or some other special event dressed as such. Do not they realize they are entering the Church of GOD. However, sometimes I think — it is better that they come.

    GOD Bless

  125. Joseph J. Wagner says:

    I am pleased when I see men, women, and children who are appropiately attired for church. Their correct dress code, tells me of their sincere love for God, their respect for our faith – they are addilng to the worship service, not demeaning it.

    Joseph J Wagner

  126. Joseph J. Wagner says:

    I am pleased when I see the men, women and children properly attired for Mass. They are then adding to the worship service and not demeaning it.

  127. Maureen Braun says:

    As a 42 yr old woman…and someone who loves to look fashionable and pretty, I remind myself frequently:

    “Do I really want to attract attention at Holy Mass?! Why would I want the priest, or other people’s husbands to be looking at me?! (not that they would-just that dressing THAT way might be hoping for it) Is this dress, as awesome as it looks, worth hard Purgatory time or even Hell?!”

    This helps me to ignore vanity and dress more modestly and sedatedly, as a good example to my girls, the young women around me and in keeping with the dignity of my soul, the souls around me and Our Lord, in whose Presence I place myself.

  128. Brunell Martineau says:

    I can’t help but agree with the author. However, his choice of words is too sensitive and politically correct. As a “reformed” man of middle-age now, I can remember a time of lusty pursuits in my younger and foolish years. Now, as I go to Mass I know I’m in the presence of God–yes, God is really present there–I can’t help it but be distracted by beautiful young women whose mammaries are flapping in the breeze and their skirts are two-inches from the “promised land.” Worse yet, now even the tightest and shortest shorts–back in the late 60’s and 70’s they were called hot pants–are right there in your face only a few feet away and providing the same level of bare womanhood and stimulation that we’d have paid a good price to watch dance around a pole. I’m not being facecious here. I have observed this level of immodesty and contempt for decency at Mass, and these are Catholic women–I think.

    Now, men don’t need shorts, and women certainly can cover up the “promised land’ sufficiently to limit the arousal of both young and senior men. If you see the micro-shorts, the lack of a bra–yes, I’ve seen this–combined with air conditioning, well guys you know what I’m talking of here! Young men are certainly distracted when they should have their minds on Heaven, and senior men are offended. Ladies cover it up! You can look very feminine, elegant and radiate some of the God-given dignity you’re offered by the King as a woman. Save it for your husbands and the bedroom six days out of the week. For one day please act as if you’re in the presence of God Himself!! Because you are! This is one of the chief complaints the Muslim world has about us. They are right!!

    Priests stand up and make a strong statement. Throw in a little offended outrage there too. A priest friend of mind once confided this to me. We were talking after my confession, and during this time I stated to him the effort it took to keep even my middle-aged libo safely in check with the rampant exposure of feminine gifts around us. Now, ladies thing about this when you walk up to make one of the holiest acts possible for a practicing Christian. He stated to me that a priest does not anihilate his manhood when he becomes a priest. He is forced to endure a parade of cleavage, thighs, and bare midrifts as he is passing out the Sacred Species! C’mon ladies, keep it home for your husbands, young women save it for your husbands, and know your beauty was a gift from God Himself and not something to flaunt at this holiest of ceremonies and times.

    Not sure this comment will clear censorship, but this is serious business and seeing 15-year old girls texting their boyfriends in church while clad like a she is ready for her shift on the stripper pole, absolutely ruins the experience for many, many people out there. Most won’t express it like this, but perhaps we need to start a charitable clothing fund for women who lack the money for purchasing one vaguely modest outfit for church. I am willing, any takers?

  129. Kimberley Bourne says:

    I disagree with those who think pants are more modest. Having the female form outlined is more provocative than a skirt of dress. Plus, pants are men’s clothes and not women’s clothes. I wear pants at home and change to skirts when I go out, to the doctor’s or work, or shopping. I wear nice dresses or skirts to Mass and I get all of these second-hand at a local shop. One can pay less than $200 per year and look feminine and neat.

    As to shorts, oh my goodness, everytime we go to Mass I pray that the young men, including those in my family, do not notice the short-shorts of the young girls. None of the teens at our Mass wear feminine attire. The NORMAL dress for our Masses, sadly, is jeans, on men and women alike. I do not understand this….

  130. Heavensangel1964 says:

    Why would anyone want to attend Mass, spend some ‘quiet time’ with ‘Jesus’ during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament or in Church, waiting for their turn for Confession, in inappropriate attire? Its bad enough, that we are ‘forced’ to look at people on a daily basis, who dress very provocatively, almost naked at times! Do these people realize how much they are gravely hurting and mocking ‘Our Sweet, Heavenly, Eternal Father God?’ Do they do understand that they will have to ‘answer’ for their ‘actions’ and the ‘subsequent consequences when they die?’ And the priests – What in the world is wrong with them? They have taken solemn vows to ‘continue’ to teach the Gospel of Our Loving Savior, ‘Jesus Christ.” ALL Priests have a ‘Moral Responsibility’ to ‘uphold’ these teachings! They will be ‘held responsible’ for every soul on this earth that turned always from Our Heavenly Loving Father God! Many a times in my life, I have come upon priests who do not dress in their appropriate ‘black attire.’ Instead, I’ve seen them wear anything from sport shirts and jeans, to short shorts, t-shirts and sandals! Nuns are even worse. A majority do not even wear the appropriate ‘dress and veil’ that completely cover their bodies. These days, you wouldn’t even know if you were standing next to a nun! Both will be ‘held accountable’ by Our Heavenly, Eternal Father God! Please pray for them daily, that they will be saved from eternal damnation! That is why, if a person is ‘truly’ being called to Our Heavenly Father, to become a priest, brother, monk, nun, etc., they ‘must’ receive the proper ‘ pre-counseling’ and ‘schooling’ before taking their final vows. They must be made to fully understand and comprehend, that ‘committing and serving’ ONLY their Heavenly, Eternal Father God, is for HIS ‘Work, Salvation and Glory’ on this earth. They need to ask among themselves, s this what I am truly being called for?’ I am 46 years old, and, as a little girl, I ALWAYS dressed as ‘Our Lady’ want us to dress – long dresses (caftans) that cover my legs to my ankles, cover my arms at least to my elbows, and FULLY cover my chest – NO CLEAVAGE SHOWING! And I wear a slip and white t-shirt underneath. I also wear a hat. I dress this way, EVERYDAY, and I am ‘very comfortable,’ whether I am attending Mass, or just running my daily errands. I receive MANY compliments on my attire, and women ask me where do I purchase my clothing! So I am trying to become ‘Our Sweet Blessed Virgin Mother Mary’s Fashion Trendsetter!” : ^ ) I totally agree, that ALL Churches MUST hang signs on all doors, informing the people how they Must dress in order to enter a Church, at ‘any time.’ There should be clothing made ‘available’ for people to slip on, if they desire to enter. NO EXCEPTIONS! The Church where Mother Angelica’s resides has this strict requirement. Families need to be ‘re-taught’ on how to appropriately ‘act and behave’ in Church! NO talking, gum chewing, bringing food or drink, toys, books (other than your own personal missal or prayer books) and most especially – CELL PHONES AND PAGERS! Please – LEAVE THEM IN YOUR CARS OR TURN THEM OFF! You are entering Our Heavenly Father’s Home! Show HIM some respect and reverence! Pray while in Church! Prepare yourself before receiving “Jesus!’ That means a good examination of conscience and ‘Act of Contrition.’ If you have ANY Mortal Sin upon your Soul, PLEASE, DO NOT RECEIVE JESUS! You are only making a ‘grave sacrilege’ against Our Sweetest, Loving Father God! HE LOVES YOU! You MUST go to Confession BEFORE receiving Our Sweet Jesus! I can go on, and I apologize for being so abrupt. However, as a ‘Minister Of Care’ for the elderly, infirm and sick, it make me so very, very sad and sick, that people would Gravely Offend Out Heavenly Father in so many ways. And whenever I do see a person committing or acting inappropriately in Church, I approach that person and inform them, gently but firmly, that what they are doing is ‘wrong,’ and what they need to do to ‘correct themselves.’ I NEVER had one person ‘tell me off’ or ‘to mind my own business!’ And I pray the Rosary, The Divine Mercy Chaplet, and Receive Our Sweet Jesus Daily, for all Souls On This Earth, Who Are In Most Need of Our Heavenly, Loving Father God’s Great Mercy!’ I also go to confession at least ‘monthly,’ as Our Blessed Mother Mary instructed us to do so, in order to stay pure and remain in a state of grace, receive precious graces, and eventually, to enter Heaven, while Our Heavenly, Eternal, Loving Father awaits us all! If anyone needs prayer, please visit the following website: I visit this site daily, and offer prayers for anyone who posts their prayer requests. All are invited. May Our Sweetest, Loving, Eternal Father God Bless All Of YOU! Love YOU ALL! Peace of Christ Be With YOU! Bye!

  131. Barb Meister In Kansas says:

    Wow! What a great article! Now that you have covered the clothing, Monsignor Pope, can you write an article on how people SHOULD conduct themselves at Mass? When can we go back to the days of silence in the church, especially when entering and exiting? When others are trying to pray before or after Mass? Where is the respect? the reverence? etc.

    I know I am not the only one who thinks this way!

    I commend you for speaking the truth. God bless you and thank you for your priesthood.

  132. Jeff Matyas says:

    Showing respect to our Lord is what is most important. In today’s culture, the clothing norm has certainly changed. While some would consider jeans informal others would consider them formal attire. Would you ever believe a pair of cotton denim jeans would sell for $150 or more? The ultimate question you should ask yourself, “…do I look respectful…” to attend a celebration of the mass?

    Attending church in a bathsuit or wearing short-shorts while the remainder of the congregation is dressed in business informal is not being respectful to the others of the congregation. While what I wear does not individually effect the service it may effect the attention of others. I could only presume that God is blind to our attire but pleased to have us in attendance. In my opinion, our clothing becomes direspectful when it alone causes others from absorbing the sacrifice of the mass.

    I once read that during the celebration of the Mass we are transmitted to Heaven in concert with the Heavenly body as Jesus Christ is transfigured on the alter by the priest. What we are wearing becomes an issue if it distracts anyone from participating in that moment.
    Be clean, neat and help to focus others on the purpose for being there. God LOVES YOU no matter what you may be wearing but dress as if He’s looking directly at you. God Bless.

  133. Jeff Matyas says:

    Look inside your heart. The answer is there, then listen attentively and you will know what God wants you to do.

  134. John S says:

    While we’re at it, let’s address all the talking that goes on in the Church before and after Mass. People act as if they are waiting for a musical to start. Rather than take the time before Mass to prepare for it, people have a need to chat with their neighbor about anything and everything. There is no respect for the Eucharist much less those that are trying to get in some quiet time with the Lord before the Mass begins. We in the United States have thrown God out of our country and are worshiping the evil one by allowing abortion to continue. Then we wonder why the world is in such a mess. Jeans worn at Mass are probably the least of our worries.

  135. Gerri K. says:

    On more than one occasion I have asked my pastor to address the issue of improper dress. The answer has always been that they won’t do it out of fear of losing people. Maybe if the people in the pews heard this from the pulpit, they would give it some serious thought. If they have so little respect for our Lord, maybe we wouldn’t be missing much by their absence. We need to have serious believers in our Churches. Perhaps if our priests were bolder, we wouldn’t have so many “Catholic” politicians who give scandal by defying the basic tenets of our faith.

  136. leslie says:

    I agree this is a very important issue and strive every week to impress upon my children the importance of “dressing” for Mass. I’m wondering about daily Mass attendance. That has been where I have been more lax and allowed jeans and sandals. We attend Mass and our day begins, so “daily” wear has been our norm. However, the Mass is the same Monday or Sunday, right? Thoughts?

  137. Magdalen Mauldin says:

    I agree with Joseph Wagner! A few years ago, I got tired of the “distractions” and “eye-sores” caused by the way the Laiety was dressing for Mass. I started going to the Latin Mass community, where a dress code is suggested; in the bulletin. Being amongst people who show reverance by the way they present themselves has helped to strenthen my prayer life.

    We need more articles like the one I just read, “Adore the Lord in Holy attire”. Thank you! Magdalen Mauldin

  138. BJ says:

    There once was a beautiful lady attending Mass and as time for her to get up and receive holy communion she was startled by a tap on the shoulder. To her surprise, it was a man who was seated behind her that she did not know. With his eyes downcast and shame on his face, he softly whispered to her that he was sorry and that he would not be able to receive Jesus in holy communion. The beautiful lady was confused and asked very politely, sorry for what? Then he replied, for not guarding my senses as I should have, I could not help but notice how lightly clad you were and I fell to the temptation to dwell on impure and lustful thoughts.

    The lady had no idea that she was the catalyst for this mans sin. His fault!! I agree, but its how a man is wired and women should sometimes think of these things and should reveal themselves only to their husbands. Because sometimes for a man it only takes one single glance to spark a fire.

  139. Marie Gamache says:

    Hi, I agree that people have to be told how to dress, because most people don’t know anymore. It is very sad to see women in church or anywhere wearing tops that bearly cover anything. also very tight pants and tops that don’t leave anything to the imagination. Another thing that is very bad is people who come to Mass and start talking out loud like they are there to converse with thier friends, For those who are praying and trying to prepare for mass find this very distracting. Also a lot of priest who walk around the church and talk out loud with the parishioners before Mass like its the thing to do, or encourage the little children to run up the alter to give the sign of peace. I love these priests, but they often encourage the people on. The things I have just mentioned I have witnessed several priests do. I have also seen more then one priest come to say Mass, walk in, dressed in shorts and no more collar. So we have a lot of praying to do and finding ways to inform the uninformed. In my book proper attire is a must.

  140. Frank Dagostino says:

    Man looks on the outside – God looks on the heart. Regardless of how the people are dressed, they have a need and so come to Mass…no one seems to notice THAT. And why is everyone looking how everyone is dressed- I thought you were into looking at God. From all the churches I have attended, the scandal was not what people were or were not wearing buyt the infantile, borrrrrring, lack lustre sermons preached. Start preaching with fire and the people will respond accordingly. Not once in the Gospel does Jesus condemn what one is wearing except in the parable of the person without a wedding garment. But scripture scholars inform us that that is about the heart and not the clothes. Start being concerned about real people in real pain in real lives and don’t get side tracked about clothes. Follow Jesus and NOT Monsignor’s dress code!

  141. Mike says:

    I do not need to look around in church to see what people are wearing. Usually a dame will sit in front of me with her total back exposed in a sleeveless nighty. These Jezibels love the attention.

  142. Jerry Gels says:

    This is dumb – there are so many other things to be concerned about. While dress should be modest and not revealing – if you go in shorts and t-shirt it does not say anything less about how you feel about the Lord.

    This is just dumb – maybe for a high mass, but if the difference is between people going to mass more often vs. a few pius individuals suggesting they are not fully connecting with Christ if they are not dressed formally is insane. In fact I think these suggestions and the insinuations border on a violation of the third commandment of taking God’s name in vane.

    Dress shoes or Sandals it doesn’t matter – what does matter is humility, humbleness. I have seldom seen more moving dress at church than those of the day laborers that come in from the field to attend mass in their work clothes during the week or that of a mom of five who is barely holding it together in a t-shirt and shorts as she looks after her children.

    This is the kind of stuff that the pharisees would argue for during the time of Christ. I could not be more dissappointed.

  143. Paula says:

    Thank you Father for your wisdom and guidance. This is a timely piece for me to read. Last weekend on the great Feast of Corpus Christi, our wonderful and holy priest gave a powerful homily on the real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. All of my children (ranging in age from 9 to 20) were so touched by his homily and yet we were all dismayed by what was going on during the Mass on this solemn feast day. A young woman approx. 18 read the first reading in a mini skirt and the skirt was hidden behind the lecturn so the affect was she looked to have no pants on. This was followed up with two young women, again approx. 18 years old, coming up to the altar to distribute Holy Communion ( yes, I know a whole other topic) one girl was in shorts the other in a mini skirt. How are people to believe that God Himself is on our altars if this is how we reverence Him? I was so sad and so offended for Him. It did spark a lively discussion on the way home in the car which resulted in all of us trying to discern what we could do to help our parish in this regard. We did make a committment to being an example of ‘how’ to dress and to praying for our priest to be able to speak on this subject.

  144. elleblue says:

    I can’t disagree with any of your clothing suggestions. What really scares me is seeing what adults wear, it looks like they are going to a bar or nightclub.

    Everything about attending Church is different and so should our clothes be different!

    Parents need to give serious thought to the example they are setting for their children and priests should step up to the plate and be more vocal about expectations.

    It’s not enough to spell out what we should be doing we also need to hear what isn’t acceptable. Good job!!

  145. Robert says:

    During the summer months I see people in church dressed in various fashions, some of which are inappropriate to say the least. One family comes in with three late teenage girls. They dress with tank tops, shorts, and other inappropriate clothes which I find rather disgusting.
    When we go to church, we are placing ourselves in the presence of a KING. Common dignity and courtesy should dictate that we dress accordingly. Our KING should be given the respect due Him and there should be no compromise, after all, It is the KING of Kings that we honor.

  146. Jack says:

    I think we not only need to come up with a dress code but a general code of conduct for behaviour when at Mass or for that matter when inside the house of God.

    I am literally disgusted and I mean disgusted how people of all ages act in Church. Talking and sociallizing before, after and during Mass seems to be the norm. I find it it difficult to pray the church before and especially after Mass because of all the all the talking and socializing that goes on inside the church. I’m shcoked at how people act as they walk up the aisle to receive the Body of Christ…….chatting with with others in line in the pews as they walk by, giving people high fives, people going up to Communion chewing gum, people laughing and joking all the while on their way to receive the greatest gift Christ gave us. I hate to say this but I don’t buy the line some give that we don’t know what is truly in these hearts as they go to receive the body of Christ. I doubt these people and probably a lot more then just these people believe in th true presence of Christ in Communion. I’m sorry but if I was a Priest I would chastise these people before I would offer them the Body of Christ.

    The cell phone issue is completely out of control in some churches. I hear cell phones go off at every Mass I attend. Some people even take the call while the Mass is on or they get up and leave and you don’t see them for a few minutes because the call is more important than God. You can put all the signs up you want about no Cell Phones or Turn Off your Cell Phones……it has no affect.

    The behaviour of some children at Mass is out of control. I’m not suggesting we don’t bring our children to Mass but what I am saying is why are some children allowed to run up and down the aisles during Mass. Why are they allowed to run around the santuary after Mass or for that matter running all over the church yelling and screaming after Mass while their parents socialize with others. These are children who are generally not in school yet who really don’t know better. The blame for this behaviour is totally that of the parents and the Priest who allow it to go on.

    I pray these behaviours will change but I fear that in my lifetime they won’t.

  147. Terry Nelson says:

    Don’t start this c*** again – while there ought to be rules in place concerning modesty – both for women and men – get over the c*** about jeans, sandals, or even t-shirts. Dressed up or dressed down – just be modest. Tell some derelict just out of a trunk near some border crossing not to show up to Mass until he has hard shoes and dress pants on. Or tell some old guy without an income save for social security, no health insurance, living off the kindness of friends that wrinkled khakis and a rumpled worn shirt doesn’t cut it for Mass. Some people are embarrassed enough to only have the clothes they have to wear to church.

    Instead stress modesty, not what to wear with what.

    • Terry,
      Let’s all agree that poverty is an exemption. However, your strident tone riddled with profanities I had to edit out tells me that there is more to your remark than this simple exemption. It is not wrong to speak to one another and ask for reflection on how we dress. THis blog is addressed to the average person of average means and simply asks us to reflect on what is appropriate given the our destination and purpose. This is not C*** as you say. It is a valid and necessary reflection.

  148. Debbie Gum says:

    Yes, life has become more casual. I grew up in the 70’s-80’s when attire was more casual. When it comes to Mass attire, no matter what generation we are in, we have to use common sense, especially females. When I was growing up, my mom would not allow us to wear sundresses and/or spaghetti straps. hard to believe all the skin and cleveage you see in church today.

  149. Trocaria says:


    I completely agree with you on this! Especially here in Los Angeles, the dress code is out the window.
    I’ve been just as guility as the others on a number of times as shown in my own blog entry on the topic.
    Thought I would share!

  150. Marci Woodward says:

    At Mass this morning the priest commented that with summer here appropriate modest clothing needs to be worn. Visitors may come, but we need to set a good example.He also made similiar comments in a letter sent to parishioners. Some priests are speaking out!! Yeah! I don’t think it’s the type of clothing worn (jeans vs slacks vs dresses, ties vs T-shirts etc) Any type of clothing can be immodest or modest, disrespectful or respectful. And didn’t Mother Theresa wear sandals? I remember well awaiting the Pope’s arrival in front of Mary Major church in Rome when a cute, well dressed young woman in suit jacket & skirt, wiled her way in front of Vatican security men to cross the street. Well-dressed but not one bit modest, This woman caught their eye. I couldn’t help smile as the two men smiled at each other after she left and one of the men shook his hand like “mama mia – what was that!” It was a classic example of the beauty of womanhood at work. And also stressed in my heart just how important modesty is no matter how well dressed you are.

  151. M. Beacom says:

    I am a grandmother, and even I am extremely distracted and scandalized by other women’s clothing (or lack of it!) at Mass. This morning, I was surrounded by bare backs, bare arms, cleavage, bare legs, very tight skirts, short skirts, nearly bare feet –everywhere I looked! I did not see even one woman dressed modestly. I was glad my husband and grandchildren were not with me to see it. I wondered why do the priests tolerate this? Why don’t they speak out about it? Because it has been silently allowed, it has gotten worse each year! The teenagers do not even know that their clothing is inappropriate and is causing others to sin becaiuse they have grown up with this, and don’t know any better! Shame on their parents, and shame on the priests for allowing it! May God have mercy on us!

    • P. Haftman says:

      If you were going to visit with the Queen of England I’m sure people would dress appropriately and in their best. Then, why don’t people bother to dress in their best when they go to meet Christ the King? I’m sure that those who run Buckingham palace wouldn’t let you near the queen wearing shorts and flip-flops.

    • Dan Kerestes says:

      It’s not the priests responsibility- immodest dress rests solely on poor parenting of children. Much like the indifferent attitude today of teaching our children the precept of attending Mass on Holy days of Obligation and EVERY Sunday —or the importance of daily Mass or praying the rosary everyday. It’s a cycle that repeats generation to generation. THIS MUST STOP

  152. Rosalie Dancause says:

    Items 3,7,8,9, & 13 under item 4 in your article, Father, as well as language similar to the “final thought” have been posted in our parish church (Our Lady of Angels in Woodbridge, VA) and Perpetual Adoration chapel for years. They are not always obeyed in the church (maybe the offenders are visitors), but they are in the chapel.

    Thanks for telling it like it is!

  153. Suzie Q. says:

    I applaud everyone with an opinion. My generation did not grow up in formal wear, skirts and like everyone I enjoy fashion, fingernail polish, etc. Once, I thought I would prefer all Catholic be required to wear that like a Muslim I thought the peace that would come would be a blessing. Thankfully, my preist corrected me. When I have attended Mass in the warmer areas of the world the “dress” follows the culture. What was fine in Africa or the South Pacific might seem odd here and we would chastise those that would come dressed like that. Many the childrens Bibles I have show Adam & Eve in a short tunic with the tunic coming up to cover only one shoulder. Was that because the next ones they would have to make themselves and having no scissors, needles, etc. it would have to something they could make on their own with their own devices with the layout of the animal they would wear? Was it too warm to wear an animal skin over their entire body? I wear the new work style jeans to work and to church, I would wear them to meet the Queen of England but why would I want to waste my time with her when I have Adoration to meet our God. I will wear a formal dress to my cousins wedding but if I wore it to Mass I would be overdone. I wear sleeveless shirts because with MS heat causes me to experience severe pain and I sweat to where I suffer. I think the Vatican standard is sacred because of the office–it is the Queen, King and President. Many of us however, go to daily Mass, our daily bread, our daily lives. I tow several children with me, that when I have a worn a skirt with tights, as all mothers know, up goes the childrens hands up my skirt feeling my tights. Or when nursing, everything falls out anyways no matter how closed it is. What if we find a medium ground? A young mother, bless her heart, is a Eucharistic Minister and Lector. I once had it run thru my heart she should be more conservative in her dress. However, I found myself thanking God for her that one day when I am old and homebound she might bring me communion–my love. I have looked at the website listed for modest clothes–but I am not Amish either.

  154. Sonny says:

    It’s a judgement call for everyone of us, what is looking right and sound right? Be sensible about it. You wouldn’t blind if someone sitting in front of you wearing a topless singlet looked from behind it was like one’s wearing nothing in church. Almost like a nude figure sitting in front of our Lord, not to mention it creates a bad impression for all the faithful sitting behind of this particular person. I am totally support for the dress-code going to church.

  155. Mike says:

    All the irreverence came about after Vatican II when the solemn mass was watered down and modernized.
    I still go to our local Latin Rite Mass and there’s no problem with dress code, the liturgy is much more solemn, and there’s no need for a nursery because even small children are well behaved. The homily in English is well prepared, and there’s always confession available before every mass. Of course everyone must kneel before the altar rail when receiving communion, and the choir does not use electric guitars or drums but sing beautiful Gregorian Chants. The altar servers still use white gloves when handling the sacred vessels, and bells are used during elevation. The sight and sound of this Sacred Latin Rite Liturgy does not resemble anything like a noisy flea market of most modern church of today.

    • Anastacia says:

      I too attend Latin Mass and there is no problem with dress at our church. Priests have even talked about it during the homily say, ” We realize the weather is getting warmer, but we must still remember we are in God’s house and to dress modestly. Thank you for Latin Mass!!

      • AJ says:

        How sad is it that you are more concerned about a person’s dress than your own spirituality or theirs. Why do you go to mass?

      • Tsepho says:

        AJ- Mass is also an ecclesial experience. It’s not just between you and God. What others say and do effect the whole body.

  156. Philomeana says:

    Several years ago, I attended a church that had a large migrant worker population. I sat in horror while a Priest lectured and demeaned the Congregation for wearing jeans and tennis shoes to Church. I watched a family squirm in the pew in front of me, and saw the humiliation on their faces. The youngest child tugged on his Fathers sleeve and whispered “But Papa, these ARE my Sunday best clothes”. I felt the sadness and shame and wondered if they would return to church and risk another humiliating moment, skip church in the future , or choose between eating and dressing properly. It bothered me for a long time, and I prayed for the family that they may choose church in jeans. I came to the realization that God is more interested in what you wear on your heart than what you wear on your body. Dressing modestly is possible with jeans and a pure heart, rather that dressing to the nines in a strapless, expensive gown. I do wish that we would realize that God brought us into the world in our birthday suits, and sees EVERYTHING we bring to church…I will take a clean heart and jeans any day!!!

    • Fonzie says:

      You can buy a 2nd hand pair of slacks and a dress shirt for next to nothing at your local Goodwill.

      • Bob says:

        Maybe I’m just a country bumpkin, but I’ve never seen why jeans should be unacceptable. For some people that is just what they have and I don’t see why city dress should be forced upon country people. To dress modestly is the key, the actual style may vary.

      • Jenny says:

        Sorry, Bob, but I’m from the country and I couldn’t disagree with you more. Country people know that jeans are for work and dress clothes are for church. At least they did until Madisdon Ave. convinced them that jeans are ‘fashion’ and should be worn everywhere. Some of the poorest people I know dress the most nicely for church. It’s the rich ‘citified’ folks that come in their baggies and flip flops.

    • Stephen says:

      Philomeana, your logic is very disturbing. Yes, there are people that are poor, but I wonder, were there poor people 50-75 years ago? The answer of course is, “Yes.” The next question is, “Did they go to Holy Mass in jeans and tennis shoes?” The answer, “Of course not!” Even poor people can find a decent pair of pants and shoes, if they are really motivated by their faith and are encouraged to do so by the Priest.

      The other point is, you are taking something that happened to the poor and applying it to EVERYONE. Very illogical… So if poor people can’t afford decent clothing (highly doubtful… they can afford cigarettes, cable TV, a car, other luxuries), does that mean that rich people can dress like a peasant at Holy Mass? According to your logic, it does. You are a woman who lets their emotion dictate what should be common sense, and is to most people. Pretty soon you will be saying women should be Priests because they are now cops, doctors, firefighters, and worse, altar servers.

  157. Chris says:

    Has anyone considered that dressing immodestly can be an occasion of sin for others? What of the fellow or gal that is struggling with lust? I have seen so many women dress as if they were advertising their wares and men dressed as if they were heading for the beach. For the person struggling with lust, this is a trigger for them. Some fellows I know have to sit in the front pews to not have in their field of vision throughout mass women dressed in two sizes to small capri pants and a blouse that reveals her whole back. I have seen the cantor wear a blouse that revealed way to much of her bosom, brought up to the pastor, he relayed it to the music minister, and nothing was done about it.
    I am sure if we were immaculately conceived and/or did not have the burden of original sin, these things would not have an effect on us.


    • Matt C. Abbott says:

      Very good point, Chris! I agree 100 percent. It’s difficult enough to practice custody of the eyes just walking down the street. One shouldn’t have to do so in church. With regard to jeans, it seems most styles are skin-tight and thus not appropriate for Mass.

      • AJ says:

        Why pass on your faults upon other people? I guess children ask to be molested and women ask to be raped. It sounds more to me that you should be in confession every day. The line of thought you have is no different than the Muslims.

      • Tsepho says:

        AJ- stop being such a contrarian. You seem quicker to find fault more than any other person I have seen here.

  158. Cindy says:

    Everything has to be looked at within reason. For example, at daily mass, blue collar type attire may be appropriate because the individual is on their way to work. Also, if a person is traveling, it may be difficult to put formal attire in the suitcase especially with the way airlines are charging for luggage. Also, some who live in very hot climates or have to walk or bicycle a distance, formal attire may not be appropriate. I knew of a fellow who didn’t have the money for a car, he bicycled to church and this was in Florida. He had problems where he would go into convulsions if overheated, obviously he couldn’t wear slacks to church while riding a bicycle there.

    However, 99.999…% of people attend mass only on Sundays at their local church. They drive air conditioneded cars. There is no reason why they couldn’t dress up. If they dress in shorts, they show an attitude.

    Those that wear jackets, t-shirts, etc. with large printed ads on the back or front are distracting. Teenage girls are usually the most guilty of immodest dress. I don’t think women need to wear dresses because these usually show a lot of leg with heals. Sandels that are dressy look great, however, flip flops are not.

    I agree that it is the heart that matters, however, if I see someone who is acting as the Extraordinary Minister or the lector, I cringe when I see them dressing casually. It is like an announcement to the entire congregation of irreverence, not only towards Christ but to those they minister to. And for the priest to dress sloppy says something too. My aunt complained of a priest at her church who wore red sneakers during mass! And I saw a nun one time whose veil looked like it was pulled out of the hamper, it was all wrinkled, she looked sloppy!

    I think we got the message here and it is a good one. Proper dress shows respect for the Church. Thank you Msgr Charles Pope!

  159. Joleen Bolin says:

    I certainly agree with Father and too wish , all priests would have homilies relating to modesty of dress. I read recently where good catholic males are finding they are lusting at church because of the way females are dressing when attending church. How shameful is this? However, I too am finding that good catholic parents are allowing their children to dress offensively not only at church but everyday. I find this to be bothersome.

    • AJ says:

      Glad that God has a judge like to keep me us Catholics in line like the mullahs. Joleen, why do you judge others? If a “good” Catholic male is lusting in church, a dress code will not stop it. Why don’t you concerned yourself with what really matters – the worship of the lord.

  160. Ed says:

    Yeah, okay – let’s go back to the dark ages. While we’re at it, let’s just do away with electricity and Television and radio. C’mon. While some people probably do wear inappropriate things to Mass, this would be easily recognizable. A woman wearing something way too tight and revealing for example. Other than that – who cares? Mass is about a one on one relationship with God. I’m pretty sure Jesus doesn’t care what you’re wearing – he’s just happy you even came, because let’s face it – the Church isn’t exactly doing a great job in welcoming new people. That being said – I respect Msgr’s views – but I think he should respect others that they want to be comfortable when they go to Mass.

    • Ed:

      Yeah Ed who cares, nothing really matters, lets all just chill. And if you DO care you must be from the Middle Ages and must be against electricity. I guess we’re all just a bunch of neanderthal’s huh Ed? For the record, Mass is not just about a one on one relationship with God as you say. You may not have noticed but there are other people there too and mutal respect is not insignificant. Dressing in the way I describe can be very comfortable. Check the list, there is a lot of variability and it is not all uncomfortable. Please at least be fair in your critique and less ad hominem in your remarks.

      • AJ says:

        Msgr. Pope, why don’t we dictate the hairstyle and the type of underwear? I dress for comfort when I go to mass. I’m there for a reason and it is not to judge the dress of other people. I really do not see the ad hominem in Ed’s remarks. The church may be a community and a family but I thought it was not supposed to be a judgmental family. It saddens me that there are Catholics that use this type of argument to control and yes this is a form of control. We want you to dress a certain way and next week you’ll act a certain way and then you’ll raise your children the way we want. Shall we tell the congregation what manufacturer of clothes to wear?

    • Bill Daugherty says:

      Ed, you might be right IF holy Mass was about a one-on-one relationship with God. That’s the reason for the big IF; IT IS NOT. Holy Mass is corporate worship of the Body of Christ. Msgr. Pope said it right early on: think of what you’re doing and Whom you are meeting with. If you think that the manner of dress is unimportant, please explain Matthew 22:9 – 14. Keep in mind, this was after the Master had sent his servants out the the highways and bi-ways. I understand that Jesus was teaching a lesson about spiritual preparedness but he used an example easily understandable to the people of every age, that of appropriate attire at an important event. What could possibly be more important than the wedding feast of the Lamb?

    • Cindy says:

      Yes Ed and when one attends your funeral, I hope they dress in their finest to show that they love and care for you. And if it is raining or hot outside, I hope they wear their finest and not shorts and flip flops. For it all shows what is in the heart. That they really do care for you. So dress is like someone talking to us, though nonverbal, it tells others how much respect they have for the Church, us, Christ. It all does matter, just like you do. If I were to show up at your funeral in flip flops and shorts, chewing gum, pop a beer after the service, I’m comfortable…but what would your family think? That I show little love and little respect for that which is sacred to them, you. So it is with mass. I agree that the Catholic Church in some states is not good at welcoming the stranger. Because of the lack of priests, many churches are very large and people get lost in the crowd. It is everyone’s responsibility to seek out the stranger, an act of mercy it is for Jesus says, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” So become a greeter and make it your vocation to welcome the stranger, it is an honorable thing to do.

  161. Chuck says:

    When i realized I would dress up to go to court in order to show respect to someone I may not have any respect for or to try to get a reduced fine, then how much more should I dress up for to the one whom pardon me and who I love

  162. Walter says:

    I see all of the items listed on the list above in my church. The good and the bad. I would ask the people how they would dress if their pastor announced that a dignitary like a governor, senator, or president were to visit their church. I would bet that you would see everyone in suits (men) and the women would be in thier finest dress (gowns etc) So why is it that we/they cannot dress appropriately when we go to church to see Our Saviour?! I would think He is a bit more importantt that any earthly king or dignitary correct? Just my 2 cents. Too bad most pastors don’t have the nerve to speak up. They are afraid to offend people, or are afraid they are not politically correct. Truly sad

  163. hristine Clarke says:

    I strongly agree in dressing modestly,we are in the prence of God,and should show rspect for our heavenly Father,Headcovering,being one,and dressing modestly,it can be a distraction,if women attend mass in short skirts,shorts etc,and I no that the Lord does not like this,I also beielve we should kneel when recieving the Holy eucharist,and not by hand but rather on tongue by mouth,priests should be the only ones while they are suppose to do this,and the Holy Father prefers all catholics to recieve in this manner. Hopefully,this will be brought back into the churches in the near future.

  164. Ann E says:

    Thank you father for starting the ball rolling and thank you too to all the posters. I have become used to wearing pants Sunday and Monday but am definately about to change both my attitude and my apparal for the better, both at church and outside it.

  165. Sharon says:

    I do agree that we are fighting against a culture that dresses far to casually for almost everything. It was disappointing recently to see a father come to the front of the church dressed in jeans, a polo shirt and sneakers for his child’s baptism. If people aren’t going to get dressed up for that, they won’t get dressed up for anything. I also wonder if it would be a nice idea for migrant areas to have a dress-up swap, where people can bring outgrown dress clothes (the only kind my boys don’t wear out at the knees!) and allow anyone who can use them to take them home. My kids, influenced by our casual culture, do try to argue about clothing for Sunday Mass. I’ll print out Monsignor’s list for them to read. It’s always good for a single mom to have backup!

    Two more little points – I was at the Stations prayed in Latin a few years ago. Everyone who attended got very dressed up because we felt that was expected at anything prayed in Latin! It was nice seeing everyone dressed so respectfully, but it occurred to me that it would be sad if someone happened by that church in casual clothes and didn’t stop in to honor Jesus by praying Stations, because they felt their (modest) clothing was unacceptable. The same for visits to Jesus – we don’t want to set up church as a place you can only go if you’re very dressed up. I also learned that as I tried to dress more nicely for Mass, I became judgemental about others in Church, especially as I saw them going up to Communion. Thankfully, I was inspired with the best solution – I close my eyes and visit with Our Lord after receiving Him! Should have been obvious, I know!

    Thanks for the article, Monsignor!

    • AJ says:

      Sharon, what is achieved by dressing up? Do I go to heaven more quickly? Do I not pay attention in mass because I am uncomfortable? Do I skip mass because I do not have the right apparel? I didn’t shave today so should I stay home? I guess I should switch to a different religion since I’m looked down upon and considered not as “holy” as those that dress up. Funny, there was a man that dress up every Sunday for mass. He wore a suit and was active with his church. This man was a womanizer and hit upon my conservative wife when she would attend that church. I guess it doesn’t matter because he wore a suit. I’m the bigger sinner because I’m faithful to my wife and I wear jeans to church.

      • Tsepho says:

        AJ- you are totally missing the point of the article. Your argument sounds the same as all of the feminist nuns of the 70’s and 80’s who got rid of their habit. Now, most of those congregations are dying out. What we wear does say something. We are temporal, as well as spiritual- and what we physically see and do can contribute towards what we do and experience internally. Wearing a suit does not necessarily make someone holy, but it can act as a reminder as to the purpose for which someone wears it. To say that the material doesn’t matter sounds rather Gnostic to me.

      • Holly S says:

        AJ, Mass is not about comfort. It is about remembering the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made when he was willingly crucified to take away our sins. Mass is about rejoicing in the fact that through the power, mercy, and love of God, Jesus rose from the dead so that we are able to have salvation.

        If you think you would be uncomfortable in dress trousers and a button-down shirt and tie, and your wife in a skirt and blouse, just think for a moment about how uncomfortable Jesus was when he was nailed to a cross, slowly dying. Kind of makes wearing a shirt and tie for a couple of hours seem minor, doesn’t it.

        I am so appalled at your attitude toward wearing proper, decent, moral clothing to Mass (the “m” in Mass is always capitalized), that you should take a good, long, look into your rotten soul before attending Mass again. If you would wear a suit and tie to a friend’s wedding or funeral, why not wear the same to Sunday Mass? You may be uncomfortable, but what does not kill you will make you stronger.

  166. JOAN METZGER says:


  167. Frances says:

    Praise God! Here’s one for you Bishop! Wonderful write up…showing respect to our Good Lord! Thank you! P.S. It would be GREAT for others in my family who live out-of-state…or even across the country….is it possible to publish something like this in other areas?

  168. Suzie Q. says:

    I agree with the spagetti straps, halter tops with bare backs, but I was intriqued about women in skirts vs. pants. I had to research when pants were fashionable for men and women. It is quite interesting one should do some research on the subject. Skirts mentioned in the bible were addressed to the men! But, the translations could mean….? Then men in tights that didn’t even cover their groins and then as fashion dictated their groins were covered by the trousers. At the end of the Victorian Era women had had enough of corsets, slips, etc. and tried bloomers but didn’t really catch on. From what I see it was WWI and Rosie the Riveter in WWII that really changed the fashion industry–rightly so with the work they did for us. So is skirts on women a biblical thing? fashion thing? pharisee thing? Preference from your upbringing? Am I truly unholy should I wear pants and tennis shoes to church? Is my heart in the wrong place because I do not view skirts as you? Would I truly be judged if I visited your church while on vacation and wore jeans with a simple top? I applued the Monsiger but until the Bishops of the USA set some standards one must be careful not to overjudge as we are to be united as one. It is already difficult enough visiting other parishes where you kneal -don’t kneal, hold hands-don’t hold hands, geneuflect vs bow. Love should be our guide and holy will follow.

  169. Therese says:

    I agree with Cindy. We should dress modestly and in the best clothing we can on Sundays. More casual, but modest clothing, can be worn at weekday Masses. One does not have to have a lot of money to dress nicely. Well-fitting clothing from a second-hand store, or home sewn clothing, can be far classier, attractive and modest than expensive ill-fitting and immodest clothing. Ladies do not have to wear ther skirts or dresses down to their ankles, but they should be at least below the knee, and cleavage should not be showing above blouses or dresses. Men need to see that their trousers fit well enough that their underwear does not show. I once saw a middle-aged man with jearns on that were so loose that his undergarments were showing. It is neither attractive or modest. We need to look into a mirror, front and back, and make sure our clothing fits properly and is attractive but not too tight, etc.

  170. Jack H says:

    Terry Nelson should be ashamed of the response to this topic that he sent. In some of the poorest Catholic countries people walk miles to attend Sunday Mass make and an effort to wear the best and cleanest clothes they have.

    I attend Sunday Mass in a Church in an upper middle class area here in North America. Three quarters of the congregation look like they just crawled out of bed and threw anything on they could find. Its not only disrespectful its disgusting……….shame on each and everyone of them who do that…….and shame on you Terry Nelson.

  171. Dave says:

    I hope this isn’t redundant as there are too many emails above for me to read, and Father I respectfully submit you could have stated the obvious … a bit more briefly. The standard is simple: HOW WOULD YOU DRESS FOR A WEDDING? No one wears jeans. No one wears shorts. No one wears cut-offs. [OK: Maybe Californians would.] When you go to a wedding you treat the bride and groom with RESPECT. When you go to Mass, you are invited to the Wedding Supper of The Lamb. Doesn’t the Creator of the Universe deserve respect too? If people could relate to this simple analogy, attire in Church would take care of itself.

  172. Teva says:

    Does this man not know we’re in a deep recession?? I know for a fact that there are many families in my church who are lucky to be able to afford clothing for their families, period! Men who have to purchase work clothes may not have extra funds for” collared” shirts and “hard shoes”. And FYI, GoodWill hardly has a good selection. I would love to see someone try and find a decent pair of dress shoes in our local store.

    And anyone with any common sense knows better than to wear a bare midriff shirt to Mass, for Pete’s sake. Which tells me that some of these were thrown in just to make today’s church attire sound worse than it really is (and NO, I’m not saying that NO ONE has ever worn a slinky shirt to Mass, but let’s get real here – it isn’t the norm).
    I have a friend who converted and she commented to me how she loved the fact that she didn’t have to dress up to attend Mass. She has a very large, prominent hideous looking birthmark on her leg and she never attended protestant churches because of this. She also has a distended abdomen due to a medical condition, and the only thing she finds that fits and is comfortable to wear is sweat pants. Should she never go to Mass again? If she ever saw this it would break her heart. So please think before you judge others so quickly and harshly.

    • meema says:

      No one will be looking or judging her legs!! wear pants or leggings under the long dress or midcalf skirt… excuses are like arm pit’s and everyone has them. We are Talking if you were invited to dine with Royalty your know you would try your hardest to dress modest!!!!! and decent. Your are asked every DAY if you can to DINE WITH A KING OF KING’S … no one want’s to dress modest any more , it’s not the latest fade….

      • Teva says:

        Paul said women are to dress with modesty, “not with plaited hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly attire.” Do you realize how many women do this and think nothing is wrong with it?? Heck, 99% of us are guilty of the TRUE meaning of dressing immodestly (including myself)! Technically, my friend’s sweats are far more in line with Paul’s teaching on this — which, by the way, is the same as the Kings’.

  173. Tracy Brouillard says:

    I have 6 children and we dress every Sunday for Mass. Since they were born, I have dressed them, and taught them that mass is something special, and you should dress appropriately to go. I then have to explain why there are people who do not dress up. We need more preists commenting on this issue.

  174. john laperuta says:

    How we dress for Mass says alot about our respect for God,or perhaps simply speaks volumes for our ignorance of where we are and why.Unfortunately most folks in the pews do not know the faith(what we believe and why anymore)so they do not feel the need to dress appropiately for Mass. I was one of them until I looked,learned and became more involved in the Church. While it should come from the pulpit about the lack of respect and modesty in the way people dress for Mass…it would make a far more dramatic impact if those who do understand better… set the example.I see how well dressed the Jewish people on their way to the Synagog and I lament that when people walk past a Catholic Church on Sunday it could look more like people are going to a sporting event, the beach or a gym. If you know people who attend mass every week and dress poorly, perhaps bring it up in conversation.Not in a condoning way,but see where they are at spiritually and slowly help them along. But as much as these things are a sad reflection of the times we live in we should simply do 3 things…1.Set an example by dressing in our Sunday best 2. Not judge anyone but ourselves 3 Pray for them…that they may come to know the value of the Mass ..where they are and the reverance they are lacking.

  175. Mike says:

    And all of this time I thought it was our SOUL that was most important to God.

  176. Peter says:

    I think if we go by the author’s directives…Jesus Himself, John the Baptist and a slew of prophets wouldn’t be allowed into Mass. Oh My… Jesus and and John showing up in a tunic, sandals and unshaven. Not to mention they probably didn’t have deodorant!

    I thank God this author isn’t it charge and God is. Let us not be like the Pharisees and be like white-washed tombs but on the inside are nothing but old bones! Go to God with a clean heart and mind and let the judgment of our clothes remain with Him alone.

  177. meema says:

    We all should die to our self!! Stop pleasing our sense’s ….. give me a break! Even the very Poor would dress appropriate to Visit the KING OF KING’S , Our Church is filled with No shorts, No Sleeve less dressed and men don’t wear jean’ or t-shirts. all Woman and Girls were skirts or dresses , sweater’s over short sleeves. and yes WE Cover our Heads still!! If you can’t afford a modest attire than forget about play station games or having the most fashionable name brand clothes and shoes, IF YOU CAN’T BUY CLOTHES THAT ARE MODEST OUT OF RESPECT FOR OUR LORD, then buy 1 choir robe to cover your play clothes and only use it for Sunday and pretend you care. I am so tried of the water down religion that people are willing to except or the cafeteria plans, pick and choose what you want to believe in….go back before and learn your religion before they changed what was beautiful and everyone actually wanted to receive Grace by going and receiving our Lord DAILY…… I BET you if you did a survey and see how many people believe in the TRUE Presence of OUR LORD in the Blessed Sacrament. Ask them basic baltimore religion question, they wouldn’t know…… That is why they don’t dress modest they either missed that lesson from their parent ‘s or they were rebellious and self centered people only following the many lost sheep. but their is always time to convert back to the TRUTH!! Our LORD wants all HIS children even the lost sheep… they will be first and all other’s will fall behind , but we have to follow HIS way not our’s….Hurry because the Time is of the essence. WE all CAN CHANGE!!! not for Ourselve’s but FOR THE KING OF KING’S. Thank’s MSGR. for having the gut’s to voice the truth even if it make’s your faithful get a little offensive.

  178. AJ says:

    Why would God care about how we look? Should I skip mass because I do not have the proper dress clothes to wear? I should think God is more concerned about my attendance than appearance. Sad to think there are people more concerned about how other people look on the outside than what they look like on the inside.

    • Looks like you’re all over it AJ. However I would like you to consider that your position is an extreme one. Your basic argument is that clothes matter not at all. This is extreme. I am not sure if you read the original article that gave rise to all these comments but it was merely a reflection that we ought to give some conisderation to this question given where we are going and whom we are preparing to meet. The lists of suggestions as to the clothing were very wide and surely within the realm of comfortable. Appropriate dress is also an issue in other settings such as the workplace, schools, official government functions etc. It is not unreasonable to consider what is appropriate. The suggestions in the article offer a rather wide range or possibilities. Your position that clothing shouldn’t matter AT ALL is an extreme one that needs amelioration. It is not ONLY what is on the inside that matters. We are body persons and we manifest our interior life by external signs. We are not disembodied spirits. What we do with our bodies, including how we clothe them, matters.

      Some of your suggestions above that peple are being judgemental etc is a little humorous since you are engaging in the same judgmentalism that you accuse other of by your very charge. What if we just all concluded that it is OK to ponder this question and have a discussion.

      • AJ says:

        Msgr. I never claimed to be perfect in any way (judgmental), but my intent was to point out the absurdity of concentrating on dress. I am glad you find me humorous since life should be fun. If the rules you mention were in affect I would be out of bounds since I wear Jeans and sneakers (untied). This dress issue is more nostalgic than anything else. As society changes so does the clothing, language and viewpoints. I will strongly disagree with you on your statement, “…how we clothe them, matters.” I do not believe Jesus would be so concerned about the clothing. You suggest there are clothing issues in the workplace. Well working in the private sector this is slowly eroding just as hats have gone out of style and beards are no longer a mainstay with men. Many women no longer own dresses.

        I stand by my opinion that clothes do not matter. It is better to have the family that came to mass in shorts and not be accosted by the priest than to have them now never enter that church again or even have the possibility that they give up on Catholicism. They no longer feel welcome as do many former Catholics. That is the real travesty of this dress code suggestion.

        Happily, I am accepted for who I am and not how I dress at my church. I am an active minister of communion, Ad Altare Dei instructor and sit in the front pew every Sunday. Yes, I will continue to wear jeans, sneaker, sandals, shorts and even dress pants or suits when the I feel like it. Never once has my parish priest ever mentioned to me about my style of dress. Instead he views my youth and my being there as an inspiration for the congregation. This applies to all of the ministers of communion at my church, and I can assure you that the majority of us are “not” properly attired.

        I wonder if anyone on the message board has ever been shunned? Well I have and it was funny that these “Christians” thought less of me because I was different from them – I was Catholic and they were not. To go to an event and have everyone ignore your is amusing but sad. You may find the opposition scandalous or humorous or even contrarian, but it is all a mirror image of your statements.

    • Teva says:

      AJ, your church sounds like a breath of fresh air. I’ll never forget when I was in RCIA and was attending Mass with my sponser. She was a married, wealthy lady who became a sponser so she could be close to a married doctor in the church, who was also sponser whom she was in love with. I will never forget that particular Mass as long as I live. My sponser literally spent the entire Mass staring at her feet. She had a gorgeous pair of designer, open-toed shoes on and a masterful pedicure. I don’t think she ever heard a word the priest said the entire time. Which just reminded me, the doctor (who would not reciprocate her blatant flirting), wore shorts to church quite frequently. Go figure.

      I’m so glad the Lord judges our hearts. He knows His own, and those who truly love Him and are there for Him and Him alone.

  179. Marie Gamache says:

    I know a lot of realy good priests who work very hard and tell the people what they need to hear. But I also know at least 3 priest, who show up in church on their way to the sacristy dressed in shorts and no callor. These priests certainly do not set a good example.
    God does care how we dress in holy places like the Church. I read some where a visionary was shown purgatory where it was crowded with priest. When asked why they were there, they said because they didn’t tell the people to dress modestly when coming before the King of Kings.

  180. To all recent commenters: I am grateful for your reading and participating in the discussion. I wrote this article about a month ago and the regular readers of this blog interacted with it quite substantially. THen, the comments eventually died down. Last week they suddenly fired up again. Perhaps this article was picked up by another blog or RSS feed? I usually like to interact with each comment however, the current volume and also the fact that I have written mnay articles since that I am also moderating I cannot respond to each of you personally. However, Know that I am grateful for each of your responses and read them all. I have written elsewhere on this blog about modesty and related issues Here:

  181. mary says:

    A nice clean pair of slacks and modest top should be good for either man or woman. Modesty is what we are discussing and respect for our Lord. We have the same problem in our church and the priest has discussed it, asking the parish to please keep modesty in mind but I have never noticed a bit of improvement. No place gets as hot in north america as we do here in Arizona but we keep the A/C turned to extra cold to help the cause and even then, the men show up in shorts and flip flops and the women in sun dresses fit to wash cars in. little children… they get dressed up. Go figure??

  182. Magdalen Mauldin says:

    Thank you for this article. We need more of this from the clergy! I feel blessed to belong to a church that publishes a Dress Code in the Sunday Bulletin. The church is located in Littleton, Co. and is a Latin Mass church with two priests from the order of St. Peter. I have been very happy since I joined that community. Respectfully in Christ, Magdalen Mauldin

  183. Elizabeth says:

    Eww. I don’t wear dresses or skirts. Anywhere. EVER. Even if I was to go to meet The Queen I never would I wear that. What if you’re just not comfortable with “proper attire”?

  184. ART says:

    Unless dress is a distraction from the Mass because of immodesty, let’s quit the nonsense about wearing “Sunday best” clothing.
    Mass attendance has dropped precipitously and you are worried about inappropriate clothing!
    Were Jesus first visitors, the shepherds, so concerned with clothing that they went home and changed before going to the Manger?
    C’mon Monsignor get with it and go after the real abuses in the Church – cafeteria Catholicism; Ted Kennedy not being required to publicy renounce his Pro Choice record before receiving absolution; reception of Communion by Catholic politicians and the Supreme Court who willfully violate Catholic dogma etc.etc.

    • Well if you read my blog you’ll know that your charges about me are baseless. You seem to judge me by one article I have written. I has over 400 blog articles at this site. Try a little research and you’ll discover that we discuss a lot of things here.

  185. B. DeWitt says:

    The Blessed Mother at Fatima said there will be fashions introduced that will offend Our Lord very much. When a woman wears LOW necked, bare shoulderd tops, pants so tight they look like they are spray painted on and skirts so short they do not even cover the buttocks as was seen at a Mass in L.A. this definitely could cause anyone to be distracted much less cause a man’s thoughts to go astray and if so the woman will also guilty for his sin. The priests must keep their eyes open to give Communion and are subjected to this time and again at the holiest part of the Mass. This is unbelievably insensitive to our priests and sinful. People misunderstand judging. The bible says only God can judge hearts but we must judge actions and if we see someone doing something which could lead them to hell we must warn them or we will be held responsible. But we must not jump to conclusions. One Saturday night years ago we rushed my mother to a hospital many miles away. I was wearing jeans and could not change before Mass the next day. I was very embarrasseed because NO ONE wore jeans to church then but I would not miss Mass and I knew God understood. I still will not wear jeans to Sunday Mass out of respect and reverence. Wear nice, clean, and neat clothing but NEVER anything mmodest. No one should even own such clothing. Recently a young boy 4 years old or less, in a very clear, beautiful voice said at the moment of Consecration HOLY HOLY HOLY MY LORD AND MY GOD! It could be heard throughout the very large church and was with such unbelievable beauty and reverence I will remember it for the rest of my life! “A little child will lead them”.

  186. John says:

    It is good to reflect on what Our Lady of Fatima said way back in 1917….”Fashions that will greatly offend Our Lord will appear. People who serve God should not follow fashions. ” Enough said.

  187. Catherine says:

    Hooray! I hope this is the start of something big! I am 52 and I can still remember the “old days” when we only wore casual clothes for casual occasions, such as after school, Saturdays, etc. We looked respectable for school and church. It was fun to look nice, and it was also fun to change into casual clothes, but even our casual clothes were attractive. Now most of look sloppy 24-7. Even our nightclothes are dumpy. The only thing we seem to care about is having sexy underwear.

    This really is not about money. When I was a child we struggled to make ends meet, but we always had dress shoes for church, and we looked respectable when we went to school, even if we wore the same shoes every day and the same clothes from week to week.

    Take a look at movies and television shows from the 1940’s and 1950’s. People took pride in their appearance. Wouldn’t it be great if we tried that again?

  188. rene lynch says:

    Wow – things have gone straight downhill as far as the dress code , since I was a kid! i remember being thrown out of church in the 60’s because I forgot to wear a hat! And I was a kid! Today the most offensive thing is seeing older women in tight fitting stretch pants in church UGH!!! Disgusting! and we have to all stare at their big fat bottoms as they always seem to sit in the front row ! What is wrong with these slobs? Soon they are going to be walking in in their underware, unless somebody puts their foot down and tells them to knock it off!!
    We always used to dress nice for church and we actually looked forward to dressing up- it was fun!!!
    I miss those days!

  189. Mortis Reaper says:

    I’ve read the blog and have read most of the comments. My perspective of this is the thought of the blog and many of the commenter’s is a viewpoint of nostalgia. As we all should know, life is change. Even a diamond will eventually change and indeed it is changing slowly to its base form. The dress code issue Msgr. Charles Pope blog is a clear example of this. It is not necessarily a bad viewpoint nor is it a good viewpoint. It is an opinion based on the past.
    Dress codes have been in existence throughout history. At one point if you of a certain field such as doctor, lawyer or laborer you had a style of dress mandated for you. Indeed it was against the law to go outside of your dress. As time progressed this style of thought became obsolete especially in America. We can look at bathing suits as an evolution of dress as well as the suit and tie in the workplace. Hat style have come and gone with the hat being more recreational than it was 100 years ago.
    Church is one of the last vestiges left where change occurs at a glacial pace. To many it is too fast while for others not fast enough. Yes, years ago the parish church in the community was the conscience of the populous and often guided or coerced individuals into a way of thinking. The modern age with its means of travel and other such paths have changed the church in many ways which in my opinion is a more positive viewpoint on the church.
    As in all ideas, there are those for and against. This is where Msgr.’s discussion places the reader – a point in time where change is occurring and some do not like it. It now evolves from the cultural idea to a theological idea and now the danger begins to show.
    The argument I see is slighted more towards women and has me cautioning myself. I see opinions stating it is the fault of the wearer that an individual is unable to concentrate on mass. I even read somewhere about a veil. I’ve spent over 30 years studying various religions especially Islam and I shudder to think of forcing women to wear veils. There is blame placed by some and nostalgia inferred by others.
    Is going to mass visiting the house of God? Are we a family when at mass? I was taught that yes. Well as in all families people are different. My father never allowed me to wear an earring. Long hair was not allowed. Foul language was not tolerated. As I sit back and think of my youth, if I were to adopt any of the three examples what would change? Respect? I do not think so. The fact that my life I live possesses many of the positive teachings of my parents is the respect they are truly looking for. You see, I did come home with long hair and my mother loved me. My father talked to me. My brother came home with an earring and my dad pretended he never noticed. Yes, my siblings and I occasionally used foul language and received a gentle statement about it. My parents never once complained we did not respect them. I hear the respect issue when we as adults treat them with rudeness. The same issue is with mass.
    I’ve seen young ladies with miniskirts, tops with revealed cleavage. Yes, I would not have worn those or selected those for a daughter, but who am I to say it is appropriate or not. There have been many times that for a reason dressing up for mass was not in the cards. I’ve looked like a bum and yet I went to mass. This is where I believe Msgr. is missing not his point but the point of mass. I am there to celebrate and I am happy to have a church filled with those not dressed appropriately than the church filled to 50% because ccd is not in session or it is not a holiday. If I notice what someone is wearing or doing in mass then I am not participating. If I can go and listen to the gospel and homily and HEAR what is being said then I’ve participated in the celebration. If I’m concerned about the individual in front of me wearing shorts and a sandal then I’ve missed the point of mass and probably should go again.
    Life is dynamic and we need to understand this. The suits of the 70’s is quite inappropriate for today and yet would any have an issue if I wore one of those ugly garments to mass? Would you be upset if I wear sandals to mass just like the monk that I saw in my church a short while ago? Yes, I do not see any problem with what a person wears and yes some people can select a better option, but does it really matter in the end. I would welcome a man in boxers and a tee-shirt if it meant he was coming to celebrate with me!
    Msgr., most everyone commenting was being judgmental and even your blog can be considered judgmental. We cannot escape that when debating. What we can escape is the inability to recognize progress. You don’t like what is happening but it is there. I do not know you and have never read your other blogs. It is a fact that you are judge by the way you dress and it is very common in our own community, the Catholic Church. My Byzantine friend is judged poorly because of his long hair and beard and yet my fellow Catholic’s do not understand his reason for it.
    Be satisfied and rejoice in your brother and sisters attendance in mass for there are many of our relatives that no longer visit for we have pushed them aside for not living up to our ideals.

  190. Mortis Reaper says:

    As I re-read my comment I notice many undeveloped ideas. One of which is “This is where I believe Msgr. is missing not his point but the point of mass.” This is written poorly and my meaning is not clear. Msgr. does indded understand the point of mass. What I was trying to say is, Msgr. is allowing in his blog the exterior sign to override the interior sign of why the person is attending mass. My, even with the few moments I have I still have goofed this up. Maybe when I have proper time I’ll clarify my point.
    Thank you,

    Mortis G. Reaper

    • Mortis, (I notice you have switched your name from AJ but to the computer you’re alawys :-)
      But anyway, this subject of the interior vs exterior is not either/or. Both are important and both influence each other. How I dress both reflects and influences my interior disposition. THis isn’t arcane anthropology, it’s just just common sense. What makes your position extreme is your dismissal of the exterior (in this case how we dress) as having any significance at all. It clearly does have significnace for all the reasons stated. True, it is not the only thing, but neither is it insignificant. Externals do not override (that’s your either/or world) but they do influence and reflect the interior.

  191. Lorraine Beyer says:

    This subject has long been a sore in my heart for a very long time. So many times I want to go up to people wearing shorts(some even short short shorts) plunging sleeveless tops, etc.and as them if they are going to the beach, if so they are in the wrong place!!!!!!!!! What has happened to our reverence and respect for the Lord our God??… Do I blame the pastors,yes because they are letting it happen,just to not turn anyone away.

    Does our Lord care how we dress??? I do not know,only he does.. But he is GOD,and without him we would not be here to adore and respect him.. I really wonder if all those people(who dress like that) really believed that God came down to earth and was in their church,would come to meet him dressed like that.!!!.. Shame Shame on all of you… Your dress for parties, weddings, etc, but not to see your SAVIOUR.!!!!!!!!!!!! Never will understand that.. May we go back to bowing our heads everytime,at the mention of JESUS NAME.. He deserves all our LOVE REVERENCE AND RESPECT.

  192. Linda Fowler says:

    June 16,2010@6AM
    If people would remember that Our Blessed Mother said to the youngest seer at Fatima (Jacinta) that certain “fashions” would be inttoduced that would offend Our Lord very much. I became a Catholic in 1968 at age 17. I wore a dress or skirt and blouse and veil (or dhapel cap) for years. I became lax for awhile when my children were young but now regret it. I have felt the Lord calling me back to wearing a headcovering. Mainly to show respect for Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. I have 4 dresses that I alternate for Mass. I am disabled and in a wheelchair and sometimes do wear slacks but not often. We are before our Eucharistic King and I cannot appear before Him immodestly dressed. Yes, sometimes it is hot and one might not feel like dressing modestly but HELL is hotter and an hour of being a little warm is not much for Our Lord to ask. As I was taught – “Offer it up”. The way one dresses says alot about how one feels and/or acts in a particular place. People seemed to be more reverant when they dressed modestly and wore a veil or chapel cap. Let’s be Catholic’s with a capital “C” and show Our Lord our love and gratitude by our dress and actions!!!

  193. fred says:

    this is good for everybady,god bless you all

  194. fred says:

    this is good for everyone and to all . god bless you all.

  195. Maria says:

    I totally agree with comments regarding appropriate dressing at Church. It totally disappoints and distracts me when I see people not only dressed inappropriately but sometimes almost not having enough to cover themselves. I feel bad for being angry & annoyed afterwards but that is the sort of reaction that I have when I see those scandalous attires. We all dress up when we go to parties, weddings and other formal gatherings and we even have dress codes to follow in the workplace and even at some clubs. I’m sure just dressing up with a bit of modesty & decency whenever we go to Mass is not asking for too much. After all we are there to pay respect to our Saviour. Maybe the priest should always reiterate in the Sunday homliy regarding appropriate dressing during Mass.It may not sink in at first but some people may get the message. I remember in my old parish when our priest used to say that we should come to Church in our ‘Sunday Best’ as we always dress up when we go to parties, etc but not to see our KING. In the congregation everybody who lives in the parish are all dressed decently and only some ‘visitors’ are not appropriately dressed from time to time

  196. susie w says:

    there is nothing more annoying than hearing someone come back from communion with flip flops or sandles that go flop flop flop down the aisle. Wear a pair of shoes or sandles that stay on your feet. Also cover your butt cheeks. No body enjoys seeing them why advertise in church. I can see wearing a nice pair of shorts but not short shorts and cover up your shoulders. A sleeveless top is ok but a light weight shirt over the top would look very nice.

  197. rewinn says:

    Often the most protracted debates occur when both sides have a point.

    It is rarely an effective response to upbraid a person for their clothing, hairstyle or taste in friends. How often do lectures from the pulpit have any effect except to entertain those to whom they do not pertain?

    If one among you is ill clad, give them clothing. If they are ill clad because they lack employment, give them a job. If they are ill clad because they have poor taste, give them an education in good taste.

    Bare-midriffed, butt-crack-showing, flipflopwearers know what they have on; they may not know the impact they have on others … or may not care. Why not? if the community is healthy, the members know and care about each other.

    I’m no preacher but might something like this work better than a lecture:

    “My sisters, you are lovely. We know that. We can see it in loving detail. We do not ask you to wear a curtain in the manner of those afraid of the human body; God created bodies. But we ask that you consider how strong you are to distract us. Help us by dressing more formally, as your contribution to the community.”

    “My brothers, no-one can make you wear a shirt with a collar, pants that cover your knees or footgear that covers your toes. You are welcome all the same. But this is a classy place, where you can show you know how to show your best, for God and for our community. God loves you all the same, but we humans need to see that you’re a guy who knows how to dress for success.”

    There’s a difference between different communities. Mass at the beach is sandals o.k. and in some places Mass in jeans fits the style; in other places every ceremony is more formal. God does indeed love us all the same, but Mass is a community effort and we need to welcome everyone. That means trying to fit into the culture and practices of the location – not sacrificing anything vital but making a good faith effort to be in harmony. You would not deliberately sing the recessional out of tune, so why deliberately bring down the atmosphere if that’s what your community is aiming for?

    A conflict like this suggests the community is out of tune.

  198. KMC says:

    When I go to Mass, I concentrate on the Eucharist & the priest’s sermon, not on how those around are looking or dressing. Otherwise people are giving into the sins of distraction, judging others, envy and mental gossip.

    As the old saying says, “I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a person who had no feet…”

  199. Phyllis says:

    What about the priest? I know of a Graymoor Friar who routinely wears gym clothes–a t-shirt, running shorts, and crocs (no socks) under the alb when he says mass. He is also overweight. Isn’t there something in the liturgical regulations about THAT?

  200. Mary Ann says:

    Finally someone with the courage to address this subject and I can see by some of the comments why not many priests address the issue of appropiate attire at Mass. I applaud your courage and agree whole heartedly. Much of the clothing worn to church shows a lack of respect of self, others and most importantly God and if that is a judgment let the first one who does not make judgements cast their stones. Sometimes the truth hurts and from some of the comments I think this has hit close to home. Keep up the good work Msgr. Pope. Attacking what a priest wheres under his vestment is not really fair after all if the people we are talking about put on an equal amount of clothing we wouldn’t be having this discussion. I hit upon this blog looking for something on this very subject. I will definitely check it out again. Thank you.

  201. Zorro says:

    I couldn’t agree more! My parish is an abomination. Ushers & $$ collectors wear sandals, hawaiin shirts and shorts. But, the Church needs to share the blame. You strip the Church with it’s Calvin-esque appearance, celebrants did away with baroque vestments and wore simpler attire and no one said anything–they just let it fester and happen. You lead by example and the example starts with the Church.

    Occasionally, I go to a Latin Mass. I felt under-dressed NOT wearing a tie! However, I do focus more on the mass: supposedly the highest form of prayer. Bare skin, hairy legs, and see-through clothing are not a distration–as it should be.

  202. Poker says:

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  203. Fernando says:

    I want to know what your thoughts are about political pins worn by lay ministers (ushers, eucharistic ministers, etc) at Mass. At my church, one of the ushers has a habit of wearing a political party pin on his lapel, and has taken to wearing pins and shirts with political messages on them. Is this appropriate? Is there a rule or norm in the Archdiocese about this practice? To me, it seems entirely out of place.

  204. Great post.Ne’er knew this, appreciate it for letting me know.

  205. God does not judge what we wear.... says:

    I agree in much of what you are saying however I do have to disagree with the lingo you are using. We do not get dressed up because we are in God’s house we get dressed up in respect for each other. So we will not be distration to each other when we have come together to worship the Lord. It is true there are for certain events or services that we dress in slacks, button down shirt..etc. For example: weddings, debuts or special mass services.
    I have never accepted the fact that God will care what I am wearing. Mainly, because he said to not be concerned of such things. In mathew Jesus says we should not be concerned for how we will live, what are we are to eat or how should we dress ourselves. We should only focus on God’s heavenly kingdom. I have always worn jeans to mass; sometimes I get dressed nice when my family and I feel like it. When I was single, I did a few times attend mass in shorts but no one could ever denie the fact my devotion and adoration to the Lord. Now that I am married and work in a church myself, I dont ever wear shorts anymore but I would if I new it would not cause a distration. But since it does, I do not. God is savior, my king, my master but most importantly….God is my best friend! For Jesus did say he no longer calls us servants but friends and I believe him! So my friends, we dress appropriatly to mass to prevent a distraction from others around us not because we enter into the house of God.

    • Chaplain says:

      The first priestly King, the Servant of God, David, did instruct his people to Worship the Lord in Holy Attire. Perhaps, God does not care how you dress to worship, but do you care how you look before God?
      Yes, indeed, God care about what is in one’s heart. But then what is in one’s heart also shows on the outside.
      I think it is one thing when one is meeting one’s best friend at the market place. It is quite a different thing when one is meeting one’s best friend at the Governor’s Mansion. The attitude one has toward God is reflected on one’s demeanour and portment in God’s House.
      God may not make ask of us to appear before Him properl;y dressed. But how do you want to present yourself before God? Would it not be your ever best?
      When you went out on your first date, how did you dress? And is the Mass, a holy, worshipping encounter with God, not more important than the first date?

  206. Colleen Duncan says:

    Thank you for your views. I have believed this for a long time. I have believed this for a long time and I’ve
    been looking everywhere to find comments and beliefs that substantiate this thinking. I think that we have
    become not comfortable but lazy. Our country us changing many things that are not defending the
    existance of God. We have to be particularly careful so that we don’t offend those who don’t believe in
    God. God have been removed from schools and civic places because we are offending others rights.
    BUT WHAT ABOUT OUR RIGHT TO BE CHRISTIAN. We need to stop being so lazy and stand up for
    our rights as christians and if we start dressing up for church and feeling and showing that we are proud
    to be a christian then maybe others will catch on.
    What the heck the gay right movement caught on, birth control caught on, abortion caught on and many
    more. Stop following the crowd and listen to our heart and the Lord will tells us what is right. Initate is by
    dressing up for church and show others that we do have rights, we are proud of them and that we are
    no longer going to sit back and let the rest of the world walk over us. They say we are uptight or we need
    to be cool and join the others. my answer is NO I will remain faithful to God,church and I will not allow
    others to infringe on my right.

  207. Aaron says:

    I was taught at an earlier age that sneakers and sports jerseys are not acceptable to a place of worship and to this day, I always dress up for church, regardless of weather condition. Is it appropriate to wear cowboy boots to church since I live in Texas where they are the norm? Most parents these days allow their kids to wear t-shirts, shorts, and Nikes/flip-flops to church and think it’s okay! If they were mine, that won’t be the case! These days, people go out in public dressing like they normally wear while working out at the gym and think it’s ok to dress like that! What is wrong with this country? I understand that this is the United States and that times have changed since like the mid-to-late 60’s but people need to take responsibility for what attire is appropriate for where! I don’t allow myself or anyone to wear pants sagging down where people expose their undershorts! That is never appropriate!

  208. Francisco says:

    Thanks for finally writing about > Adore the Lord in Holy Attire – On Proper Dress for

  209. Deb says:

    One has to believe that Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist and that HE is GOD in order to be concerned about how one appears when they come before Him. Those who came before Him when he walked this earth, for healing and help would prostrate themselves before Him or fall to their knees. We don’t even bother to do that anymore when we receive Him in the Eucharist, the greatest of all gifts.
    We as a society judge each other by our actions. The early Christians were obviously different from those around them and others were attracted to what they saw in them. What do we say to others when we show up at Mass in shorts, jeans, flip flops and beach wear? Do we say we are appearing before the Creator of the Universe? Do we say we are there to worship, to praise, to love, to adore, to show our desire for God’s great mercy or do we say, I am going to fit this hour into my day, but I am not going to take an extra ten minutes to get dressed up because it really isn’t that important? This is just an obligation.
    Who would go to a job interview in their shorts? Who would go to a five star restaurant in their jeans and flip flops?
    If we truly understood who is before us in the Tabernacle, we would realize how unworthy we are to even be in His presence. How we dress is a major way of showing respect, to anyone, but especially to God. It also makes a very strong statement to everyone around us. People do form opinions based upon our actions. Do we want to be a person who draws others by our actions or who affirms to them that none of the externals matter? Disrespect in one area leads to disrespect in others and so it goes.

  210. David Rericha says:

    Thank you, Msgr Pope, for this courageous article! If it doesn’t matter to God how we dress at Mass, why should it matter how we dress anywhere else? If our exterior appearance has no connection with out interior, why can’t I go to a Wedding or a Funeral or meet the Queen in an Hawaiian shirt and sandals?

    The truth of the matter is that how we dress does reflect our interior attitudes. If I show up to meet the Queen in beach attire, I am projecting an interior attitude that I don’t regard the occasion as all that important or the personage I meet as worthy of any extraordinary respect. How can the same not be true of meeting the King of Kings and the Lord or Lords at the Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist?

  211. Holly S says:

    Msgr., I thank you for publishing this article. Since becoming a Lector and an Extraordinary Minister of the Holy Eucharist, I have ALWAYS worn a proper dress or skirt/blouse to Mass. Even when I am not on the schedule, I will still wear modest, feminine clothing, as this is the proper way to show respect not just to God, but to myself.

    However, Priests have the moral obligation to address their congregations about proper and modest apparel in a Mass setting. Yes, it is most important that Roman Catholics attend and participate in Sunday Mass, it is also important to attend Mass dressed properly. While it is the attendee’s responsibility to see that he/she and/or children are dressed in a proper, modest manner, sometimes we become lazy and complacent. We no longer think that we are going to God’s house, but rather, to the beach or gym, or that we are simply lounging in our own living rooms. When the latter happens, the priest must do what is proper and moral (what you have done) and address the congregation on proper attire. I find it sad and disgraceful that adults (who are supposed to have common sense) must be told how to dress, especially if one is a Liturgical Minister.

    I once attended a Mass where the Extraordinary Ministers of the Holy Eucharist were dressed very casually: tennis shoes; women wearing cropped pants and capri pants; men wearing sport shirts and golf shirts. Ministers wearing sandals with no socks/nylons. I was so appalled and disgraced at the way these Ministers were dressed, that I almost did not receive our Lord in the Eucharist.

    I attended another Mass where a family was bringing the Offertory Gifts to the Sanctuary. The family’s teenager daughter was wearing a shirt that was very tight and very low-cut, and a skirt that was very tight and very high-cut. I was hoping she did not sneeze or drop anything. I found this girl to be an incredible distraction, simply by virtue of her (lack of) proper attire. I blame the girl, but I also blame her parents for allowing her wear harlot’s clothing to Mass. What kind of parents would allow their daughter to wear skimpy, provocative clothing in public, let alone to Mass?

    In conclusion, I am very happy that you have addressed this issue of decent, moral dress. I only hope more Priests will follow your lead and do the same.

  212. Archie Greener says:

    True, very true. Churchgoers must wear proper clothing in going to Church, especially in the Roman Catholic Church. Because where they go matters most. They are in a very special place, in a house of prayer and worship, in God’s Holy place. What is a proper clothing? And what is improper clothing? 0ne that does not offend God or one that does? Weren’t we naked when we were born? But thank God there’s baptism. Let’s remember that it is an occasion of sin to see a woman wearing tight pants, etc. in Church. Maybe not for effeminate. I could imagine how sin can penetrate even in Church. Even a woman wearing it wherever she goes already commits a sin because she is an occasion of sin herself. I have always gone to confession because of them. Let us just remind ourselves always of God’s Third Commandment: “That shalt keep Holy the Lord’s day.” So to keep it Holy, especially ladies, worship the Lord in Holy attire.

  213. Archie Greener says:

    True, very true. Churchgoers must wear proper clothing in going to Church, especially in the Roman Catholic Church. Because where they go matters most. They are in a very special place, in a house of prayer and worship, in God’s Holy place. What is a proper clothing? And what is improper clothing? 0ne that does not offend God or one that does? Weren’t we naked when we were born? But thank God there’s baptism. Let’s remember that it is an occasion of sin to see a woman wearing tight pants, etc. in Church. Maybe not for effeminate. I could imagine how sin can penetrate even in Church. Even a woman wearing it wherever she goes already commits a sin because she is an occasion of sin herself. I have always gone to confession because of them. Let us remind ourselves always of God’s Third Commandment: “That shalt keep Holy the Lord’s day.” So to keep it Holy, especially ladies, worship the Lord in Holy attire.

  214. Archie Greener says:

    Unfortunately, today’s Catholic Church has already forgotten the Third Commandment, the priests no longer teach what is commanded by God. There’s now too much religious freedom. And changes, many, many changes indeed, since Vatican II. What’s happening?

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