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Modesty and Purity Resources

Popes, Saints and Devout Souls:
on Modesty and Purity -
Part III

'Thine eyes are the eyes of Christ; therefore thou mayest not turn thine eyes to gaze on any kind of vanity; for Christ is the Truth, to whom all vanity is entirely opposed.'

St. Anselm of Canterbury, Doctor of the Church

'We ought to make no account of an immodest person, notwithstanding that he may possess other virtues.'

St. Philip Neri

'But immorality and every uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as becometh saints.'

Ephesians 5:3

'Do you not consider how great a sin it is to introduce a harmful fashion? And once being known, what should be done to those who follow it? Some tailor perchance hath been the cause of a very grave sin. And of a very grievous injury to a city because of the harmful fashion he doth bring in there; and we should punish him as an example to all, so that this might be remembered forever.'

St. Bernardine of Siena

'As long as certain audacious modes of dress remain the sad privilege of women of dubious reputation and almost a sign by which they may be known, no-one else would dare to wear that same dress upon herself: but the moment that it appears upon persons beyond all reproach, she will hesitate no longer to follow the current, a current which will drag her perhaps to the worst fall.'

Pope Pius XII

'Woe to you that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as the rope of a cart.

Woe to you that call evil good, and good evil: that put darkness for light, and light for darkness: that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter. Woe to you that are wise in your own eyes, and prudent in your own conceits.'

Isaiah 5:18,20-21

'Glory not in apparel at any time, and be not exalted in the day of thy honour: for the works of the Highest only are wonderful, and his works are glorious, and secret, and hidden.'

Ecclesiasticus 11:4

'Those who glory in their looks not in their hearts dress to please others.'

St. Clement of Alexandria, Father of the Church

'We must be very careful in the practice of modesty.'

St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church

'It is a common teaching of the Saints that one of the principal means of leading a good and exemplary life is certainly modesty and the mortification of the eyes. Just as there is nothing better than modesty to preserve devotion in a soul and to edify one's neighbor, so too, there is nothing worse than immodesty and licentious glances to expose a person to the danger of becoming lax and loose in morals.'

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez

'Even though one is well advanced in virtue, should he stop mortifying himself, he soon would lose his modesty and virtue just as fertile soul quickly becomes dry and arid and produces nothing but thorns and thistles if it is not cultivated.'

St. John Climacus, Father of the Church

'Some women there are as well who have as many heads as the devil; every day they put on a new head. The devil hath seven, and there are women here who have even more. For these last fifteen years I recall so many kinds of headdress, so many fashions, that I stand agape. For in truth you have wandered farther astray than I could ever have believed possible. Away with them, in the name of God!'

St. Bernardine of Siena

'You must strive with all possible care to please God in such a manner as neither to do nor behold anything, without first consulting Him, and in everything to seek Him alone and His glory.'

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez

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

St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church

'We are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men.'

1 Corinthians 4:9

'The good of our soul is more important than the good 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 for yourselves, the harm which you are causing these children, whom Heaven has entrusted to you to be brought up as Christians.'

Pope Pius XII

'The outside doth show that which there is within. By the exterior may the interior be known. To this same purpose: I would say, that the woman who doth wear meretricious garments, I know not how she may be within, but from the outside I seem to detect evil signs.

To me it seemeth that thou art a _______ , I will not say it, but thou dost understand me well. Hast thou the hardihood to wear them, thou little fool? Hast thou no self-respect?

But O thou, Mother or Father, how cometh it that thou dost permit her or make her to wear them? Knowest thou not that this is not the dress of women, but of harlots? I would say to thee, O maid, or woman, who dost wear such garments, that thou dost appear to be a harlot: I say not that thou art a harlot, but I say that such thou dost seem to be in thy dishonest bearing.'

St. Bernardine of Siena

'Now answer me candidly, when you are going to the church to hear Mass, do you bear in mind that you are going to Calvary to be present at the Redeemer's death?

If this thought was deep in your soul, would you venture into the holy place with unbecoming gait, or in apparel that is immodest?

Had Magdalene come to the foot of the cross on Calvary, bedizened, perfumed, and with a display of finery such as she wore in the time of her sinfulness, what would have been said of her? Now what are we to say of you who go to the holy place dressed out as for some merry-making?

What should be said of you if you were to profane that most august sacrifice by unbeseeming conduct, such as nods, salutations, laughter, whisperings, or worse than all, lascivious and sacrilegious glancings?

Iniquity is abominable on all occasions and in all places, but the sins that are committed during Mass, and under the shadow of the altar, are sins which call down God's signal maledictions, "Cursed be he who doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully." (Jer. xlviii. 10.)'

St. Leonard of Port Maurice

'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.'

St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church

'For modesty foresees threatening danger, forbids us to expose ourselves to risks, demands the avoidance of those occasions which the imprudent do not shun. It does not like impure or loose talk, it shrinks from the slightest immodesty, it carefully avoids suspect familiarity with persons of the other sex, since it brings the soul to show due reverence to the body, as being a member of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit. He who possesses the treasure of Christian modesty abominates every sin of impurity and instantly flees whenever he is tempted by its seductions.'

Pope Pius XII

'By only looking at a person, we know if he is pure. His eyes have an air of candour and modesty which leads you to the good God. Some people, on the contrary, look quite inflamed with passion. . . Satan places himself in their eyes to make others fall and to lead them to evil.'

St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney, the Cure of Ars

'The light of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is pure, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness.'

Matthew 6:22-3

'In reading of Jesus Christ, I observed that He was always very mortified and modest in his glances. The evangelists are always careful to note the number of times He lifted up his eyes, as if it were something most unusual.'

St. Anthony Mary Claret

'Hear therefore, ye women, the word of the Lord: and let your ears receive the word of his mouth: and teach your daughters wailing: and every one her neighbour mourning.

For death is come up through our windows, it is entered into our houses to destroy the children from without, the young men from the streets.'

Jeremias 9:20-12

'Tell me, O ye old men who were once young, and who did many things in your youth all of which did displease God, what is left to thee of thy youth? Naught! What is left to thee of all thy wantonness of which thou wast guilty? . . . What is left to thee of thy pride because of which thou hadst so great pleasure in being decked out with ornaments and richly dressed? And thou, O woman, what is left to thee of that beauty which thou didst appear to have when thou didst paint thyself in so many ways, all contrary to the commandment of God?'

St. Bernardine of Siena

'My eye hath wasted my soul because of all the daughters of my city.'

Lamentations 3:5

'The attire of the body and the laughter of the teeth and the gait of the man show what he is.'

Ecclesiasticus 19:27

'These things in truth are so sad that you might say that such events foreshadow and portend the "beginning of sorrows," that is to say of those that shall be brought by the man of sin, "who is lifted up above all that is called God or is worshipped" (2 Thessalonians ii, 4).

But it is yet more to be lamented, Venerable Brethren, that among the faithful themselves, washed in Baptism with the blood of the immaculate Lamb, and enriched with grace, there are found so many men of every class, who laboring under an incredible ignorance of Divine things and infected with false doctrines, far from their Father's home, lead a life involved in vices, a life which is not brightened by the light of true faith, nor gladdened by the hope of future beatitude, nor refreshed and cherished by the fire of charity; so that they truly seem to sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Moreover, among the faithful there is a greatly increasing carelessness of ecclesiastical discipline, and of those ancient institutions on which all Christian life rests, by which domestic society is governed, and the sanctity of marriage is safeguarded; the education of children is altogether neglected, or else it is depraved by too indulgent blandishments, and the Church is even robbed of the power of giving the young a Christian education; there is a sad forgetfulness of Christian modesty especially in the life and the dress of women; there is an unbridled cupidity of transitory things, a want of moderation in civic affairs, an unbounded ambition of popular favor, a depreciation of legitimate authority, and lastly a contempt for the word of God, whereby faith itself is injured, or is brought into proximate peril.

But all these evils as it were culminate in the cowardice and the sloth of those who, after the manner of the sleeping and fleeing disciples, wavering in their faith, miserably forsake Christ when He is oppressed by anguish or surrounded by the satellites of Satan, and in the perfidy of those others who following the example of the traitor Judas, either partake of the holy table rashly and sacrilegiously, or go over to the camp of the enemy. And thus, even against our will, the thought rises in the mind that now those days draw near of which Our Lord prophesied: "And because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold" (Matthew xxiv, 12).'

Pope Pius XI, Encyclical 'Miserentissimus Redemptor', 'On Reparation to the Sacred Heart', May 8th, 1928 A.D.

'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.'

St. Ambrose of Milan, Father and Doctor of the Church

'I wish to point out to thee ten offences against God, all occasioned by dress. . . The first is vanity; and it is vanity when thou dost wear that which is not suited to thee. . . The second sign of sin is called variety. Knowest thou what is meant by variety? It consists in garments in checks, all embroidered and flowered and with stripes of different colours. . . The third sign of sin is regard for appearance. This sign is generally to be perceived because there is no one who does not seek to have the most costly clothes that may be had. . . The fourth sign of sin which displeaseth God, is called costliness, on the part of those who demand costly garments of gauze or silken stuffs. . . The fifth sign and sign of the displeasure of God is injustice. . . whence come these possessions, whence come these garments. . . most times, it is made up of robbery, of usury, and of the sweat of the brow of peasants, and of the blood of widows, and of the marrow of wards and orphans. . . The first of the other five is called superfluity: whereas you must reflect that when God gave the garment of skin to Adam, he gave it to him out of decency, and to protect him from the heat and cold, so that it might be fitted to his needs, and in this all the holy Doctors agree. . . the second sign and sin which displeaseth God is called the desire to attract notice. . . the third sin is called fashion. . . the fourth is called enticement. . . Damaging loss is the last. How many goods have you lying useless in your house, and how many are there of you who, for all that they have very many, buy yet more of them?'

St. Bernardine of Siena

'Among the many martyrs who, in this persecution, sacrificed their lives, Dionysia, a lady of the city of Vita, was conspicuous. The persecutors, seeing her more animated than the rest, were preparing to strip her, in order that she should be scourged with rods, when she said: "I am willing to suffer; torture me as much as you please, but spare my modesty."'

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Doctor of the Church

'We now endeavor to expiate all these lamentable crimes together, and it is also our purpose to make amends for each one of them severally: for the want of modesty in life and dress, for impurities, for so many snares set for the minds of the innocent, for the violation of feast days, for the horrid blasphemies against Thee and Thy saints, for the insults offered to Thy Vicar and to the priestly order, for the neglect of the Sacrament of Divine love or its profanation by horrible sacrileges, and lastly for the public sins of nations which resist the rights and the teaching authority of the Church which Thou hast instituted.

Would that we could wash away these crimes with our own blood!'

Pope Pius XI, Encyclical 'Miserentissimus Redemptor', 'On Reparation to the Sacred Heart', May 8th, 1928 A.D.

'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.'

St. Ambrose of Milan, Father and Doctor of the Church

'Further we must speak as we dress, or dress as we speak. Why do we profess one thing and display another? The tongue talks of chastity, but the whole body reveals incontinence.'

St. Jerome, Father and Doctor of the Church

'The purpose of clothing is to keep warm in winter and to cover your nakedness, not to serve your vanity.'

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Father and Doctor of the Church

'Blessed the one who has kept the mastery of his eyelids and has not deceived himself with either mind or senses with regard to the skin of the flesh that after a little while oozes putrefaction.'

St. Ephrem of Syria, Father and Doctor of the Church

'Go to one who hath both knowledge and conscience, one of those who know excellently how to discern that which ought to be done. . . Choose one who is good, not anyone, whatever he may be, no! For sometimes thou wilt go to one who hath a carnal mind, and is not instructed, and who will say to thee; it is permitted thee for the sake of pleasure to thy husband to beautify thyself and to deck thyself out with ornaments. Out upon him! for he is a beast; do as I say to thee: go to a man of conscience and learning, and who is good.'

St. Bernardine of Siena

'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.'

Pope Pius XI, Encyclical "Ad Salutem", April 30, 1930 A.D.

'With what delight did the holy youth obey Mary and Joseph! With what recollection of mind did he work! With what moderation did he take his food! With what modesty did he speak! With what sweetness and affability did he converse with all! With what devotion did he pray! In a word, every action, every word, every motion of Jesus, inflamed with love the hearts of, all those who beheld him, and especially of Mary and of Joseph, who had the good fortune to see him always at their side. Oh, how these holy spouses remained always intent on contemplating and admiring all the operations, the words, and gestures of this Man-God!

Grow, my beloved Jesus, grow continually for me; grow to teach me Thy virtues by Thy divine examples; grow to consummate the great sacrifice on the cross, on which depends my eternal salvation!'

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Doctor of the Church

'For the rest, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever modest, whatsoever just, whatsoever holy, whatsoever amiable, whatsoever of good fame, if there be any virtue, if any praise of discipline, think on these things.'

Philippians 4:8

'Now I Paul myself beseech you, by the mildness and modesty of Christ. . .'

2 Corinthians 10:1

'If you cast your eyes upon any one, fix them upon no one.'

St. Augustine, Father and Doctor of the Church

'My son, give me thy heart: and let thy eyes keep my ways.'

Proverbs 23:26

'I knew that I could not practice modesty without the virtue of mortification, so with God's grace, I bent all my forces on acquiring that, cost what it might.

In the first place, then, I strove to deprive myself of every pleasure in order to give pleasure to God. Without knowing how, I felt obliged to fulfill what was a mere proposal. My mind was faced with choosing between my pleasure and God's, and because my mind saw the glaring inequality between the two, even in the slightest matter, I would be forced to choose what then seemed more pleasing to God. I would joyfully abstain from the pleasure in question, to give pleasure to God. This is still the way it is with me in all things: eating, drinking, resting, talking, looking, hearing, going somewhere, etc.'

St. Anthony Mary Claret

'O how beautiful is the chaste generation with glory: for the memory thereof is immortal: because it is known both with God and with men.'

Wisdom 4:1