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“Ask a Priest: What If a Clothes Dispute Pushed My Daughter From the Faith?”
Q: My 17-year-old daughter has always been a devoted Catholic. She served as an altar server, and at age 16 became a reader at Mass. She trained for it and started reading and loved it. A new priest was assigned to the parish, and my daughter felt that this new priest didn’t like a 16-year-old being a reader. Soon, some members of the parish made comments about how she dressed. At first, I told my daughter to let it go and continue reading. Then I received a phone call from the rectory saying that my daughter needed to dress better. I asked what they meant by “better” (her knees showed with her skirts). My daughter broke down in tears and told me she never wants to step foot in that church again. My husband and I at this point were upset at the treatment of my daughter. I called back and said that she was removing herself from being a reader. They said they were sorry, and our family never heard from this church again. We had since moved to another parish. Since then, my daughter has gotten away from the faith, saying she feels the Church is judgmental and corrupt. She still goes to church and prays, but is now into New Age belief, too. I told her to forgive the priest and the parishioners, and she has promised me she has. But I can feel the resentment is still there. She loved volunteering and now could care less about it. Please help! – K.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: I am sorry to hear about the situation.
It would be good to intensify your prayers for your daughter. The clothing issue is one thing — perhaps the matter could have been handled better — but it’s another for a Catholic to start embracing New Age beliefs.
It might be good to help your daughter see the Church, not primarily as an institution with imperfect human members, but as the mystical body of Christ. Jesus who suffered and died on a cross for your daughter is the Head of the Church.
It is he who gives himself in the Eucharist, who pardons sins through the sacrament of reconciliation, who blesses marriages, who teaches through the magisterium.
Jesus is at the center of the Church. He is the reason why we are here. He founded the Church. He sustains it. It is his instrument for helping people reach heaven.
Still, it is understandable that your family felt slighted in this whole incident.
It would have been better for someone at the parish to speak with your family and explain the issue and work out a mutual agreement. The cold call from the rectory without prior dialogue seemed like a bad approach.
It would give the devil a chuckle to see your daughter drift from the faith because of the length of a skirt. So, try to remember the real culprit who is lurking in the background.
I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers.
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