Sunday, April 22, 2012

Prom 2012: Concerning Modesty

As has been documented on here, a lot happened this weekend in the run up to the prom at Ritter.  We addressed the issue of "grinding" and our young people met that challenge and exceeded our request.

Now, as pictures from the evening are showing up on Facebook, some are critiquing the fact that I was in pictures with young people dressed inappropriately or immodestly.  I want to say, first of all, that I of course agree that we have a lot of work to do in the modesty department. 

Some are lamenting the fact that we didn't also address the immodesty when we were addressing the grinding.  Truth be told, I didn't know how bad the situation was on the immodesty front until I got to prom on Friday night.  I hadn't been to prom in two years, and in that time, a lot has changed in the "fashion" department.  Certainly we are going to address this issue moving forward, but frankly I'm still thankful for the huge strides made this weekend.

At Ritter, we allow our seniors to dress up for Mass, and inevitably there are about 20 girls that get sent to the office and have to call home and arrange alternative clothing.  As our principal says, "If we don't fight that battle, who will?"  It seems, from our end, like we are often fighting this battle with little support elsewhere, but we will keep fighting it. 

The lesson for everyone here (mothers, fathers, fashion-savvy folks, young men, young women, clothing designers, etc.) is that everyone has to do something.  My saintly mother told me a year or so ago that she went dress shopping with my sisters for prom and there were ZERO dresses that were actually made in good taste with modesty in mind.  NONE!  I've seen my mother sewing up several dresses the past few years to make them acceptable for my sisters.

But what about the girls that don't have as vigilant a mother as mine?  What about the girls that don't have a father to watch over these things and not let their daughters out if they are dressed inappropriately?  Certainly our young people aren't getting any help from pop culture either as the types of dresses a lot of our girls were wearing at prom, so I'm told, are the exact same as the dresses that the women on the number 1 "family-friendly" show Dancing with the Stars wear.  I wouldn't know because I've never seen the show. 

It is important to realize that reversing this trend starts with each of us, and in fact, given the climate, there are some battles that are best NOT fought directly by priests.  Sure I can talk to people in general about modesty and its importance (and I have), but to tell certain people, in the moment, "sorry, I can't get a photo with you because your dress is too revealing..." or "you can't come in to Mass dressed that way, it is too inappropriate"...those sorts of statements would cause GREATER scandal.  It takes a village, and I think never more clearly does it take a village than on the issue of modesty.

I can assure you, modesty is of a grave concern to me and to all of us who work at Ritter.  I simply ask what it is that you personally are doing to change the culture with regards to modesty ... or are you waiting for someone else to do it for you?


  1. Perfectly said, Father Hollowell!!

  2. Father, this is a problem that, like many others in our culture, has been stealthily creeping its way in until we suddenly look around and wonder, "How did it come to this?" (That's the way Satan has always worked though.) Because of this, it will take a while, and a lot of effort, to undue the effects of the sexual revolution in our world. One thing I would recommend very highly is the teaching of Blessed John Paul II's theology of the body. I've been sharing it with teens at our parish for 4 or 5 years now and they just soak it up!! We've had comments like, "Now I understand God's plan for my life"; we've had non-Catholic friends join the class and one young lady who then began (and completed) her journey into the Catholic Church; we've had kids keep coming back even after the official "class" was over to talk more about it and share what they are encountering in junior high, high school and college....and what they have learned to say to counter these things!! This is just one idea but it's a solid one that I believe will continue to have an impact on the Church for a very long time.
    Thank you for standing in the gap for our young people.

  3. Before someone chimes in with "what about boys? Double standard!" let me say that yes, boys are respobsible for modesty as well. However, in my experience, the problem with boys tends to be more about unkemptness and sloppy dress rather than immodest dress.

  4. Father Colleen Hammond has great links in her book Dressing's list of them.
    Thank you for this blog post and your leadership! We love you!

  5. Awesome!! I'm soooooo glad you address these things!!! Amen, Amen, Amen!!! I'm all in!!!!
    I truly believe your mother, that the stuff in the stores is generally awful.
    And yes, it takes a village. I really feel for the kids whose parents don't address this, or who aren't there.
    Thank you Father for always encouraging us!! :)

  6. Father Hollowell, what are some good resources to use to teach preteen girls about dressing modestly? I hope to avoid having my now 9 year old battle me in her prom dress choices in the not too distant future.

  7. I have long lamented the double standard that exists between the genders. Somehow men are able to maintain the "masculine" look by wearing multiple layers (shirt, vest, jacket) covering their necks to their wrists to their ankles. But in order to look "feminine" young ladies are told to lower their necklines, raise their hemlines, and make it all as tight as possible.

    we not only need voices to combat this, but we need young women to be role models and examples for younger generations as well.

  8. To Mr. Basso:
    The best role model is the Blessed Mother. All women (and men) should think of her and ask themselves: "Would I be embarassed to stand before the Blessed Mother wearing this?" The Blessed Mother covered her head and her body. That is the least we can do ----especially in church. Why would we wish to be an occasion of sin for others? What does that say about our own state of mind?