Sincerely, Real Men" (Anonymous)
I know all your friends are wearing skinny jeans at school. Yes, I know how freeing it feels to wear a bikini and show your midriff in the heat of summer. And OH! The necessity of short, cutoff shorts – a must have! I know your body is lovely, indeed it is - a gift! Why not show it off? I know. I know. I know. Goodness. I know. I was a teenager once, too.
By God’s grace, my vocation (wife and mother) comes with great responsibility. As my spiritual director advised, as a parent, God has called me, along with your Dad, and God’s grace, to shape character, instill virtues, and affect the world!” God will affect the world through YOU!
Your Dad’s and my love for you and your siblings must include moral education and spiritual formation, as well as guiding you toward obedience to the Will of the Father in heaven, teaching you to fulfill God’s Law. CCC 2221
One the many areas your Dad and I are called to educate you in fulfilling God’s law, inspiring virtue in you, is modesty.
The Catholic Dictionary defines modesty as “the virtue that moderates all the internal and external movements and appearance of a person according to his or her endowments, possessions, and station in life.”
The Catechism teaches, “Purity requires modesty,” and that modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden… Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing.” CCC 2521-22
As I have mentioned before, because we love you so much and desire to fulfill God’s law to the best of our ability, your Dad and I take our job (vocation) very seriously.
A word of warning, this instruction may seem prudish, outdated, and even lame. I am okay with that, for I live not for the world, and its empty promises, but for the kingdom the Lord has prepared for me, keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. I am a fool for Our Lord. I pray daily for you and your siblings to do the same. I will also add, that it may seem like this teaching is mean and unreasonable. That’s ok too. A very holy priest once assured me that as parents, “Our job is not to make you happy, but holy.” That does not mean we can’t, with God’s grace, bring joy into your life, it just means we, as parents are called to a standard worthy of Our Lord in helping raise up souls for His Kingdom.
I will quote somebody who knows way more than me: Pope Pius XII taught, mothers must “preserve intact the natural instinct of modesty” to protect against impurity. I will be judged someday on how well these truths are communicated to you, and further, how you have been held accountable to them while you were under my care a tutelage. No pressure, right?
“So, Mom, what does this mean for me?” you ask.
The female body, your body, is beautiful, replete in dignity as well as mystery. I could write forever on these truths, but few teenage girls would read this letter to completion. Another time.
Needless to say, Alice Von Hildebrand quotes St. Benedict on body language [dress], and posture and its effect on our souls. Immodest clothes “are likely to undermine the female aspect of the mystery of her body… by dressing immodestly, we betray our feminine mission and vocation as guardian of purity that is given to us by God Himself.”
Honor they Father:
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, respect for parents (filial piety) derives from gratitude toward your parents, “obeying them in all they ask of him when it is for his good or that of the family.” CCC 2217
One way to honor your Dad (and Mom), to honor our family name, is to strive to look presentable in public. As Colleen Hammond in the book Dressing with Dignity teaches, “We are representing and honoring our family name, and our actions speak louder than words.” You know that your Dad disapproves leggings worn without a shirt covering your bottom. If you leave dressed as such, you are showing the world that your dad approves of this immodesty, which he most assuredly does NOT!
Am I saying leggings or pants are bad and forbidden? heavens no!! I love my jeans (and so does your Dad). However, I would be remiss in not sharing with you an interesting finding, taken from the book Dressing with Dignity by Colleen Hammond.
Advertising agencies, when looking at the reaction of men to a woman wearing pants, using newly developed technology, found, “when a man looked at a woman from the back, he looked directly at her bottom. When he looked at a woman wearing pants from the front, advertisers found that his eyes dropped directly to a woman’s most private and intimate area. Not her face! Not her chest!”
“It’s not my fault!” you protest, “that men act this way!” This is true. But you have power to help men avoid temptation. As women, we know our emotions can be hard to control – hormones help with that. Colleen teaches that, for men, “Their hormones automatically react to changes in their environment and can be tough for them to control too! They see a female dressed in a provocative manner and their autonomic nervous system kicks in. They are aroused. Not because they want to be, but because their bodies automatically release hormones that cause the arousal. God has given men this reaction to help ensure the survival of the human race, but they have to control it and use it for the purpose God intended. Men cannot control the fact that the arousal has happened, but the do have to control how they will respond to it.”
I remember the first time I read these words, I asked Dad, “Does it distract you at Holy Mass if a woman is dressed immodestly?”
He affirmed, “Absolutely!”
Let’s help men out and not distract them from worship by dressing in such a manner as to glorify God, and reveal our dignity.
In the immortal words of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, “For let your modesty be a sufficient incitement, yea, an exhortation to everyone to be at peace on their merely looking at you.”
Some girls might argue, “It’s men’s problem not mine.” This is not true. Colleen shares that, “Men are by nature more inclined to sensual reactions from visual stimuli, and women who dress in provocative ways bear some of the responsibility if their immodesty leads a member of the opposite sex to immoral thoughts.”
Further, Catholic teaching on modesty has been cited as “unfair” and more demanding on women than men.
Let’s unpack this, shall we? Coleen quotes a priest’s explanation: “Just as the woman is the weaker gender in the area of physical power, so the man is the weaker gender in the area of sexuality (in the sense that the male is more prone immediate sexual arousal). And just as it is wrong for a man to use his physical strength to lord it over a woman, so it is wrong for a woman to rouse the feminine characteristics of her physical body to dominate a man.”
An absolute norm Pope Pius XII refers to is this: “If a fashion is an inducement for sin to others, it is a sin for us to wear.” And Colleen further instructs, “To wear the kind of clothing that can arouse unchaste thoughts or desires in others is to present them with a near occasion of sin.”
To incent you to dressing with dignity, Colleen instructs, if men “see a woman who dresses with dignity and who carries herself with grace and femininity, they pick up on that. They take it as a sign to approach her with respect, reverence and the honor a woman ought to have.”
As a woman, simply how you dress has power to help or hurt a man’s purity.
Guidelines for Modest Dress
- - Neckline: no cleavage. Try to leave no more than two to three inches below the collar bone.
- - Avoid form-fitting clothing
- A top is too tight if it pulls across the breasts (the trampoline test: if you push on the material between your breasts, does it bounce back?)
- - At Holy Mass, cover your shoulders. Bring a sweater to wear over your shoulders if your top reveals your shoulders.
- - If top is translucent (see through) there should be camisole or tank top underneath
- - Tank tops should have straps that are least an inch (two - three finger widths) wide. No spaghetti straps, halter tops, crop tops or strapless tops.
- - At no time should undergarments be visible
- - Clothing should cover midriff
- - Leggings are ok if your bottom is covered up (leggings leave absolutely nothing to the imagination).
- - At no time should undergarments be visible
- - The shortest part of the skirt or shorts should be no higher than 2 inches above the knee.
I love you, more than you will ever know.
Sincerely, in Christ,
Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:3-4
Resources cited in this letter and to encourage dressing with dignity:
- - Dressing with Dignity – Colleen Hammond
- - The Privilege of Being a Woman
- - Modesty is Hottesty - YouTube
- - Virtue Makes You Beautiful - YouTube