Sinful Shoulders: We’ve Had It Wrong The Whole Time

Concerning dressing decently as Catholics, many have asked the question “What is so sinful about women’s shoulders!?” This is a perfectly valid question and we felt it deserved to be addressed in its very own post.

Temples of the Holy Spirit

“Do you not know, says St. Paul, that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, the members of the Mystical Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ”

First of all, shoulders are not sinful, just as the marital embrace, breasts, legs, ankles etc are not sinful. God made them, and He made them good. What makes something “sinful” is,

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992) defines SIN as, ” an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law (St. Augustine, Faust 22:PL 42, 418). It is an offense against God. It rises up against God in a disobedience contrary to the obedience of Christ. Sin is an act contrary to reason. It wounds man’s nature and injures human solidarity. The root of all sins lies in man’s heart. The kinds and the gravity of sins are determined principally by their objects. To choose deliberately – that is, both knowing it and willing it – something gravely contrary to the divine law and to the ultimate end of man is to commit a mortal sin. This destroys in us the charity without which eternal beatitude is impossible. Unrepented, it brings eternal death.” (CCC 1871-74)

In every sinful act two things must be considered, the substance of the act and the want of rectitude or conformity (St. Thomas, I-II, Q. lxxii, a. 1). (CatholicAnswers) So, to make something sinful, it would be:

  • Perverting something from its God-given purpose: Like masturbation, Sex outside of marriage, unnatural marital relations between husband and wife, adultery…
  • Being in itself an evil act: Murder, stealing, vanity, pride…

The marital act, for example is not sinful when it is used how God ordained it: between husband and wife. But it can be perverted from its God-ordained use: masturbation, pornography, adultery, used outside of marriage, unnatural instances and so on. But this does not mean that the marital act, when proper, can be viewed by others, or spoken of crassly / in the wrong situations and so on. There is a right way and a wrong way of doing things.

Just as there is a right and wrong way of dressing in public. Pope Pius XII spoke on May 22nd, 1941, “Fashion itself isn’t bad. It arises spontaneously from human sociability, following the impulse which inclines to put oneself in harmony with one’s fellows and with the habits of the people among whom have lived. God does not ask you to live outside your time, to remain indifferent to the demands of fashion to the point of making yourself ridiculous by dressing yourself against the common tastes and customs of your contemporaries, without ever worrying about this. that they like. Thus, the angelic Saint Thomas Aquinas affirms that in the external things which man makes use of there is no vice, but that vice comes from man who uses it immoderately in relation to the uses of those with whom he lives, distinguishing himself in a strange way from others”

On November 8, 1957, Pope Pius presented the still-valid principles of modesty in dress.

Clothing fulfills three necessary requirements: hygiene, decency and adornment. These are “so deeply rooted in nature that they cannot be disregarded or contradicted without provoking hostility and prejudice.”

Hygiene pertains mostly to “the climate, its variations, and other external factors” (e.g. discomfort, illness). Decency involves the “proper consideration for the sensitivity of others to objects that are unsightly, or, above all, as a defense of moral honesty and a shield against disordered sensuality.” Adornment is legitimate and “responds to the innate need, more greatly felt by woman, to enhance the beauty and dignity of the person with the same means that are suitable to satisfy the other two purposes.”

Fashion “has achieved an indisputable importance in public life, whether as an aesthetic expression of customs, or as an interpretation of public demand and a focal point of substantial economic interests.

“The rapidity of change (in styles) is further stimulated by a kind of silent competition, not really new, between the ‘elite’ who wish to assert their own personality with original forms of clothing, and the public who immediately convert them to their own use with more or less good imitations.”

The Pontiff then isolated the difficulty with fashion. “The problem of fashion consists in the harmonious reconciliation of a person’s exterior ornamentation with the interior of a quiet and modest spirit.” Like other material objects, fashion can become an undue attachment–even perhaps an addiction–for some persons. The Church “does not censure or condemn styles when they are meant for the proper decorum and ornamentation of the body, but she never fails to warn the faithful against being casily led astray by them.” (Monsignor Charles M. Mangan)

Bare Arms / Serious Importance of Modesty in Dress Held by the Church

The problem that arose concerning women wearing sleeveless dresses and shirts to Mass arose in 1925. Many Bishops exhorted their priests to post a sign on the doors of the Churches to make sure women knew what was considered appropriate in the House of God. Their main concern, aside from the rising Vanity, Pride, Materialism that was becoming so fashionable was “bare arms” and “Décolleté / Décolletage” which is ” the upper part of a woman’s torso, comprising her neck, shoulders, back and chest, that is exposed by the neckline of her clothing. However, the term is most commonly applied to a neckline that reveals or emphasizes cleavage.”

In the Pastoral Letter of His Eminence Cardinal Luçon, Archbishop of Reims, the clergy and the faithful of his diocese, a scathing account is written concerning the seriousness of indecent dress at Mass, where he specifically mentions “bare arms” and low cut dresses, “There is at least one point on which we see ourselves as certain to encounter a unanimous obedience: that nobody will afford to appear to church with these unseemly fashion, that is to say, low-cut dress or bare arms. If there is one place where the frivolous fashions and nudity are particularly displaced, is not it the House of God?” he concluded, “

  1. We strongly urge women and girls of our diocese to observe in their clothes the rules of Christian modesty.
  2. They should absolutely abstain from appearing at the church, especially in the public offices and during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, cut dresses and bare arms.
  3. They will not be admitted to in Confession nor the Holy Table.

And will be, this pastoral letter with the command which terminates, read and published in the main advocates of Mass in churches and chapels of our diocese on Sunday that following receipt.”

And in July, 1925, Mgr Besson bishop of Lausanne, ordered a letter to be read at all Masses in churches and chapels of the diocese that was very similar. He then also spoke to parents, concerning the upbringing of their children, “You have a moral duty to raise them and maintain them in modesty. You have to dress them with reserve and in particular require that the dresses of your girls cover their arms and down below their knees.

Cardinal-Vicar of Pope Pius XI, Cardinal Pompili on 24 September 1928 issued Guidelines to help Catholic women with regard to Fashion – and what they could consider to be Modest and proper for Mass (and so on). “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.” There has been a concession with regard to sleeve length, because of market conditions.

Felix-Raymond-Marie Rouleau

Brother Raymond-Marie Rouleau, Archbishop of Quebec, wrote in 1930: (loosely translated from French) “In order to determine precisely what is to be considered what is appropriate, (or) improper attire to be worn by the person assisting at Mass…We take the following rule to the letter of His Eminence Cardinal Vicar [ Basilio Pompilj ] addressed on 24 September 1928 to all higher schools of sponsorships and girls in the city of Rome..We hope that all the girls and women of our diocese will be a duty to comply with these provisions and to set an example of Christian modesty with the submission to the will of the Vicar of Jesus Christ. It goes without saying that sanctions brought by the Sacred Congregation must be applied with equal prudence and firmness , to stop immediately and as effectively as possible the scourge of immodesty.”

Cdl. Basilio Pompili

In 1945, Cardinal Jean-Marie Rodrigue Villeneuve likewise, told those in his diocese ” The priests will not let people enter churches who are not dressed properly. Those who have sleeveless dresses, too low cut or too short, must put on a cloak before crossing the threshold of our temples.” While the Bishops Synod of Quebec stated, “What if we ask what is a modest and decent outfit for a Christian, it is understood that this is the one that covers the chest and arms non-transparent fabrics, coming down at least mid-leg, and whose cup a suitable extent protects modesty hiding body lines “(Cardinal Rouleau, December 8, 1930 . Mandements of Bishops of Quebec , vol. XIII, Supplement 45 [in fact: 36]).

Church Dress Code: Still A Practice Today

The standard of bare arms being improper for Mass and in Church still exists to this day; we can see it being enforced in the Vatican. In particular, the Papal Audience Dress code states that women must cover their shoulders.

Bishop Robert Vasa, in his article on modesty in dress writes, “Several years ago, the Holy Father re instituted a dress code for the churches of Rome, his diocese. No one in shorts or sleeveless shirts was to be admitted into the church building.”

Pope Pius XII condemned the idea that a sin such as wearing an immodest fashion is acceptable (i.e. not sinful) if it is customary at a given time and/or place. The principle of majority is no rule of conduct. (There are many evil practices that are widely accepted.) “Yet, no matter how broad and changeable the relative morals of styles may be, there is always an absolute norm to be kept after having heard the admonition of conscience warning against approaching danger: style must never be a proximate occasion of sin.” (An ADDRESS of Pope Pius XII to a Congress of the “Latin Union of High Fashion” November 8, 1957.)

Concerning the seriousness of modesty and purity, St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests cried, “Oh God, how many souls does this sin drag down to Hell! . . . . No, my dear brethren, this beautiful virtue is not known to those worldly and corrupt girls who make so many preparations and take so many cares to draw the eyes of the world towards themselves, who by their affected and indecent dress announce publicly that they are evil instruments which Hell makes use of to ruin souls- those souls which cost so much in labours and tears and torments to Jesus Christ! . . . .” Now he wasn’t one to mince words! Yet he had thousands and thousands flock to Mass and Confession because of it!

In 2016, Fr. Carmelo Arada of Manila Archdiocese Commission on Liturgy said certain decorum must always be observed for liturgical functions.“Going to Mass in the parish and going to Mass in the malls must be celebrated with the same disposition, including the attire. Dress properly,” said the priest. He called for the observance of the proper dress code during mass.  “Male Catholics are also discouraged from wearing caps, basketball jerseys, tank tops or jersey shorts, and shorts while women are urged to refrain from wearing spaghetti-strap tops or tank tops, short skirts, skimpy shorts or sleeveless shirts with plunging necklines during Mass.” Which is the same dress code the Archdiocese of Manila had laid down back in 2007.

https://officialcatholicmodesty.com/2019/01/23/does-the-church-have-a-dress-code/

Rightful Place

Fr. Dominic in a homily on EWTN spoke, “Many people come to Church dressed like they are ready to go to the beach. You should not come to Church dressed in shorts, miniskirts, swimsuits, bikinis, tank-tops, dresses above the knees, bare shoulders, bare arms, low cut dresses, sleeveless shirts, very tight fitting clothing, etc. If you come to EWTN or the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, AL and you are not dressed properly don’t expect to get out of your car because we have a dress code here. And don’t even dare to come into the Chapel before our Lord. If you do, hopefully you will be caught by our security guards and asked to put on more clothing. We must return to having a holy fear for God and for His true Presence in the Eucharist and for being in His house. How can we expect to grow in the spiritual life if we are dressed like we don’t care? How dare we approach the Holy Eucharist dressed like we are going to the beach.”

However, all this aside, what we wear to swim, or what we wear in our own homes is certainly a little less “standardized.” (see video below) Though we must never forget our proper role as Catholics; children of God and heirs of Heaven. And our duty to be holy examples to others, especially those under our care. When it comes to bare shoulders, it is more or less not much of an issue outside of Church. But of course then we are faced with the questions, “How thick must our strap be? Two inches? Spaghetti straps? How wide can our sleeves be? Does it even matter at all?” For we know that when we are wearing sleeveless shirts / dresses then the showing of our bra / breast can become an issue when there are large, gaping holes.. We recommend sleeveless shirts / dresses that do not show our bra, and cut close to under our arms, just so that we need not worry about our chest showing when we bend down or lift our arms.

Conclusion / Final Notes

The Catholic Church isn’t dumb; we are not expected to wear old fashioned or ugly clothing, covering our bodies likened to Sharia Law! Pope Pius XII actually calls us to follow the fashion, but with prudence! He called it an act of charity! He has even said that Fashion and Modesty go together.

We are called to look to these guidelines for the sole reason that we know without a doubt that our dress (and, remember we must be modest in our looks, thoughts, words and actions also!) will never be a source of scandal or sin to others.

It’s not “two more inches and you are sinning!” but rather “here is a Standard that will make it easier for you to be able to build a wardrobe around, without having to worry about Modesty at all!” And even if some willfully dress immodestly, it is never our place to hate those people, or treat them badly! Never! We are called to be examples, and to tell the truth when it is charitably necessary (if people don’t know what is modesty they cannot dress modestly), but we are not called to judge if a person is purposefully dressing sinfully to make men lust after them! Most people have no idea anymore! And then need our prayers, our charitable information when possible, and most of all … our example It would be really easy to believe that we could dress how we think is modest, but as mentioned before; something are more difficult than others when it comes to temptation. It is up to both genders to dress modestly, be pure in heart and mind, “flee thou youthful desires, and pursue justice, faith, charity, and peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” [2 Timothy 2:22]

If we tried to “cover up” parts of ourselves that were a “stumbling block” or “temptation” for others it would be impossible. As even the mere thought of a person can bring about temptation. It is up to us to fight these temptations, yet not making it harder for our Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

Few “dress codes” have been made by some Christians that have proven to make no sense at all concerning “inches” and “situational outfits”. Is Original Sin merely situational? Prudence and common sense calls us as Catholics to follow a moral guideline, not our feelings, as most Catholic issues. As the Catholic Church has so very much pointed out the importance of Modesty in dress, as well as other areas, we should at least adhere to the seriousness, and the importance.

We must always remember WHY we are trying to dress with decency and modesty:

  • Because we are temples of the Holy Spirit
  • Because we are children of God and heirs of Heaven
  • Because it honors God
  • Because it allows us to become good examples for Christ, as well as keeps us pure

A Young Lady Looks at Life – St. Thérèse of Lisieux

This site compiled this information.

Extracts taken from A biography of a Soul

Pride

There was another fault I had when wide awake, which Mama doesn’t mention in her letters, and this was an excessive self-love. I will give only two examples of this in order not to prolong the recital. One day, Mama said: “Little Therese, if you kiss the ground I’ll give you a sou.” A sou was a fortune at the time and to get it I didn’t have to lower my dignity too much, my little frame didn’t put much of a distance between my lips and the ground. And still my pride revolted at the thought of “kissing the ground”; so standing up straight, I said to Mama: “Oh! no, little Mother, I would prefer not to have the sou!”

Vanity

Another time we had to go to Grogny to Mme. Monnier’s home. Mama told Marie to dress me in my Sky-blue frock with the lace trimmings but not to leave my arms bare lest the Sun burn them. I allowed myself to be dressed with the indifference a child of my age should really have, but I thought within myself that I would look much more pretty with my arms bare.

Vigilance of Parents

With a nature such as my own, had I been reared by Parents without virtue or even if I had been spoiled by the maid, Louise, as Celine was, I would have become very bad and perhaps have even been lost.

Flattery

I was six or seven years old when Papa brought us to Trouville. Never will I forget the impression the sea made upon me; I couldn’t take my eyes off it since its majesty, the roaring of its waves, everything spoke to my soul of God’s grandeur and power. I recall during the walk on the seashore a man and a woman were looking at me as I ran ahead of Papa. They came and asked him if I were his little daughter and said I was a very pretty little girl. Papa said, “Yes,” but I noticed the sign he made to them not to pay me any compliments. It was the first time I’d heard it said I was pretty and this pleased me as I didn’t think I was. You always took great care, Mother, to allow me to come in contact with nothing that could destroy my innocence, and you saw it, too, that I heard nothing capable of giving rise to vanity in my heart. As I listened to what you and Marie said, and as you had never directed any compliments to me, I gave no great importance to the words or admiring glances of this woman.

The World and Worldliness

God gave me the grace of knowing the world just enough to despise it and separate myself from it. I can say it was during my stay at Alencon that I made my first entrance into the world. Everything was joy and happiness around me; I was entertained, coddled and admired; in a word, my life during those two weeks was strewn only with flowers. I must admit this type of life had its charms for me. Wisdom is right in saying: “The bewitching of vanity overturns the innocent mind!” At the age of ten the heart allows itself to be easily dazzled, and I consider it a great grace not to have remained at Alencon. The friends we had there were too worldly; they knew too well how to ally the joys of this earth to the service of God. They didn’t think about death enough, and yet death had paid its visit to a great number of those whom I knew, the young, the rich, the happy! I love to return in spirit to the enchanting places where they lived, wondering where these people are, what became of their houses and gardens where I saw them enjoy life’s luxuries? And I see that all is vanity and vexation of spirit under the sun, that the only good is to love God with all one’s heart and to be poor in spirit here on earth.

Flattery again

With my nose in the book, I heard everything that was said around me and even those things it would have been better for me not to hear because vanity slips so easily into the heart. One lady said I had pretty hair; another, when she was leaving, believing she was not overheard, asked who the very beautiful young girl was. These words, all the more flattering since they were not spoken in my presence, left in my soul a pleasurable impression that showed me clearly how much I was filled with self-love. Oh! how I pity souls that are lost! It is so easy to go astray on the flowery paths of the world. Undoubtedly, for a soul a little advanced spiritually, the sweetness which the world offers is mixed with bitterness, and the immense void of the desires cannot be filled by the praises of an instant. However, if my heart had not been raised to God from the dawn of reason, if the world had smiled on me from my entrance into life, what would have become of me? O my dear Mother, with what gratitude I sing the Mercies of the Lord! Did He not, according to the words of Wisdom: “…drawn me from the world before my spirit was corrupted by its malice and before its deceitful appearances had seduced my soul?” The Blessed Virgin, too, watched over her little flower and, not wanting her to be tarnished by contact with worldly things, drew her to her mountain before she blossomed.

Possessions and Worldly Honors

During the course of the whole trip, we were lodged in princely hotels; never had I been surrounded with so much luxury. There’s no mistake about it: riches don’t bring happiness, for I would have been much happier under that thatched roof with the hope of Carmel in the offing, than in the midst of these sumptuous dwellings, these marble staircases, and silk tapestries, and all the while bitterness in my heart! Ah! I really felt it: joy isn’t found in the material objects surrounding us but in the inner recesses of the soul. One can possess joy in a prison cell as well as in a palace. The proof of this: I am happier in Carmel even in the midst of interior and exterior trials than in the world surrounded by the comforts of life, and even the sweetness of the paternal hearth!

Does the Church Have a Dress Code?

Women must be decently dressed, especially when they go to church. The parish priest may, with due prudence, refuse them entrance to the church and access to the reception of the Sacraments, [each] and every time that they come to church immodestly dressed.” (General Pastoral Directive, 1915 A.D.)

Although immodesty in dress was not unheard of from the lips of the Popes, it was around the time of Pope Pius XI that a Dress Code of sorts came about.

Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922) spoke of the deplorable immodesty in society, in his Encyclical to the Third Order St. Francis, “SACRA PROPEDIEM“, and encouraged especially the Tertiary Sisters, “by their dress and manner of wearing it, to be models of holy modesty for other ladies and young girls; that they be thoroughly convinced that the best way for them to be of use to the Church and to Society is to labor for the improvement of morals.”

He goes on to say, about society:

“..one cannot sufficiently deplore the blindness of so many women of every age and condition; made foolish by desire to please, they do not see to what a degree the in decency of their clothing shocks every honest man, and offends God. Most of them would formerly have blushed for those toilettes as for a grave fault against Christian modesty; now it does not suffice for them to exhibit them on the public thoroughfares; they do not fear to cross the threshold of the churches, to assist at the Holy sacrifice of the Mass, and even to bear the seducing food of shameful passions to the Eucharistic Table where one receives the heavenly Author of purity. And We speak not of those exotic and barbarous dances recently imported into fashionable circles, one more shocking than the other; one cannot imagine anything more suitable for banishing all the remains of modesty.

In considering attentively this state of things, the Tertiaries will understand what it is that our epoch expects from the disciples of St. Francis. If they bring their gaze back to the life of their Father, they will see what perfect and living resemblance to Jesus Christ, above all in His flight from satisfactions and his love of trials in this life, had he whom they call the Poverello, and who had received in his flesh the stigmata of the Crucified. It is for them to show that they remain worthy of him by embracing poverty, at least in spirit, in renouncing themselves, and in bearing each one his cross.

In what concerns specially the Tertiary Sisters, We ask of them by their dress and manner of wearing it, to be models of holy modesty for other ladies and young girls; that they be thoroughly convinced that the best way for them to be of use to the Church and to Society is to labor for the improvement of morals.”

In “Remarks on the woman’s mission in society” to a delegation of the Union of Catholic Women, October 21, 1919, Pope Benedict XV said, “We must hasten, however, to We congratulate the resolution we just made, you will ensure that Catholic women feel obliged to not only be honest, but to prove his honesty by way of dressing. Such resolution recalls the need for the Catholic woman to set a good example.

Ignorance alone can explain the deplorable extension taken today by a fashion so contrary to modesty, the most beautiful ornament of the Christian woman; better informed, it seems to us that a woman could never have come to this excess wear indecent dressing into the holy place, under the gaze of natural masters and the most authoritative of Christian morality.” 

Pope Benedict XV, ”  Remarks on the woman’s mission in society” to a delegation of the Union of Catholic Women, October 21, 1919, inProceedings of Benedict XV,Volume II, House of the Good Press, Paris, 1926 p. 69-70

Pope Pius XI had decried the Immodesty of women and called for those who dressed immodestly TO BE DE-BARRED FROM HOLY COMMUNION:

“Maidens and women dressed immodestly are to be debarred from Holy Communion and from acting as sponsors at the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation; further, if the offense be extreme, they may even be forbidden to enter the church.”

(Original letter published in Acta Apostolicae Sedis of 1930 vol. 22, pp. 26-28)

He spoke again of the importance of modesty in sports, in his encyclical, “Divini Illius Magistri” DECEMBER 31, 1929.

In 1930 a letter of the Sacred Congregation of the Council (Acta Apostolicae Sedis 1930 vol. 22, pp. 26-28) was issued. This was addressed to the whole world. It condemned emphatically “the immodest fashion of dress adopted by Catholic women and girls, which fashion not only offends the dignity of women, but conduces to the temporal ruin of the women and girls, and, what is still worse, to their eternal ruin, miserably dragging down others in their fall.”

These instructions were given (among others):

1. “The parish priest should command that feminine garb be based on modesty, and womanly ornament be a defence of virtue. Let them likewise admonish parents to cause their daughters to cease wearing indecorous dress.”

2. “Teachers must not receive in their colleges and schools immodestly dressed girls.”

3. “Maidens and women dressed immodestly are to be debarred from Holy Communion … further, if the offence be extreme, they may even be forbidden to enter the Church.”

(I X . Puellae et mulieres, quae inhonestas vestes induunt, a Sancta Communione
et a munere matrinae in sacramentis Baptismi et Confirmationis
arceantur, atque, si casus ferat, ab ipso ecclesiae ingressu prohibeantur.)

In another Encyclical he wrote:

“It is abundantly clear that readers of Augustine will not be caught in the toils of that pernicious error, which was widespread during the eighteenth century, namely, that the inborn impulses of the will should neither be feared nor curbed, since all of them are right and sound. From its false principle sprang those educational methods, which We condemned not long ago in Our Encyclical on “The Christian Education of Youth.” Their effect is to allow a free mingling of the sexes and to employ no precaution in controlling the growing passions of boyhood and youth. From this false principle too comes that license in writing and reading, in presenting or frequenting plays, that do not merely threaten innocence and purity with dangerous occasions, but actually plot their ruin and destruction. From this source again are derived those immodest fashions of dress, which Christian women can never be at too great pains to abolish.”

Ad Salutem“, April 30, 1930 A.D.

The Pope’s weren’t the only ones who spoke out about the dangers of immodesty and indecent attire. In 1925 the Bishops of Belgium issued a serious call concerning indecent fashions, quoting, People who are not well dressed are asked not to approach the communion rail.”

(The Catholic Tunisia , October 11, 1925, p. 750 -752)

An article in Le Figaro, published on December 20, 1920 by His Eminence Cardinal Louis-Ernest Dubois spoke of a letter that “was read from the pulpit in every church in the diocese, the following warning of the new archbishop of Paris, ‘against indecent modes and unseemly dances.'” quoting, “We urge our diocesan react against the opposing modes to Christian decency.”

Le Figaro , 66 th year, 3 E Series, No. 354, Monday, December 20, 1920, p. 2 .

Continues letters and calls to decent Fashions streamed from chanceries and pulpits during these years (1920s-1940s), as it was becoming the “mode” to throw off old ways and do whatever was scandalous (for those days).

One must understand that the fashions of the 1920’s were not of such terrible immodesty as was the intent of scandal that was behind it. The lifestyle of the “Flapper Girl” that was behind much of the new crazes pushed for a “freer” lifestyle. One that, without the Church reminding Catholic’s of their duties, would easily cause many souls of forget all Modesty in dress, speech, and so on.

The new dances may not be of such concern today, but when they first came out in the 20’s, it was to be as much of a scandal as possible. Shaking parts of their bodies that were so un-exposed before. Hiking up their skirts to expose their knees – a “scandalous” deed back then. Smoking and drinking excessively, sleeping around freely, flirting with every person that came their way. Moving pictures gave the public more  freedom concerning dirty movies. All of these immodesties called for the Church to openly speak about the dangers of such acts. For who knew where and when it would stop?

Cardinal-Vicar of Pope Pius XI, Cardinal Pompili (photo on left), on 24 September 1928 issued Guidelines to help Catholic women with regard to Fashion – and what they could consider to be Modest and proper for Mass (and so on).

 “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.”

There has been a concession with regard to sleeve length, because of market conditions.

Brother Raymond-Marie Rouleau, Archbishop of Quebec, wrote in 1930: (loosely translated from French)In order to determine precisely what is to be considered what is appropriate, (or) improper attire to be worn by the person assisting at Mass…We take the following rule to the letter of His Eminence Cardinal Vicar [ Basilio Pompilj ] addressed on 24 September 1928 to all higher schools of sponsorships and girls in the city of Rome..

We hope that all the girls and women of our diocese will be a duty to comply with these provisions and to set an example of Christian modesty with the submission to the will of the Vicar of Jesus Christ. It goes without saying that sanctions brought by the Sacred Congregation must be applied with equal prudence and firmness , to stop immediately and as effectively as possible the scourge of immodesty.

Circular clergy” , Part No. I, April 6, 1930, published in Mandements, pastoral letters and circulars of the bishops of Quebec , Supplement No. 33, p. 15 , New Series, Volume 9, Quebec, in 1925.

Rufino J. Cardinal Santos, Archbishop of Manila, quotes these guidelines as “The Church’s stand concerning modesty in dress” in his Pastoral of December 6, 1959. He was known for launching many religious crusades, including the Purity Crusade for Mary Immaculate.

The Bishops in Quebec, Canada also wrote a lengthy Joint Pastoral Letter titled, “Purity Crusade“, concerning the grave importance of Modesty in Dress, published May 5th 1946. Earlier they had quoted,

“Synod of Quebec (1940), Decree 102, notes: “What if we ask what is a modest and decent attire ( minimum ) for a Christian, as we understand it’s one that covers the chest and the arms of non-transparent fabric, which goes down at least mid-leg, and whose cup a suitable extent protects modesty hiding body lines ” (Cardinal Rouleau,  December 8, 1930 ,  Mandements of Bishops of Quebec , . vol XIII, Supplement 45) [made in: 36].

Address of Pope Pius XII to young girls of Catholic Action of Rome, members of the Crusade for Purity, on May 22, 1941. ‘How many girls there are who do not see any wrongdoing in following certain shameless styles like so many sheep. They certainly would blush if they could guess the impression they make and the feelings they evoke in those who see them.’ Pope Pius XII

Address of Pope Pius XII to young girls of Catholic Action of Rome, members of the Crusade for Purity, on May 22, 1941. An telling instruction from the Sacred Congregation of the Council, January 12, 1930, speaks volumes of the importance that Pope Pius XII held modesty in dress to: “Under the supreme apostolate which God has entrusted the performance of the whole Church, His Holiness Pope Pius XI has never ceased to teach by word and writings the precept of St. Paul: “That women wear decent clothes, adorning themselves with modesty and simplicity (…) and as befits women who profess to worship God through good works. “

Often when the occasion arose, the Pope disapproved and condemned severely indecent modes introduced everywhere today in the clothing habits of women and girls even Catholic; not only these modes gravely offend the dignity and feminine grace, but unfortunately cause temporal damage for the woman and, what is worse, his eternal loss and others.” 

(D. Card. Sbarretti Sabine bishop and Poggio Mirteto, Prefect. JULES, Bishop of Lampsacus, Secretary. Instruction to Diocesan Ordinaries on Indecent Women’s Fashion by the Sacred Congregation of the Council, January 12, 1930)

Is it still Relevant Today?

There is still a sign outside the Vatican which tells the visitors how to dress. And if you are dressed more immodestly you will be thrown out or given paper clothing to wear! And as you can see, they still adhere to the original Modesty Guidelines, “shoulder and knees covered, nothing too low-cut… etc.”  The Papal Audience Dress Code should at least be thought about adhering to when in the Presence of, not just the Pope, but the Blessed Sacrament! 

Pope Pius XII condemned the idea that a sin such as wearing an immodest fashion is acceptable (i.e. not sinful) if it is customary at a given time and/or place. The principle of majority is no rule of conduct. (There are many evil practices that are widely accepted.)

“Yet, no matter how broad and changeable the relative morals of styles may be, there is always an absolute norm to be kept after having heard the admonition of conscience warning against approaching danger: style must never be a proximate occasion of sin.”(An ADDRESS of Pope Pius XII to a Congress of the “Latin Union of High Fashion” November 8, 1957.)

The SACRED CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH: PERSONA HUMANA : DECLARATION ON CERTAIN QUESTIONS CONCERNING SEXUAL ETHICS says,“In moral matters man cannot make value judgments according to his personal whim: “In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose on himself, but which holds him to obedience. . . . For man has in his heart a law written by God. To obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged.””

The virtue of chastity, however, is in no way confined solely to avoiding the faults already listed. It is aimed at attaining higher and more positive goals. It is a virtue which concerns the whole personality, as regards both interior and outward behavior.” Learn to respect and love one another. But do it completely. 

Are we a “generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet are not washed from their filthiness.” [Proverbs 30:12] ?

 In 2006 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement titled, “Happy Are Those Who Are Called To His Supper: On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist”, in the statement is this portion on dressing well for Holy Mass; “Appropriate attire — We should also come to the sacred liturgy appropriately dressed. As Christians we should dress in a modest manner, wearing clothes that reflect our reverence for God and that manifest our respect for the dignity of the liturgy and for one another.”

As we can see, the importance of the issue of modesty, especially in the Presence of the Holy Eucharist is still very important.

A question one might ask oneself is, “How exactly could something of such great importance, as called by the Church, suddenly no longer be so? Have we lost our concupiscence which we have been born with, thanks to Adam and Eve’s sin? Have we gained a miraculous ability to no longer be tempted?”

Alice von Hildebrand speaks volumes concerning this in her article, saying this of downplaying of temptation and the like, “King David’s sins underscore how sexual desire can degenerate into what Dietrich calls “diabolical” temptations.  Some of the most atrocious perversions occur when the Devil takes over completely.  And one should never downplay, or minimize, the gravity of these evils. It is plainly false to claim that such abuses are “tragic,” rather than “filthy.”” Her book, “The Dark Night of the Body” is another interesting and great source on this topic. Even secular sources’ findings concerning the primal feelings that man, in general, have, when it comes to the Bikini (As well as the mini skirt) is a loud warning bell to any Catholic. One can learn to love the other for their God-given beauty and their Temple of the Holy Spirit as much as they can, but even great Saints take steps to fight temptation. St. Thomas Aquinas for one example – threw a burning log at a prostitute coming into his room to tempt him.

St. Padre Pio had a great love for Modesty, take a look at some of his letter:“Most of all it was modest in the way of dressing that was most dear to the Padre’s heart, no matter where one lived. The reason that the Saint worried was that an indecent way of dressing can be scandalous and an occasion of sin for anyone.’”

(IASENZANIRO, FR. MARCELLINO. PADRE PIO TESTIMONIES. VOL 1. SAN GIOVANNO ROTUNDO, ITALY: EZIOLINI POADRE PIO PIETRELCINA, P 149.)

Although one story in particular has not held true concerning St. Padre Pio and modesty, and that is the story of his “putting a sign debarring certain women with certain dress lengths from confession.” This story has been proven to be false.

St. Dominic Savio was also a great lover and promoter of purity and modesty.

St. Maria Goretti as well.

Even an early Christian martyr, St. Perpetua was known to cover her legs as she was thrown to and fro in the lion dens – to cover her modesty!’When she was thrown into the air by a savage bull in the amphitheatre at Carthage, her first thought and action when she fell to the ground was to rearrange her dress to cover her thigh, because she was more concerned for modesty than pain.’ 

Pope Pius XII, Allocution to the Girls of Catholic Action, speaking of St. Perpetua

Conclusion / Final Notes

The Catholic Church isn’t dumb; we are not expected to wear old fashioned or ugly clothing, covering our bodies likened to Sharia Law! Pope Pius XII actually calls us to follow the fashion, but with prudence! He called it an act of charity! He has even said that Fashion and Modesty go together.

We are called to look to these guidelines for the sole reason that we know without a doubt that our dress (and, remember we must be modest in our looks, thoughts, words and actions also!) will never be a source of scandal or sin to others.

It’s not “two more inches and you are sinning!” but rather “here is a Standard that will make it easier for you to be able to build a wardrobe around, without having to worry about Modesty at all!” And even if some willfully dress immodestly, it is never our place to hate those people, or treat them badly! Never! We are called to be examples, and to tell the truth when it is charitably necessary (if people don’t know what is modesty they cannot dress modestly), but we are not called to judge if a person is purposefully dressing sinfully to make men lust after them! Most people have no idea anymore! And then need our prayers, our charitable information when possible, and most of all … our example It would be really easy to believe that we could dress how we think is modest, but as mentioned before; something are more difficult than others when it comes to temptation. It is up to both genders to dress modestly, be pure in heart and mind, “flee thou youthful desires, and pursue justice, faith, charity, and peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” [2 Timothy 2:22]

If we tried to “cover up” parts of ourselves that were a “stumbling block” or “temptation” for others it would be impossible. As even the mere thought of a person can bring about temptation. It is up to us to fight these temptations, yet not making it harder for our Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

Few “dress codes” have been made by some Christians that have proven to make no sense at all concerning “inches” and “situational outfits”. Is Original Sin merely situational?  Prudence and common sense calls us as Catholics to follow a moral guideline, not our feelings, as most Catholic issues. As the Catholic Church has so very much pointed out the importance of Modesty in dress, as well as other areas, we should at least adhere to the seriousness, and the importance.

We will continue to update this portion of the website as we obtain more information concerning Modesty in Dress & the Church.

St. John Chrysostom on Modesty

“You carry your snare everywhere and spread your nets in all places. You allege that you never invited others to sin. You did not, indeed, by your words, but you have done so by your dress and your deportment. … When you have made another sin in his heart, how can you be innocent? Tell me, whom does this world condemn? Whom do judges punish? Those who drink poison or those who prepare it and administer the fatal potion? You have prepared the abominable cup, you have given the death dealing drink, and you are more criminal than are those who poison the body; you murder not the body but the soul. And it is not to enemies you do this, nor are you urged on by any imaginary necessity, nor provoked by injury, but out of foolish vanity and pride.”

“‘Great modesty and great propriety does the blessed Paul require of women, and that not only with respect to their dress and appearance: he proceeds even to regulate their speech.And what says he? “Let the woman learn in silence”; that is, let her not speak at all in the church; which rule he has also given in his Epistle to the Corinthians, where he says,”It is a shame for women to speak in the church” (1 Cor. xiv. 35.); and the reason is, that the law has made them subject to men.’ “

cover photo: Image: Chrysostemos | Carl Christian Peters

St. Augustine, On Marriage and Concupiscence

IN TWO BOOKS, ADDRESSED TO THE COUNT VALERIUS

BY AURELIUS AUGUSTIN, BISHOP OF HIPPO; WRITTEN IN 419 AND 420,

Extract from Augustine’s Retractions (Book II, Chapter 53): I addressed two books to the Illustrious Count Valerius, upon hearing that the Pelagians had brought sundry vague charges upon us— how, for instance, we condemned marriage by maintaining Original Sin. These books are entitled, On Marriage and Concupiscence. We maintain that marriage is good; and that it must not be supposed that the concupisence of the flesh, or “the law in our members which wars against the law of mind,” is a fault of marriage. Conjugal chastity makes a good use of the evil of concupiscence in the procreation of children. My first treatise contained two books. The first of them found its way into the hands of Julianus the Pelagian, who wrote four books in opposition to it. Out of these, somebody extracted sundry passages, and sent them to Count Valerius; he handed them to us, and after I had received them I wrote a second book in answer to these extracts. The first book of this work of mine opens with these words: “Our new heretics, most beloved son Valerius,” while the second begins thus: “Amid the cares of your duty as a soldier.”

Companion Letter
Book I
Book II

SOURCE NewAdvent

St. Ambrose on Modesty

 

‘Is anything so conducive to lust as with unseemly movements thus to expose in nakedness those parts of the body which either nature has hidden or custom has veiled, to sport with the looks, to turn the neck, to loosen the hair? Fitly was the next step an offense against God. For what modesty can there be?’

‘The face is a witness of the thoughts and is a silent interpreter of the heart. The outward appearance is often a sign of the conscience and the unspoken words of the mind.’

‘Modesty should pervade all that is exterior – our walk, our gestures, and our movements. All outside appearances reveal the condition of our mind; although our passions are hidden, they manifest themselves exteriorly; one easily knows if a man is fickle, haughty, mischievous, or if he is wise, patient, and reserved; the motion of the body is a species of voice which bespeaks all that is passing in the soul. . . Modesty is suitable for all ages and for all classes of persons; for all times and places.’

Purity Excerpts – St. Francis de Sales

‘Be neat, Philothea; let nothing be negligent about you. It is a kind of contempt of those with whom we converse, to frequent their company in uncomely apparel; but, at the same time, avoid all affectation, vanity, curiosity, or levity in your dress. Keep yourself always, as much as possible, on the side of plainness and modesty, which, without doubt, is the greatest ornament of beauty, and the best excuse for the want of it.’

‘We must be very careful in the practice of modesty.’

‘Not only in body but in heart as well, no ornament becomes like humility, modesty and devotion.’

‘Human bodies are like glasses, which cannot come into collision without risk of breaking; or to fruits, which, however fresh and ripe, are damaged by pressure.

Never permit any one to take any manner of foolish liberty with you, since, although there may be no evil intention, the perfectness of purity is injured thereby. Purity has its source in the heart, but it is in the body that its material results take shape, and therefore it may be forfeited both by the exterior senses and by the thoughts and desires of the heart.

All lack of modesty in seeing, hearing, speaking, smelling, or touching, is impurity, especially when the heart takes pleasure therein.

St. Paul says without any hesitation that impurity and uncleanness, or foolish and unseemly talking, are not to be “so much as named” among Christians.

Remember that there are things which blemish perfect purity, without being in themselves downright acts of impurity. Anything which tends to lessen its intense sensitiveness, or to cast the slightest shadow over it, is of this nature; and all evil thoughts or foolish acts of levity or heedlessness are as steps towards the most direct breaches of the law of chastity.

Avoid the society of persons who are wanting in purity, especially if they are bold, as indeed impure people always are.’

Frequent not the company of immodest persons, especially if they be also impudent, as is generally the case; . . . these corrupted souls and infected hearts scarcely speak to any, either of the same or a different sex, without causing them to fall in some degree from purity; they have poison in their eyes and in their breath, like basilisks. On the contrary, keep company with the chaste and virtuous; often meditate upon and read holy things; for the word of God is chaste, and makes those also chaste that delight in it.

Modesty of the Eyes – St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

‘Turn away your eyes lest they behold vanity; (cf. Ps. 119:37) for license causes souls to perish.’

St. Poemen

Extracts from, ‘The True Spouse of Jesus Christ’ by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

Almost all our rebellious passions spring from unguarded looks; for, generally speaking, it is by the sight that all inordinate affections and desires are excited.

Hence, holy Job made a covenant with his eyes, that he would not so much as think upon a virgin.

Why did he say that he would not so much as think upon a virgin? Should he not have said that he made a covenant with his eyes not to look at a virgin? No; he very properly said that he would not think upon a virgin; because thoughts are so connected with looks, that the former cannot be separated from the latter, and therefore, to escape the molestation of evil imaginations, he resolved never to fix his eyes on a woman.

St. Augustine says: “The thought follows the look; delight comes after the thought; and consent after delight.” From the look proceeds the thought; from the thought the desire; for, as St. Francis de Sales says, what is not seen is not desired, and to the desire succeeds the consent.

If Eve had not looked at the forbidden apple, she should not have fallen; but because she saw that it was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and beautiful to behold, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat.

The devil first tempts us to look, then to desire, and afterwards to consent.

St. Jerome says that Satan requires “only a beginning on our part.” If we begin, he will complete our destruction.

A deliberate glance at a person of a different sex often enkindles an infernal spark, which consumes the soul. “Through the eyes,” says St. Bernard, “the deadly arrows of love enter.” The first dart that wounds and frequently robs chaste souls of life finds admission through the eyes. By them David, the beloved of God, fell. By them was Solomon, once the inspired of the Holy Ghost, drawn into the greatest abominations. Oh! how many are lost by indulging their sight!

The eyes must be carefully guarded by all who expect not to be obliged to join in the lamentation of Jeremiah: “My eye hath wasted my soul.” By the introduction of sinful affections my eyes have destroyed my soul. Hence St. Gregory says, that “the eyes, because they draw us to sin, must be depressed.”

If not restrained, they will become instruments of hell, to force the soul to sin almost against its will.

“He that looks at a dangerous object,” continues the saint, “begins to will what he wills not.” It was this the inspired writer intended to express when he said of Holofernes, that the beauty of Judith made his soul captive.

Seneca says that “blindness is a part of innocence.” And Tertullian relates that a certain pagan philosopher, to free himself from impurity, plucked out his eyes. Such an act would be unlawful in us: but he that desires to preserve chastity must avoid the sight of objects that are apt to excite unchaste thoughts. “Gaze not about,” says the Holy Ghost, “upon another’s beauty; . . . hereby lust is enkindled as a fire.” Gaze not upon another’s beauty; for from looks arise evil imaginations, by which an impure fire is lighted up.

Hence St. Francis de Sales used to say, that “they who wish to exclude an enemy from the city must keep the gates locked.”

Hence, to avoid the sight of dangerous objects, the saints were accustomed to keep their eyes almost continually fixed on the earth, and to abstain even from looking at innocent objects.

After being a novice for a year, St. Bernard could not tell whether his cell was vaulted. In consequence of never raising his eyes from the ground, he never knew that there were but three windows to the church of the monastery, in which he spent his novitiate.

He once, without perceiving a lake, walked along its banks for nearly an entire day; and hearing his companions speak about it, he asked when they had seen it.

St. Peter of Alcantara kept his eyes constantly cast down, so that he did not know the brothers with whom he conversed. It was by the voice, and not by the countenance, that he was able to recognize them.

The saints were particularly cautious not to look at persons of a different sex.

St. Hugh, bishop, when compelled to speak with women, never looked at them in the face.

St. Clare would never fix her eyes on the face of a man. She was greatly afflicted because, when raising her eyes at the elevation to see the consecrated host, she once involuntarily saw the countenance of the priest.

St. Aloysius never looked at his own mother in the face.

It is related of St. Arsenius, that a noble lady went to visit him in the desert, to beg of him to recommend her to God. When the saint perceived that his visitor was a woman, he turned away from her, she then said to him: “Arsenius, since you will neither see or hear me, at least remember me in your prayers.” “No,” replied the saint, “but I will beg of God to make me forget you, and never more to think of you.”

From these examples may be seen the folly and temerity of some religious who, though they have not the sanctity of a St. Clare, still gaze around from the terrace, in the parlor, and in the church, upon every object that presents itself, even on persons of a different sex. And notwithstanding their unguarded looks, they expect to be free from temptations and from the danger of sin.

For having once looked deliberately at a woman who was gathering ears of corn, the Abbot Pastor was tormented for forty years by temptations against chastity.

St. Gregory states that the temptation, to conquer which St. Benedict rolled himself in thorns, arose from one incautious glance at a woman.

St. Jerome, though living in a cave at Bethlehem, in continual prayer and macerations of the flesh, was terribly molested by the remembrance of ladies whom he had long before seen in Rome. Why should not similar molestations be the lot of the religious who wilfully and without reserve fixes her eyes on persons of a different sex?

“It is not,” says St. Francis de Sales, “the seeing of objects so much as the fixing of our eyes upon them that proves most pernicious.” “If,” says St. Augustine, “our eyes should by chance fall upon others, let us take care never to fix them upon any one.” Father Manareo, when taking leave of St. Ignatius for a distant place, looked steadfastly in his face: for this look he was corrected by the saint.

From the conduct of St. Ignatius on this occasion, we learn that it was not becoming in religious to fix their eyes on the countenance of a person even of the same sex, particularly if the person is young. But I do not see how looks at young persons of a different sex can be excused from the guilt of a venial fault, or even from mortal sin, when there is proximate danger of criminal consent. “It is not lawful,” says St. Gregory, “to behold what it is not lawful to covet.”

The evil thought that proceeds from looks, though it should be rejected, never fails to leave a stain upon the soul. Brother Roger, a Franciscan of singular purity, being once asked why he was so reserved in his intercourse with women, replied, that when men avoid the occasions of sin, God preserves them; but when they expose themselves to danger, they are justly abandoned by the Lord, and easily fall into some grievous transgressions.

The indulgence of the eyes, if not productive of any other evil, at least destroys recollection during the time of prayer. For, the images and impressions caused by the objects seen before, or by the wandering of the eyes, during prayer, will occasion a thousand distractions, and banish all recollection from the soul. It is certain that without recollection a religious can pay but little attention to the practice of humility, patience, mortification, or of the other virtues. Hence it is her duty to abstain from all looks of curiosity, which distract her mind from holy thoughts. Let her eyes be directed only to objects which raise the soul to God.

St. Bernard used to say, that to fix the eyes upon the earth contributes to keep the heart in heaven. “Where,” says St. Gregory, “Christ is, there modesty is found.” Wherever Jesus Christ dwells by love, there modesty is practised.

However, I do not mean to say that the eyes should never be raised or never fixed on any object. No; but they ought to be directed only to what inspires devotion, to sacred images, and to the beauty of creation, which elevate the soul to the contemplation of the divinity. Except in looking at such objects, a religious should in general keep the eyes cast down, and particulary in places where they may fall upon dangerous objects. In conversing with men, she should never roll the eyes about to look at them, and much less to look at them a second time.

To practise modesty of the eyes is the duty of a religious, not only because it is necessary for her own improvement in virtue, but also because it is necessary for the edification of others.

God only knows the human heart: man sees only the exterior actions, and by them he is edified or scandalized. A man, says the Holy Ghost, is known by his look. By the countenance the interior is known. Hence, like St. John the Baptist, a religious should be a burning and shining light. She ought to be a torch burning with charity, and shining resplendent by her modesty, to all who behold her. To religious the following words of the Apostle are particularly applicable: We are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men.” And again: Let your modesty be known to all men: the Lord is nigh. Religious are attentively observed by the angels and by men; and therefore their modesty should be made manifest before all; if they do not practise modesty, terrible shall be the account which they must render to God on the day of judgment. Oh! what devotion does a modest religious inspire, what edification does she give, by keeping her eyes always cast down!

St. Francis of Assisi once said to his companion, that he was going out to preach. After walking through the town, with his eyes fixed on the ground, he returned to the convent. His companion asked him when he would preach the sermon. We have, replied the saint, by the modesty of our looks, given an excellent instruction to all who saw us.

It is related of St. Aloysius, that when he walked through Rome the students would stand in the streets to observe and admire his great modesty.

St. Ambrose says, that to men of the world the modesty of the saints is a powerful exhortation to amendment of life.

“The look of a just man is an admonition to many.” The saint adds: “How delightful it is to do good to others by your appearance!”

It is related of St. Bernardine of Sienna, that even when a secular, his presence was sufficient to restrain the licentiousness of his young companions, who, as soon as they saw him, were accustomed to give to one another notice that he was coming. On his arrival they became silent or changed the subject of their conversation. It is also related of St. Gregory of Nyssa, and of St. Ephrem, that their very appearance inspired piety, and that the sanctity and modesty of their exterior edified and improved all that beheld them.

When Innocent II visited St. Bernard at Clairvaux, such was the exterior modesty of the saint and of his monks, that the Pope and his cardinals were moved to tears of devotion. Surius relates a very extraordinary fact of St. Lucian, a monk and martyr. By his modesty he induced so many pagans to embrace the faith, that the Emperor Maximian fearing that he should be converted to Christianity by the appearance of the saint, would not allow the holy man to be brought within his view, but spoke to him from behind a screen.

That our Redeemer was the first who taught, by his example, modesty of the eyes, may, as a learned author remarks, be inferred from the holy evangelists, who say that on some occasion he raised his eyes. “And he, lifting up his eyes on his disciples. When Jesus therefore had lifted up his eyes.” From these passages we may conclude that the Redeemer ordinarily kept his eyes cast down.

Hence the Apostle, praising the modesty of the Saviour, says: I beseech you, by the mildness and modesty of Christ.

I shall conclude this subject with what St. Basil said to his monks: If, my children, we desire to raise the soul towards heaven, let us direct the eyes towards the earth.

From the moment we awake in the morning, let us pray continually in the words of holy David: “Turn away my eyes, that they may not behold vanity.”