The Need for Bridal Reins
?Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it
possible to resist the allurements of fashion and
the pressures of prevailing ideologies.?
(Catechism of the Catholic Church: 2523)
Not very long ago I was in attendance at a family wedding, with a nuptial mass. This was good, as many contemporary couples simply choose not to have a mass. I have been to those ?exchanges of vows? (of sorts) in the past ? no more. In this case, the day before the ceremony, I tagged along to the bridal shop where the gowns were to be collected. As we entered the shop I was just about to drop my usual sardonic comment about ?robot? brides ? when the sales clerk came out with the dresses. I shut my mouth. All of the attendants were to wear tight, strapless gowns. (The bride wore a discreet jacket over her dress.) Mass commenced and vows were taken with the four attendants, so garbed, facing the priest.
In the last several years, it has been difficult not to be aware of the brides? costumes, displayed with marriage announcements in virtually every Sunday newspaper. With rare exceptions, no matter where the wedding is taking place, they are ALL wearing strapless gowns. ?That?s the style!? Anyway, who cares?
This week?s mail brought to us the diocesan Catholic paper, with an insert of articles of interest for those planning upcoming nuptials in June and summer. There were five colored photos of the brides and grooms. ALL of the brides were proudly sporting strapless gowns; the girl kneeling with the most cleavage. (There was one other bride photographed, this one with Pope Benedict, covered up.)
Perhaps the photos were pick-ups from bridal shops, not taken necessarily by diocesan sources. But as the old saying goes, one picture is worth a thousand words. If NO pictures could be located save these affronts to Catholic sensitivities, may I suggest that photos be omitted ? period! Don?t bother! Such common style is not appealing. There is nothing demure about the garment, nothing special as befits the occasion. Most of all, they are not appropriate. Rather, the strapless gown is more of the robotic secular agenda, being happily followed by our own girls. If eyebrows are raised, the response is that, well ?that?s all they?re selling.? And that, if you are to believe the diocesan projections, is all we?re buying .
What you can anticipate when you raise the issue at all ? and how dare you ? is the typical parental response (if they care): ?Well, at least they are getting married in the church.? This leads to the next query: where is the Pastor? With the requested wedding plans to be submitted months in advance, with all the pre-nuptial papers which have to be prepared; with mandated classes which have to be attended; with the music to be selected; there is plenty of opportunity, it seems to me, to issue some firm direction before the investment is made in bridal attire, that this is not acceptable dress in the Roman Catholic Church, and never was!
Why not? Because the altar and sanctuary where the couple intends to make the most profoundly important commitment of their lives contains the Eucharistic Christ our Savior, ever present in the tabernacle. This miracle of His divine Presence is given to us through no merit of our own. We should, we must be aware at all times that He is King; He is Judge; He is I Am. He is of a Purity and Innocence utterly exceeding human intelligence and contemplation. Therefore, it matters very much how one is dressed before this mystery. Consider that if a private interview is extended to anyone by the Pope, instructions are carefully provided regarding proper attire, before you are presented to the Vicar of Christ.
Let?s make this a family affair! (These questions are raised upon the premise that these are Catholic people.) Where was the bride?s mother when this wedding dress was selected? Has she forfeited long ago any effort to influence her daughter?s life choices? Where is her father? Has he become so intimidated by feminist influences in our society that he fears speaking up? Where is the Grandmother? Did she not live in another age ? an age when such clothing was flatly declared to be an ?occasion of sin? and does she not know better? Where is the Grandfather? Has he no role but to sit idly by, maybe uncomfortable but reluctant, unwilling to enter the fray?
Is this a good time to bring up the matter of short shorts and midriffs at the communion rails in our churches? Is this a good time to raise the issue of 11-year olds frolicking in the briefest of bikinis in their backyard pools, and of course public beaches?
(I pause here to mention my husband?s chagrin at being seated behind a teenage girl with tattoo well below her short blouse at mass.) We could weep; we should weep.
Our Lady of Fatima spoke to us in 1917 that certain fashions would be introduced that would offend her Son very much. No one even considered at that time that she could be looking into the future with a vision of how Catholic brides in our time would cavalierly approach her Son?s holy altar, mindless of centuries of respect for dignity of the sanctuary.
We really should stop blaming Hollywood for the moral decline. Let?s not blame the Internet. Let?s not blame the media. We are responsible for this mess. I have come to the conclusion that there?s not much we can do about the problems in the Mid East or Africa or even in influencing our own government. We need to simplify our lives and address the areas, sometimes the little things, that we live with day to day, and sometimes we need to break the mold and in the words of Bugs Bunny assert, ?That?s all folks!?
Let us close by recalling that a poignant parable Jesus addressed to us, which calls us all to self-examination. The parables Our Lord spoke are truly amazing, for they apply to every age. Remember the story: the king sends out invitations for the marriage feast of his son. The response was flimsy excuses for why they would not come, even to the point of brutalizing the messenger servants. The king sent his armies to punish the guilty, then issued the second invite to ?whomever you shall find? in the ?crossroads.? Good and bad alike were thus gathered at the feast which was ?filled with guests.? When the king entered he saw a man without a proper wedding garment. The king castigated the man severely, and ?cast him forth into the darkness outside,? where the gospel warns us, there ?will be the weeping and gnashing of teeth.? (Matthew:23; 2-14) It is not enough for us to be invited to that select banquet; it is imperative that we wear suitable garments, which might take us a lifetime to prepare.