Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thought-provoking Post of the Week: Catholic Modesty

Feeling contemplative this week :) Before I launch into my theme, I wanted to let everyone know that Hat Attempt #6, under the loving support and tutelage of my knitting group, is so far a success. *angels sing* I'll post a picture when it's done. But I'm on round 15, and so far my only issue is that I have a few loose purl stitches when I switch the yarn over from a knit stitch. It's very, very minor, and the hat is looking good.

Ok, so on to my Catholic issue. This particular issue is really interesting to me because it is one on which I really haven't fully developed my opinion; as well, my own personal experience on related things is a bit of a dichotomy.

On the one hand, I would label myself a really conservative, traditional Catholic. I follow all of the church's teachings, even the unpopular ones, to the best of my ability, and I consider my faith to be the most defining thing in my life.

On the other hand, I happily attend weekly Mass at my local parish which is offered exclusively in the Ordinary Form. In a nutshell, I'm differentiating between the Extradinary Form of the Mass (also called the Tridentine Mass or the Traditional Latin Mass) and the Ordinary Form of the Mass as it has been offered since Vatican II, often called the Novus Ordo, or New Order of the liturgy. Enough of the mumbo jumbo :)

I've been raised with the Ordinary Form of the Mass, and I like it. Many more traditional-minded Catholics prefer the Traditional Latin Mass (hereinafter TLM). I have attended a TLM, and while I loved the solemn reverence of that liturgy, as a lifelong Catholic, I didn't enjoy feeling like I didn't always know what was going on. I felt a little "out of place." I'm sure if I started attending that liturgy with regularity, that feeling would fade, but to be honest, I enjoy the new liturgy. I have attended the TLM a few times since, but I really don't go out of my way to do so.

Ok, so llloooonnnng segue to the issue at hand. Stay with me here :) At the TLM, one thing becomes quickly apparent - the people who attend it generally dress differently than I do. Many (though certainly not all) of the women wear chapel veils. Many of them also wear long skirts or dresses, instead of pants.

Here's where I come in. This is a controversial issue, and that's not really where I'm headed with this. Women are not bound in the modern Catholic Church to cover their heads at Mass. Nor are they asked to dress in any specific manner other than to present themselves modestly, as men are asked to do too, importantly.

In my opinion, shorts have no place at Mass for either men or women. Nor do tank tops or other garments that reveal a lot of skin. That's pretty much the only guiding principle I use when I dress for Mass. I personally do not own a lot of skirts. I actually feel more comfortable, as in I reveal less skin and less "shape," if you will, in pants. There was a thread about this a few months ago over at the Catholic Answers boards, which I read with interest. I was surprised by how many women feel that pants are less modest than skirts. I don't really agree with them, but I respect their view.

When I dress for Mass, I usually wear jeans and a blouse. Long sleeved in the winter and short sleeved in the summer. I don't own anything that is low-cut, strapless or short in any way. That's pretty much my exclusive wardrobe on the weekends. For whatever reason, I started thinking about this this past weekend. Now, I don't think that there's anything wrong with wearing jeans to Mass. But...could I do better? Would it maybe be a good sacrifice for me (who loves her jeans) to put more effort into dressing up a bit for Mass, when after all, I will be in the presence of Christ? Absolutely.

So, this past Sunday, I perused my wardrobe for some other contenders. My skirt selection is *paltry* and I do not own a single pair of shoes/boots that would be suitable to wear (a) with a skirt, and (b) also be suitable for the winter weather. I did have a pair of long boots appropriate for wear with skirts, but they began to rip long ago and really needed to be put out of their misery. I've been thinking that I should purchase a new pair, but I really don't have the money right now. Long boots can cost upwards of $50, even at stores like Payless. Thus, I also don't have the money to buy skirts.

But, I did what I could. I pulled out a pair of gray corduroys that I often wear to work and a red long sleeved blouse. I even put on a pair of earrings. I know the change is subtle, but I felt better. I was putting thought and effort in, and that was important to me.

Sooooo... on the clothes issue, I think that's what I'll continue to do. I'm going to try and look into picking up a few long skirts (I've never thought I looked good in shorter skirts, even on a non-Mass basis) with my remaining Christmas gift cards. I've noticed recently skirts that come to the calves have made an appearance, so that's something to try out. I just look odd in knee length skirts. Not sure what's up with that. I can also try to secure an appropriate pair of dressier boots with a gift card too, we'll see.

Next, the veil issue. This sounds incredibly superficial, but I think chapel veils look absolutely beautiful. I've always wanted one just because they're so pretty! I never purchased one because I never felt that I really *needed* one. Frankly, I felt that I would stick out at my parish if I wore one.

I'm still not totally decided on this issue. I in no way believe that women MUST be veiled in church, nor does the Church itself. It's a personal choice. There are a couple of women that read this blog, whom I admire greatly, that I know do choose to veil at Mass. Post a comment! I'd love to hear from you. From my perspective, wearing a veil to Mass is not in any way a mechanism of subordination. I think that's why many women are averse to them. To me, chapel veils or other headcoverings for women at Mass is a personal sign of reverence and modesty before our Lord. Just as men remove their hats when they come into the sanctuary, a woman could cover her hair as a symbol of respect.

AND. Here's where the superficial thing comes back in. There is a lot more selection out there than I would have thought. If one wants to wear a headcovering, you don't have to go with a traditional mantilla (although those are SO PRETTY). I got turned on to Garlands of Grace by one of my fellow Catholic bloggers, and some of the items they have there are simply thick headbands of lace. A tad bit more subtle, and very, very interesting. I'm toying with this. I don't have the money now, but if I continue to feel a calling to develop this topic in my Mass-going, I may order one. I especially like this one. Granted, the model on that site is *beautiful* and has the best head of hair ever, so who knows what it would look like on me. But I'm willing to give it a try. If I do, you can rest assured of a post telling you all about it :)


  1. Here are my guy comments...

    1. I'm a huge proponent of chapel veiling, for what it represents, humility, modesty, etc.

    2. I must say in the war on modesty, I must say there are bigger fish to fry than skirts v pants. In my opinion both can be done modestly and immodestly.

    3. A bigger war on modesty for girls is tops. Many cuts are not done modestly and reveal way too much. When my best friend and I went shopping (best friend is female) of the 100's of tops we were looking at ONE was modest. ONE. The women must not buy the immodest things and buy only modest things and this will change.

    4. The reason that veiling was "removed" from the 83 code was because women were to take veiling on themselves and not feel forced to by the Church :) It can be done for both the OF and the EF :)

    5. The first couple of times I went to the EF I felt out of place too. It takes time to adjust to the TLM, once I got adjusted I couldn't go back (well, I go to the OF most of the time)

    Modesty is a difficult thing in a culture of immosdesty, thank you for trying :)

    Pax vobis


  2. Hi Tiffany-

    I love your blog!

    We go to NO Mass too and my chapel veil definitely stands out. I've worn my snoods a lot more lately though, mostly because it's easier with a toddler and I've always had a hard time keeping the veils in place, even with pins. I always have a couple in my bag though, just in case I forget to bring something else along (and they'll probably be making a reappearance in spring).

    I go back and forth on the pants and skirt thing. I don't think pants are inherently immodest, it's just so hard for me to find pants that look modest! I have a pair of gauchos that I love, but they aren't very fancy (when my grandma used to see them she's always make a face too!). I don't have very many pregnancy dresses though, so I'm ending up in my maternity jeans more and more! I found my favorite skirt at our city wide garage sale and I've heard lots of mom's suggest thrift stores (we don't have any near us and I never have time when I'm out of town). I did do a month in skirts/dresses experiment and at the end I felt more comfortable in skirts then pants. Once it started to get cold and rainy though... I was back in pants most of the time.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Thank you to you both for commenting! I enjoyed reading.

    Joe, I love that you left a guy opinion on this! I think that most of the time women do not realize how men view thse issues, especially when it comes to clothing. I agree with you 100% on the pants vs. skirts issue. I'd like to get some more skirts, because I *feel* dressier in them, but especially in the winter, pants are just more practical. So, on the blouse issue, thank you for this insight. I am a huge proponent of those cami things that you can wear underneath. I use them a LOT. In fact, I'm wearing one right now, because the blouse I'm wearing I like, but it would be way too lowcut without another layer underneath it. I'm always especially conscious of this issue at Mass, and I'm also totally against bare shoulders in church. I've always felt this way, even in the summer. I *always* wear a shawl or light sweater over a sleeveless top in church.

    On the veil issue, I'm really into this now. I will post on this again :)

    Cam! good to see you, as always :) I knew you would have good insight on the veiling in a regular ole' parish issue. I'm going to be posting on this again, because I think I'm going to take the plunge - stay tuned :)

    On maternity clothes, I found a really cute dress when I was pregnant on; they have reasonable prices and frequently have sales. I took a quick peek:

    The one I bought from them was actually just below knee length, but you know how maternity clothes are; they're fuller, so it fell on my legs really pretty. The length easily covered my knees completely even when I was sitting down.

    I did love maternity jeans though, especially the ones with the stretch band on top instead of the full panel. Comfy :)

  5. Tiffany:

    You're welcome. Often it's assumed that guys love the immodesty, but that's far from the case, if you search deeply I don't think there's any guy who doesn't want a girl to dress modestly. :)

    I look forward to your musings on veiling.

    It's very distracting at Mass when girls wear low cuts (very distracting) (Not that I'm looking intently, I notice people who walk in Church, details, lol)

    I try to tell my female Confirmation students to be conscious of that when assisting at far I've had no issues. (so far)

  6. Hi Tiffany-
    I love the maternity dresses. Today I finally restarted my "learn to sew" project. I figure it would just take way too long to knit a maternity dress, although it would be more in my comfort zone. I can't wait to read the latest headcovering installment!


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