THE REQUIREMENTS FOR MODESTY IN DRESS
LOOK TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY AS A PERFECT EXAMPLE
In order to benefit from reading this article it is highly recommended that you say the following prayer from Sacred Scripture: "Speak Lord, your servant listens." (Kings 3:9) It is also necessary to reflect on the virtue of humility which is the indispensable foundation of all Christian life. This truth God wished especially to impress upon us by His Incarnation, when "He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to death on a cross." (Phil. 2:8) We are also taught in the Holy Bible that: "God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6) It is realized that this appeal will only affect a few because Our Lord tells us by another passage that the road to hell is broad and many are those who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate and straight is the way that leadeth to life, and few there are who find it! (Matt. 7:13-14) But if this article eliminates only one mortal sin, it will be worth the effort.
In regard to modesty in dress and deportment, let us first consider what the Holy Bible has to say on this subject: "In like manner I wish women to be decently dressed, adorning themselves with modesty and dignity, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but with good works, such as become women professing Godliness." (1 Tim. 2:9-10)
Modesty should be promoted by mothers in their children from early infancy. Many foolish mothers train their little daughters to consider scanty attire as the normal thing. Let such mothers take to heart the serious admonition of Pope Pius XII: "O Christian mothers, if you knew what a future of anxieties and perils, of ill-guarded shame you prepare for your sons and daughters, imprudently getting them accustomed to live scantily dressed and making them lose the sense of modesty, you would be ashamed of yourselves and you would dread the harm you are making for yourselves, the harm which you are causing these children, whom Heaven has entrusted to you to be brought up as Christians."
Purity is like a precious pearl; it is purchased at a great price, retained only with great care and watchfulness and easily lost or destroyed. Beware of pride and flattery, as arch-enemies of your purity. You may not be finely dressed or pretty and graceful; you may not have those attractions which are most admired by the world; but if you have the virtues of modesty and purity you have something which money cannot buy and an ornament which will outlast all the fading treasures of earth. "How beautiful then is modesty and what a gem among virtues it is." (St. Bernard, Confessor and Doctor of the Church)
Let us listen to the Holy Ghost speaking to us again in the Holy Bible: "Do not love the world, or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; which is not from the Father, but from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away but he who does the will of God abides forever." (1 St. John 2:15, 17)
Our Sorrowful and Immaculate Mother, who in all Her apparitions is fully covered, is presented by Her divine Son to us as the perfect model of modesty and purity. She is terribly saddened by the immodest and impure conduct so prevalent in our society. Our Lord speaks to us through His Blessed Mother in condemning the modern trends of uncovering the body. In fact, Our Lady came down from heaven to warn against this disrobing trend. Listen to what She revealed to little ten-year-old Jacinta of Fatima while she was dying in a hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1920: "Certain fashions will be introduced which will offend Our Divine Lord very much. Those who serve God ought not to follow these fashions. Our Lord is always the same." And she also revealed to Jacinta that "the sins that lead most souls to Hell are the sins of the flesh."
Now let us look at pictures of Our Lady in three of Her most famous apparitions.
In Her appearance to Blessed Juan Diego in Mexico, She left a self portrait which has been miraculously preserved for over four centuries. It is on display in the Basilica in Mexico City. The pictures of Our Blessed Mother as She appeared at Lourdes to St. Bernadette and to the three children at Fatima are from descriptions provided by the seers. These appearances occurred over a period of more than four centuries, but see how Her dress is always the same.
Ladies, men, girls and boys should always wear clothing that they would not be ashamed of in the sight of God. This would certainly eliminate shorts, bathing suits and pants for females. Christ's words are very clear: "A woman shall not be clothed with man's apparel, neither shall a man use woman's apparel; for he that doeth these things is abominable before God." (Deut.22:5) If Christ said that the sexes should not wear each other's clothes, it stands to reason there is a distinct difference in men and women's clothes. Now let us reflect again on how the Mother of our Savior has been adorned in Her various appearances. Can you imagine Her wearing slacks? How can we say that we have a true devotion to Our Blessed Mother and continue to follow worldly fashions and trends? Should we not follow her perfect example?
Now if you are inclined to think that what this paper suggests is not really necessary or that it is too demanding, reflect again on how few take that narrow path to Heaven and how many lose their souls. It seems that very few people really think of Hell and think that not too many go there. Yet Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, warned that "few find the narrow way to life, but many find the broad way to Hell." (Mt. 7:13-14) So we cannot dispute this argument for we know His words are infallibly true. But how many are saved? St. Bonaventure, once speaking in Constantinople, asked this question and, giving his own answer, said: "Of all the thousands in this city, how many will be saved? How ought I to answer this question, or ought I answer it at all? Perhaps hardly a hundred. Would to God I could be certain of so many. " When St. Bernard died, a holy anchorite who had also died at the same time appeared to the bishop of Langres and told him that 30,000 had died at the same time. He and St. Bernard went straight to Heaven, 3 others went to Purgatory and all the rest were damned.
Father Eusebius Nieremburg, who resided at the College of Madrid, where he died in the odor of sanctity in 1658, relates the story of a noble and exceedingly pious lady, who asked God to make known to her what displeased His Divine Majesty most in persons of her sex. The Lord vouchsafed in a miraculous manner to hear her. He opened under her eyes the eternal abyss. There she saw a woman a prey to cruel torments and in her recognized one of her friends, a short time before deceased. This sight caused her as much astonishment as grief: the person whom she saw damned did not seem to her to have lived badly. Then that unhappy soul said to her: "It is true that I practiced religion, but I was a slave of vanity. Ruled by the passion to please, I was not afraid to adopt indecent fashions to attract attention, and I enkindled the fire of impurity in more than one heart. Ah! If Christian women knew how much immodesty in dress displeases God!" At the same moment, this unhappy soul was pierced by two fiery lances and plunged into a caldron of liquid lead.
St. John Chrysostom (347-407), the illustrious Bishop of Constantinople and one of the 32 doctors of the Church, had this to say about women who dress immodestly: "You carry your snare everywhere and spread your net in all places. You allege that you never invited others to sin. You did not indeed by your words, but you have done so by your dress and your deportment. And much more effectively than you could by your voice. When you have made another sin in his heart, how can you be innocent? Tell me whom does this world condemn? Whom do the judges in court punish? Those who drink poison or those who prepare it and administer the fatal potion? You are more criminal than those who poison the body. You have given the death-dealing drink. You murder not the body but the soul, and it is not to enemies do you do this nor are you urged on by any imaginary necessity nor provoked by injury. But you do it out of foolish vanity and pride."
Woe to women who dress immodestly! Woe to fathers and husbands who do not correct their wives and daughters! Woe to pastors of souls if they remain silent! Woe to us, for this is one of the sins which causes most souls to go to Hell, sins of the flesh. "O that they would be wise and would understand and would provide for their latter end." (Deut.32:29) "There is a way that seemeth just to a man; but the ends thereof leadeth to death." (Prov.14:12) "Few find the narrow way to life."
The problem of salvation is a very difficult thing; for according to the maxims of the theologians, when an end demands great efforts, only a few attain it; but not to make every effort to avoid eternal damnation and to make sure of one's salvation is something inconceivable. God wants all men to be saved. He tells us so in the Holy Bible; that He enlightens every man that cometh into this world. In a hundred places in Holy Scripture, God tells us that it is truly His desire to save all men. "I live, saith the Lord God. I desire not the death of the sinner. Be converted and live." (Ex.18-32) He provides us with all the means most proper for us to be saved.
Now let us listen to St. Anselm, Bishop, Confessor and Doctor of the Church, on this matter of salvation: "If you want to be certain of being in the number of the Elect, strive to be one of the few, not one of the many. And if you would be quite sure of your salvation, strive to be among the fewest of the few; that is to say: do not follow the great majority of mankind, but follow those who enter upon the narrow way, who renounce the world, who give themselves to prayer, and who never relax their efforts by day or night, so that they may attain everlasting blessedness."
Let this paper be ended on a positive note. The eminent way to protect and nourish an unsullied and perfect chastity, as proven by experience time and again throughout the course of centuries, is solid and fervent devotion to the Virgin Mother of God. St. Gregory of Nicomedia encourages sinners by assurance if they have recourse to Our Blessed Mother, with a determination to amend their lives, She will save them by Her intercession. To obtain favors from Our Lady, we must perform certain devotions practiced by Her servants: First, to recite at least five decades of her Rosary every day. Second, to wear the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Third, to have a picture or a statue of Our Lady in our home and recite Her litany every day. There are other devotions by the servants of Mary, but most of all we should recommend ourselves frequently to Her in prayer. "If you persevere until death in true devotion to Mary, your salvation is certain" (St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church).
You are urged to adopt a true devotion to Mary by beginning to practice the exercises listed above. This is a small price to pay to be assured of our eternal salvation.
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