Modesty, a Virtue that Reflects the Generosity of Our Vocation
“The most important virtue for a woman is purity. If this is lost, the other virtues will disappear as well.” St. Jerome
This week we are reflecting on modesty in clothing, and of course we want to focus more and more on the purpose of dressing in a truly Catholic and Lucilian fashion.
As we reflect on what modesty is, we come to the question of what is meant by purity. There is a basic principle of Christian purity, which states that it is necessary to hide the body to reveal the soul. That said, we must consider that by dressing with purity in mind we are giving dignity to our own body.
It is in this context that doubts may arise, but we can reflect on what follows below regarding how to approach clothing, so that, in addition to paying attention to our external appearance, we will also be protecting our soul and helping our neighbor to take care of his soul.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in regard to the virtue of purity, addresses modesty: “Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet.” (2522) Modesty and purity go hand in hand; however, modesty is more tied to the way one dresses, and thus modesty fosters elegance and fineness.
In a broader concept, modesty can be characterized as a behavior based on humility, meaning that the person is free from vanities relative to herself and lives in accordance with ethical and moral standards. She is characterized by her simple and unpretentious way of being, by her true purity of heart.
Thus, observing modesty within the virtue of purity, will surely result in a greater care in the choice of clothing, because, with a pure heart, we will desire to become more and more pleasing to God.
Once again, we refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
a) Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity. (2521)
b) Purity of heart will enable us to see God: it enables us even now to see things according to God. (2431)
c) Purity of heart requires the modesty which is patience, decency, and discretion. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person.” (2533)
“Dress modestly, with purity. Look at how the Mother of God dresses.” Lyrics from “13th of May”
Stop and think: Are people concerned as to whether or not their way of dressing is an occasion of sin for themselves and their neighbours?
“Fashions will appear that will greatly offend the Lord.” Our Lady in Fatima
In 1943, Pius XII sent a blessing of approval to Dr. Plinio for the book ‘In Defense of Catholic Action’, in which modesty is defended.
In this great work, Dr. Plinio states:
“Everything that speaks of a direct and up front combat against indecent fashions, bad books, bad company, and bad shows is often passed over in the deepest silence.
It is no wonder, therefore, that education in purity is frequently done in a rash way, soaked in morbid sentimentalism and paganizing ideas full of dangerous concessions to modern customs.”
To help guide our discussions on modesty, let us take an excerpt from the book.
In Defense of Catholic Action: Part Two, Chapter I – The Rules of Christian Modesty:
“Let us give a concrete example. The Feminine Marian Federation of São Paulo felt a need to prescribe rules of dress for the Daughters of Mary. It was moved to do so above all by a desire to settle complex questions that arise, in practice, from the adoption of appropriate garb. At that time the director of the Federation was Fr. José Gaspar D’Afonseca e Silva, afterward “ad maiora vocatus.”4 The establishing of these rules, which it is useful to transcribe, greatly absorbed the attention of their illustrious author, which proves well that the problems thus solved were not within just anyone’s reach. From this work resulted a document of rare equilibrium and great usefulness. The Daughters of Mary were thus endowed with a means of sanctification that was necessary not because of a lack of interior formation, but which, on the contrary, was imperative as the only means to concretely fulfill the generous impulses raised by the interior formation.
We transcribe here the learned and prudent document:
a) fashion must be in absolute accordance with Christian modesty, every exaggeration excluded, even in regard to make-up;
b) For the reception of the sacraments, as well as whenever the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, long sleeves as far as the wrists, are required.
c) in all other circumstances short sleeves are tolerated, so long as they reach the elbow;
d) consequently, a Daughter of Mary will never be permitted to wear a sleeveless dress.
It behooves a Daughter of Mary as much as possible to appear at social functions only in the company of her family.
a) Balls and dances: in the conditions mentioned above, family balls are tolerated; dancing will be exclusively permitted at these, respecting the intrinsic rules of modesty.
b) Beaches: the Daughter of Mary must, at all swimming beaches, preserve the utmost distinction, as required by the title she is honored with. She will select her clothing sensibly, and under no circumstances will she abandon her bathrobe when out of the water. In no other occasion is she permitted to neglect the use of socks or to use short ones.
c) Swimming pools: It is expressly forbidden for a Daughter of Mary to take part in mixed bathing in swimming pools.
d) Yacht or swimming clubs: Given the unavoidable promiscuity of yacht and swimming clubs it is forbidden for a Daughter of Mary to join their social ranks.
e) Carnivals: It is expressly forbidden for a Daughter of Mary to participate in carnival dances and carnival street groups, as well as to wear male attire or any disguise which may offend even slightly, the rules of decency. Only paragraph: Male attire is always forbidden to a Daughter of Mary, in all circumstances. The prohibition of pajamas extends also to swimming beaches.”
Defense of Catholic Action (Dr. Plinio)
It is a fact that, faced with the ultra-revolutionary society in which we live, in which modesty urgently needs to be rescued and effectively applied in discussion and practice, we have, in contrast, the desire to place ourselves close to Our Lady of Solitude, as confirmed by the words of Dr. Plinio:
“We who are alone, need to be ever more numerous, must seek others who are isolated like us across the world, to unite together. And having done this we can say, ‘It was the glorious victory of the glorious legion of the isolated ones’. It is necessary not to lose sight of this.”
How should a lady deal with outside environments, such as schools, doctors, and neighbors? Dr. Plinio tells us:
“… what ladies want for their daughters in schools, in turn they should set themselves as an example by the life they lead. As well, they need to realize that others are not going think well of them, and realize that they have nowhere to escape to and may not be welcomed by others. But, in Heaven, Our Lord Jesus Christ looks at our sacrifice, Our Lady looks at our isolation and the Angels sing our glory. We must therefore have the courage to be the isolated.”
In keeping with the above words of Dr. Plinio, let us be truly Catholic ladies imbued with the certainty that Our Lady looks at our isolation and strengthens us in this struggle for the promotion of modesty in the face of this ultra-revolutionary society, in which so many souls have been condemned and will be condemned.
Let us seriously think about how our clothing should not be a scandal for the people around us. Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:28). Let us think seriously: Every woman shares responsibility for the sins that a man commits, if she, by her manner of dressing, is the stimulus for that man to sin. Imagine if this man died without confession!
“The sins that lead most souls to hell are the sins of the flesh.” Blessed Jacinta, little shepherdess of Fatima
God cares how we dress and we should wear clothes that conserve purity, chastity and modesty, in body, mind and heart. The use of indecent, transparent, sensual or tight clothing leads to sin directly against God, because our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.
May Dona Lucilia, our extremely loving and zealous mother, help all of us to stand firm in constant observation and self-correction for the truly Catholic practice of the virtue of modesty.
“I want all of you, my dear spiritual children, to fight by example, and without human respect, a holy battle against the indecent fashion.” Saint Pio of Pietrelcina
Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, pray for us!
Cintia Mara Souza Oliveira Lima
*Unofficial translation of the original Portuguese article