Modesty & The Catholic Church – Fr. Dominic Mary, MFVA

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Homily Given by Fr. Dominic Mary, MFVA on EWTN’s Televised Mass – 6.14.05

2 Cor 8:1-9 OLA Chapel – 7am TV Mass

Psalm 146:2, 5-9 Tues week 11 – Year I

St. Matthew 5:43-48 June 14, 2005

Today is Tuesday of the 11th week of Ordinary Time. In today’s gospel we see the Lord Jesus continuing His Sermon on the Mount in St. Matthew’s Gospel. He tells the people, and us through this holy Gospel, that they and we are to no longer hate our enemies, but rather, we are to love them. Furthermore, we are to pray for those who persecute us. We are to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. We are called to holiness – and holiness includes loving and praying for those who do us wrong.

But you know, one of the things that comes to mind, especially with summer well under way in this part of the world, is the lack of love shown by so many people to their neighbor in the poor and immodest way in which they dress, especially while attending Holy Mass. And this immodesty is very much tied to the widespread impurity in our culture and society today. Immodesty is one of the biggest problems we have to face in dealing with purity in the West. The Ninth Commandment says that thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife. As the Catechism tells us, the struggle against carnal covetousness entails purifying the heart and practicing temperance (CCC, no. 2517). And purity requires modesty, which is an integral part of temperance (CCC, no. 2521). Modesty

protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons. (CCC, no. 2521)

Modesty protects the mystery of the person. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships. Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. (CCC, no. 2522)

And so modesty is a virtue. Included in the virtue of modesty is not only humility, but also in how one externally dresses (cf. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary, p. 356). But many today have rejected to practice this virtue so desperately needed in our current culture. Even to the most casual observer, immodesty in dress is seen as common place in our Churches. We have got to do all we can to help people to wake up and realize they are dressing way to immodestly, especially when it comes to entering a Church to worship God. We must be like the Vatican – just one example (cf. www. cathnews.com) – when there are heat waves in Rome the Vatican dress police, neatly dressed in pants, shirts and ties, turn back all tourists in shorts and bare shoulders trying to get into St. Peter’s Basilica. I’ve seen them do with my own eyes. These immodestly dressed people have to go and buy paper pants and shirts from vendors eagerly waiting outside.

Many people come to Church dressed like they are ready to go to the beach. You should not come to Church dressed in shorts, miniskirts, swimsuits, bikinis, tank-tops, dresses above the knees, bare shoulders, bare arms, low cut dresses, sleeveless shirts, very tight fitting clothing, etc. If you come to EWTN or the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, AL and you are not dressed properly don’t expect to get out of your car because we have a dress code here. And don’t even dare to come into the Chapel before our Lord. If you do, hopefully you will be caught by our security guards and asked to put on more clothing. We must return to having a holy fear for God and for His true Presence in the Eucharist and for being in His house. How can we expect to grow in the spiritual life if we are dressed like we don’t care? How dare we approach the Holy Eucharist dressed like we are going to the beach.

When a person dresses immodestly he or she can become an occasion of sin for other people. And this is the fashion for today. Each year it seems that the latest fashion is to see how little clothing one can wear and how much of one’s body can be shown. And what flesh is not shown is revealed by extremely tight clothing. To knowingly and intentionally dress like this is sinful, and can be even seriously sinful, because one become a temptation to sin for other people. We are all weak and can easily fall into many sins of impurity by someone else’s immodesty.

Before we go out or buy new clothes we should do a modesty check. Ladies, remember some simple guidelines in buying and wearing an outfit, which are modeled here after a well known modesty promoter (cf. Collen Hammond, Dressing with Dignity, http://www.valoramedia.com):

1. First of all, one guideline which can prove to very helpful (developed by either the Sacred Congregation of the Council under Pope Pius XI or from a Cardinal from Pope Pius XII=s office in 1956): A dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers breadth under the pit of the throat, which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows, and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knees. Furthermore, dresses of transparent material are improper.

2. Does my back, belly or shoulders show? Does my back or belly show when I am bending or stretching? When bending over does my blouse hang down and open for all to see through?

3. Is my blouse or top to tight? Is it more loose fitting or is it too tight and revealing? Can one see the outline of my underwear through my tight-fitting clothing? Blouses and tops that are too tight are very immodest and say a lot about the woman who wears such a blouse or top.

4. Lastly, we are concerned about how much flesh is showing, but as one well known modesty promoter put it, modesty is not just about how much of our skin is showing, but how much of our feminine shape is showing (cf. Collen Hammond, Dressing with Dignity, http://www.valoramedia.com).

The way one dresses is a big determinant in what kind of person one will attract. Ladies, if you dress immodestly, what do you think you will attract? If you dress like a woman of the night you attract men of the night – men who want to use you, not to love you for who you are. Women want to be loved for who they are, not for the pleasure they can give to a man. Yet many dress so immodestly that all they attract is men who wish to love them for their body. If you want to attract a decent man, who will truly love you, then start by dressing like a woman who respects herself and her dignity as a woman. What you wear says a lot about you. By how you dress sends many messages to those who see you.

Let us love our neighbor, even our enemies: first, in relation to today’s Gospel, by dressing properly and modestly. Second, let us love, with a Christian love, those who do dress immodestly. Let us pray for them and try to gently help them. Let us dress properly. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8).