Last month, the topic of children at Mass took the Catholic world by storm when Tommy Tighe (and subsequently Simcha Fisher and every other Catholic blogger) weighed in on whether or not fussy children in Mass should be celebrated or should be removed.
There’s just one thing — young kids aren’t the only distraction at Mass. What about when those young kids grow up and start experimenting with questionable secular fashion trends, complete with high heels and skin-tight everything?
Person Woman Eyes Face (2014) via Pexels, CC0.
Approximately three things go through my head when I see a teen dressed immodestly at Mass:
- How could you possibly let your teenager out of the house wearing that? I think I would actually leave my kid at home before I let them come to Mass dressed like that.
- Why would you even let your kid own that kind of clothing? If your teen wouldn’t look out of place on a street corner, she probably shouldn’t have it in her closet at home.
- Should I say something? I bet I should. But what if they yell at me for telling them how to raise their kid?
All of these thoughts reflect my have-at-it nature that sees something and has to respond. This is an impulse I try to turn off when I’m at mass in an effort to “Let go and let God” and generally quiet myself into being a better person.
So, you can imagine my frustration when I saw a beautiful, long-haired 14-year-old cozy into the front row at Mass wearing nothing but 6-inch black suede platform stiletto heels and a short, tight-fitting red dress.
No stockings or leggings, no overcoat or cardigan. Just straight up “high fashion” at High Mass.
Let me be clear: this kind of clothing has no place in Mass, or even outside of a hot club or bar (which hopefully is no place a 14-year-old is hanging out). But that is a problem solely for the teen herself and the teen’s parents.
Within reason (as in, I hope someone might talk to someone who walked into Mass wearing a bikini), it’s none of my business what other people wear. And if I find myself staring, fixating, or getting frustrated, it’s still just my problem.
Christ asks us to look beyond outside appearances. Not just beyond the poor to see Him, but beyond the inappropriately dressed or people from other cultures who may dress in a style (or a level of immodesty) that is normal for them yet uncomfortable for me.
This goes for immodestly-dressed teens, but also slovenly-dressed teens (I’m looking at you, basketball-uniform-wearing-dude with the messy hair) and jeans-wearers (I’m looking at myself, so I probably offend someone somewhere, too).
In some way — though perhaps for some of us it’s only internal — we have all done, worn, or said something inappropriate. And we’re at the Lamb’s Supper knowing we don’t deserve it. So whether we don’t deserve it for how we’re dressed or how judgmentally we’re reviewing the outfits of the teens around us, we’re equally as far from being worthy.
I don’t know if I can stop looking at outfits and getting frustrated, but I do know I can modify my behavior.
If I sit in the front row, it’s hard to see other people’s outfits.
If I close my eyes during Communion, I won’t be distracted.
If I am blessed with a daughter, I can raise her to dress modestly.
If I am blessed with a son, I can raise him to be authentically masculine.
And if I dig deep, I can pray for the teen for growing up in a society that sexualizes children, and I can get over my own preconceptions about what immodest clothing means.
Copyright 2016 Hannah Jean Kahn