For so many years, my Catholicism was Mass on Sunday and that was it. Don’t talk to me about birth control, modesty or chastity. There were even a few years that I “fell away”. When I returned, being Catholic meant much more to me than “getting my sacraments”. I began digging deeper. I gladly fled the world for a time. Maybe too gladly. I love the Mass. I crave the nourishment of the Holy Eucharist. But there is even more. I want to live as a statement of the love of Christ. When I’m not busy sinning. Or being selfish. Or angry. Or pathetic. Being Catholic is looking to my faith for the answers to my shortcomings. It is getting back up after each fall and cleaning off with confession. Repenting. Again. Accepting that I cannot do this life on my own but that with Christ I can do anything. He can do anything.
I have looked to the Catholic Church for guidelines to modest dressing. I found some from the 1950’s. A very few Catholic writers have addressed modesty. Apparently it is not popular to stand for things that have been thrown to the wind, for each person to determine on their own. This is probably as it should be, but perhaps there could be some guidelines to look to as well. Not necessarily rules, but suggestions.
Modesty applies to both men and women. Modesty in dress and behavior would help heal so many of society’s ills. I am talking about striving for a respectful attitude toward others. As clothing has become more and more immodest, immoral sexual behavior has become more and more widespread. We are called bigots and haters if we do not accept this. It is the behavior and not the persons that we do not accept. Because I do not accept vegetarianism for myself does not mean I hate vegetarians. Because I am a Catholic does not mean that I do not have good friends that are atheist (I do). But back to modest dressing. As Colleen Hammond so eloquently points out in her book, Dressing With Dignity, eyes are drawn to the sexual areas. No wonder such over exposure of bodies has led to such widespread corruption of sexual expression.
There is concern about violent movies and video games desensitizing our children to violence. Have we ignored the same desensitization that has been caused by immodest dress? Undoubtedly, a return to modesty will not eliminate all sexual deviancy, but it will eliminate much confusion and tension present in today’s society. When the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have to pass rules protecting the rights of lgbt children to participate in scouting one has to wonder – why is sexual orientation even an issue pre-puberty and in early adolescence? Even in later adolescence? Something is very wrong with that.
I have a few guidelines that I follow. Some I have picked up from other Christian faiths that have actual guidelines, some I have added from my own ponderings. Here they are:
– Show no cleavage, male or female, top or bottom
– Opaque clothing, not sheer
– What is under should not show if you bend over or lift your arms
– Wear an undershirt
– Leggings should be worn under dresses and skirts, especially if they might blow up
– Sleeves at least to elbows
– Skirts at least to mid calf
– Shorts at least to knees
– Long pants preferred for boys and men
– Modest bathing suits for women – wetsuit style with long shorts and a skirt or sari cover up when not in water
– Same rules for children – do not expose their precious bodies to unknown eyes
I have been guilty of judging others by their dress, so I do not hold anyone to my standards, and I try to catch myself and behave. But I truly encourage you, if you are so inclined, to develop your own standards of modesty.
Lead us not into temptation and help us not to be a cause of sin to others, intentionally or unintentionally.