Gosh, this blog post has been in the draft folder for about two weeks, and in my mental draft folder for about a year.
I honestly don’t know why this one has been so difficult to write, perhaps it’s because I will never be able to top the LOTR post. Yep, that’s definitely it.
Also because it’s about modesty and modesty causes people to cringe and cry and whine and lament and honestly, is there anything new I could even add to the topic? But, it’s on my heart so now it’s on the internet.
The Catholic faith is one of Truth and Love (should love be capitalized? Whatever, I’m the author, I do what I want) and it is the combination of these two that makes me love this faith so deeply. Without Truth our faith has no validity, this is obvious, and without Love our faith is just a list of rules that have no purpose.
So, modesty. In my experience (as a woman, hopefully that’s obvious) I’ve encountered modesty that hits heavily on a twisted idea of truth or a twisted idea of love. Either there are no rules or there are too many rules.
The no rules option is easy to see in our society. The media constantly tells women to be more womanly or less womanly, show more or disguise your feminine shape, and decide whether you want to be taken seriously by men or women.
So, that sucks. However, I feel like this flawed idea of modesty is easier for us as Catholics to see. Moving on to the real reason behind this whole post.
Ladies first. Basically what I’ve been conditioned to think is that my body is a temple, except it’s not because if I show too much of it I will lead all men to sin. It’s a lose-lose situation all around. I’ve read articles about how good Catholic women shouldn’t wear pants, or that we should only wear pants, or that we should only wear dresses, or that we should only wear maxi skirts, or that we shouldn’t wear maxi skirts because it “implies liberal feministic ideals”.
If you combine all of those articles and all of those rules together, we literally have nothing to wear.
That is not Truth. It’s no wonder that women have such a messed up pereception of what true femininity is! We are encourage to squash it, to ignore it, to hide it because it is seen as something detrimental to the salvation of others. But we are made good, we are not an afterthought but the final brushstroke to the masterpiece of creation. We were not made to make men struggle their whole lives, but help them (and allow them to help us) get to Heaven. I should desire to dress and act modestly because I love my brothers in Christ and not because I am ashamed to be a woman.
Now men. You’ve been conditioned to reject the beauty of women. What I’ve heard (since I am, as previously stated, not a man) is that men need to have something to pursue, something to fight for, and that one of those pursuits is beauty. Marc Barnes (BadCatholic) is all about beauty saving the world, and I agree wholeheartedly. The devil can’t create anything, he can only twist Truth. So he has taken beauty and twisted it into something that is reduced to a temptation that you either give into or reject completely. But when you reject the twisted Truth completely, you are still rejecting Truth (for more on this listen to Christopher West talk about JP2’s “Theology of the Body”).
I feel like I should tell you how to pursue beauty and not reject it completely but honestly I can’t because I’m not a guy. So I encourage you to seek out other men who want to do that and ask girls out on dates or something.
In general, the way modesty is taught and presented focuses only on the sinfulness that comes from not acting/dressing modestly, and on our fallen and sinful nature. But…
“We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.” –Blessed Pope John Paul the Great
CCC 2522 Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. 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.
CCC 2526 So called moral permissiveness rests on an erroneous conception of human freedom; the necessary precondition for the development of true freedom is to let oneself be educated in the moral law. Those in charge of education can reasonably be expected to give young people instruction respectful of the truth, the qualities of the heart, and the moral and spiritual dignity of man.
That is Truth. We should focus on the good that comes from modesty and the beauty in helping others achieve eternal salvation.