Practicing the virtue of modesty in the real world means being modest not just in the way you dress, but also in your speech and conduct. The Church says modesty is a virtue, and while some popes have given guidelines on how to dress modestly, their guidelines are suggestions of discipline and not Church doctrine.
Jackie points out that the Church can’t have a modesty code because it’s universal, and every culture has different standards of modesty. Furthermore, a husband and wife can be totally naked before each other and still be modest because, as Pope St. John Paul II says in Love and Responsibility, “Love swallows up shame.”
On the other hand, it’s easy to dismiss the Church’s advice regarding modesty, and claim that immodest dress or behavior is just a person exercising their freedom of expression. However, Scripture and the Catechism explain very well the reasons why we should be modest, and it goes much deeper than a list of rules to follow. It’s about seeing ourselves the way God does.
Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Romans 12:1-2 states, “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, St. Paul writes, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
Here’s the excerpt on modesty from the Catechism Jackie mentions:
“Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. 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. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.
Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. 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.
There is a modesty of the feelings as well as of the body. It protests, for example, against the voyeuristic explorations of the human body in certain advertisements, or against the solicitations of certain media that go too far in the exhibition of intimate things. Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies.
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. It is born with the awakening consciousness of being a subject. Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person” (CCC 2521-2524).
Read the entire section entitled “The Battle of Purity” for more on the Church’s teaching regarding modesty.
Glorify God with everything, including your body and how you dress.
Stay tuned for a follow-up video on modesty with Jackie’s friend Chica.
You can also check out these resources from Ascension on the subject of modesty and chastity:
- A Guide to the Dating Project
- Beyond the Birds and the Bees (Raising Sexually Whole and Holy Kids)
- Theology of His Body
- The Virgin Mary and the Theology of the Body
- Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love
- Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body
- The Love that Satisfies
- Freedom: 12 Lives Transformed by the Theology of the Body
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