There has been a lot of very good discussion on yesterday’s blog post on the banishment of “dirty dancing” at many school dances. Much of the discussion has centered on modesty. Modesty is a beautiful, essential and often diminished virtue in today’s “tell-all,”  “show-all” world. There are many good definitions of modesty. Websters dictionary defines modesty first as freedom from conceit or vanity and secondly as propriety in dress, speech or conduct. It is the second definition that concerns us.

While the Websters definition of modesty is surely accurate I would like to say that the most beautiful and thought-provoking definition I have heard is that modesty is “reverence for mystery.”  The Catechism of the Catholic Church has some very fine reflections along this line. Here are some excerpts:

Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love….Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness…. Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet. (CCC 2521-2522)

There are just some things that are private and personal. In an age where gossip and prying into personal matters has become a 24 hour news cycle we do well to recover the notion that discretion is not the same as secrecy and cover-up. Modesty and discretion recognize that the disclosure of certain things requires a proper relationship and context. Some things should be shared and seen only in very specific settings and relationships. Some things SHOULD remain hidden out of respect for the human person. This is poorly appreciated by too many today.

Some thoughts on modesty to perhaps provoke further thought and comment:

  1. Modesty is wide ranging – A lot of our discussion on modesty has focused on questions of clothing. This is due to the many modern problems associated with this aspect of modesty. But modesty also includes things such as: discretion in conversations, bodily posture, movements,  and knowing  what, when and with whom to disclose certain things.
  2. Modesty as discretion – The inappropriate of revelation of personal matters is rampant in today’s talk show culture. People openly discuss what they should not before audiences of millions of people. This indiscretion percolates down to ordinary daily interactions wherein people often share too much and are also too curious about matters which should not pertain to them. The expression “Too much information (TMI)” has crept into our conversations as a recognition that many people too easily share their personal information with other often un-willing recipients.
  3. Modesty respects Context- It is clear that the criteria for modesty and discretion are affected by the individual(s) with whom we interact. Mixed company is a limiting factor that is often neglected today. It may be appropriate for women to speak act and dress a certain way in the exclusive company of other women which is wholly inappropriate in mixed company. The same is true for men. Certain topics of conversation that are appropriate in single sex company may be inappropriate in mixed company. Age is another factor. When children are present certain topics and behaviors are are wholly inappropriate. Sadly our immodest culture exposes children to all sorts of things that they are not ready for. We have grievously offended our children by easy exposure to things like pornography, immodest conversations, and adult topics. Even worse we have often sexualized children by dressing them (especially girls) either immodestly or in a way that pertains to adults. When I was a child it was rare for little girls to have ears pierced, wear lots of make-up perfume, high heels etc. Too often today we doll up little girls to look “sexy” as though they were grown women. Finally, locale is something of a factor. Being at the fitness center,  beach or the pool may allow for some adaption in clothing. However it is clear in this culture that we have often gone too far and some beach apparel is downright sinful.
  4. Modesty has Cultural Variants- There are some cultural variances – In some cultures it is common for people to cover up head to toe. In many Middle Eastern cultures it is considered disgraceful for men or woman  to wear shorts in public. Even the feet in some cultures of the far east are kept covered. Some in the West consider the veiling of the middle eastern cultures oppressive but such cultures often consider us sinfully exposed. In certain indigenous tribal settings it is not unheard of for women to go about topless, though this is rare. The Catechism says, The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man. …Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person (CCC 2524) Thus the catechism, while admitting that there are variants in modesty, teaches clearly that the existence of some varying standards does not mean that modesty has NO standards. Modesty is a basic intuition proper to every person and culture. Despite some variation modesty does exist as a discernible truth that must be respected.
  5. Modesty is respect for others – The word modesty is rooted in the word “mode” which refers to a manner in which something is done, or to an arranged norm. Moderation also comes from this word since we adjust our behavior to a norm or reasonable “criteria.”  Hence modesty also displays reverence for others by respecting reasonable and agreed upon norms. Tweaking or shocking  others by immodest behavior, dress or conversation is a form of disrespect both to individuals and communities.
  6. Modesty is Charity- Immodesty can and often is seductive. It lures others to unchaste thoughts or to immoderate curiosity. To intentionally dress, act or speak in a way that deliberately causes others to sin can be a grave sin. Sometimes the effect is less intentional and rooted merely in an insensitive or unknowing manner of dress or speech. But to the degree that we come to understand that we are dressing, acting or speaking in a way that is reasonably tempting to others we ought to stop. This is charity for others who may be weaker than we are in the matter of chastity and self-control. A standard of reasonableness is also operative here. We cannot protect everyone from every possible attraction. Women for example should not have to hide every curve of their body in a way that would severely limit them just because some men struggle. But in all matters a charity should prevail and reason norms be employed that protect others from undue temptation. Humorously, some years ago a young woman in a VERY short skirt came to my Church Office and requested to meet with the pastor. I happened to be passing by in the hall and invited her to have a seat in the meeting room. Shortly after we were seated my secretary came in holding a blanket which she proceed to place over the woman’s legs. She apparently knew the woman and she said, “Don’t you EVER come in here dressed like that again and tempting my pastor!”  I must say I had been enjoying the brief view but was grateful to my secretary for her intervention. It was an act of charity  :-)
  7. Modesty is reverence for mystery- The human person has many deeper dimensions that cannot and should not be causally exposed. This is a characteristic of our soul that is also expressed in our body. As relationships deepen more is shared. Close friends share more than mere acquaintances, or so it should be. As regards sexuality, this is meant for the deepest and most personal relationship which we call marriage. Only a man and a woman who have committed themselves to a lifelong relationship should unveil this portion of their soul and body. To fully disclose oneself requires a oneness only God can effect. In marriage God makes two one. And only this absolute oneness should permit the sacred unveiling of one’s whole self to another. Sexual intercourse is a kind of sign or sacrament of the deep union of marriage which only God can give. This mystery of the other person should be reverenced prior to marriage by modesty and after marriage by a modest reverence for the privacy and personal quality of that mystery which is sexual intercourse.
  8. Modesty is beautiful and attracts – Most men, in their better moments, admit that they find modesty beautiful. Lust is base but modesty is beautiful. Lust excites only a physical urge but modesty draws forth an attraction to the whole person. I have not heard many women comment on how they experience modesty in men, but it is a sure fact that modesty is beautiful because mystery attracts. A woman’s mystique, her mystery, is deeply appealing to most men. Even in marriage, many husbands have told me how attracted they are by their wife’s modesty. In marriage there is surely a place and time for full disclosure, but in between modesty still seems attractive to most of the married men I’ve talked to. The following video does a pretty good job in showing forth the intersection of modesty, beauty, and admiration.

30 Responses

  1. anon says:

    Modesty starts with attitude and should be cultivated from an early age. We must give children ample opportunities to gain healthy attention. If kids get enough healthy attention, they don’t need to differentiate themselves in ways that include odd colored hair, tattoos, piercings, provocative clothing and foul language. Modesty is an attitude that says, “I deserve to be respected,” and “I will be who I want to be, NOT who you say I should be.” Modesty is an attitude of strength, not suppression. I’ve often wondered how the feminists got so off track here.

    With my kids, from early on, I’ve pushed sports (each have one or two sports they love). In season, we make a big deal about each child’s games. With parents, siblings, grandparents, a friend or two and an occasional cousin, my kids have quite a cheering section. As my eldest daughter became more interested in boys, I arranged for the boys varsity team to go to girls’ varsity game and vice versa. I like that they cheer each other’s accomplishments. Sports have given my daughter the opportunity to discover she’s a strong, talented and captivating young woman, and she doesn’t need to lower herself to blend in with girls who don’t have enough going on that they resort to overtly titillating a bunch of boys. So, I definitely push the idea that modesty is about attitude, and it can be strong and even defiant (defiance is cool these days) not just meek and mild.

    • I agree. Immodesty is usually tied to an inordinate need to be recognized.

      • kirsten says:

        or a lack of self confidence.

        also, when the culture is immodest, it can be difficult to figure out how to dress modestly to begin with… after all, if you are dressed more modestly than your friends, is that enough? too much? what?

        and when a girl is trying to be modest, and is being more modest than her friends, how does she handle criticism of her looks and clothing? including criticism that she is “not modest enough” or that she is “not fitting in”. or that she looks fat/plain/dumpy

  2. Brian Z. says:

    The fact that there are things my wife and I know only about or share with each other brings us closer together. It makes me realize that she loves me, trusts me and is my true soul mate in life. It’s how I know God put her on Earth for me. I was always the court jester in the family, the party guy etc. The best compliment, as back handed as it was, was when a friend said, “When I found out you two were dating I was like this will never work. She’s normal and you’re a whack job.” I simply looked at the person and said ,”You don’t know her very well do you?” My wife and I just laughed. See, my wife is a Doctor and a good portion of her job requires her to be serious. Most people assume she is always that way. I was on the radio. A good portion of my job was to be “whacky”. Most people only see me that way. But off the job, my wife likes to laugh and goof around a little. And I like to relax and be “not as funny.” Basically, we are polar opposites who met in the middle. It’s awesome. When my wife told me this, I knew our union was divine. I asked the Lord for someone who gets me. Appreciate me for my “wild” side, but also realize there is more to me than just that. Until my wife, until I asked The Lord to help me, did I find her. My brother said to my wife how I have mellowed since we got married, I’m not as loud and obnoxious. My wife said, “I wouldn’t say he is obnoxious and, ya know, I did date him before he mellowed”. My brother fumbled and said, ‘Well it’s really since he met you.” My wife walked away at that point. Most people don’t know my wife’s knack for sarcasm and nicely putting you in your place. I do. It was one of the first things she told me about herself that she normally springs on people. These are sides about each other that only my wife I know exist and it makes us a team. I always tell her, it’s us against them. No matter what. We are truely one and I wouldn’t have it any other way. God Bless.

  3. namatsi says:

    1 Thanks Monsignor.
    2 A few years ago the National Geographic magazine run a piece on some Middle East country. One of the photos used showed adult women deliriously happy on a beach. All of the women were covered from shoulders to feet. Some were wet from sea water. One need not be in a bikini or some such scanty attire to have fun.
    3 If only some paparazi and voyeurs presenting as journalists could learn some modesty.

    • I have read and seen similar things. It is usually held by many westerners that women in the Middle East are “repressed.” But not all of them feel that way. I once read an article of a middle eastern woman now living in the USA who stated that, while there are limits on attire for women, those limits make life a lot easier for women who are not constantly bombarded by the need to buy the latest clothes and get the lastest hairdo. They are also less sexually exploited and less judged by their appearance. This is to a certain extent freeing. The woman was not uncritical of other limits imposed on women in the M.E. but clothing was not her concern

  4. Cynthia BC says:

    Point #3 hit a sore spot with me!

    When my daughter outgrew the “4-6x” size range and moved to the “7-14″ size range, I was quite appalled to see that there was a dramatic change in clothing style from Little Girl to Pre-Teen Tramp (there’s another noun I would have used but it wouldn’t be appropriate for this forum). It takes some extended searching to find appropriate dresses in department stores. Classic shoes are not to be found except for specialty stores such as Stride-Rite (to which I’ve not yet resorted given how quickly my daughter destroys shoes). I regularly express my dissatisfaction with the merchandise when my sales slip requests feedback. Because I’ve come to loathe dress-shopping in department stores I now rely on Lands End Overstocks for my daughter’s dresses and shoes.

    Stores put out merchandise that they think people will buy. Unfortunately there are, apparently, a lot of parents who think their daughters should look like pre-teen tramps. I find that distressing.

    • Yes, it is very distressing. I also had a sad expereince looking for a picture for this blog post. I typed in “Modest Couple” and did a google image search. Terrible photos popped up. Anything BUT modest, some photos edged toward soft porn. I tried “well dressed couple” again terrible images almost mocking the concept. I tried any number of other search phrases and there was just nothing. I finally went back into my own library and found the photo I posted. Very discouraging that there aren’t even images of modest, well dressed couples in a database of many millions of pictures. Says alot about our visuals today!

    • kirsten says:

      for decent shoes for a range of girls sizes…. try Crocs. if you sign up on the webpage you get notices of sales too. i have knee issues and cannot wear heels well, finding decent flat shoes with support is a trial…..i know the kind i wear (alice and prima) come in kids sizes as well as adult, in a wide range of colors.

      also.. kind of odd, but look for the terms “Elegant Gothic Lolita” or “lolita” in clothing and shoes. its not what it sounds like… quite. its a fashion in japan and the usa for girls (and some boys) to dress in what looks like old style Victorian children’s clothes. (there is a range.. the “sweet” lolita wear candy inspired prints) while it is indeed part of the unhealthy youth obsession in japan. at least the clothes are MODEST! fluffy skirts, hair bows, no cleavage, usually covered head to toe… (cute socks) and solid long wearing shoes. the shoes are made for adults in japan… and LOTS of them are in what we in the USa woudl call large kids sizes….. and they are not as expensive as you may think. plus they LAST. a friend of mine has a pair she wears every single weekend, and has for two years.

  5. Loreen Lee says:

    Websters dictionary defines modesty first as freedom from conceit or vanity and secondly as propriety in dress, speech or conduct. It is the second definition that concerns us.
    I am having trouble with this post, Msgr. especially with respect to the comment that today we have become too personal and reveal too much of ourselves in interaction. I go back quite a few years before you, and have thus witnessed a complete ‘reversal’. It is true what you say with respect to the women’s movement, for instance. Went back to finish a degree in the late 80’s, and was surprised by a woman’s movement that I could no longer relate to. It seemed that there were now ‘orders of women’, with you may understand some debasement of some by others. The remedy sought in one age, it seems becomes the ‘curse’ if I may use that word for the next. Anyway, I found that I could no longer ‘relate’ to any of the shattered bits and pieces of so-many different threads of what is really no longer a woman’s movement. But to bring out from people disturbing factors that have led to their oppression, and state of ‘non-self’, is something that I personally had to struggle for, and I mean here, with respect to naming ‘my own’, difficulties. I was thus pleased, when it was no longer a taboo, to speak of such personal issues. Perhaps things are reversing here again, but hopefully not in a way that will once again put women in a predicament where they cannot speak up against abuse, or worse, for fear of being condemned, being a bad girl, or ‘immodest’. Modesty must be without blame or casting aspersion on someone else to be true. As I said before and will defend, true modesty can only spring from a sense of ‘real self worth’. (I am still working on how this relates to what hopefully will become a closer relationship with God). Thank you. P.S. No women have responded yet. I urge you all to speak up. I intuit that this may be a more difficult topic for women to talk about than men, for the above noted ‘reasons’. It may be considered immodest for a woman to speak, even of modesty! (Their own). Please correct and chastise if I am in error. Thank you, Msgr.

    • Laura Ferstl says:

      Hi Loreen,

      I hope you will read the other comments from women and join in the conversation about modesty.

      It seems that your trouble with this post surrounds Msgr.’s discussion of using discretion in sharing personal information. You assume that he is saying that if a woman is being abused, oppressed, or treated as a “non-self”, she should remain silent. This is an incorrect assumption, and I assure you that neither he nor the Catholic Church supports the oppression of women.

      A woman in this situation would greatly benefit from speaking openly and honestly with her intimate friends and with professionals who can help her.

      I think what Msgr. may be referring to is when a person posts on their Facebook wall “My ex-boyfriend is a &%$@!” or when someone writes a tell-all book about her husband’s affair. There are more appropriate ways of responding.

      Does that clarify what he was trying to say?

      -Laura

      • Loreen Lee says:

        Thanks, Laura. As I said earlier. I was born —w-a-a-y back in comparison with your experience. There was a big fight led very often women of my day to make it possible for women to speak up, even with respect to rape issues in court. So please excuse me for living in the past, and thus interpreting things someone differently sometimes. I am through this blog, attempting to understand how things are in the world today. Thanks for your help.

  6. Greg says:

    I couldn’t help but laugh about the incident described in thought #6, “Modesty is Charity.” However, I’m sadly reminded of the raunchy attire I often see at Mass and especially at weddings.

    I have three daughters who my wife and I teach a simple, three-fold strategy when dressing for worship.
    I’m pleased to say modesty has its place as the foundation of our approach.

    First, we teach them to dress with modesty. Cover your body!

    Second, we teach them to dress with dignity. Chose something that does not offend. In other words, don’t just cover your body with a t-shirt emblazoned with a dirty joke or obscene image.

    Third, we teach them to dress with quality. If you have nice clothes, wear them! If you were going to a special event to meet someone very important, wouldn’t you dress well? Then why not dress your best for the King of the Universe?

  7. kirsten says:

    as someone who is trying to practice modesty and modest dressing…. it can be difficult. i find it a sign of hope that there are MANY groups now on facebook and livejournal for modest_style or modest clothing. Also the current “counter culture” style trends are surprisingly modest!
    (no, not all of them)
    Steampunk is based on Victorian clothing, EGL or Sweet Loli or Lolita is based on Victorian Children’s clothes….and this is a trend among the young, teens, and 20s that has been seeing serious growth. There is even a “Steampunk world’s Fair” which while i certainly wouldnt call it modest, is worlds better than a lot of the trends i have seen previously.

    On LJ, i was on one of the modest clothing groups (mixed religions and some non religious women, mostly) and i pointed out that given today’s culture… we are counter culture radicals.
    its true, to be modest these days is to be radical.

    and i have to agree that Orthodox Judaism, and Islam, with the rules for “modest and acceptable dress” at least frees their adherents from wondering “is this ok?” i get whipsawed all the time.. some groups saying the fact that i wear pants sometimes is immodest, others saying its fine, but that i cover my hair is somehow immodest! so do i wear a t shirt? or do i need to cover my elbows? how low is too low in a neckline? Those of us who have grown up in American culture are often at a loss to figure out how to dress.

    • Laura Ferstl says:

      Here’s another great one!
      http://www.purefashion.com/
      We believe:
      That our private parts should remain private.
      That undergarments should not become outer-garments.
      That our bodies are holy and sacred and our clothing should not reveal what should be concealed.
      That virtue is the most important must have for every season.
      That being healthy, physically fit, clean and well groomed is always in style.
      That we should support retailers, designers and magazines who support virtuous behavior.
      That we can be pretty without being provocative.
      That a real model is a “role model.”
      That our clothing sends a message to those around us and it should reflect our dignity as children of God.
      That we can begin to change the world by changing our hearts, our minds and our clothes.

      Pure Fashion… where values and virtues are always in vogue!

      • kirsten says:

        since i am going back to school for fahsion Design, i hope to be able to create a line of modest , reasonable clothing.

  8. Katherine G ERT says:

    I read an article recently (now if I only I could find the darned thing again to post here) about Muslim women vs. Western women. Each group thinks that the other is the “sexual prisoner.” Muslim women see Western women’s need to flaunt their bodies as constricting. Perhaps the Western women are the prisoners in the way that they are slaves to fashion, and ideals of a “perfect” body. Western women think the opposite, of course – that Muslim women are the prisoners because they are “forced” to wear the burqa and cover up everything except their faces.

    I was once involved in the world of Western women and fashion, also known as the modeling industry. It got really old after a while to diet and exercise until my body was what the fashion industry thought was ideal. I was tired of having my makeup done just so, and not being able to make changes to my hair because of their “image” for me. I also felt very exposed – contrary to popular belief, models don’t have men all around them telling them that they are beautiful and gorgeous all the time. I was constantly told what I had to do to fix myself and make myself in the the “ideal model.” Even the top models of today will tell you that there are always people trying to change them. I had a really low self-worth for a long time because of all that, and had it not been for also starting in medicine at the same time I would have gone on a downward spiral.

    As for clothing, to respond to some of the comments above, it is possible to dress modestly and be in style. I don’t go around showing it all off, and I go by my grandmother’s rules for dress (she was a very classy Italian women and would complain quite loudly in church if she saw someone dressed provocatively). She said if you show off your shoulders, put everything else away. Same goes for legs, arms, collarbone area, etc. Basically go for showing off one area at a time. For instance, if one wants to wear a short skirt, then everything up top shouldn’t be hanging out. Skirts ideally should be just above the knee, at the knee, or below the knee for the most flattering fits. It is in fashion currently (and I think should stay in fashion) to wear a blazer or some type of jacket over cocktail dresses (little black dresses, short dresses, etc.). This also provides coverage and modesty in terms of fashion.

    I do enjoy playing with hair color – right now my hair is a dark golden red. I have done everything from platinum blonde highlights (on my own and a complete disaster, haha) to jet black hair. It’s kind of funny when people don’t recognize me after I make a radical color change. But that’s about as far as I go with hair fashions. I am not a slave to a blow dryer or flat iron – I pretty much throw my hair back in a braid or ponytail and run out the door.

    I wanted to say that I also agree that modesty is knowing what to say and where to say it. I think it is fine to discuss personal issues if you are prepared for questions and to use those issues as a teaching experience. Also depends on the personal issue. However, I do not think it is a good idea to post personal things on Facebook and other social networking sites. Why? Because potential job sites look at your profile and if they see you are a party person and have drama with so and so every other week, they sure as heck aren’t gonna want you in their office. My dad’s on Facebook, and that’s a good thing for me – he will call me out on stuff even if I don’t think it’s that bad, or as bad as other friends, and make me delete it. Anyways, that’s my “2 cents” before this comment gets even longer!

  9. Loreen Lee says:

    Laura. Enjoyed the little litany. Hope this poem I wrote also speaks to your purpose. It was a little ‘too sparse’ for the Catholic fashion show held here, though. That’s because the ‘fashion’ is really a metaphor generally for living instead a ‘simple life’. Thanks again, Laura.
    September 14th, 2000.

    Muse of fashion: Do not worry me.
    Your counsel brings me darkness and despair.
    I would your wares were left behind me now
    Safe in storage under lock and key.
    I have no need for jewels within the hair
    Or necklaces of pearl and pins of gold.
    You offer me no fortune held in hand,
    When in the other grief is what you bear.
    You fooled me once when I was young and bold
    And found in image scaffoldings of lace.
    And built my dreams on owning rich brocades
    Skirts of velvet, bodices of silk.
    But in my life there was not found a trace,
    Of smile, of sparkling eye, or lilt of voice;
    But since I’ve learned to dress in cottons plain,
    There is no shadow near the eye or face.
    And I have found that simple can be choice,
    Since I been released from fashion’s reign. .

  10. Beth says:

    Dr. Msgr,

    Thank you very much for your post. I think modesty is a highly underrated virtue that is too often overlooked. At the same time, as a curvaceous person, I find it is hard to know where the line is between dressing appropriately and not tempting the opposite sex. I swear, even if I wore a garbage bag to work, guys would still ogle me.

    When I was in high school, I dressed very modestly with a lot of sweaters, turtleneck, and no low necklines or skirts… even still guys would whisper about me. In college, I realized that I was pretty (i didn’t think so previously because I was curvier than the average girl at school). So I started to dress in outfits that were more flattering. Yes, it did leave less to the imagination, but I still never went all out skeezy. In doing so, I began to realize how I received even more attention than before. Coming into young adulthood I recognized that beauty does have a certain amount of power tied to it. Unfortunately I think a lot of women equate utilizing the power of beauty with being a “feminist.” I think a true feminist recognizes that beauty can equal “power”, but chooses not to use that power inappropriately.

    It makes me think of the play Lysistrata where the women withhold sex from their partners, until they achieve peace in their land… ok so some could argue that women are using (or misusing) their beauty for a good end, but it does demonstrate the power that beauty and sexuality can have over each other.

    But I try my best to be modest, to wear appropriate clothing in mass (no bare shoulders, pants or a longer skirt), and in work… It is an uphill battle however. But still I think it is worth it, and I do think that modesty = mystery–and I think my fiancee would agree!! Thank you again for the posts on this issue.

    • You’re right Beth we can’t ask you to go and hide. Some men are tempted by a pretty face. We can’t ask women to wear masks. Others are tempted just by the way a woman walks etc. Hence I think we can only insist on fairly obvious norms in which what is private stays private. It hardly seems reasonable to say to women never tempt a man since many if not most are tempted by almost any curve. I would personally prefer if women would avoid cleavage and clothing that is uncessarily tight. I can’t really imagine that tight clothes are really even all that comfortable.

      As for men I can’t stand baggy and saggy pants, underwear showing. I hate sloppy.

      And as for you Beth, go girl! I’m glad you’re pretty and wish to wholesomly display you beauty. Beauty should not be suppressed. I think modesty should and does strike a balance between prudish fear of beauty and the inappropriate display of it.

  11. Aline says:

    A wonderful post! To me modesty, male and female, shows respect for yourself, others and for G-d. I am not impressed by seeing a man’s underwear, or chest (hair or no), or a man bedecked in gold chains. If I’m at the gym or swimming pool, fine. All should be dressed appropriately for the activity they are participating in (i.e. not in a micro-suit or one that turns transparent when exposed to water.) But otherwise I do not find an excess of flesh, or of personal information, especially charming. Please, gentlemen, pull up your pants and wear the correct size, don’t undo all the buttons on your shirt, and don’t wear skin-tight trousers, either. Um, and I hate to break the news, but you don’t have a six-pack. Really. So while I sort-of appreciate the effort, you don’t need to flaunt your abdomen at me anymore. I prefer biscuits to muffin tops anyway. :)

  12. Joe H says:

    Great stuff Father! Men need to be accountable in word and deed too though.
    Men don’t get a free ride – and I know you weren’t saying this. But we need to be reminded often.

  13. Maria says:

    When women re-discover modesty, men will re-discover respect for women. Great post and messgae for our sex and sin laden culture.

  14. leigh says:

    Msgr., thank you for elaborating on the fact that modesty is more than “skin/clothes” deep. It reflects a person’s soul and, therefore, manifests itself in everything an integrated person does.

    We have to be careful not to simply “put on modesty”. Some rigid Catholics wear “modesty” as a phylactery, while sizing up any garment (and the person wearing it) that is not made of denim or calico and falls to the ankles. My 7 daughters, four of whom are over 14, are chaste, beautiful, stylish, and modest.

    Whereas, one of their sneering peers, who never would be seen in sofie shorts, recently graduated from an authentic Catholic university, married, and is expecting a “7 month baby”. But, thank goodness, her white wedding dress covered her shoulders.

    We each must discern modesty for our culture and lifestyle, with humility. Thanks for the article.

    PS, men don’t need to wait for women to be modest in order to re-discover respect. Everyone is responsible for his own behavior and stands before God alone.

  15. Theresa Gray says:

    Thank you. Sharing with my sons and daughters.

  16. James Heath says:

    Beautiful food for thought. I do admire modesty. Although in many respects I am a bold person I do recognize and appreciate modesty. The Church’s teaching on Modesty is wonderful and reasonable. Which is what I find whenever I dig into the catechism or other guidance from The Church.

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