Monday, December 10, 2007

Theology of the Bawdy

Why do some women dress like whores at Mass? (Of course, the pious reaction to that extreme seems to be garbing oneself in androgynous, Manichean, asexual drabness. It is possible to be modest and feminine at the same time.) The article says:
Long before our time, Church Fathers had the courage to speak out on modesty in dress beginning with, would you believe it, St. Paul (1 Tim. 2:9). Yes, modesty was a problem in the Church 2,000 years ago. In about A.D. 190 the great philosopher and homilist Tertullian added his voice, followed by St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, St. Nilus, and many, many others. Years later St. Thomas Aquinas picked up on St. Ambrose, and on and on until more recent times when Pope Benedict XV in 1921 issued his encyclical Sacra Propediem, in which he refers directly to proper attire. Benedict XV's statement was supported in turn by Pius XI and Pius XII, and was observed by Catholics until Vatican II, when the issue of modesty got swept away like so many other relics from the past.

The consistency of teaching of the Catholic Church on modesty, however, can be appreciated in a summary of two statements 2,000 years apart. What St. Paul said 2,000 years ago is essentially restated today in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2522-2523): "Modesty…inspires one's choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is unhealthy risk of curiosity. It is discreet. It protests against the voyeuristic exploitations of the human body…that go too far in the exploitation of intimate things. Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies."
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25 comments:

alaughland said...

Many of those ancient cities where St.Paul preached would rival even the worst of this era in the realm of debauchery….Corinth for one.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, but we are not far behind!!

Alexandra said...

"...androgynous, Manichean, asexual drabness"

LOL! That about describes it....and more.

JustMe said...

Well, the body is marvelous, and is supposed to be attract-ive, but indeed, not in the ways we have come to accept too widely. I'm convinced that if everyone would just work as a nursing aide in a home for the aged for a year, everyone would see that what looks so fascinating today will before long go the way of Newton's apple-- or worse (i.e., a man's ears really will dwarf his whole head one day if he lives long enough.) Seen in that future light, the thrill will be gone before it even waves hello.

Far sweeter, tho', I have occasionally marveled at how RCIA love works as leavening upon those who started coming to Mass dressed as if too soon leaving the pages of Gray's Anatomy or Gold's Gym. AB Fulton Sheen referred to Mary as the virginizer of men.. well, I have seen similar effect from the everyday holy women (and men), too, being virginizers of what is, was, and was meant to be holy.

Otherwise..dang, girl--what's wrong with androgynous?? lol Seriously, parochial school students get to look nice as well as respectable..why not also their parents, aunts, uncles, et al. Brown tunics/habits for all! Plaid? Oh, come on, work with me here. :-)

Good points, EMV. As always.

elena maria vidal said...

Alexandra, you obviously know just what I am talking about....

You make some great points, too, JustMe. As always....

Christine said...

"Of course, the pious reaction to that extreme seems to be garbing oneself in androgynous, Manichean, asexual drabness. It is possible to be modest and feminine at the same time.)"


I'm so glad you said this. I've been meaning to post on this topic for some time.

elena maria vidal said...

It is like a re-manifestation of Catharism, isn't it, with the two extremes?

JustMe said...

These discussions always put me in mind of a) Ann (tragically without an 'e') Shirley, who, imho, assures us it's all in the eyes and the daintily extended hand, anyway; and b) The Tall Family. At 5'2", every family seems The Tall Family, but these folks were Amazons. They all wore white shirts to Mass-- father and sons donned dark blue trousers, and mom and daughters wore Mary-blue skirts. Their Scapulas were visible through the shirt backs, just before the t-shirt or full slip took over, and all wore their Miraculous medals at their neck openings. I suppose I sound a bit like an adherent of St. Benedict Center, but, er, NOT!! It's just that some sweet merciful moderation would be so greatly welcomed (and even moreso by priests, deacons, and EMHCs.)

I look forward to reading posts here and there about how fasionably unique and non-androgynous modesty-dressing can be.

Meanwhile, EMV, I continue to look for a tasteful beret at your suggestion for a head-covering that doesn't scream "This one's for you, Lord" --but so fruitlessly! Perhaps this is a job for St. Anthony. :-) Perhaps if you'll ask him with me, I'll find an exclusively-berets shop!

Happy Advent, all.

elena maria vidal said...

JustMe, I'll ask St. Anthony if he'll find you a beret if you will ask him to find our Narnia DVD, which has mysteriously vanished into thin air.

Of course, one of the experts on modest and becoming attire for ladies is undoubtedly Colleen Hammond, author of "Dressing With Dignity." Her blogs are on the sidebar of this blog. I highly recommend her book and her sites.

elena maria vidal said...

Here is where to order Colleen's book:


http://colleenhammond.com.
hosting.domaindirect.com/

Alexandra said...

Yes, I definitely knew what you meant because we have this extreme here, and you see extremes within the homeschooling community.

I haven't been overseas recently, but I bet this is an American trend influenced by our conservative protestant roots. I can't see this as going over well among European Catholics.

elena maria vidal said...

I believe you are right, Alexandra.

I also look at it this way-- what does it say to our daughters if we who stay home with them look like drudges all the time? It says that being a stay-at-home wife and mother is boring, tedious, dehumanizing and slavish. It would make any girl want to run screaming from motherhood and being a housewife. And while it is difficult, tedious and challenging at times, it is also a joyous, creative, God-given vocation. Being a Christian wife and mother has a certain dignity; it is a gift and privilege and the girls need to be shown it as such. Because how we dress can say how we feel about what we are doing, that keeping our houses going for our families is of value, and that our husbands are worth looking nice for. And the children then get a sense of their own Christian dignity, as well.

Margaret said...

It is wonderful that the Church gives us modesty guidelines while allowing for individual tastes. Thank heavens that there is no Catholic 'uniform'! LOL

I have noticed on blogs many expressions of personal style: some mothers love denim jumpers, others love skirts and blouses. Some ladies love long dresses of plain color and design, other wear modern styles worn modestly. Some creative ladies even wear historically accurate period clothing!

I have unfortunately noticed on some blogs rude or snide comments about other ladies' clothing choices. Making fun of others is never acceptable. May God have mercy on them. If they don't have anything constructive to say, then they should keep their mean spirited comments to themselves.

We all need to be mindful of not dictating what styles others should wear - if they meet basic modesty guidelines and standards of propriety, then let everyone have their fun!

JustMe said...

Thank you, EMV -- yes, I've heard of Colleen.

Ladies, I hear you. :-) It's just not me-- plus, I'd risk out-dressing my husband daily. But I hear you.

God bless you.

elena maria vidal said...

God bless you, JustMe!

Yes, Margaret, the Church gives clear guidelines as well as a great deal of freedom for individuals to interpret modesty according to their taste. (I personally think the historical outfits are very cute!)People should dress how they are most comfortable. We should not judge people based on their clothes, even women who are blatantly immodest at Mass-- sometimes they just do not know any better. It is always best to give people the benefit of the doubt.

On the other hand, it is not necessarily more pious for a married woman to dress like a nun than it is for a woman to wear pretty clothes, make-up and jewelry to please her husband.

Margaret said...

Oh yes, I agree EMV! There is no sin in looking pretty (as long as one is not obsessed). One has to adjust clothing/grooming to one's activities and vocation.

Freshly clean skin & hair, tasteful cosmetics, pretty jewelry, neat clothing, groomed nails and light fragrance are always in good taste! I should add that exercise, if one is able, is a necessary addition as well.

I heartily agree that if one is able to be well kept but neglects one's appearance anyway, it is disrespectful and inconsiderate of one's family and husband....and ultimately God, too.

My husband remembers parents' nights at school when he was a little boy. His mother always wore a lovely outfit and was impeccably groomed. He was so proud even at 6 years old to introduce everyone to his 'pretty mommy'. They were not wealthy, but she took care to be presentable for herself and her family. He remembers how many of the mothers showed up looking rumpled, stained, drab and dull. Who knows what their circumstances were, but the impression remains even 30+ years later.

elena maria vidal said...

Margaret, you and I certainly see eye-to-eye on this. I like the anecdote about your mother-in-law.

Alexandra said...

Oh, and I got the essence of what you were saying even before I had to look up "Manichean" on Google. ;)

elena maria vidal said...

Alexandra, it is quite something. I am glad that I am not the only one to notice these things.

Christina said...

Hello!

I just want to put in a request for a clothing line designed by none other than Elena Maria Vidal! Of course, only if there is time after writing more wonderful books for us...

elena maria vidal said...

I would enjoy that Christina...if I had time!! Novels take so much time, though!

JustMe said...

I was about to make a lame play on Dickinson's words about novels, "My war(drobe)s are laid away in books..," but I don't want to try anyone's patience.

EMV, I am a wimpy soul-- I am afraid your books will make me cry. Intense moments have a tendency to stick with me forever; but I thank you for them, as I am sure they are very Catholicly as well as brilliantly penned, from what I've seen of excerpts.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, JustMe. If I were you, I would definitely stay away from "Trianon;" it was intense to write and it is intense to read. When writing the latter part of the novel I had to make the Stations everyday to get through it; what happened to the family was so terrible. However, you might really enjoy Madame Royale; it is not so intense, and is actually the better written of the two, although "Trianon" is the better seller.

JustMe said...

Hmm.. Maybe I ought to cross out my previous entry (in the "MOM" section of our "Mandatory Family Wishlist for Christmas" which daughters set up on the 'fridge's whiteboard), "Peace on earth, and a Jag XKE," and write "Madame Royale, by EMV." That would give both of us ladies pleasure --mine from reading and learning, yours because you love these people and the less maligned they are by your books' corrective TLC, the more joy you'll have on their behalf. Plus, our girls would love to see something they could manage to provide as a gift! Oh, and -- whereas there is a "need" for me to mention two gifts, perhaps I ought to add, "and a light wool cream beret"!

;-)

elena maria vidal said...

Sounds good to me!!