My dear Sisters in Jesus and Mary,
I write this letter to you because of the deep brotherly charity I have for you in my heart. I am not writing to condemn or to blame, but rather to enlighten you to what, until now, I suspect the vast majority of you were simply unaware. This topic is a rather delicate one, but one which must be spoken about for your sake and for mine and for the rest of your brothers in Jesus and Mary.
How my heart is wounded by the loss of innocence I see every day in our world among young women, and even very young girls. I am wounded indeed for all that has been done to you, is being done to you, and sadly I fear will continue to be done to you unless Godly men stand up to defend you.
What is this I am saying has been done to you? You who share the same sex as the all spotless and highly honored ever Blessed Virgin Mary have been made objects of lust for godless men and a stumbling block for men trying to live chastity in their state in life. You have been fed the lies of Feminists which were founded upon the thinking of none other than Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and his Communist Philosophy, which has no other origin than from the deepest depths of hell, and which are consonant with the “synthesis of all heresies”, Modernism.
Many, if not most, good Catholic women are aware of the errors of Feminism in general, but far fewer are aware of these errors in the specifics. While they reject Feminism as an ideology they are yet so enveloped in the culture that was produced by it that they are yet unwitting victims to it.
One of the greatest tragedies in our world today is the nearly total and complete loss of true feminine modesty in dress and behavior. This then is what I want to speak to you about and to ask you to please read what I have to say and do so with an open mind and heart and in a prayerful spirit. And again please remember that I am writing this out of charity for you my sisters and for our brothers in Jesus and Mary.
I would like to begin with the words of the glorious Apostle Saint Paul:
“Let your modesty be known to all men.” (Philippians 4:5)
How I wish these words were heeded today! For we live in a time that I dare say is more awash in perversion and immodesty than any other time in history with the possible exception of the city of Rome during the reign of the Emperor Nero. For as one priest I heard say once: “If God doesn’t punish the United States, He’s going to have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah”. Indeed, the state we find ourselves in today was prophesied by our Lady at Fatima to the children and is recounted by little Blessed Jacinta Marto:
“Wars are a punishment from God for sin…Certain fashions will be introduced that will offend Our Lord very much…More souls go to Hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.“
Our Lady also said that if people did not stop offending our Lord a more terrible war than WWI, which was just ending, would break out during the reign of Pope Pius XI. This was in 1917 and what followed was the “Roaring 20s” and the introduction of new immodest fashions for women and the rise of the Feminist movement. True to our Lady’s word because we not only continued, but even increased, our offending God the world was scourged with the most terrible war the world has ever known. And still we did not repent. Just a little over a decade after the end of the war came one of the most destructive decades to western civilizations in its entire history.
The sexual revolution of the 1960s accompanied by an unbelievable increase in the distribution of dangerous mind altering drugs and the introduction of Rock and Roll have shaped the world we live in today. Unfortunately, it was just at this time that the Catholic Church itself began to fall into a most dire crisis that prompted Pope Paul VI to say the following disturbing words in an Address to the Lombard Seminary in Rome on the 7th of December 1968:
“The Church finds herself in an hour of anxiety, a disturbed period of self-criticism, or what would even better be called self-destruction. It is an interior upheaval, acute and complicated, which nobody expected after the Council. It is almost as if the Church were attacking itself. We looked forward to a flowering, a serene expansion of conceptions which matured in the great sessions of the Council. But one must notice above all the sorrowful aspect. It is as if the Church were destroying herself.”
One wonders if this comment was not in direct reference to the complete rejection, in some cases of entire Bishop’s conferences, around the world to his infallible teaching on morality contained in his Encyclical Humanae Vitae, which was published earlier that year.
It was just then at the critical moment when the unchanging teaching of the Catholic Church on modesty and chastity was so very needed that it ceased being preached by her Bishops and Priests. And since that time we have been wallowing in darkness for more than four decades, and we are a generation born of a generation of Catholics who did not receive the Catholic faith, or at least not without great adulteration. Certainly the devil knew what he was doing when he hit us as hard as he could at our lowest point.
It is then no wonder that young Catholic women do not know what true modesty is, and nor for that matter do young Catholic men know what true custody of the eyes is, and neither know what it takes to live out true Catholic chastity according to their state of life in today’s day and age.
Why is this so important? Because life is at stake, and not this passing one but eternal life! While it is true that men must pay the penalty for their sins of impurity, it is just as true that women too must pay for the sins committed by men that they lead into sin because of their immodest dress and/or behavior. And so many young women today, even many Catholic women, are simply unaware that they are leading many young men into sin because of their immodesty. And worse this often happens even in Church at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass! The great Doctor of the Church and Patriarch of Constantinople Saint John Chrysostom did not mince words when it came to this very thing:
“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.“
Indeed, as our Lord said:
“And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt. 10:28)
“It is impossible that scandals should not come: but woe to him through whom they come.” (Luke 17:1)
Again, I will say that I do not condemn for I believe there are very few who knowingly perpetrate this terrible evil, but there are innumerable young women totally ignorant of the illicitness of their dress and actions which are so dangerous to the purity of young men. And though because of their ignorance their culpability will be less there will yet be a price to pay.
Catholic women today must not allow themselves to be ignorant any longer. You have a strict duty in charity to be your “brother’s keeper” and always dress and act in a manner befitting your dignity as daughters of Jesus and Mary. Just as men have a strict duty in charity to protect their sisters in Christ from any dishonor or evil men who seek to ensnare them as did the ancient serpent in the garden did when he tempted the first woman.
I know this is not easy reading, but please before you discount what I am saying as merely my own opinion please read what one of our Holy Fathers had to say on this very subject:
“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 indecency 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 that remains of modesty.”
These are the words of Pope Benedict XV in his Encyclical: Sacra Propediem, which was written in 1921! And have things gotten any better in the intervening time? I believe decidedly not. And why has this been so? Why has modestly been universally abandoned by even the majority of good Catholic women? The Venerable Pope Pius XII explains how this has come to pass:
“Numbers of believing and pious women in accepting to follow certain bold fashions, break down, by their example, the resistance of many other women to such fashions, which may become for them the cause of spiritual ruin. As long as these provocative styles remain identified with women of doubtful virtue, good women do not dare to follow them; but once these styles have been accepted by women of good reputation, decent women soon follow their example, and are carried along by the tide into possible disaster.” (May 22, 1941)
“The good of our soul is more important than that of our body; and we have to prefer the spiritual welfare of our neighbor to our bodily comforts. If a certain kind of dress constitutes a grave and proximate occasion of sin, and endangers the salvation of your soul and others, it is your duty to give it up. O Christian mothers, if you knew what a future of anxieties and perils, of ill-guarded shame you prepare for your sons and daughters, imprudently getting them accustomed to live scantily dressed and making them lose the sense of modesty, you would be ashamed of yourselves and you would dread the harm you are making of yourselves, the harm which you are causing these children, whom Heaven has entrusted to you to be brought up as Christians…Now many girls do not see anything wrong with following certain shameless styles (fashions) like so many sheep. They would surely blush if they could only guess the impressions they make and the feelings they evoke (arouse) in those who see them.” (Speech given to Catholic Young Women’s Group in Italy 17 July 1954)
Believe me when I say that I have tears in my eyes as I read these words of this successor of Saint Peter. It is an indescribable tragedy what has happened to western civilization, which was founded upon the great Catholic culture that once permeated it. All I can think of is little Jacinta weeping and doing penance, more terrible than what many grown men could endure, for these offenses being perpetrated against the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts, and I weep with her.
And I cannot help but think that Pope Pius XII in saying these things had in mind the incredible example of the Saint who had been martyred in his own lifetime and who he had himself beatified and canonized in the previous decade. And this of course was Saint Maria Goretti who, because of the good teaching of her mother and her parish priest, went to her death rather than commit one single serious sin. She refused the lustful advances of a young man and for her trouble was stabbed fourteen times. And yet even while being stabbed to death she modestly held down her dress pass her knees and sought at all lengths to protect her virtue to the end. Her story is one so compelling and powerful that when one once hears it they will then never tire of mentioning or retelling it.
And indeed in contrast with this example how terrible is the sight of a young woman who dresses immodestly even in Church! Most fitting words on this subject can be found written by the glorious and amazing Saint Anthony Mary Claret (1807-70) whose miracles and holiness are of the highest order, and whose purity was so great that for the last years of his life the Blessed Sacrament remained constantly present within him between communions each day:
“Now, observe, my daughter, the contrast between the luxurious dress of many women, and the raiment and adornments of Jesus. Tell me: what relation do their fine shoes bear to the spikes in Jesus’ Feet? The rings on their hands to the nails which perforated His? The fashionable coiffure to the Crown of Thorns? The painted face to That covered with bruises? Shoulders exposed by the low-cut gown to His, all striped with Blood? Ah, but there is a marked likeness between these worldly women and the Jews who, incited by the Devil, scourged Our Lord! At the hour of such a women’s death, I think Jesus will be heard saying: ‘Cujus est imago haec… of whom is she the image?’ And the reply will be: ‘Demonii… of the Devil!’ Then He will say: ‘Let her who has followed the Devil’s fashions be handed over to him; and to God, those who have imitated the modesty of Jesus and Mary’.”
What then is this modesty of Jesus and Mary?! It is my great desire to tell you this! And I pray always that you may truly live it, and that we all might live chastity according to our state in life.
In the Marian Year of 1954 Venerable Pope Pius XII directed the Bishops throughout the world to “take action against this most serious plague of immodest fashions“. He even went so far as to asked the Sacred Congregation of the Council to make a forceful appeal to all Catholics, but especially those in authority, to “leave no stone unturned which can help remedy the situation.”
He then republished the Instruction on Modesty in Dress previously published by his predecessor, Pius XI, who had asked this same Sacred Congregation to publish a standard of modesty in dress in 1930:
By virtue of the supreme apostolate which he wields over the Universal Church by Divine Will, our Most Holy Father Pope Pius XI has never ceased to inculcate, both verbally and by his writings, the words of St. Paul (1 Tim. xi,9-10), namely, “Women … adorning themselves with modesty and sobriety … and professing godliness with good works.”
Very often, when occasion arose, the same Supreme Pontiff condemned emphatically the immodest fashion of dress adopted by Catholic women and girls — which fashion not only offends the dignity of women and against her adornment, 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. It is not surprising, therefore, that all Bishops and other ordinaries, as is the duty of ministers of Christ, should in their own dioceses have unanimously opposed their depraved licentiousness and promiscuity of manners, often bearing with fortitude the derision and mockery leveled against them for this cause.
Therefore this Sacred Council, which watches over the discipline of clergy and people, while cordially commending the action of the Venerable Bishops, most emphatically exhorts them to persevere in their attitude and increase their activities insofar as their strength permits, in order that this unwholesome disease be definitely uprooted from human society.
In order to facilitate the desired effect, this Sacred Congregation, by the mandate of the Most Holy Father, has decreed as follows:
Exhortation to Those in Authority
1. The parish priest, and especially the preacher, when occasion arises, should, according to the words of the Apostle Paul (2 Tim. iv, 2), insist, argue exhort and command that feminine garb be based on modesty and womanly ornament be a defense of virtue. Let them likewise admonish parents to cause their daughters to cease wearing indecorous dress.
2. Parents, conscious of their grave obligations toward the education, especially religious and moral, to their offspring, should see to it that their daughters are solidly instructed, from earliest childhood, in Christian doctrine; and they themselves should assiduously inculcate in their souls, by word and example, love for the virtues of modesty and chastity; and since their family should follow the example of the Holy Family, they must rule in such a manner that all its members, reared within the walls of the home, should find reason and incentive to love and preserve modesty.
3. Let parents keep their daughters away from public gymnastic games and contests; but if their daughters are compelled to attend such exhibitions, let them see that they are fully and modestly dressed. Let them never permit their daughters to don immodest garb.
4. Superioresses and teachers in schools for girls must do their utmost to instill love of modesty in the hearts of maidens confided to their care and urge them to dress modestly.
5. Said Superioresses and teachers must not receive in their colleges and schools immodestly dressed girls, and should not even make an exception in the case of mothers of pupils. If, after being admitted, girls persist in dressing immodestly, such pupils should be dismissed.
6. Nuns, in compliance with the Letter dated August 23, 1928, by the Sacred Congregation of Religious, must not receive in their colleges, schools, oratories or recreation grounds, or, if once admitted, tolerate girls who are not dressed with Christian modesty; said Nuns, in addition, should do their utmost so that love for holy chastity and Christian modesty may become deeply rooted in the hearts of their pupils.
7. It is desirable that pious organizations of women be founded, which by their counsel, example and propaganda should combat the wearing of apparel unsuited to Christian modesty, and should promote purity of customs and modesty of dress.
8. In the pious associations of women those who dress immodestly should not be admitted to membership; but if, perchance, they are received, and after having been admitted, fall again into their error, they should be dismissed forthwith.
9. 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.
Donato Cardinal Sbaretti, Prefect
Congregation of the Council
Rome, January 12, 1930
The standard for modest in dress, which was then put rather succinctly by the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation in 1956, Pietro Cardinal Ciriaci, is this:
“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 a bit beyond the knees. Furthermore, dresses of transparent materials are improper.” (Imprimatur, 24 September 1956)
On 21 August 1954 the Prefect had already said the following in a letter:
“Everyone knows that during the summer months particularly, things are seen here and there, which are certain to prove offensive to anyone who has retained some respect and regard for Christian modesty. On the beaches, in country resorts, almost everywhere, on the streets of cities and towns, in public and private places, and, indeed, often even in buildings dedicated to God, an unworthy and indecent mode of dress has prevailed. Because of this, the young particularly, whose minds are easily bent towards vice, are exposed to the extreme danger of losing their innocence, which is, by far, the most beautiful adornment of mind and body. Feminine adornment, if it can be called adornment, feminine clothing, if that can be called clothing which contains nothing to protect either the body or modesty, are at times of such a nature, that they seem to serve lewdness rather than modesty . . . Well did the ancient poet say of this matter, ‘Vice necessarily follows upon public nudity.'”
This point of going to the beach is one that is hotly contested by many young women I have spoken with, even of many Catholics. They will even agree with these rules set by the Church about modestly in dress, but will then completely illogically say something like: “…well except at the beach of course”. But if they really stopped and thought about what they were saying they would realize how ludicrous what they just said sounded. If certain dress is not modest… then it is not modest anywhere or at any time. Does human nature change because we are at the pool or the beach? If it is immodest and indecent to walk down the street in your underwear then it is immodest and indecent to do so in a bathing suit, which covers the exact same amount of your body. I don’t see how anyone can argue this except that they have become so accustomed to this terrible evil that they don’t see it for what it really is.
Ultimately, the best guide for women to live true Catholic modesty is to imitate the modesty of our Lady. The following list of principles for “Marylike” dress are a good rule to follow since they are not in the spirit of doing as much as one can get away with and still “technically being modest”, but rather truly seeking to live in the spirit of “Marylike” modesty:
1. “Marylike” means modesty without compromise — “like Mary,” Christ’s pure and spotless Mother.
2. Marylike dresses have sleeves extending to the wrists; and skirts reaching the ankles.
3. Marylike dresses require full and loose coverage for the bodice, chest, shoulders, and back; the cut-out about the neck must not exceed “two fingers breadth under the pit of the throat” and a similar breadth around the back of the neck.
4. Marylike dresses also do not admit as modest coverage transparent fabrics — laces, nets, organdy, nylons, etc. — unless sufficient backing is added. Fabrics such as laces, nets, organdy may be moderately used as trimmings only.
5. Marylike dresses avoid the improper use of flesh-colored fabrics.
6. Marylike dresses conceal rather than reveal the figure of the wearer; they do not emphasize, unduly, parts of the body.
7. Marylike dresses provide full coverage, even after jacket, cape or stole are removed.
8. Marylike fashions are designed to conceal as much of the body as possible, rather than reveal. This would automatically eliminate such fashions as slacks, jeans, shorts, culottes, tight sweaters, sheer blouses, and sleeveless dresses; etc. The Marylike standards are a guide to instill a “sense of modesty.” A girl or woman who follows these, and looks up to Mary as her ideal and model, will have no problem with modesty in dress. She will not be an occasion of sin or source of embarrassment or shame to others.
I understand that all of this might very well be nearly impossible for you to accept. Believe me I understand where you are coming from living in the culture we live in today. But please prayerfully consider what I have said. And I also understand those who accept what I have said, but still cannot go out tomorrow and buy an entire new wardrobe of modest clothes, because even if you had the money where would you buy them? But be assured that there are now quite a number of companies who are actually offering quality, fashionable, and modest clothing.
Also I would like to address those who are terrified that if they do not dress in a certain (immodest) way they will not be attractive to young men. But please let me tell you on behalf of many good Catholic young men I know that this is not true. You must believe me that if you dress as I have suggested above with irreproachable modesty that you will be very attractive, that is, to all the right young men who are the good and virtuous ones. These are the men who are more interested in learning about you and your family and loving your beautiful soul and not lusting after you body. These are the men who will be devoted husbands and fathers and who will defend you with their lives. These are the men who will do their very best to be true help mates that will struggle alongside you unto the salvation of your soul, his own, and your children. Do not settle for less than you deserve as blessed daughters of Jesus and Mary! There are good men out there, and trust me that just as modesty will attract all the right men, immodesty will repulse the very same men.
I pray for you all from the bottom of my heart filled with brotherly charity for you. I would like to also to very highly recommend a book that some of my female friends have found very helpful in regard to this matter:
Dressing with Dignity, by Colleen Hammond
I would then like to conclude this letter to you my dear Sisters in Jesus and Mary with a short work by Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, the Doctor of Moral Theology, on the Chastity of our Lady, which is wonderful material for meditation.
The Virtues of the Blessed Virgin
by St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
After the fall of Adam, man’s senses became rebellious to reason. As a consequence, chastity is the most difficult of all the virtues to practice. Saint Augustine says: “Of all inner conflicts the most arduous are concerned with chastity. These battles are of daily occurrence, but victory is rare.” May God be praised eternally, however, because in Mary he has given us such a shining example of this virtue. “Mary is with good reason called the Virgin of virgins,” says Saint Albert the Great. “Without the advice or example of others, she was the first to consecrate her virginity to God.” In this way, she led to God all who imitated her virginity, as David had foretold: After her shall virgins be brought…into the temple of the king (Ps 44:15). Without advice and without any example! Saint Bernard says: “O Virgin, who taught you to please God by your virginity and to lead an angel’s life on earth?” Saint Sophronius replies: “God chose a pure virgin for his mother, that she might be an example of chastity to everybody.” That is why Saint Ambrose calls Mary “the standard-bearer of virginity.”
Because of Mary’s purity the Holy Spirit declared that she is as beautiful as the turtledove: Your cheeks are beautiful as the turtledove’s (Cant 1:9). “A most pure turtledove” is what Aponius calls her. For the same reason, Mary is also called a lily: As the lily among the thorns, so is my love among the daughters (Cant 2:2). On this passage Denis the Carthusian remarks: “Mary was compared to a lily among thorns because all other virgins were thorns, either to themselves or to others; but the Blessed Virgin was not so, either to herself or to others.” She inspired everybody who saw her with chaste thoughts. Saint Thomas confirms this when he says that the beauty of the Blessed Virgin incited to chastity all who looked at her. Saint Jerome maintains that Saint Joseph remained a virgin as a result of living with Mary. Writing against the heretic Helvidius who denied Mary’s virginity, Saint Jerome said: “You say that Mary did not remain a virgin. I say that not only did she remain a virgin, but that even Joseph preserved his virginity through Mary.” Saint Gregory of Nyssa says that the Blessed Virgin loved chastity so much, that to preserve it she would have been willing to renounce even the dignity of Mother of God. This seems evident from her reply to the archangel: How shall this happen, since I do not know man? (Lk 1:34). And from the words she added then: Be it done to me according to your word (Lk 1:38), signifying that she gave her consent on the condition that, as the angel had assured her, she should become a mother only by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.
Saint Ambrose says that “anyone who preserves chastity is an angel; anyone who loses it is a devil.” Our Lord assures us that those who are chaste become angels: They…shall be as the angels of God in heaven (Mt 22:30). But the unchaste become hateful to God, like devils. Saint Remigius used to say that the majority of adults are lost by this vice.
We have quoted Saint Augustine as saying that a victory is very seldom gained in this combat. Why is this? Because the means by which the victory may be gained are very seldom used. These means are threefold, according to Bellarmine and the masters of the spiritual life: fasting, the avoidance of dangerous occasions of sin, and prayer. 1. By fasting we mean especially mortification of the eyes and the appetite. Although our Blessed Lady was filled with divine grace, she nevertheless practiced mortification of the eyes, according to Saint Epiphanius and Saint John Damascene. Her glances were always modest and she never gazed fixedly at anyone. She was so unassuming, even from childhood, that everyone who saw her was charmed by her reserve. Saint Luke remarks that when she went to visit Elizabeth, she went with haste (Lk 1:39), in order to avoid the public gaze. Philibert relates that it was revealed to a hermit named Felix that as far as her food was concerned, when she was a baby she took milk only once a day. Saint Gregory of Tours maintains that she fasted throughout her life. Saint Bonaventure explains this: “Mary would never have found so much grace if she had not been moderate in her meals, for grace and gluttony do not go together.” In short, Mary was mortified in everything, so that it was true to say of her: My hands dripped with myrrh (Cant 5:5).
2. The second means is avoidance of the occasions of sin: He that is aware of the snares shall be secure (Prov 11:15). Saint Philip Neri coined the expression: “In the war of the senses, cowards conquer.” By cowards he means those who flee from dangerous occasions. Mary fled as much as possible from the gaze of men. Remember Saint Luke’s remark that, in going to visit Elizabeth, Mary went with haste into the hill country. One author calls attention to the fact that Our Lady left Elizabeth before Saint John was born: And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her own house. Now Elizabeth’s time was fulfilled that she should be delivered, and she brought forth a son (Lk 1:56-57). Why did Mary not wait for Saint John’s birth? Because she wanted to avoid the hubbub and excitement that usually accompany such an event.
3. The third means is prayer. The Wise Man said: And as I knew that I could not otherwise be continent except God gave it…I went to the Lord and besought him (Wis 8:21). Mary revealed to Saint Elizabeth of Hungary that she did not acquire any virtue without effort and without continual prayer. Saint John Damascene calls our Immaculate Mother “a lover of purity.” She cannot endure those who are content to be unchaste. And if anybody appeals to her to be delivered from unchastity she will certainly help him. All he has to do is call upon her confidently. The Venerable John of Ávila used to say that many have conquered impure temptations merely through devotion to Mary Immaculate.
O Mary, most pure dove, how many are now in hell on account of impurity! Most gracious Lady, obtain for us the grace always to fly to you in our temptations, and always to invoke your name, pleading: “Mary, Mary, help us!” Amen.