“THOSE WHO SERVE GOD SHOULD NOT FOLLOW THE FASHIONS” – PART 2 of 2
(Our Lady of Fatima)
4. The Standards
These standards may appear as something out-dated; but the words of Our Lady assure us they are as pertinent today as ever:
“The Church has no fashions; Our Lord is always the same.”
Pope Pius XII also assured us that although there can be a wide variety in fashions, “there always exists an absolute norm to be preserved 1“ which cannot change with times and customs. To “justify” immodest fashions by calling them things we get “accustomed to,” he said, was among “the most insidious of sophisms 2.”
Therefore, the following timeless standards should be joyfully welcomed and embraced. Furthermore, Catholics should both charitably encourage and admonish each other to dress with proper modesty.
The Marylike Standards For Modesty In Dress 3
“In order that uniformity in understanding prevail… we recall that 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 materials are improper.” (The Cardinal Vicar of Pope Pius XI.)
1. Marylike is modest without compromise, “like Mary,” Christ’s Mother.
2. Marylike dresses have sleeves extending at least to the elbows and skirts reaching below the knees. [When a woman sits down her knees should still be well covered].
(Note: because of impossible market conditions quarter-length sleeves are temporarily tolerated with Ecclesiastical Approval, until Christian womanhood again turns to Mary as the model of modesty in dress.)
3. Marylike dresses require full coverage for the bodice, chest, shoulders, and back; except for a cut-out about the neck not exceeding two inches below the neckline in front and in back, and a corresponding two inches on the shoulders.
4. Marylike dresses do not admit as modest coverage transparent fabrics — laces, nets, organdy, nylons, etc. — unless sufficient backing is added. However, their moderate use as trimmings is
5. Marylike dresses avoid the improper use of flesh-colored fabrics.
6. Marylike dresses conceal rather than reveal the figure of the wearer; they do not emphasize, unduly, parts of the body.
7. Marylike dresses provide full coverage even after jacket, cape or stole are removed.
Virtuous young ladies should understand that dressing modestly does not mean that they cannot appear attractive. However, the attractiveness of their attire should be a modest reflection of the beauty deep within their soul rather than an improper exposure of sensual beauty that has an attraction that is only skin deep. Scripture teaches:
“…let their adorning not be the outward plaiting of the hair, or the wearing of gold, or the putting on of apparel: But the hidden self of the heart in the incorruptibility of a quiet and a meek spirit which is rich in the sight of God” (1Pet. 3:3-4).
Standards for Men
Earlier in this booklet, St. Paul was quoted as saying that women should appear “in decent apparel; adorning themselves with modesty and sobriety” (1Tim. 2:9).
And although, as already mentioned, this is more important for women, St. Francis De Sales commenting on this passage does not hesitate to remark that “the same may be said of men” 4.”
Yes, men too must dress with proper Christian dignity. How overly casual they have become. It is not acceptable for Christian men to go about their daily business in sportswear or other scanty clothing that covers the body little more than the clothing of savages. Remember that missionaries throughout Church history in converting these savages, taught them to cover themselves according to Christian decency.
Although the Church has not provided a universal standard for men’s clothing, still, some guidelines can be found. In May 1946 the Canadian Bishops directed these words on modesty to men:
“Man himself does not escape from the inclination of exhibiting his flesh: some go in public, stripped to the waist, or in very tight pants or in very scanty bathing suits. They thus commit offences against the virtue of modesty. They may also be an occasion of sin (in thought or desire) for our neighbor 5.”
Certainly then, men must take care to avoid tight fitting clothes, short shorts, low-buttoned shirts, muscle shirts, and going shirtless. Because of their Christian dignity, for their everyday attire they should gladly adhere to the ideal (or traditional) form of dress for men: “Loose fitting shirts and slacks.” Long, loose fitting shorts are acceptable for sports, hiking and certain types of work. And finally, it should go without saying that earrings and other marks of effeminacy are to be avoided.
Standards for Children and Youth
Finally, with regards to youngsters, the Church teaches that even small children should be instructed in the practice of properly covering and adorning the body. In this way, by the time they reach puberty their sense of modesty will have become very acute, and the observance of modesty an ordinary part of their daily lives. In reality, then, there should exist little if any difference between the way adults and children observe modesty. Looking at pictures of the three Fatima children, we find good examples.
They are but young children tending sheep, yet see how they are fully dressed, the boy like a male and the girls like females. And the youngest among them, Bl. Jacinta, gives us this beautiful example in her final illness. At only ten years old she had to undergo an operation at the insistence of her doctors. Though the anesthesia of those days “by no means took away her pain,” it is said that she “suffered more from the humiliation of having to expose her body…than from the physical pain 6.”
The 1930 letter of the Sacred Congregation of the Council (mentioned above) decreed, in part, the following:
Parents, conscious of their grave obligations toward the education, especially religious and moral, of their offspring, should assiduously inculcate in their souls, by word and example, love for the virtues of modesty and purity, and since their family should follow the example of the Holy Family, they must rule in such a manner that all its members, reared within the walls of the home, should find reason and incentive to love and preserve modesty. … Let parents never permit their daughters to don immodest garb. 7
Later, that great champion of Christian modesty, Pope Pius XII, gave these strong admonitions to parents:
Woe to those fathers and mothers lacking in energy and prudence, who cede to the caprices of their children and surrender that paternal authority written on the brow of man and wife as a reflection of the divine Majesty8.””
…O Christian mothers (and fathers), if only you knew the future of distress and peril, of shame ill-restrained, that you prepare for your sons and daughters in imprudently accustoming them to live hardly clothed and in making them lose the sense of modesty, you would be ashamed of yourselves and of the harm done to the little ones whom Heaven entrusted to your care, to be reared in Christian dignity and culture9.”
Finally, on December 8, 1995, the Pontifical Council for the Family reminded parents:
“Even if they are socially acceptable, some habits of speech and dress are not morally correct and represent a way of trivializing sexuality, reducing it to a consumer object. Parents should therefore teach their children the value of Christian modesty, moderate dress, and, when it comes to trends, the necessary autonomy. 10”
Sports and Recreation
Many people think that when they are having a picnic or on an outing that the standards for modesty do not apply. Yet, on August 20, 1954, Pope Pius XII declared:
On the beaches, in country resorts, almost everywhere, on the streets of cities and towns, in public and private places, and, indeed, often even in buildings dedicated to God, an unworthy and indecent mode of dress has prevailed11.
These words remind us that the same standard of modesty is to be practiced at all times and places since in all circumstances human nature is subject to the same temptations.
Perhaps for many, because of existing habits, practicing modesty in this area will be the most difficult to observe. Our culture practically worships sports. Because of this, modesty in sportswear has been sacrificed to the god of gaining the competitive advantage — even if there is no competition! It is good to be reminded again of the words of Pope Pius XII:
The good of our soul is more important than that of our body; and we have to prefer the spiritual welfare of our neighbor to our bodily comforts… If a certain kind of dress constitutes a grave and proximate occasion of sin, and endangers the salvation of your soul and others, it is your duty to give it up12.
Obviously, for this same reason, Pius XI, taught in his encyclical “On The Christian Education of Youth,” that “in gymnastic exercises and deportment, special care must be had of Christian modesty in young women and girls, which is so gravely impaired by any kind of exhibition in public13.”
Later, Pope Pius XII would add:
“Do they not see the harm resulting from excess in certain gymnastic exercises and sports not suitable for virtuous girls14?”
Therefore, the Marylike Crusade taught that the same two rules apply everywhere: “Sufficient coverage and proper fit15.”
This is why Catholic schools once dressed their girls in Marylike gym suits for physical education. We see how God came first in those days!
With regard to swimming there are virtually no commercially available swimsuits for women and girls that give proper coverage. The skintight suits for men are equally to be abhorred.
Even as far back as 1959, Enrique Cardinal Pla y Daniel, Archbishop of Toledo, Spain, was moved to give this directive:
“A special danger to morals is represented by public bathing at the beaches, in pools and river banks… Mixed bathing between men and women which nearly always is an approximate occasion of sin and a scandal, must be avoided16.”
Perhaps we can understand from this the original wisdom in having a YMCA and a YWCA. Let us also keep in mind that up until the mid 1800’s people just didn’t swim in public. It seems in the past folks were well aware of the “special danger to morals” this would cause. Therefore, if any swimming is to be done, it should be within the family in an enclosed area. And carefully selected, skirted swimsuits will be necessary to preserve the modesty and femininity of the women.
Norms for Church and Other Sacred Places
Since Catholic Churches contain Jesus’ Real Presence in the Tabernacle, they are the holiest places on earth; therefore, modesty must be specially observed in them. Modesty should also be specially observed in other sacred places (i.e. outdoor shrines, convents, rectories, seminaries, etc.). This is so important that the Marylike Crusade offered a special imprimatured “Code of Attire for Church and Sacred Places.”
This Code taught women that while they should dress with “Marylike modesty, both at home and in public,” they must be “specially careful to do so when visiting any place dedicated to God.” It also taught that “principles of proper clothing apply…also to men and boys.” Finally, it warned that by coming to church or other sacred places in any kind of immodest garb “God is offended…very grievously.” Consequently, it made a special point of instructing anyone who had “provoked the just anger of God by improper attire” in holy places to “humbly acknowledge and confess these sins…and make reparation to the offended Divine Majesty17.” These words of God’s anger may sound severe to our hearing, but let us be mindful that the only place in the Gospel where Jesus ever showed anger (and a severe anger) was in the Temple of God. For as it is written of Him:
“The zeal of thy House hath eaten me up.” (Jn. 2:17).
Today, to observe proper norms for dress will often mean being different than others. Be mindful that it was daring individuals, who had no fear of the opinions of others, who introduced the improper, indecent and egalitarian fashions that are now destroying our once Christian culture. Therefore, it must be faithful Catholics (called to be the salt of the earth) who, reacting “firmly against the currents that are contrary to the best traditions,” dare to lead our society back to that high standard of decency and harmonious diversity so pleasing to Our Lord and Our Lady. And thus even by their dress, they will prepare the world for the coming of God’s Kingdom!
5. The Feminine Advantage
As a final note, it must be said that women often believe they are gaining some great advantage by turning away from their proper and natural role in the family, society and the Church. The ironic truth of the matter is that in doing so they actually lose their most important advantage: their spiritual advantage over men. This truth is explained in this final section.
As noted above, the “mental attitude of being ‘like a man’ ” which Cardinal Siri spoke of, has been very much instilled into our modern culture. This is expressed not only by the clothing women now wear, but also by their seeking to take more dominant roles in society, by their no longer recognizing their husband’s authority in the family, and some, by even seeking Holy Orders in the Church. But as was shown above, men and women are created different. Therefore, though the genders are certainly equal in dignity, they have different roles to fulfill.
Pope Pius XI pointed this out beautifully in this passage from his Encyclical, Casti Cannubii:
“…if the man is the head, the woman is the heart, and as he occupies the chief place in ruling so she may and ought to claim for herself the chief place in love18.”
The highly respected Catholic philosopher, Alice Von Hildebrand eloquently explains these differing roles further:
“Men and women, while equal in dignity, are different and therefore are called upon to fulfill different functions. Men symbolize the active principle; women the receptive one (which is not to be identified with passivity). This complementarity finds its expression not only in the mystery of the sexual sphere, but on a much higher level, in the fact that the dignity of the priesthood is assigned to men and not to women. It is proper that a human male should actively duplicate the words Christ spoke at the Last Supper; while to the human female has been assigned the glorious function of sacred receptivity, so powerfully expressed in the words of the Holy Virgin, the blessed one among women, and the most perfect of all creatures. It was she who gave women their holy motto: “Be it DONE unto me according to Thy word19.”
“Receptivity,” as Von Hildebrand defines it, “is a generous opening of oneself to another, allowing the possibility of fecundity [i.e. fertility or fruitfulness]20.”
Therefore, the irony is, true holiness — with its demand for obedience, submissiveness, hiddenness, attentiveness, and for total trust and dependency on God — demands that receptivity, which by nature is characteristic — not of men — but of women.
This characteristic receptivity, we can be sure, is the reason that (as St. Teresa of Avila pointed out) many more women than men receive mystical graces. This is a simple fact of history. And sadly, women are losing this receptivity as they strive to be independent, aggressive and dominant seeking to take on the more active role of men. It would seem clear then that God is calling women to be, in a certain sense, spiritual leaders, yet without in any way giving up the beautiful feminine nature with which He adorned them.
Following the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the countless female Saints, by their example, they will lead all humanity along the way of obedience, submissiveness, hiddenness, attentiveness, trust and love to the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth, where the Divine Will will “be done on earth as it is in Heaven… Amen!“
APPENDIX I : HEADCOVERING IN CHURCH
Are women still required to wear veils in the House of God? Perhaps most Catholics today believe they are not. But what is the truth? Jackie Freppon in a recent newsletter article reports:
During the Second Vatican Council, a mob of reporters waited for news after a council meeting. One of them asked Msgr. Annibale Bugnini, then secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship, if women still had to wear a headcovering in church. He responded that the bishops were considering other issues, and women’s veils were not on the agenda. The next day, the international press announced throughout the world that women did not have to keep their heads covered in church anymore. A few days later, Msgr. Bugnini told the press he was misquoted and women must still wear the veil. But the press did not retract the error, and many women stopped wearing the veil as out of confusion and because of pressure from feminist groups.
We read in First Corinthians:
“Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered, disgraceth his head. But every women praying or prophesying with her head not covered, disgraceth her head: for it is all one as if she were shaven. For if a woman be not covered, let her be shorn. But if it be a shame to a woman to be shorn or made bald, let her cover her head. The man indeed ought not to cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God. But the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman but the woman of the man. For the man was not created for the woman: but the woman for the man.”
“Therefore ought the woman to have a power over her head, because of the angels.… “
“You yourselves judge. Doth it become a woman to pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that a man indeed, if he nourish his hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman nourish her hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor the church of God.” (1Cor. 11:4-10,13-16).
Here we see that the custom of the woman veiling her head in church is something bound up in her proper relation to the man as ordained by God. For the man, as Scripture teaches, is in authority over his wife (Eph. 5:22-33). We also see that “nature itself” teaches the logic of the veiling of a woman’s head. For, during divine worship when all attention is to be directed to the adoration of Almighty God, reason dictates that women must conceal the beauty of their hair and be modestly clad so as not to cause a distraction to men.
This passage, being Scriptural, is a divinely inspired teaching. Some would like to believe this teaching was just St. Paul’s personal opinion, but Paul himself in the same epistle said: “…know that the things I write to you, that they are the commandments of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 14:37). And, speaking on Sacred Scripture, Pope Leo XIII taught in his encyclical Providentissiumus Deus that “all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost.”
St. Paul’s final words show to anyone who wants to act contrary to this practice, that it is an unchangeable apostolic and ecclesial tradition: “…if any man be contentious, we [i.e. Apostles] have no such custom, nor the church of God.” And the Fathers of the Church unanimously agree. For instance, St. John Chrysostom states: “To oppose this practiced is contentious, which is irrational. The Corinthians might object, but if they do they are going against the practice of the Universal Church” (Homilies on First Corinthians, 26, 5). And Tertullian states: “What is the meaning of ‘every woman’ except women of every age, every rank, and every circumstance? No one is excepted” (On Prayer, 22, 4, on 1 Cor. 11:5).
Please note, Pope St. Pius X, in his encyclical Pascendi reiterated the Church’s teaching that apostolic and ecclesial traditions are not to be changed:
“But for Catholics nothing will remove the authority of the second Council of Nicea, where it condemns those “who dare, after the impious fashion of heretics, to deride the ecclesiastical traditions…or endeavor by malice of craft to overthrow any one of the legitimate traditions of the Catholic Church”.… Wherefore the Roman Pontiffs, Pius IV and Pius IX, ordered the insertion in the profession of the faith of the following declaration: “I most firmly admit and embrace the apostolic and ecclesiastical traditions and other observances and constitutions of the Church.”
This apostolic tradition was kept always and everywhere in continuum for nearly 2000 years. Nowhere in all Church history do we find a breech in this venerable practice until some 35-40 years ago. Yet, even today, there exists no Church document abrogating this observance.
While it is true that there was a provision in the 1917 Code of Canon Law (Can. 1262.2) calling for the veil that is not seen in the new 1983 Code, that does not mean that it is no longer required. In the effort for simplification of Canon Law, this provision — already called for in Scripture and Tradition — was simply left out. In fact, being that it is both a Scriptural teaching and a traditional observance, we have reason to believe that the Church hierarchy has no authority to change this observance. Therefore, what we seem to be seeing today — with the majority of women entering churches with their heads unveiled — can be considered a breech in a divinely mandated observance which is being universally tolerated. The unveiled head may indeed seem to be a small thing, but Jesus taught: “He therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and shall so teach men, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5:19). Let us remember the proof of our love for God: “If you love me keep my commandments.” (John 14:15).
And then, how edifying it is to see women in church modestly dressed and heads veiled! How much it contributes to the atmosphere of sacredness in the House of God! How pleasing it is to the Angels of God! (1Cor. 11:10)
APPENDIX II : PERTINENT PROPHECIES
— Our Lady of Good Success appeared to a holy nun (Mother Mariana) in Quito, Ecuador in the 17th Century with a message of warning for the end of the 19th Century and especially the 20th Century. The following words are taken from this Church approved apparition:
…in these unhappy times, there will be unbridled luxury which, acting thus to snare the rest into sin, will conquer innumerable frivolous souls who will be lost. Innocence will almost no longer be found in children, nor modesty in women, and in this supreme moment of need of the Church, those who should speak will fall silent.
— Jacinta having heard the words of Our Lady of Fatima stated:
“…the sins that bring most souls to Hell are the sins of the flesh. Certain fashions are going to be introduced which will offend Our Lord very much. Those who serve God should not follow these fashions. The Church has no fashions; Our Lord is always the same. The sins of the world are too great. If only people knew what eternity is they would do everything to change their lives. People lose their souls because they do not think about the death of Our Lord and do not do penance.”
— Pope Pius XII:
“It is often said almost with passive resignation that fashions reflect the customs of a people. But it would be more exact and much more useful to say that they express the decision and moral direction that a nation intends to take: either to be shipwrecked in licentiousness or maintain itself at the level to which it has been raised by religion and civilization.”
— “…[A] noble lady, who was exceedingly pious, 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. T hen that unhappy soul said to her: ‘It is true that I practiced religion, but I was a slave of vanity. Rued by the passion to please, I was not afraid to adopt indecent fashions to attract attention, and I kindled 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.” Fr. X. Schouppe.
- Ibid., p. 84
- Immodest Dress: The Mind of the Church, pp. 17-18. And My Life in Prayer Book (containing: Marylike Modesty Handbook of the Purity Crusade of Mary Immaculate), p. 259.
- Introduction to the Devout Life, p.191.
- Cited in Immodesty: Satan’s Virtue, pp. 22-23.
- Cirrincione, Msgr. Joseph A., Ven. Jacinta Marto of Fatima, p. 58. Rockford, IL: TAN Books and Publishers, Inc. 1992.
- Cited in Immodest Dress: The Mind of the Church, p. 15.
- Allocution on St. Maria Goretti, Canonization 1947. Cited in “L-75,” p. ‘D’.
- Cited in My Life in Prayer Book (containing: Marylike Modesty Handbook of the Purity Crusade of Mary Immaculate), p. 240.
- “Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, No. 97,” Dec. 8, 1995, Pontifical Council for the Family.
- Excerpt from a letter Pope Pius XII delegated Cardinal Ciriaci (Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Council) to issue. Reprinted in Immodesty: Satan’s Virtue, p. 123, (Here dated as Aug. 15, 1954).
- Address of Pope Pius XII to Catholic young girls’ groups in Rome. Cited in Immodesty: Satan’s Virtue, p. 23. See also note 11.
- Pope Pius XI: Rappresentanti in Terra, Dec. 31, 1929.
- Allocution of Pope Pius XII to the Sodality convention in Rome on July 17, 1954.
- My Life in Prayer Book (containing: Marylike Modesty Handbook of the Purity Crusade of Mary Immaculate), p. 267.
- Cited in Ibid., p. 269.
- Reprinted in Immodesty: Satan’s Virtue, pp. 61-63.
- Pope Pius XI, Encyclical Casti Connubii, December 31, 1930.
- “The Sacredness of Tradition,” Article by Alice Von Hildebrand, Homiletic & Pastoral Review, April 1995, pp. 26-31 & 46-7.
- “On the Privilege of Being a Woman,” Lecture by Alice Von Hildebrand given at the NY Catholic Forum, January 14, 1997.