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Modesty and Purity Resources

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

'Let your modesty be known to all men. The Lord is nigh.'

Philippians 4:5

'The body should be bedecked naturally and without affectation, with simplicity, with neglect rather than nicety, not with costly and dazzling apparel, but with ordinary clothes, so that nothing be lacking to honesty and necessity, yet nothing be added to increase its beauty.'

St. Ambrose, Father and Doctor of the Church

'Luxurious clothing that cannot conceal the shape of the body is no more a covering. For such clothing, falling close to the body, takes its form more easily. . . As a result, the whole make of the body is visible to spectators, although they cannot see the body itself.'

St. Clement of Alexandria, Father of the Church

'Either 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 impurity.'

St. Jerome, Father and Doctor of the Church

'If you desire to be one of the faithful and to please the Lord, O wife, do not add adornments to your beauty, in order to please other men. Do not wear fine embroidery, garments, or shoes, to entice those who are allured by such things. It may be that you do not do these wicked things for the purpose of sinning yourself but only for the sake of adornment and beauty. Nevertheless, you still will not escape future punishment for having compelled another to look so close at you as to lust after you.'

Apostolic Constitutions

'A woman does not acquire a man's dignity by having her head uncovered but rather loses her own. Her shame and reproach thus derive from her desire to be like a man as well as from her actions.'

St. John Chrysostom, Father and Doctor of the Church

'I hold that not only virgins and widows, but also wives and all women without exception, should be admonished that nowise should they deface God's work and fabric, the clay that He has fashioned, with the aid of yellow pigments, black powders or rouge, or by applying any dye that alters the natural features. . . They lay hands on God, when they strive to reform what He has formed. This is an assault on the Divine handiwork, a distortion of the truth. Thou shalt not be able to see God, having no longer the eyes that God made, but those the devil has unmade; with him shalt thou burn on whose account thou art bedecked.'

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Father of the Church

'What does God think of spurious beauty, rejecting utterly as He does all falsehood?'

St. Clement of Alexandria, Father of the Church

'Moreover, know that just as all mortal sins are very serious, so too a venial sin is made mortal if a human being delights in it with the intention of persevering.

Wherefore, know that two sins, which I now name to you, are being practiced and that they draw after them other sins that all seem as if venial.

But because the people delight in them with the intention of persevering, they are therefore made mortal. . .

The first of the two sins is that the faces of rational human creatures are being painted with the various colors with which insensible images and statues of idols are colored so that to others, these faces may seem more beautiful than I made them.

The second sin is that the bodies of men and women are being deformed from their natural state by the unseemly forms of clothing that the people are using.'

Our Lord Jesus Christ, 'The Revelations of St. Bridget of Sweden'

'To dye oneself with paints in order to have a rosier or a paler complexion is a lying counterfeit.'

St. Augustine, Father and Doctor of the Church

'Therefore, know for very certain that as often as they daub their faces with antimony and other extraneous coloring, some of the infusion of the Holy Spirit is diminished in them and the devil draws nearer to them. In fact, as often as they adorn themselves in disorderly and indecent clothing and so deform their bodies, the adornment of their souls is diminished and the devil's power is increased.

O my enemies, who do such things and with effrontery commit other sins contrary to my will, why have you neglected my passion; and why do you not attend in your hearts to how I stood naked at the pillar, bound and cruelly scourged with hard whips, and to how I stood naked on the cross and cried out, full of wounds and clothed in blood?

And when you paint and anoint your faces, why do you not look at my face and see how it was full of blood?

You are not even attentive to my eyes and how they grew dark and were covered with blood and tears, and how my eyelids turned blue. Why too do you, not look at my mouth or gaze at my ears and my beard and see how they were aggrieved and were stained with blood? You do not look at the rest of my limbs, monstrously wounded by various punishments, and see how I hung black and blue on the cross and dead for your sake.

And there, derided and rejected, I was despised by all in order that, by recalling these things and attentively remembering them, you might love me, your God, and thus escape the devil's snares, in which you have been horribly bound.'

Our Lord Jesus Christ, 'The Revelations of St. Bridget of Sweden'

'Similarly, women should adorn themselves with proper conduct, with modesty and sobriety, not with braided hairstyles and gold ornaments, or pearls, or expensive clothes, but rather, as befits women who profess reverence for God, with good deeds.'

1 Tim. 2: 9-10

'. . . 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 woman's death, I think Jesus will be heard saying: "Cujus est imago haec et circumscripto. . . 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."'

St. Anthony Mary Claret

'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

'Let a woman learn in silence, fully submitted; but I do not permit a woman to teach a man or exercise authority over him; rather, she is to remain in peace.'

1 Tim. 2: 11-12

'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.'

St. John Chrysostom, Father and Doctor of the Church

'Hence women, if they have the grace of wisdom or of knowledge, can administer it by teaching privately but not publicly.'

St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church

'But by no manner of means are women to be allotted to uncover and exhibit any part of their person, lest both fall -- the men by being excited to look, the women by drawing on themselves the eyes of the men.

But always must we conduct ourselves as in the Lord's presence, lest He say to us, as the apostle in indignation said to the Corinthians, "When ye come together, this is not to eat the Lord's supper."'

'On no account must a woman be permitted to show a man any portion of her body naked, for fear lest both fall: the one by gazing eagerly, the other by delighting to attract those eager glances.'

'From filthy speaking we ourselves must entirely abstain, and stop the mouths of those who practise it by stern looks and averting the face, and by what we call making a mock of one: often also by a harsher mode of speech. "For what proceedeth out of the mouth," He says, "defileth a man," -- shows him to be unclean, and heathenish, and untrained, and licentious, and not select, and proper, and honourable, and temperate.'

St. Clement of Alexandria, Father of the Church

'Woman naturally nourishes her hair, therefore she naturally ought to completely cover her head.'

St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church

'Those who are of the world think how they are to please their wives, if they are men, or their husbands, if they are women, [and choose their dress accordingly]; except that women, whom the Apostle orders to veil their heads, ought not to uncover their hair, even if they are married.'

St. Augustine, Father and Doctor of the Church

'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?'

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

'But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.

Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered, disgraceth his head.

But every woman praying or prophesying with her head not covered, disgraceth her head: for it is all one as if she were shaven.

For if a woman be not covered, let her be shorn. But if it be a shame to a woman to be shorn or made bald, let her cover her head.

The man indeed ought not to cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man. For the man was not created for the woman, but the woman for the man.

Therefore ought the woman to have a power over her head, because of the angels.'

1 Cor. 11:3-10

'Supreme and just Judge of the living and the dead, Thou who seest and knowest all things, even those very secrets that pass in the interior of my heart, and which I would not have known to any creature upon earth, is it possible that I should dare to appear in Thy presence, after having been so unfaithful to Thee? Alas! I can not fly from Thee, because Thou art present everywhere: I cannot hide myself from Thy view, because Thou seest all things. Ah! has not my insolence been insupport able in having dared, in the presence of Thy exalted majesty, before whom the purest angels cover their faces, to do what I would not have done before the meanest and the last of men? O my God! have mercy on me: I detest, with my whole heart, all my sins for the love of Thee.'

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Doctor of the Church

'You yourselves judge: doth it become a woman, to pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that a man indeed, if he nourish his hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman nourish her hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.

But if anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor the church of God.'

1 Cor. 11:13-16

'It is the custom of the monasteries in Egypt and Syria, that both virgin and widow who have vowed themselves to God, and have renounced and trodden underfoot all the delights of the world, should offer their hair to be cut off, and afterwards live, not with head uncovered, which is forbidden by the Apostle, but with their heads both tied round and veiled."

St. Jerome, Father and Doctor of the Church

"But of a woman is not veiled, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be veiled." (1 Corinthians 11:6)

'Thus, in the beginning he simply requires that the head be not bare: but as he proceeds he intimates both the continuance of the rule, saying, "for it is one and the same thing as if she were shaven," and the keeping of it with all care and diligence. For he said not merely covered, but "covered over," meaning that she be carefully wrapped up on every side. And by reducing it to an absurdity, he appeals to their shame, saying by way of severe reprimand, "but if she be not covered, let her also be shorn." As if he had said, "If thou cast away the covering appointed by the law of God, cast away likewise that appointed by nature."

But if any say, "Nay, how can this be a shame to a woman, if she mount up to the glory of the man?" we might make this answer; "She does not mount up, but rather falls from her own proper honor." Since not to abide within our own limits and the laws ordained of God, but to go beyond, is not an addition but a dimunition. For as he that desireth other men's goods and seizeth what is not his own, hath not gained any thing more, but is diminished, having lost even that which he had, (which kind of thing also happened in paradise:) so likewise the woman acquireth not the man's dignity, but loseth even the woman's decency which she had. And not from hence only is her shame and reproach, but also on account of her covetousness."

Having taken then what was confessedly shameful, and having said, but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven," he states what follows his own conclusion, saying, "let her be covered." And he said not, "let her have long hair," but, "let her be covered," ordaining both these to be one, and establishing them both ways, from what was customary from their contraries: in that he both affirms the covering and the hair to be one, and also that she again who is shaven is the same with her whose head is bare. "For it is one and the same thing," saith he, "as if she were shaven." But if any say, "And how is it one if this woman have the covering of nature, but the other who is shaven have not even this?" we answer, that as far as her will goes, she threw that off likewise by having the head bare. An it be not bare of tresses, that is nature's doing, not her own. So that as she who is shaven hath her head bare, so this woman in like manner. For this cause He left it to nature to provide her with a covering, that even of it she might learn this lesson and veil herself.'

St. John Chrysostom, Father and Doctor of the Church

'Therefore St. Paul says: You know the reasons why a woman ought to cover her head. But if anyone is contentious, that is, a disrupting challenger (for contention is a negation of the truth with a disruptive arrogance that must be shunned), it should suffice to refute him to say that we, Jews, believers in Christ, do not have the custom, that women should pray without covering their heads, nor has the Church of God. For if the reasoning is useless to convince him, this custom should suffice, otherwise he would act against the custom of the Church.'

St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church

'Reflect that the Most Blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the only and almighty God, is everywhere present, that he sees all things, knows all things, and penetrates the inmost and most secret thoughts of our heart. He is that divine and infinite Majesty before whom the highest seraphim tremble with a holy fear, and veil their faces through respect; and we have the audacity to sin in his presence; to say, to do, and to think what, if known, would cover us with confusion before the meanest of men. Reflect, moreover, that this God, before whom we sin, is our sovereign Judge, who at the moment of our death will inevitably pass sentence upon the thoughts, the words, the actions, of which we may be found guilty.'

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Doctor of the Church

'Women, claiming to try to be graceful, that their lips may not be rent apart by stretching them on broad drinking cups. . . drink in an unseemly way out of alabastra quite too narrow in the mouth. They throw back their heads and bare their necks indecently, as I think. They distend the throat in swallowing, gulping down the liquor as if to make bare all they can to their companions. They hiccup like men, or rather like slaves, and revel in luxurious riot.'

St. Clement of Alexandria, Father of the Church

'But what of those who frequent promiscuous baths; who prostitute to eyes that are curious to lust, bodies that are dedicated to chastity and modesty? They who disgracefully behold naked men, and are seen naked by men, do they not themselves afford enticement to vice, do they not solicit and invite the desires of those present to their own corruption and wrong? "Let every one," say you, "look to the disposition with which he comes thither: my care is only that of refreshing and washing my poor body." That is the kind of defense that does not clear you, nor does it excuse the crime of lasciviousness and wantonness.

Such a washing defiles; it does not purify nor cleanse the limbs, but stains them. You behold no one immodestly, but you yourself are gazed upon immodestly. You do not polute your eyes with disgraceful delight, but in delighting others you yourself are polluted. You make a show of the bathing-place; the places where you assemble are fouler than a theatre. There all modesty is put off together with the clothing of garments, the honour and modesty of the body is laid aside; virginity is exposed, to be pointed at and to be handled. And now then consider whether when you are clothed you are modest among men, when the boldness of nakedness has conduced to immodesty. . .

Be such as God the Creator made you; be such as the hand of your Father ordained you. Let your countenance remain in you incorrupt, your neck unadorned, your figure simple; let not wounds be made in your ears, nor let the precious chain of bracelets and necklaces circle your arms or your neck; let your feet be free from golden bands, your hair stained with no dye, your eyes worthy of beholding God.

Let your baths be performed with women, among whom your bathing is modest.'

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Father of the Church

'"Now Susannah was a very delicate woman." This does not mean that she had flashy adornments on herself or eyes painted with various colors as Jezebel had. Rather, it means she had the adornment of faith, chastity, and sanctity.'

St. Hippolytus, Father of the Church

'A woman should not be adorned in a worldly fashion. . . "Let your women be such as adorn themselves with shamefacedness and modesty, not with twisted hair, nor with gold, nor with pearls, or precious garments."'

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Father of the Church

'Purity is a precious jewel, and the owner of a precious stone would never dream of making a display of his riches in the presence of thieves.'

St. John Bosco

'But self-control and modesty do not consist only in purity of the flesh, but also in seemliness and in modesty of dress and adornment.'

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Father of the Church