What happened to our Sunday best?

The societal norm for how we dress for Mass has changed over the years. Whereas most used to put on their ‘Sunday best’, many people now dress much more casually, and sometimes even immodestly. Donna called The Patrick Madrid Show to ask what she could do when people in her parish, even those serving as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, were not dressing appropriately for church.

“I know that the culture is just that way right now with the kind of dress that is out there, the kind of swimwear that’s out there for women … I just wondered why the Church can’t get together and have some kind of a code or talk to these young people before they’re gonna take this position that it’s expected you’re going to be dressed modestly,” remarked Donna.

She mentioned publishing guidelines for dressing modestly at Mass. “I’ve actually seen that done, Donna, what you’re describing. Its not very common … but I have seen this handled in a way that seems very effective, and that’s to have a sign at the entrance into the Church. So when you come into the vestibule and you’re getting ready to get some holy water and go into the Church. I’ve seen this here and there—not often—the sign would say something like, ‘This is the house of God. Please respect this sacred place by dressing appropriately. No short skirts, no bare midriffs, no bare shoulders’—just give certain things for the women and the men—‘And out of respect, please adhere to this.’ And my impression is that it’s simple enough and it’s non-confrontational enough that people get the message and they tend to conform to that,” said Patrick Madrid.

The way people dress has changed over the years. “We live in an extremely casual society; it’s hyper-casual. Men don’t wear suits and ties to church much anymore. I remember when I was a kid—and I’m sure you remember this when you were a kid—dad wore a suit and tie and mom would wear a dress with high heels and pearls and a hat, sometimes even gloves. And that’s how everybody was dressed back in those days and now it’s no longer like that by a long shot. So, maybe what you’re talking about could be remedied by a simple message asking for respect in the way people dress. I know there are other things that could be done, but I think that might be a good first step,” suggested Madrid.

What if your parish priest prefers that signs not be hung up in Church? “Maybe what we can do, Donna, is try to just lead by example. So sometimes that’s the only thing you can do, to try to show—not because you’re trying to be showy—but to give an example, or model what could be and other people will be affected by that in a good sense,” said Madrid. “Jesus said, ‘Let your good deeds shine before others so that they might see them and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’ So this could be a good deed, perhaps, when it comes to dressing appropriately for Mass.”

Note: speak with your pastor before hanging signs in your parish or taking other measures to encourage modest clothing choices for Mass. And remember, the first thing to do is to lead by example.

Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.