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The Catholic Church on Dressing for Mass: A Timeline

It may seem at times that when a pastor dares to add a snippet in his sermon about dressing appropriately for Mass, or a paragraph in the Sunday bulletin on what attire is considered respectable for the Holy Sacrifice, it doesn’t usually go down well. Some parishioners may complain, or a visitor may become angry, the Bishop may even be called. But a pastor giving proper guidelines to his sheep on what the Church deems appropriate wear for THE Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not new, nor is it something the Church has ever condemned. In fact, it has been a longstanding tradition to guide the faithful in appropriate wear, and has been so for hundreds of years. And it is a part of the job of the pastor to guide his flock in all things moral, especially when it comes to the Mass.

The Church as always taught the importance of Christians dressing properly, specifically for inside the Church in front of God Himself truly Present in the Eucharist. There are numerous Saints, Doctors and Fathers of the Church, Popes and holy priests that have spoken on this very topic. Though because of the volume of information on this subject, we will only be focusing on the 19th to 21st centuries here, and focusing mostly on Bishops, Cardinals and so on. Not priests or saints.

The Outlines of the Dress Code which we can see is still promoted even today, we can trace back to Pope Benedict XV.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THIS TIMELINE IN PDF FORMAT:

Our Lady Breastfeeding // Maria SS. della Lavina: Torrents of Water and Drops of Milk

This is an article by FSSP priest Fr. William Rock. We thought it an excellent addition to our plethora of jewels here at OfficialCatholicModesty.com. Read original article here.

If one were to visit Cerami, Sicily on September 7, one would encounter young women wearing red tunics, harkening back to the time the island was Greek, and young men wearing blue shirts and black pants.  Dressed in this festive attire, they are assisting at the annual Maria SS della Lavina celebration.

The original icon of Maria SS della Lavina.

Devotion to the Maria SS della Lavina image is traced back to a Byzantine icon which was brought to the area at some unknown time in the past (several theories exist which attempt to explain the arrival of this Byzantine icon in Sicily).  The icon, as it shows Our Lady suckling Our Lord, is interpreted by the locals as an image of Our Lady of Graces [la Madonna delle Grazie].  Such depictions of Our Lord and Our Lady are ancient.  “The earliest images of Mary nursing the Child are of Coptic [Egyptian] and Palestinian origin…From the Monastery of Saint Sabas in Palestine, the composition spread to Italy (Rome, Santa Maria in Trastevere) and, via Serbia, reached the monasteries of Mount Athos. In the seventh century, during the struggle with the Iconoclasts, Pope Gregory II (d. 731) wrote to his adversary, Emperor Leo III the Isaurian: ‘Among the icons to be worshiped there is also an image of the Holy Mother holding our Lord and God in her arms and nursing him with her milk.’” (Icons and Saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church, pg. 183)

The original Maria SS della Lavina icon was, according to the harmonized, pious local tradition, housed in a convent of Benedictine nuns.  During a time of danger and iconoclasm, the icon was nailed to a beam in the ceiling in order to protect it.  When that danger had passed, the icon was left in its hiding place. Eventually the nuns moved to a different location, leaving the icon behind, and the monastery fell into disrepair.

The 17th century painting, which is the one carried in procession.

In the mid-seventeenth century, it is held that Our Lady appeared several times in a dream to one of the Benedictine nuns and directed her to request that the local Archpriest unearth from the ruins of the old monastery the sacred icon.  The request was received with skepticism by the priest.

During the third apparition, Our Lady stated that because of the skepticism of the priest, she herself would bring the icon to light.  Soon, a torrential rain fell which caused flooding.  The day after, a farmer was leading his mule near the torrent caused by the rainfall.  Inexplicably, the mule then stopped and, after striking the mud with his hoof, knelt.  The farmer, struggling to get his mule to move, drew by this commotion the attention of those who were nearby.  After digging, and to the astonishment of those present, the icon of the Blessed Virgin and the Christ Child was found buried in the mud.  (It is claimed than an imprint of the mule’s hoof can still be seen on the sacred icon.)

As soon as the Archpriest heard of the episode, shaken and repentant, he made the bells ring out and, together with a large crowd of faithful, went to the site and the sacred icon was recovered with great devotion.  In memory of this event, in May, Cerami celebrates the Feast of the Encounter and the icon is carried in procession.

From this time, the image received the title of “Lavina” from u lavinaru, which means in the local dialect “torrent,” a reference to how the image was discovered after the torrential rainfall carried the image out of the ruins and buried it in the mud caused by the flooding.

The pious tradition also tells us that the discovery of the icon was crowned by some miraculous events: one of the best known is of a certain Giuseppe, blind for thirteen years, who, as soon as the news of what had happened reached him, was led by his relatives to the image, and, having kissed the holy icon, regained his sight.

The chapel as it currently stands.

While the miraculous icon itself was placed in the church of the new covenant, a chapel was built on the site where the icon was found.  Due to damage received over the years, especially during the Second World War, this chapel has gone under several renovations since its original construction.  Within this chapel was placed a newly produced painting (17th century) which depicted the same scene written on the icon, that of Our Lady nursing Our Lord.  The new image along with the new chapel received the name of Maria SS della Lavina also, thus linking them with the devotion shown to the miraculous icon.  It is this second image, the painting, which is carried in procession during the September celebration.

Procession in honor of Maria SS della Lavina. Caldwell, New Jersey, 1914.

Devotion to this image of the Virgin and Christ Child was brought to the United States by Italian immigrants.  A Maria SS della Lavina Society was organized at St. Aloysius Church in Caldwell, New Jersey by the early 1900s which was legally chartered in 1912.  This Society held yearly processions in the town originally with a banner and later with a painting.  This painting, which still currently hangs at the church, was undertaken in 1934 by Mr. Onorio Ruotolo, founder of the New York City Leonardo da Vinci Art School.

Maria SS. della Lavina, painted by Onorio Ruotolo, 1934.

Some may object to this presentation of the Virgin and Child on grounds of modesty.  In our overly immodest culture, it is tempting to retreat into a puritanical position in this regard.  Faithful Catholics, however, must ensure that they do not simply take a reactionary position, but should rather allow themselves to be formed in this matter by the perennial liturgical and devotional traditions of the Church.  Such would do well to consider, for example, the Epistles read on the Thursday of the First Week of Lent and the Saturday of the Third Week of Lent and the Gospel assigned for the Saturday Mass of Our Lady during the Time After Pentecost in order to see what the Church allows to be read in her public liturgy and which she does not view as degrading to the dignity of the sacred action.  Such should consider also the Marian hymn O gloriósa vírginum which is sung in the Divine Office.  The first verse is as follows:

O gloriósa vírginum,
Sublímis inter sídera,
Qui te creávit, párvulum        
Lacténte nutris úbere.
O glorious of Virgins,
Exalted among the stars,
He Who created you, as a little one
You suckle by your milk-filled breast.

Drawing from the letter of Pope Gregory II, we can see that the practice of depicting the Virgin suckling her Child has existed in the Church for over 1,000 years.  In Bethlehem, one can even find a Chapel under the name “Milk Grotto of Our Lady.”  According to pious tradition, the Holy Family stopped at this site during the Flight into Egypt, and there, while Our Lord was feeding, a drop of Mary’s milk fell, and the floor of the cave turned white.  Let faithful Catholics then allow their position on this matter, as in all others, be formed according to the mind of the Church as perennially expressed in her approved liturgies and devotions.

May God bless you all and may you have a happy and blessed Maria SS della Lavina Feast Day!

Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Mater Lavinæ!

Fr. William Rock, FSSP was ordained in the fall of 2019 and is currently Assistant Pastor at Mater Misericordiae parish in Phoenix, AZ.  Thanks are due to Msgr. Robert Emery, Pastor of St. Aloysius Church in Caldwell, New Jersey, for his support and permission to use parish media, Mr. Fabio Sturchio for his translation work, Mr. Antonino Casabona for granting permission to use his photographs, Mr. Franco Digangi for providing historical information and review, and Mrs. Santa Rock and Ms. Ashleigh Grenci for photography.

September 7, 2020

Scathing Letter on Immodesty by Cardinal Villeneuve, “Carelessness and immodesty of dress leads to impurity”

Carelessness and immodesty of dress leads to impurity, episcopate of Quebec, 1946 Jean-Marie Rodrigue Cardinal Villeneuve (1883-1947) (…) 9. It is first of all in the dress in general that the carelessness manifests itself which, too often, unfortunately, leads to impurity. How many people are slaves to these fashions which ignore the elementary rules of modesty and which sometimes constitute a direct provocation to evil. 10. Thanks be to God, Christian women in our circles appear in church and, generally in public assemblies, only decently dressed. Likewise, we are pleased to note that most of the women go out onto the streets, suitably dressed. But what will it be tomorrow, if one thinks of the growing vogue for “these clothes so cramped or as they seem made rather to highlight more what they should veil”, as Pius XII observes ( 1). Too many young girls easily accept indecent, sometimes provocative shortcuts, daring necklines where they sometimes have the impudence to place the cross of Our Lord, Master of purity!

Too many of them are showing off in “shorts”, still timidly on the street, but without embarrassment in the game! Often they reduce their beach costume even further. Immodest by their very nature, these clothes should be banned from our mores, even in sports (2). Note also that wearing pants under the slightest pretext, or, what is worse, with the aim of showing off in public, is not worthy of a true Christian. 11. To the undressing and carelessness of life in the open air is added the deplorable and too widespread use among even practicing Christians of circulating inside their homes in the lightest attire. How far we are from the delicacies of our Christian mothers of old! 12. We pity women of dubious morals who accept these shortcuts, these necklines, these negligee. But that a Christian, a wife, a mother, a young girl, far from reacting against these perverse currents, too often engage in them to their heart’s content, gradually unlearn modesty, ignore it, even despise it, how not to be amazed and saddened to tears!

13. The man himself does not escape the taste for the exhibition of his flesh: we go topless in public, we wear pants or a tight-fitting jersey that is too short. We thereby commit offenses against the virtue of modesty, when we are not the occasion of sin, in thought or in desire, for our neighbor. 14. What seems even more serious to us, not certainly as a provocation to evil, but rather as a harmful habit which can lead very far, is, in the girls’ costume, the dress that is too cropped, the complete nudity of the arms and legs. legs, when it does not go up to that of the torso. Without knowing it, these poor children thus scandalize, and often, their little brothers. How can a Christian mother forget it? If these children see some cassock in the street, a sign of the guardian of modesty and morality, they hasten to pull off what remains of their clothing to cover themselves. These little girls will grow old. To be modest, and often to be pure, they will have to go up a whole current which has carried them so far. Will they really be able to? Poor mothers, you are violating, know it, your serious duties as educators. 15. Immorality therefore uses fashion to corrupt souls;

she also uses sport, yet so useful and so necessary for the health of the body. It is a ruse of Satan to divert from their end games, pleasures, amusements, amusements whose primary goal is to rest the body by making life in society more pleasant. Satan rejoices in these “sports parties which take place in conditions of clothing, exhibitions and camaraderie incompatible with even the least demanding modesty” (3). In fact, so much care is taken to create clothing for sport that undresses or that seduces, and, in truth, under the most fallacious pretexts; one participates with so much without embarrassment in those parties of pleasure which make young men and young girls life companions for a day, far from the eyes and protective glances; camaraderie quickly becomes misplaced familiarity, and, with the help of alcoholic liquors, familiarity turns into shameless companionship. Thus the excursions, the parts of ski or chalet, the exercise of the skating in all its forms, still other amusements, become directly or indirectly occasions of faults all the more tempting that they present themselves under the guise of ‘legitimate self-relaxation. (…)

42. This then is the Christian’s judgment on this agonizing problem of modern immorality. Aware of his dignity as a man and a Christian, aware of the disastrous consequences of immorality on the family and civil society, he esteems the beautiful virtue of purity at a high price and he practices it according to the requirements of his state of life. . He understands that morality is superior to pleasure and fashion, that there are limits that it is never allowed to cross without injuring his conscience and his faith. For him, morality, and especially purity, are treasures that must be protected against any violation. By protecting them, with all the necessary sacrifices, he has the joy of increasing the glory of his Mother Church and the satisfaction of helping his brothers. (…) 51. The struggle is therefore inevitable. You will accept it courageously, and to emerge victorious, you will watch out for the occasions of sin, you will avoid them with the grace of God: you will not entertain bad thoughts, you will not warm up any shameful desire, you will flee bad company, you will refuse to allow your mind to be corrupted by obscene literature and provocative illustrations, you will keep your heart firm and upright by avoiding risky dating, immoral dances, corrupting cinema, pagan social gatherings, idleness, mother of all vices, and intemperance in the use of intoxicating drinks. In short, to practice purity, you will cultivate modesty, which is an instinctive fear of the soul at the first approach of evil; you will cultivate modesty, which is moderation, a sense of proportion, which usually avoids anything that is likely to arouse sexual passion in yourself and in others. Modesty and modesty, such are the ornaments and the guardians of purity. (…) 57. Your [that of fathers and mothers of families] educative action will be exercised from an early age, at this period when habits are created which will influence all life. Please do not get your children used to the negligee, we dare say, to nudism. “O Christian mothers,”

exclaims the Sovereign Pontiff, “if you knew what future of anguish and perils, of ill-contained shame, you are preparing your sons and daughters by accustoming them imprudently to live barely covered, and making them lose the sense of modesty, you would be ashamed of yourselves and you would dread the insult that you do to yourselves and the harm that you cause to the children whom Heaven has entrusted to you to bring up them in Christianity ”(4 )

Notes
(1) Pie XII, La Mode, Discours du 22 mai 1941, E.S.P. 
(2) Synode de Québec (1940), décret 102, note : « Que si l’on demande en quoi consiste un habit modeste et décent pour une chrétienne, on comprendra que c’est celui qui couvre la poitrine et les bras d’étoffes non transparentes, qui descend au moins à mi-jambe, et dont la coupe d’une ampleur convenable protège la pudeur en dissimulant les lignes du corps » (Cardinal Rouleau, 8 décembre 1930Mandements des Évêques de Québec, vol. XIII, Supplément 45) [en fait : 36].
S.[on] E.[xcellence] le Cardinal Villeneuve, Communication de l’Archevêché de Québec contre les modes païennes27 juin 1945.
Semaine Religieuse de Québec, 57e année, n° 44, 5 juillet 1945. p. 690.
S. E. Mgr Arthur Douville, Mandements des Évêques de Saint-Hyacinthe, vol. XXI, p. 354.
(3) Pie XII, La Mode, Discours du 22 mai 1941, E.S.P.
(4) Pie XII, ibid.

Référence
Archevêques et évêques de la province de Québec, « Croisade de pureté », Lettre pastorale collective, n°114, 5 mai 1946 ; paru dans : Mandements, lettres pastorales et circulaires des évêques du Québec, volume 17, 1943-1954, Chancellerie de l’archevêché, Québec, 1955, p. 241-243 ; p. 253-254 ; p. 257 ; p. 259.

ROME SPEAKS: “Against fashions contrary to decency”

In 1924, La Croix published an article that speaks loudly of Rome’s serious call to modesty in dress in Church, even citing Cardinal Basilio Pompili, before his 1928 Guidelines! (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 beyond the knees. Furthermore, dresses of transparent materials are improper.”)

Postcard commemorating the 50th Anniversary (in 1908) of the vision of the Virgin Mary, which appeared to Marie Bernarde ‘Bernadette’ Soubirous (18441879) at Lourdes in 1858. The other potrtraits which surround the panorama of Lourdes show Pope Pius IX (1792-1878), Francois-Xavier Schoepfer, Bishop of Tarbes (1843-1927) and Abbe Dominique Peyramale (1811-1877). Date: 1908

Against Fashions Contrary to Decency

We published in its time the great advertisement given to the pilgrims who of all the flock to Lourdes by the Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes. In this document, much noted, the prelate formally forbids access to the processions, the Grotto and the sanctuaries to all women and young girls who do not observe the prescriptions of Cardinal Pompili, vicar of Rome, and of the Cardinal Patriarch of Venice.

Cardinal Pompili


The cardinal had prescribed:
“A woman should enter the house of God only decently dressed in a rising garment and her head covered, because the immodesty of clothing, everywhere and always reprehensible, offends particularly the holiness of the temples, forbids the access to the Eucharist Table and often attracts terrible punishments from God.”

The Patriarch of Venice had prescribed for his part:
“The priests of our diocese will have noticed that, for some time, a fashion has been established in the costume of women which eliminates the sleeves and increases the neckline. He should therefore (warn the faithful that people who dare to come to church in such clothing (low-cut bodices, insufficiently long sleeves, not going below the elbow) will not be admitted to the sacraments and may be invited to leave the church. If therefore a woman or a young girl dressed in this way presented herself at the Holy Table to receive Communion, every priest should, without making any direct observation, pass in front of her; without giving her Holy Communion. If the pastor of this person could then find the opportunity to make him hear a fatherly warning, that he not omit this act of charity.”

Bishop François-Xavier Schoepfer (1843-1927)

Let us recall the opinion of Bishop Schoepfer:
“Seeing, to our deep sorrow, the overflow of the abuses which the venerable Cardinals Pompili and La Fontaine seek to remedy spread more and more and even invade the city of the Apparitions, we believe ourselves obliged to make our own and adopt as a line of conduct to be followed, in our whole diocese, but in Lourdes especially the serious decisions taken and promulgated by these drue. The illustrious princes of the Church. Consequently-, if, in our diocese of Tarbes and Lourdes, a person offending in her dress- aforementioned prescriptions, came to the Holy Table to receive Communion, any priest without, moreover, sending him an observation direct should refrain from giving him Holy Communion.
By thus echoing the defenses of the Eminent Cardinals Pompili and La Fontaine, we are also inspired by the example that came recently from Our Holy Father Pope Pius XI himself, who formally forbade the appearance in his presence of “the ladies or young girls whose dress would be more absolutely high and the sleeves are long enough We believe, moreover, with regard to Lourdes that we must add that the persons whose costume would be contrary to the orders reproduced above must take care as unworthy of being admitted to enter the miraculous Grotto, consecrated by the Apparitions of the Immaculate Virgin.”

Bishop Héctor Raphaël Quillet

We also remember that Mgr Quilliet, Bishop of Lille, a. specified that young girls must wear dresses that descend below the knee. Finally, the Religious Week of Clermont publishes this press release from the bishopric:

1  Immodest clothing is always wrong is especially in the holy place. Therefore anyone allowing to appear there with an inappropriate setting would be liable to be asked to leave the church;

2. The sacraments should be denied to women and girls reporting for the confessional or the holy table in some decent dress (Low necklines (corsage DÉCOLLETÉ, insufficiently long sleeves, not down below the elbow);

3. Regarding the refusal of the Holy Eucharist, the priest, without making any comments to the person whose isn’t dress appropriatly, will just pass her without giving her Holy Communion;

4. The pastor of a person to whom the sacraments would have been so rejected and could then find the opportunity to give him a fatherly admonition, and not omit this act of charity.

For these quotes, our readers see how the Church is moved to see the paganism in clothing invade us.

What did I say ? This is not only of paganism. The inhabitants of uncivilized country that brings the ease of travel in Europe, wonder, rightly, to see our civilization disrobe at will, while in the name of civilization, are invited to adopt them, the use of clothing. Insist is useless, absolutely blatant abuse, the glaring scandal. We certainly do not claim to be able to draw against the torrent of general indecency effective dike, but we beg Christian families to refuse to submit to the yoke of tyranny indecent fashions.

They owe it to God.

They owe to Jesus Christ they want to receive the Eucharist years.

They owe it to the Christian tradition.

They owe it to the building of the youth.

If we destroy modesty, we fall into the cesspool of corruption.

END OF ARTICLE

IRISH WOMEN START LEAGUE FOR MODEST DRESS following Irish Bishops Call

First published in the FRANCISCAN HERALD April, 1920, page 184. Following the call for Modesty in Fashion by the Irish Bishops in 1919…

IRISH WOMEN START LEAGUE FOR MODEST DRESS

Dublin cable reports state that war has been declared on the “Gladneck” by Irish women and a League of St. Brigid has been established, with the warm approval of the authorities of the Church, to combat immodest fashions. The convents and boarding schools are to be constituted headquarters for the new league, and thousands of young women missionaries are annually to carry on the fight in their home districts. All members of the new league will be required to sign the following pledge :

“For the glory of God and the honor of Erin, I promise to avoid in my own person all impropriety in the manner of dress, and to, maintain and hand down the traditional and proverbial purity and modesty of Irish womanhood.”

A BISHOP ON FEMALE ATTIRE – Bishop Shaw of New Orleans

Published in the FRANCISCAN HERALD May, 1920:

IN a ringing pastoral letter, the Most
Rev. J. W. Shaw, Archbishop of New, Orleans, has recently issued a solemn
protest against immodesty of female at-
tire. With true apostolic freedom and
manly courage” he scores the modern
styles of woman’s dress; nor does he
mince his words in endeavoring to bring
the women of his diocese to a sense of
their duty in this matter. We are glad
to note that prominent members of the
hierarchy are lending their name and au-
thority to the crusade against indecent
female attire; for, unless the Bishops
raise their voice against this crying abuse,
private efforts must remain unavailing.
The evil is too deep-rooted and universal
to be combated successfully by the hap-
hazard and spasmodic, if well meant, ef-
forts of individual members of the clergy
and the laity. The latter, however, will
feel heartened to keep up the fight by the
outspoken pastoral of Archbishop Shaw.
It contains so much that is timely and
noteworthy that we shall take the liberty
to quote therefrom at some length :

While we are neither presumptuous nor
foolish enough to discuss “colors, forms
and fashions,” yet we are deeply concerned
with the morals of dress in the interest of
Christian purity and modesty. The pres-
ent shocking disregard in modern female
attire for the elementary principles of ordi-
nary decency is simply appalling. It is a
question whether the licentious woman of
the degenerate Roman Empire surpassed
her modern society sister in her immodesty
of dress. To say nothing from an eco-
nomic viewpoint of the large sums ex-
pended foolishly for the gratification of
female vanity, “to be dressed up and built
up and masqueraded” only to be looked at,
the disgusting realism of the modern fash-
ions is fast extinguishing in the hearts of
all noble-minded men that spirit of rever-
ence and chivalry which regarded women
of other days as something almost mystic and divine. How humiliating it must have
been to the painted and wanton beauties of
modern society to read not long ago in a
daily paper that their grotesque and shame-
less fashions originate in the minds of their
fallen sisters in a prominent European
capital!
Oh, the pity and the shame of it that so
many of our ordinarily good Catholic wo-
men of all classes and of nearly every age,
married as well as single, mothers as well
as daughters, are the servile imitators of
the immodest fashions of the day! To
such an extent have some of them lost the
natural modesty and shrinking delicacy of
their sex that they hesitate not to come
before the Holy of Holies and approach
the sacred table in such scant apparel as
must needs make the angels veil their faces
with their wings. We have seriously de-
bated with ourselves whether we are not
bound in conscience to exclude such-women
from the House of God Whose Vicar on
Earth would not tolerate their presence for
a moment. Our patient forbearance and
wish to spare them a painful humiliation
must not be considered as a weak conniv-
ance of their scandalous violation of the
sanctity of God’s. House.

In this connection we wish also to re-
mind parents of their grave obligation to
dress their young daughters, from the ten-
derest years, according to the laws of Chris-
tian modesty. Our Catholic women would
save themselves and others the guilt of
many sins and would win the respect and
esteem of all right-minded persons if they
would follow the example of the God-fear-
ing women of other days, who, in the mat-
ter of dress, took counsel of their good
sense and attired themselves according to
their station in life. These truly Christian
mothers and modest maidens knew how to
avoid the extreme of singularity of plain-
ness, which may be only the affectation of
vanity, and the extreme of servile imitation
of fashions which reflect the corrupt spirit
of the world. If the daughters of the
Church will be her glory in the chaste gen-
eration so highly praised by the Holy
Spirit, Christian mothers, by word and ex-
ample, in season and out of season, must
endeavor to eradicate the soul-destroying
evil of the modern immodest fashions.

These words have a manly ring, and
we hope they will have the desired effect.
His Grace deserves the hearty thanks of
all who are trying to avert what they re-
gard as one of the gravest dangers threat-
ening the morals of this country. Re-
form in matters of woman’s dress is im-
perative, and the sooner the movement
for reform is nationalized, the better for
the country. The Third Order of St.
Francis is a national organization, and the
members thereof are bound by their Rule
of life to observe moderation in dress.
What society, therefore, could be better
adapted to undertake this campaign
against indecent fashions than the Third
Order? In fact, we think that for these
reasons it is incumbent on them to do so.
We have at various times appealed to the
Directors and members of Third Order
fraternities tor take up this most laudable
reform work; but our appeals have gone
unheeded. Can it be that the Directors
and their charges are indifferent to the
widespread immorality superinduced by
the wanton and audacious styles displayed
by so many women ? We refuse to believe
it. But, if they are really concerned
about the spiritual welfare of their neigh-
bor, had they not better start something
to counteract the evil influence of the pre-
vailing fashions? The only thing for all
good Christian women to do, is to set
their faces resolutely against all extrava-
gance and indecency in dress by refusing
to wear any piece of clothing that does
not conform to the postulates of the
Christian modesty and by inducing others
to do the same. In this way, the shame-
less women will be driven under cover
and made to feel the impropriety of their
conduct. There are decent women enough
in every parish and community to make
their numbers felt, and it is their plain
duty to assert themselves.

Almost a year ago FRANCISCAN
HERALD established what it regarded as
a proper standard for woman’s dress and
embodied this standard in four points or
principles. We have since had these
principles, together with the Holy Fath-
er’s late appeal ‘ for modesty of dress,
printed on cards, which we shall mail, for
purposes of distribution, to all who are
interested in the matter of dress reform.
We have gone to considerable expense in
having these pledge cards printed, and
we hope there will be a sufficient demand
for them to justify the outlay on our part.
Let our readers remember that we shall
be glad to send these cards to anybody
that is willing to distribute them and en-
courage others to sign them.

Apparel Talk: “Dressing Well For Holy Mass” – By Agnes Modesta, The Franciscan Herald

A certain recurring column in the Franciscan Herald. This one in particular was published in, April, 1920. Here are some excerpts:

“We deck the House of God with; lights and flowers; we line the Tabernacle with fair embroidered satins, that it may be more worthy the Divine Tenant; but that part of us that becomes a living tabernacle in Holy Communion is prepared with indifference — all too often with downright slovenliness.

I do not advocate fads or fancies, nor have I any desire to inculcate harrowing novelties, but this point. I think, is nothing of that kind. I remember that in my own little girl days, a good Franciscan priest who taught us our catechism in the convent school that I frequented, used to bring up that very subject. He urged upon us to prepare our souls with all diligence for the reception of our Blessed Lord in Holy Communion, and also to prepare our bodies in a neat and seemly manner — not indeed in the height of fashion, but in attire that would be pleasing to the Lover that came to our hearts; pleasing in neatness and care according to the circumstances of each. When we think of it, such a system would go far toward remedying the evils into which the art of dress has fallen. Dress
to please the divine Lover, and it will follow that we please all others worthy of being pleased.

I do not wish to harp on the subject of neatness, but it seems advisable to bring it up once more for the simple reason that we can not look well without a firm foundation of good grooming. It is better to own but one gown which is kept spotless, and wear it with neat and becomingly dressed hair, carefully brushed shoes, immaculate teeth, and nails, than
to have ten gowns with buttons missing and the accompaniment of unkempt hair, run-over heels, and so on.

Let’s all resolve to pay some attention to our grooming between this and next month’s talk. I’ll warrant it won’t make us one whit less zealous in the pursuit of our soul’s salvation. My private opinion would have it that we’ll be a little better for the attempt. It stands to reason that anything done for the purpose of pleasing God is bound to brighten up these souls of ours a little.

About the Spring Fashions
A word or two may not be amiss concerning the spring fashions of 1920. We are met on all sides by the assurance that fashion has turned from the lengthening skirts of last fall, and that we must wear our skirts something like fifteen or twenty inches from the ground. Also that we must have our sleeves cut midway between elbow and shoulder, even in street gowns.

Elite Styles. 1920 – 04 (April).
Published by Elite Styles Company. New York. 04- 1920., 1920

Now it seems as if a warning in this regard should be unnecessary. Still, there are some young readers who may want to know what this department thinks of the fashions that make extremely short skirts and sleeves obligatory. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to read over the “Four Points” in this connection, but if more is needed, it isn’t hard to express my opinion. That type of gown is not only extreme and immodest but inartistic and absurd as well — heinous crimes, all according to Agnes Modesta. Let us be careful to note that there are conservative fashions even in this season, and set our faces staunchly in the direction of decency and good taste.”

Archbishop Decries Immodesty in Dress

SHAMELESS WOMEN:
“In what does the great part of our modern life differ from what it would have been, if our Lord had never appeared on earth? The Vicar of Christ has recently been forced to protest, in the name of Christian morality, against the shameless audacity of female attire. How far removed we are from the spirit of the Gospel! According to the word of God, women should dress in decent apparel adorning themselves with modesty and sobriety, as it becometh women professing godliness; but the modern woman too often flaunts along the streets, setting modesty at defiance. Can the gospel message ever have touched the hearts of those painted, leering, half-clad horrors which in- fest nearly all public resorts? Our modern morality seems to suffer them gladly.” —Archbishop of Birmingham.

Letter to the Editor – The Franciscan Herald 1920

[Modestie] Mgr. Marius Besson : Contre le scandale des modes actuelles (1925)

Bishop Besson of Lausanne, ordered the following letter to be read at all masses, in the churches and chapels of his diocese on July 19 or 26, 1925.

The indecency of fashions, especially in the city, has taken on scandalous proportions. The faithful, and especially mothers of families, must not however forget that there are, in this area as in others, rules of Christian modesty from which no one can, under any pretext, be exempted.

It is necessary that the moral level has fallen very low so that the woman resigns herself to the outrageous toilets which the whims of a perverted world make her wear. It is necessary that the sense of propriety has been singularly weakened so that we no longer know that it is incorrect to leave the house before having finished dressing.

We are disgusted to see that such aberrations manifest themselves not only in the bad-tempered people who inspired them, but in Christian women, even in those who should more, because of their social position, set a good example.

We are sorry to think that the lightness of so many mothers forever compromises the souls of poor children, especially poor girls, by accustoming them to certain ways of dressing which make them lose the feeling of modesty.

Against such a revival of paganism, we have a grave duty to react, and it is to the Christian spirit of the faithful that we appeal.

Whatever empty pretexts you may invoke, Ladies and Ladies, we are not afraid to assert that current fashions are often a source of sin for the unconscious who accept them and an occasion of sin for those they scandalize.

In the day when God will ask you to account for the evil you have done and the evil you have caused to be done, he will judge you neither according to your fashion journal, nor according to the false principles of a completely materialized hygiene, nor according to the pretended conveniences of worldly people, but according to the holy Gospel. Now, the divine Master said: “ Woe to him who is the cause of sandal! Heaven and earth will pass away; this word will not pass.

Mgr. Marius Besson, cited in Catholic Tunisia, August 30, 1925, p. 681-682 .

Fide Catholica

Mgr Besson évêque de Lausanne, a ordonné de lire la lettre suivante à toutes les messes, dans les églises et les chapelles de son diocèse le 19 ou le 26 juillet 1925.

L’indécence des modes, surtout à la ville, a pris des proportions scandaleuses. Les fidèles, et notamment les mères de famille, ne doivent pourtant pas oublier qu’il y a, dans ce domaine comme dans les autres, des règles de la modestie chrétienne dont nul ne peut, sous aucun prétexte, s’exempter.

Il faut que le niveau moral soit tombé bien bas pour que la femme se résigne aux toilettes outrageantes que les caprices d’un monde perverti lui font porter. Il faut que le sens des convenances ait été singulièrement affaibli pour qu’on ne sache plus qu’il est incorrect de sortir de chez soi avant d’avoir fini de s’habiller.

Nous sommes écœuré de constater que de telles aberrations se manifestent non…

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A Response to Christopher West

An excellent answer to the problematic theology of Christopher West. An article well worth a read!

Mary Victrix

In his long-awaited reply to his critics, West honestly admits that he did not want to say anything until he had received the all clear from the bishops, a boon given in abundance by Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Rhoades.  While the bishops’ endorsement is significant, it does not mean that West’s teaching is magisterial or that it is on the level of those who themselves hold the teaching office of the Church. Even a theologian who has gained the endorsement of a pope, such as Hans Urs von Balthasar or Cardinal Walter Kasper, is not considered above respectful criticism when he articulates views that may legitimately be shown to be difficult to reconcile with the Church Fathers and Doctors.

West is gracious for thanking his supporters, but his reference to the “profound consolation” proffered by the faithful is a bit off-putting.  He has chosen the path of controversy of…

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Marian Modesty

Thank you Fr. Angelo – an interesting take on Marian Modesty.

Mary Victrix

We are not called to be mimics of the Blessed Mother, dressing as would be appropriate for a first-century Palestinian peasant woman (e.g., long veils, skirts to the floor, sandals). We are called to imitate the Blessed Mother in her virtues. In terms of modesty, that might mean dressing in a way that is appropriate to one’s culture and circumstances, not drawing undue attention to oneself either in one’s dress or undress, remaining circumspect about one’s own choices, and not denouncing the reasonable choices of others.

Overall, I agree with this article of Michelle Arnold.  However, what tends to happen in discussions about modesty is that those on one side of the debate tend to present a caricature of the other side or generalize too much about the habits of the other side.  In particular, I disagree with her remark about Fatima.  I believe it is pretty clear what…

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