Modesty Sets Fire

The Statue of Modesty at The Church of San Domenico Maggiore in Naples

What Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said is true, and damn true: “The Catechism was not written to please you. It will not make life easy for you, because it demands of you a new life.” Its teaching on modesty is so explosive that, would we believe and actualize it, we would convert. But I suspect we prefer monotony to metanoia, commentary to action, and porn to everything else. We’ll enthusiastically “note” the demands of the universal Church as “interesting,” and immediately — go back to sleep. (Were I made responsible for carving the tombstone for our age! I would put neither name nor date, only the words, “The more we spoke, the less we did, till we spoke about everything and did nothing at all.”)

Believe it or not, I’m not being flippant. This fact, that our age seems characterized by a lack of action, has been with me for a while, and the Church’s teaching on modesty has stirred the coals back into flames.

It began with a difficulty. Why on earth would she choose to say, in the Catechism which is the compendium of her teachings, that “modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies”? (CCC 2523) Shouldn’t she have said “the allurements of sinful fashions,” “over-sexualized fashions,” or something of the sort? After all, not all fashions are immodest. Crocs, for instance, actually function to maintain the virginity of their owner. But no, the Church says that modesty resists “fashions,” plain and simple.

Now we know that modesty is not, primarily, about reducing the incidence of lust. Modesty is wholeness; integration; a harmony between body and soul; the outward revelation of our inward subjectivity through the presentation and action of the body, in which we express to the world the inexpressible fact of our personality, and by which we have the faith necessary to believe in the subjectivity and personality of every human on the planet — from the enemy, to the face in the crowd, to the uniformed fast-food worker who leans out the window to exchange our money for fries. Modesty preserves subjectivity. Because of this, I believe that modesty empowers us to act, and with the ability to act comes the ability and the impetus to resist the allurements of fashion. Follow me here:

Passivity is the province of objects.

Any object can be acted upon. A rock can be thrown. A body of water can be blown into waves. A billboard of a naked woman selling us tires can be set on fire.  Even animal “action” can always be described as a “reaction” to the environment, the reception of change from some other object.

This is essentially what we mean when we say that the dog “acts on instinct.” It does not freely choose to turn his head and bark, its turning and barking is caused by something else — the wave of food, or the noise of tires on the gravel. (Thus pornography, though its glare focuses on the reduction of the female body into a purely erection-inducing object, also objectifies the male viewer. He is animalized, and in this animalization he becomes an object acted upon, an animal responding to environmental stimuli, as removed from true, human freedom as a dog salivating at the sight of meat.)

Action is the province of subjects.

The only being in the Cosmos we experience as not merely being acted upon, but also having the capacity to freely act, is the human subject, namely, our selves. You.

Think about it: The only being you’ve ever experience as acting out self-determination, deliberately causing something to happen, deliberately doing something, swinging the stick at the high grass out of a desire to swing the stick, is you.

Sure, we generally believe that when our neighbor sits on his porch, he chose to do so as a free, self-determined action, but this is an act of faith. We only experience action as freely acted and self-determined when we our selves are its author. So — ignoring for the time the massive free-will debate that rages underneath my simplification — have my dogma: Action emanates from subjects, not objects.

Insofar as we live as subjects, we increase our capacity for true, free action — for doing something. Insofar as we objectify our selves, we diminish our capacity for true, free action, and thereby increase our capacity for being acted upon. This has some phenomenological evidence, I think, in the crowd.

“Madness is rare in individuals—but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule,” says NietzscheIf a group of people cease thinking of themselves as individual, human subjects, and begin to think of themselves as mere objects and parts of a whole, they become a crowd, a mob — a group easily acted upon. The words we use to describe the crowd express this fact — the crowd is riled, stirred up, moved, enraged, passively receiving the acting force of another. It is easier to convince a crowd of people to vote for an economic plan or to lynch an enemy than to convince your neighbor to do the same, for the crowd, insofar as they are an objectified mass, are easy to move. Any object can be acted upon. Call it Dionysian, call it mob psychology, call it what you like: The less we see ourselves as selves and subjects, the greater our capacity to be acted upon.

Fashion is passion. 

Fashion is passion, for passion, according to Aristotle, is the reception of change from another. Fashion is not something we do. Fashion is done to us. It is manufactured by an elite who view unique, human subjects as objects — as trends, demands, markets, and target populations — and sell their products accordingly.

We did not willfully decide to buy every Apple product ever made. We were advertised to, moved to, and persuaded to through envy.  We did not willfully decide to listen to Ke$ha, as we do not willfully choose the vast majority of what is nevertheless referred to as “popular music.” Popular music is marketed, produced, and advertised to be enjoyed on the most shallow level possible. It is sold like candy and immediately forgotten, preparing an objectified “audience” to purchase the next “big hit,” just as products are made to break, so we’ll purchase a replacement or — better still — the newest edition. We did not willfully elect our president. Our president is a fashion, as are most politicians. They spend billions of dollars to prostitute themselves to us, to move us, to sooth our fears and impose their image in our minds. (This is not to say there is utterly no free action involved in fashion, merely that it is greatly reduced.)

Indeed, it is the mark of fashion that it is always self-aware of having nothing to do with human subjects, and everything to do with acting upon objects — upon crowds that can be moved. Thus the slogans and the styles of fashion seek to compensate for being devoid of free, self-determined choice by creating an illusion of action — “The Power to be your best,” “Have it your way,” “Just do it,” “Because you’re worth it,” “Live in your world, play in ours” — forever affirming that yes, it was you who freely chose to buy that iPad. But when freedom and nonconformity have simply been shaped into another method of furthering allegiance to international corporations, it does grow a bit stale.     

So the Church is absolutely correct to say that “modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies,” (CCC 2523) because modesty, “born with the awakening consciousness of being a subject,” (CCC 2524) is a way in which we live our lives as subjects, not objects, beings with the capacity to act in freedom and do what we want, not beings who are acted upon and moved to do what others want. Modesty is a way in which we, by our outward, bodily expressions, honestly act as the subjects we are, and thus it will always elevate us to the sublime status of the child throwing a rock — never to the rock being thrown.

The modest resist fashion, because the modest move themselves. The modest man resists and transcends the ideological fads that sweep, move and act upon entire nations because he is, in his treasured subjectivity, infinitely larger than the entirety of nations. He — the fiery source of doing in the Cosmos — is the sweeper, the mover, and the arsonist, while nations remain the swept, the moved, and the burnt; paralyzed, immobile thought-concepts; the grouping together of objectified selves into population numbers and borders. How perfect St. Catherine of Siena’s phrase — “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire” – and how deep it illuminates the cavernous dark!  God wants us to be ourselves, to enter into the fullness of our own subjectivity. Only the human subject can obey the Messianic command to set the world on fire, because only the subject has the ability to freely light a flame. Only he who lives and acts as he is — a subject — will have the immense power granted to human subjects — to act, and this is modesty.

Immodesty, then, is conformity. Immodesty is the surrender of the subject to the ease of objectivity, a loosening of grip, a relinquishing of fire in favor of being burnt. Whether in dress, speech, movement, or thought, immodesty willfully presents the human subject as what it is not — an object — and thereby diminishes our capacity to act. Immodesty begs for fashion and fad to replace the thorny human spirit, who always stands alone before Eternity, with a spirit of the times. I used to think being a Christian made me a sheep, but it occurs to me now that the virtue of modesty — and of chastity to which it is ordered — is the revolution against passivity, and will prepare my arms for battle, to burn down and build up what I will.

  • Jennifer B. D.

    Marc, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading these modesty posts, and I fully agree with them. I realize that you are trying to get others to see modesty as more than just merely what you wear or how one behaves and for this I am grateful as not many authors that I have read go to the depths that you have. I do want to share something that I and others whom I know have experienced, purely anecdotal, but would sharing. I used to dress quite immodestly and loved the fashion of the day (although I was not good at creating outfits and being fashionable). I had a pretty huge conversion to modesty about 6 years ago, but it was a modesty that mainly dealt with clothing choices underlined by the Christ-like love I had for men and not wanting to incite lust in their hearts, or bring forth jealousy in other women (not saying I looked good but women can be in competition with others just by virtue of the lack of clothing one wears – it doesn’t foster trust or friendship), and not wanting to be objectified. Although my idea and implementation of modesty was initially on the front of clothing choices it has evolved into what you have described. I’ve never thought about it in the way you have written but I kept nodding my head as I read and came to the realization that that is exactly how I have felt about modesty for a while now. All that to say that I think it is important to teach modesty in the frame of reference and truth you share but to also teach that sometimes it helps to live it outwardly to internalize this truth. Just like the way we pray/worship impacts the way we believe the way we live (and outwardly do things) impacts the inner self. Now that I have been dressing very modestly (in comparison to the fashion of the day) for 6 years I can finally say that I have no desire to be “fashionable” but truly just want to dress nicely and in accordance with my state in life.

    • badcatholic

      Don’t worry, the practical is next.

  • Stefanie

    Marc, your Burger King ad reference is spot on. I remember when that aspect was really new and we were all amazed that a fast-order place would actually allow you to ‘hold the pickles and the lettuce’ — kinda make me smile now.
    While at the grocery store last week, I noticed a new gum. Even though I don’t chew gum because I can’t chew gum without hurting myself (sigh!), I bought the gum package because I knew I could use it in an RCIA lesson at some point.
    the gum is by Mentos — and it’s called “UP2U” The package ad is subtitled (isn’t everything these days?) “2 FLAVORS, 1 PACK, YOU DECIDE”
    Perfect companion to your post.

  • Jacob

    It’s a good point. When you conform to fashion, or a certain style of dress, you are presenting yourself as a moving part within a larger group, and therefore as being defined by that group. Since human souls are unique and free-moving, incapable of being encapsulated by a single group or identity, this is, in effect, a rescinding of your divine and free identity. You present yourself as solely a sexual object instead of a complicated being of whom that sexual identity is but one infinitesimal part, or as a fan of a certain style of music, or a ‘hipster’ or any of the other trite labels fashion movements reduce us to.

    I’ve always been a fan of our Catholic definition of modesty as a virtue. It’s not making yourself into a “pure” object, it’s proving that you’re not an object at all.

    • Jennifer B. D.

      I love your very last sentence!

    • Mark Walker

      However, apparently modesty is a relative concept. Even dressing modestly for our time, one is still conforming to modern fashion. Even if one dressed modestly as in 100 CE, one would still be conforming to the fashion of that time.

      Do all Catholic organizations agree about what constitutes modesty?

      Surely you would consider Hasidic Jews as modest dressers. What’s with all the same hat and sideburns?

      There’s some pretty loose definitions floating around here…

      • GoodCatholicGirl

        Correct. On the other hand, Indian women wear saris that display bear midriffs and they are perfectly modest.

  • Olivier

    Sounds like you’re ready to lay waste to the world out of love for it!

    One other thing: you have a typo in the second paragraph of “Action is the Province of Subjects.” I think “experience” should be “experienced.”

  • Annette Heidmann

    Marc – I’m so enjoying this series — this installment in particular, and if I may be bold to say so, the reason is this: in this article, you exhibit the very quality of modesty in your writing style that allows your work to rise above what is so easy for you – being hip – to achieve what I believe you are called to, and that is being a truly great communicator. It’s a high bar, but you have shown you are up to the challenge. God bless you, you have my prayers as you continue to fight the good fight.

  • Strife

    I wonder, given your youthful age and obvious lack of life’s turbulent experiences, when you fall from Grace, and you WILL fall …. (and I mean really Fall) …. how will all of these “sage-like” words of pseudo-”wisdom” come back to haunt you?

    • Strife

      “What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has
      moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of
      conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be
      doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been
      exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is
      exactly the part he ought not to assert – himself. The part he doubts is
      exactly the part he ought not to doubt – the Divine Reason.”
      - G.K.Chesterton


    • KRD

      “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”

      1 Timothy 4:12

      Care to make any actual arguments, or are you just going to continue to write him off because he’s younger than you? How cowardly. How sad.

      • Strife

        Why do you want arguments? But okay, I’ll argue: My point of contention is not his “age” per se, but rather, his life experiences. Or more accurately, his lack thereof.

        So… what exactly is junior’s experience in life? What pain and suffering has he endured?

        In the words of Rabbi Abraham Heschel: “The man who has not suffered, what can he possibly know, anyway?”

        And if you want to enter into a scriptural p!ssing-match, then okay:

        “For in much wisdom there is much sorrow; whoever increases knowledge increases grief.” – Ecclesiastes 1:18

        • filiusdextris

          Do you believe sainthood is impossible, even on the level of the daily grind? I don’t. And even if what you said had some truth in it, I utterly fail to comprehend how it is helpful. Rather, let’s lift each other up to become saints.

          • Strife

            Sainthood is possible – but improbable. And why? For the exact reason you and others in here are avoiding: Personal Suffering.

            No Cross = No Crown

            No saint was ever a stranger to tremendous personal suffering. And their sainthood was specifically built upon the spiritual fact that they embraced their suffering.

            So you want to “lift” someone up in order for them to be a saint?

            Well then, tear them down with the humiliating self-awareness of their own pitiful lack of suffering.

            And no, you don’t comprehend … do you.

          • filiusdextris

            The applicable idea you are expressing is fraternal correction. Here, what is there to be corrected? What if your anticipated correction has the opposite effect, of causing that improbable saint to become discouraged, to fear of trusting God too much, and thus to cling to the world instead? Sounds like we should keep quiet instead and mind our own business.

          • Strife

            I’m well aware of “Fraternal Correction”, and that is not my application to this endeavor, that is your misinterpretation.

            And become discouraged? Fear of trusting God too much? Cling to the world? Well well well – welcome to Sainthood my friend. Welcome to the dark night of the soul, chum. Welcome to spiritual desolation, my inexperienced babe.

            The way of the Saints is a discouraging path filled with 1001 do-overs. If a supposed “saint” is thrown off his heavenly path by my puny words – then he doesn’t stand an ice-cube’s chance in hell with the wily ways of Satan.

            So you see – I’m not “correcting” – I’m strengthening. And why should I mind my own business when junior has made other people’s salvation HIS business?

            What part of “Deny yourself, pick up your Cross and follow Me” do you not get?

            Oh and, back to my original question – what has junior actually suffered in his little life?

            Riddle me that.

          • Emma

            We should never judge another’s life, his sufferings, his trials and temptations… To assume that someone has not suffered because he is young is unfounded, and to assume that this supposed lack of suffering makes him unfit to write a blog post on modesty is misguided. Many saints had people around them who lived with them, knew them, and still thought they would never be saints (i.e. St. Therese). Marc’s life and suffering are between him and the Lord, and they do not have a bearing on whether or not his post on modesty is true. You have not given any concrete reason for why his life experiences bother you so much, or why you believe he has so few of them. This should not prevent you from seeing the truth in his post.

          • Strife

            Uhm…. you’re actually judging me.

            And yes, we ARE allowed to judge others lives and actions. In fact, we are required. However, we are NOT allowed to judge the state of their soul.

            Geez, I get so sick of people misconstruing that scripture.

            And no, to assume that someone of youth has probably not experienced much in the way of deep suffering is not unfounded. In fact, it’s extremely reasonable and logical.

            Junior assumes the role of teacher, preacher, and spiritual director – then let him also assume the awesome burden of that task by making his words sustainable with his own personal experiences of suffering.

          • credo

            Fascinating discussion here that has had me laughing out loud (that’s *lol* for you youngsters).

          • KRD

            Your arrogance is absolutely astounding. Let me know when you find an example of sainthood that clings to pride so stubbornly.

          • Strife

            Actually, it takes an unhealthy amount of latent arrogance on your part to even pronounce that judgement upon me.

            Search your own soul. Then let that sink in.

            Physician…. heal thyself.

          • Strife

            So your version of Fraternal Correction allows you to tell other people to shut up?


          • filiusdextris

            Also, if you know Marc personally, and there is any merit in your warnings, do so privately. Criticizing him publicly has the chance of scandalizing any Truth he writes. Meanwhile the rest of us can consider what is said not who says it – taking wisdom from the words themselves (if there is any, which I believe there is).

          • Strife

            “Preach always – and when necessary…. use words.” – St Francis Of Assisi

            His words of spiritual “wisdom” are public. Let the spiritual mettle that gives his words relevance be public as well.

            Otherwise, he is just another empty voice farting in the wilderness of self-inflated egos.

        • salixbabylonica

          Ah, for the wisdom to know and judge at a glance the entire life story and emotional history of some random dude on the internet whose blog I happen to read! How much suffering do I have to endure to pay for that wisdom, I wonder? Must Grandma be sacrificed to gain such wisdom? Or will crying over Fido’s tragic death suffice?

          What exactly have you suffered, Strife, that was so terrible and from which you gained such wisdom? Have you watched your children starve? Have you seen your loved ones tortured and killed in front of your face? Ever heard of the phrase “first world problems”? The reality is if you compare all the suffering you’ve gone through in life, it’s likely nothing compared to what millions globally (or historically) have had to deal with. So, should we discount everything you say, because you haven’t suffered enough compared to other people?

          If you really think that being young (and young=having few life experiences) means that a person has not suffered, you don’t know many young people, do you? There’s plenty of pain to be had in the dark places of the mind that leaves no external marks, certainly none that would be shown to someone like Strife, disposed as he is to regard “junior” with contempt.

          • Strife

            Ah, so now YOU engage in the very same (supposedly) unrighteous presumption of judgement of ME, right after you just chastised me for being so presumptuous.

            See what ya did there baby?

            Can you smell that irony? *sniff sniff*

            It’s smells like hypocrisy doesn’t it? Well yes. Yes it does.

            What have I suffered?

            - Growing up in poverty in a house that was a physical embarrassment. I was the youngest of 10 kids (a natural Catholic family)

            - Growing up in a dysfunctional home, where my old man was physically violent and emotionally abusive. He also raped my oldest sister.

            - I also have another older sister who is mentally retarded. She was a source of frustration and shame for all of us.

            - My oldest brother returned from the jungles of Vietnam when I was 4. He was violent and domineering. He lived at home with us for several years and he only added to the turmoil of the hopeless situation. Later he became Baptist and constantly attacked the Catholic Church as he attempted to convert the rest of us…. for 20 some years.

            -The suicide of another brother when I was 9. He was 16.

            - Various incidents of religious conflicts within the family. Various incidents of drug and alcohol abuse by siblings.

            - I suffered reoccurring bouts of depression. Academic failures. Relationship fiascoes and sexual addiction. I got a girl pregnant. We gave the baby up for adoption.

            - I went off to university. Partied. Cheated on my girlfriend. Had lots of sex with strangers. Got another girlfriend. Got her pregnant, then forced her into an abortion.

            - The long painful death of my mother (the only person I was ever really close to or trusted) from pancreatic cancer. Ever been up close and personal with that little malady, junior? Not a pleasant way to go, don’t ya know skippy.

            - The long painful death of my oldest brother (the Vietnam vet) from prostate cancer that metastasized throughout his entire body. Again, a very unpleasant way to rot away. I quietly reconciled with him (without words) on his deathbed simply by being there. Few words were spoken, but the ones that were, were of tearful appreciation on both our parts. Many Rosaries were silently prayed by myself as a counted the beads in my pocket.

            - My father developed dementia for the last 13 years of his life (after a couple of years of deep depression and remorse over his wife’s passing) and basically wasted away at a VA hospital until he died at the age of 95 years old. He also had a leg amputated a couple of years before he passed. He was 6 hours away. I visited him only once, I will always carry that guilt. He was basically in a constant state of sleep, so I prayed the Rosary out loud for him. I didn’t want to, but I was compelled to. I’m glad I did. Oh and, no matter how sh!tty or old your parents may have been, when they both finally pass, the unexpected feeling of orphan-hood is inescapable.

            - Reoccurring bouts of depression AND anxiety that blossomed into hypochondria (from all the cancer in my family including two additional siblings who have developed it)

            - I had been emotionally abusive to my wife for 20 years until she asked for a divorce 4 years ago. I melted-down, started to pray the Rosary again. I miraculously changed. My wife stayed. I returned to the faith in serious pursuit of conversion. My faith-journey has been tumultuous, spiritually desolating, emotionally draining….. and absolutely beautiful, all at the same time.

            There is more, but I won’t bore you anymore.

            “You called to me Oh Lord, with an unseen voice, and prodded me on with an unseen goad.” – St. Augustine of Hippo.

            So what about you babycakes? What’s the flavor of your pain? After all, suffering should rarely be contained; it is meant to be shared so it can provide spiritual growth for every soul it terrifies.

            Here endeth the lesson of the saints, junior.

          • salixbabylonica

            Hypocrisy? Where did I judge your soul, child of
            God? Or for that matter, where did I say judging was wrong? As Catholics, we’re supposed to use our brains and judge arguments on their merits, just not the state of people’s souls. Believe me, I’m more than happy to judge your post on it’s logical merits, such as they may be.

            You don’t know what I’ve suffered and I’m not going to tell you (though some of the assumptions you make are pretty comical), because it’s irrelevant to the truth value of any arguments I make. Or that Marc makes, for that matter.

            For a start, if you’re going to argue a purely ad hominem point, you should at least be basing it on accurate information about a person’s life, which as far as I can tell, you don’t have. If Marc believes the things he states here on his blog only because of his relatively innocent life (a massive assumption which is unwarranted by the facts in evidence, but for the sake of argument, I’ll go with it), that does not mean that the things he says are not true. We all of us believe lots of true things for terrible reasons. Take the fact that the earth is a sphere. I believe it for the worst possible reason from a scientific standpoint: pure authority – somebody told me that when I was a child. But just because I believe the world is round for a lousy reason doesn’t mean it’s flat.

            I hazarded a very broad guess as to the nature of your sufferings, which you confirmed as accurate. They are indeed pretty typical Western problems. Hardly a fun life that I’d wish on my friends, but wisdom is not a matter of what you go through but how you respond to your opportunities in life. I’m sure you know full well that the sufferings that resulted from your sins were self inflicted. Who has more wisdom, the man who sticks his hand on a stove and after being burned, learns not to touch hot things? Or the man who has enough sense not to stick his hand on the stove in the first place? It’s great if you used the pain your sins caused you to repent, but it doesn’t make you better or wiser than the man who didn’t sin in the first place. In truth, if his avoidance of sin is based on deliberate choice and not mere lack of opportunity, he is holier than you are and you should respect that and try to learn from it. (General principle here, not speaking of any particular person as “holier than thou.”)

            You want to take a lesson from the saints? Try St. Therese of the Child Jesus – just as much a Doctor of the Church as St. Augustine. Or St. Dominic Savio. Or the really obvious one: Our Blessed Mother. As a sinless teenager with few life experiences, she already had far more spiritual wisdom to impart than all your sins and sufferings could ever teach you.

            I was originally going to answer your comment in a similar tone (Sarcasm? Bring it, baby. I learned it at the feet of a man who makes you look like a toothless kitten), but I decided to take you at face value as a serious Christian, instead of as a troll, who gets off on riling people up.
            God knows if any of what you’ve said is real, but here’s some serious, honest advice from one married Christian to another: Contempt is a marriage killer. You can learn another way to argue, and you need to. The people you
            talk to online are real people, real children of God, and if you cultivate a habit of argument where you use cutting sarcasm, contempt, and belittling to make your points, you will take that habit with you into the rest of your life. Invective is great fun and all that, but cruelty and contempt are attitudes ill befitting to a Christian, whose life should be conformed to love.

          • Strife

            “Hypocrisy? Where did I judge your soul, child of

            I didn’t label you a hypocrite for judging my soul, and neither was I judging junior’s soul.

            Are you always this easily confused?

            Let’s try this again: You accused me of attacking the character of junior- and I am, because his character is relevant to and inseparable from the purpose of his message .

            However, YOUR argument is by its very nature an attack on my character as well -is it not?

            Well yes. Yes it is.

            Ergo: the entire premise of your argument is laid null and void and so are all of the points that proceed from your flawed assumption.

            So there’s that.

            “You don’t know what I’ve suffered and I’m not going to tell you (though some of the assumptions you make are pretty comical), because it’s irrelevant to the truth value of any arguments I make. Or that Marc makes, for that matter.”

            Actually no, your suffering is not irrelevant. In fact it’s as relevant as a halo is to a holy icon.

            Gee, it’s strange that an anonymous poster should be so closed-mouth when given an opportunity to share his/her pain for the benefit of all who struggle.

            Funny that.

            “but wisdom is not a matter of what you go through but how you respond to your opportunities in life.”

            What? Uhm…. one’s responses ARE dependent upon the relative experiences. Seriously. duh.

            “I’m sure you know full well that the sufferings that resulted from your sins were self inflicted.”

            Again what? Some of the suffering was self-inflicted, but the deaths of all but one of my loved ones was purely out of my hands. I don’t think you’ve experienced much death in your life.

            “It’s great if you used the pain your sins caused you to repent, but it doesn’t make you better or wiser than the man who didn’t sin in the first place.”

            I beg to differ. And so do the saints:

            “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 11:30

            “but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

            Also, you need to actually read Our Lord’s parable of the Prodigal Son.

            “Our Blessed Mother. As a sinless teenager with few life experiences, she already had far more spiritual wisdom to impart than all your sins and sufferings could ever teach you.”

            Our Blessed Mother was spared the stain of original sin. Oh and, She suffered more pain than any other mere mortal could sustain with the passion of her Son.

            So there’s that also.

            “I was originally going to answer your comment in a similar tone (Sarcasm? Bring it, baby. I learned it at the feet of a man who makes you look like a toothless kitten), but I decided to take you at face value as a serious Christian, instead of as a troll, who gets off on riling people up.”

            Suuuure. Whatever you say, pinky.

            Oh btw, did you just use sarcasm to declare that you were avoiding sarcasm?

            Well yes. Yes you did…. my little toothless kitty.


            You know, as emotionally charged up as you are over this, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to find that you’re actually Junior himself, in all his inexperienced wet-behind-the-ears armchair-exuberance. LOL

            Easy there killer, that sarcasm of yours is deadly! You’re set to break a nail or have a melt-down or sumptin. LOL

          • Catholics are evil

            Ergo? You took way to many philosophy classes in College. Since I’m not stuck in the sickness of religion, especially the Catholic Sort…I WILL judge. You “Strife” remind me of a little boy who throws sand in someone’s eye and then is surprised when they’re hit in the mouth. I mean…if it’s wrong to throw sand in someone’s eye then you punching me in the mouth just proves that you are no better than I am. You’re so full of shit you it’s coming out of your overstuffed egotistical brain. Take your head out of your Priests ass and try to live by what’s left of your precious christianity. I wonder if you even know how. Most of you christians just want to go on and on about this scripture and that. Try getting laid every now and then you pencil dicked geek.

          • Strife

            Apparently you didn’t understand a single word I said, much less comprehend my premise.

            ERGO: you didn’t realize that I am actually ADVOCATING judgement, you dimwitted silly dolt.

            And I’m not the one throwing sand, I’m the one throwing punches – and loving it. I never said it was wrong to do either, in fact (did I happen to mention?) I’M ADVOCATING IT.

            And if anyone in here is full of shit – it is you – you know-nothing mouth-breathing waste of cerebral fluid. And take my head out of my priests ass? Why? Are you feeling horny?

            “Since I’m not stuck in the sickness of religion, especially the Catholic Sort” – No no no. You’re certainly not stuck in religion, you’re merely stuck on stupid. I seriously doubt that you could even fathom the contemplative mystical complexities of Catholicism, much less the basic precepts of metaphysics.

            And try getting laid? What? If you had read any of my posts you would have seen that I have had more than my share of sex. In fact, my entire objection to the author of this article is HIS LACK OF EXPERIENCE and that includes his sexual naivety, you illiterate babbling ape.

            Thank you moron. Thank you for lowering the collective IQ of this entire thread with your incomprehensible bilge of stupidity. Everyone who reads it will be a little less intelligent from sheer cognitive osmosis. Such is the penetrating power of your infectious ignorance and your weapons-grade retardation.

            I would suggest you actually take a philosophy class or two… but then… why waste everyone’s time. Maybe you should just stick to comic books and bathroom graffiti.

            Please, for the sake of humanity, consider suicide as a viable career option…..

          • Catholics are evil

            Mystical complexities of Catholicism….wow. Did you learn that in the back room of the church?

          • Strife

            The phrase was “contemplative mystical complexities”. The two operative words are “contemplative” and “mystical”.

            Look at me: I’m trying to have an intelligent conversation with a cartoon character.

            Oh and, Catholic Churches don’t have “backrooms”, you twit.

          • Catholics are evil

            Calm down son…I will pray to the mother of mothers for your redemption.

          • Strife

            Why don’t you do something constructive like voluntary testing at the nearest medical research facility?

          • Catholics are evil

            You’re getting so worked up. I assumed someone of your obvious experience would have more patience. Try to calm down. Remember, the man in the pointy hat said even atheists go to heaven.

          • Strife

            If anyone’s getting worked up – it’s you.

            Patience is overrated, as is your opinions. And the man in the pointy hat made a sloppy theological blunder. Which is one more reason I don’t care for him.

            But more towards the source of your dysfunction: Most “atheists” aren’t Atheists at all. They’re delusional self-loathing idiots. Their belief-system is really an overt hatred of God. And of course, one cannot hate a none entity. ERGO, their hatred in and of itself is a personification of God’s real presence in their lives – albeit negative. But as is often the case, there is more truth in the negative experiences of our fears then there is in the positive aspects of our supposed “convictions”. After all, the ultimate answers often lie within our own questions. The formation of our deeper questions are always the result of a conclusive answer within the subconscious. Or as St Augustine said, within our “Cor Cordi” or “heart of hearts”.

            Besides, any true atheist should have the courage of his convictions and openly embrace his chicken-sh!t faith by committing suicide. But they rarely do, do they.

            Funny that.

          • Catholics are evil

            I think you need a hug….I’m sure your Priest would enjoy it.

          • Strife

            Your projection is casting your reflection….. f@g.

          • Catholics are evil

            Now…what would Jesus do?

          • Strife

            He would cast your sorry miserable @ss into the fires of Gehenna where “their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”

          • Catholics are evil

            There it is….but the pointy man said I get to go to screw jesus.

          • Strife

            Awwww, how sweet. Da poor widdle atheist p#ssy is all mad at big ole mean Jesus. And there it is: Angry-belief. As predicted. LOL Now try to calm down, slappy.

          • Catholics are evil

            Well thank you for the interesting and stimulating talk regarding your beliefs. I think I’ve illustrated for the people on this thread that you are mostly just a sad and angry man. I knew that if I kept you chatting you would expose your true self. To the rest of the thread…..your welcome. I win!!!

          • Strife

            On the contrary, I have put my sadness and anger on full display for everyone to see (long before you showed up in here) starting with my very first comment. Oh and, it was clearly implicit in the mini autobiography that I posted early on.

            But then, we’ve already established that your reading comprehension skills are wanting – to say the least.

            If anything, I have demonstrated that your irrational belief system is part and parcel to your equally inferior intellect and your pathetically juvenile lack of introspection, not to mention your overt self-delusion of power and grandeur.

            I’ll bet you also think you made the sun rise this morning.

            So the fact that you think you’ve actually “won” something is ….charming.

            *tee hee hee*

          • Lindsey

            This, my friend, is a very feeble attempt at loving your neighbor or practicing the love that Jesus taught us. Everyone, no matter what their beliefs, is a human being in need of love & kindness and has their own story.

            2 Timothy 2:23-25 is a beautiful verse about these kinds of arguments…

          • Strife

            You’ve taken the time to follow a thread and respond to comments made 5 months ago and then chastise me while remaining silent towards the other posters? Seriously? So you found nothing worthy of fraternal correction in a poster who goes by the name “Catholics are evil”? Really?

            How were you able to see my speck of a sin with that huge beam in your eye?

        • Randy Gritter

          This is what is known as the ad hominem fallacy. You make a response against the person and not against the person’s logic. But an argument depends on the truth of the premises and the validity of the reasoning. It does not depend on the goodness or experience of the person presenting it.

          • Strife

            Actually, you’re confused.

            Matters of faith AND the relative arguments therein (by the very spiritual nature of the topic) ARE in and of themselves “ad hominem” (or “to the man”)

            My argument AND the truth of its premise ARE the person’s spiritual development (which are intimately and inseparably tied to their words experience)

            But think about YOUR argument for a moment:

            You’re actually trying to construe theological/spiritual/moral matters as impersonal and indifferent to the very voices who are proclaiming them.

            Does that sound sensible to you?

          • salixbabylonica

            No, you are confused as to the definition of the ad hominem fallacy. Seriously, just google it and here’s what you’ll get: “Argumentum ad Hominem (abusive and circumstantial): the fallacy of attacking the character or circumstances of an individual who is advancing a statement or an argument instead of trying to disprove the truth of the statement or the soundness of the argument. Often the argument is characterized simply as a personal attack.”

            And yes, the truth of theological or moral propositions is completely independent of the moral character of the voices proclaiming them. Sorry, but this actually seems like a pretty “duh” statement to me. This entirely sensible proposition has always been held by the Church and we have any number of Renaissance popes to prove it.

          • Strife

            Uhm….. you didn’t understand my previous response did you.

            Let me try again:

            I actually rejected your misinterpretation of my argument. Your position is actually a non sequitur.

            First of all, the literal interpretation of “ad Hominem” is “to the man”.

            Secondly, your own interpretation of “abusive and circumstantial” is just that – YOUR interpretation. And it is also inaccurate. You see, the character and circumstances of any individual ARE PARAMOUNT when said individual is personally advancing a moral argument. If not, then your argument is tantamount to an advancement of hypocrisy and as such this passage of scripture is laid false and irrelevant:

            “Beware of the leaven—that is, the hypocrisy—of the Pharisees”- Luke 12:1

  • John

    Change your font, please.

  • Randy Gritter

    I wonder how far removed this is from the free will debate. If we think of ourselves as complex machines that take inputs and produce output according to a intricate set of rules then we are objects and not subjects. If that idea is taking hold then why would it surprise anyone that people would spend more and more time analyzing and less and less time acting? Modernity values analyzing. We want to understand everything. Do we value acting? Not really. Some improvements will inevitably happen because we are wired that way. There is a faith that those changes will be for the better and not for the worse but leave that aside. Progress is something we watch. We might want to be part of it but we are a small part, too small to really matter. So we just try and understand and jump on band wagons. It is the best we can do.

    The concept of God can fit into this too. Not an intimate love relationship with God that transforms us into something holy and beautiful. More of an idea where God is controlling the big picture and we are working for or against Him. We are still objects and God is the only true subject. It seems humble and pious. Yet God is all about making us subjects. Crazy God that He is.

  • Guest

    Good article. I think it would be interesting, however, to point out that when modesty resists “the allurements of fashion,” it should not be at the expense of looking

  • TB

    Great article. I think it would be interesting to point out that modesty, as it resists the “allurements of fashion” does not imply looking like a prude or out-of-date. I think often times, in efforts to be modest, people may look like they are born on the wrong century, especially women. Even though this might seem obvious, I think modesty is often associated with not looking fashionable, which shouldn’t be the case. Anyways, it’s not a criticism, but an observation. Maybe it’s material for another article! Nevertheless, it’s a good article! Sometimes the discussions of modesty gets caught in clothes, bikinis, and miniskirts. This goes straight to the definition and meaning. Solid stuff.

    • credo

      Good call, TB. I am so tired of seeing tradie women wearing bags and no makeup… as if ugly is modest and humble. I mean, we tradies love a beautiful liturgy, mock ugly “novus ordo” liturgy, and then dress ugly to mass. Well, maybe Novus Ordo is just modest and Trad Mass immodest?? (Rhetorical question… obviously.) We adorn the body because it is good and worthy of adorning… just like liturgical vessels and other liturgical objects. They are for the worship of God… we are the image of God. If they ought to be adorned, how much more we?

      • Li Min

        As a convert, when I first came into the Church, I was inspired by the nuns I had encountered. I wanted to dress in a way that I felt was simplistic and plain–so that I could think about virtue and prayer instead of fussing with clothing. Looking back, I see how my clothes were really plain and probably “ugly” to most but for me it was freedom from the “world” and I didn’t really notice it because I thought I was doing what God wanted…sorta like becoming Amish in a way (at least in dress). Now I try to dress more in a social fashion according to my age and vocation, but I do miss the days where I didn’t have to really think too much about fashion (or spending more to look right to the worldly). Sadly you have to if you want a job.

        • GoodCatholicGirl

          But there is nothing wrong or immodest about taking the time to look nice nor does it mean spending a lot of money. You can look dignified and modest and still spend little; on the other hand, you can spend a great deal and look terrible (what my mother calls “expensive bad taste”). Looking nice doesn’t make you less of a devout Catholic but you should dress to please yourself, not others.

      • anon

        There’s something to be said here for authenticity as compared with adornment. The Pope refers to make-up as costumery.

        • credo

          The current pope refers to make-up as costumery?

          • GoodCatholicGirl

            Never read/heard that but it’s so not true. Nothing immoral about make-up.

          • Mark Walker

            …and his staff and head wear? He who wears costumes should not cast the first taste judgement…

        • GoodCatholicGirl

          It’s not.

        • anon

          Francis is well aware of the obstacles to
          that encounter for both the rich and the poor. He lamented in an
          interview with EWTN in 2012 that people in developed countries worry
          more about their dogs than their children and spend untold amounts of
          money on cosmetics. More important, he argued, is the beauty of the
          Spirit, the beauty of the heart: “That has nothing to do with the
          artificial beauty of cosmetics. We wear a costume when we don’t have the
          beauty of God.” cf:

          • anon

            The simple and plain face of Our Lady of Guadalupe furthers the argument, I think. How many artists try to put make-up on their replica of OLG?! It’s not necessary. Our Lady comes in simplicity and beauty. I think we need to think more deeply about our expectations for feminine beauty. What is beauty, really? Men and women are created equal in beauty without cosmetics. We need more women to boldly proclaim this fact. You want women with proper self-image? Encourage them to profess that their face, the icon of their being, is not inherently disordered and in need of “cosmos”-etics.

          • GoodCatholicGirl

            Really? You don’t think that pictures of the saints, especially female saints aren’t idealized? You’ve never noticed the rosy cheeks and lips, the eyes that are large and luminous and enhanced by thick eyelashes? As beautiful as the pictures and portraits are, they are not natural; if anything, they are lessons in how cosmetics should be applied. I’m not so unrealistic to think that every saint displayed outward beauty and that’s fine – there is no reason why they have to but to assume that the saints’ images are display natural beauty is to not realize that these are the works of artists.

  • John Ritchie

    Fashion and culture are inextricably intertwined. There is a problem deep in the soul of man that tends to shun any form of restraint. Thus, basic underwear — various designs of shorts and t-shirts — has literally become the clothing ones sees worn in Church. More thoughts here:

  • filiusdextris

    Modesty is an act of prudence recognizing man’s fallen nature and the dangers therein. Any separate act of deliberate incite to lust is just that – a separate act of evil. Thus, walking around town naked is not sinful per se (Adam and Eve were not immodest), just imprudent. If it’s accompanied by a separate desire to cause others to sin (or not caring if they do), then those sins are separate.

  • GoodCatholicGirl

    Regarding modesty, check out Libby Ann’s entry about “Manly Modesty”. It seems most of the modesty discussions are about feminine modesty but men can also be (and very often are) quite immodest!

    • Catholics are evil

      Some men don’t know how to please their Catholic wives and they go looking for other men….

      • GoodCatholicGirl

        Oh boy, this comes out of left field. What has women cheating on their husbands have to do with the subject at hand?

        A modest man knows when be a gentleman (and knows when gentlemanly behavior can/should be thrown out the window).

        • Catholics are evil

          I”m just saying this debate about modesty and fashion is just another attempt at men telling women how they should dress, act, and behave. This antiquated belief in a dead system is NOT the answer. You all should read your own bibles. Do you think Jesus would really care what a person was wearing on the outside? These are rules made by men…and only men. Not some God.

          • GoodCatholicGirl

            Yes,the rules are made by humans (not necessarily men) but still, there is nothing wrong with looking nice and behaving in a ladylike or gentlemanly manner. Modestly and proper behavior are just offshoots of common courtesy towards others,

          • Lindsey

            A little late to this thread, but the so-called “debate” about modesty and fashion, or the idea that women and men should dress modestly is based on a respect for our brothers and sisters in Christ. As a woman, I dress modestly because not only do I not want to be objectified as an thing to be used for someone else’s enjoyment and want to be respected as a person, but also because as a Catholic and a Christian I am loving and being respectful to any men who I may be around and who if I were dressed immodestly may be led into sin.

            Also: In regards to @2a1fe4381f6b51a8d84ea8fe09c6dbf1:disqus’s remark about reading the Bible, 1 Corinthians 8:13 says “…if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.” The context of this line is a passage about doing one’s best not to lead others into sin.

            Just some food for thought. :)

          • GoodCatholicGirl

            True, you don’t want to be objectified but not just to men; anyone who sees someone dressed immodestly (or sloppily, for that matter) is going to judge you by that first impression. Unfair? Perhaps, but they have nothing else to go on until they get to know you. Then, they can just write it off to a matter of taste . . . and common sense. A “sexy” outfit may be perfectly fine in a nightclub but absolutely inappropriate in a religious setting or children’s party. That’s the key, though – dressing appropriately for the occasion.

  • Hmmm…

    Not sure what the top photo has to do with modesty. Sure the statue is of a woman covered in a veil, but sometimes covering just enough is more tempting than revealing more.

    • Jeremy Kelley

      Yes! Modesty never looked so hawt!

  • Jeremy Kelley

    You fail to address the fabulously chic clerical fashions of the principal authors and promulgators of the catechism’s teaching. Those boys are fab-ul-ou-so!

    meh #whitepeopleproblems

  • Monk

    thanks for your insights I really find them useful for me and my preaching.

  • Dagnabbit_42

    Who is Ke$ha?

    About 13 years ago we gave up cable, opting for a Netflix account. And we prefer audio talks and podcasts over the radio.

    So, I’m guessing Ke$ha is a pop star? Another Miley Cyrus clone…if I’m correctly spelling the name of the latter?

    Anyhow, it occurs to me that whatever benefit a philosophy rooted in modesty may have, there are other ways of remaining blissfully immune to fashion. What, really, does your television bring you that a selection of DVDs you take time to curate yourself would not improve? What good thing does the radio bring you that your own selection of .MP3s would not deliver in purer form?

    I don’t mean to be pushy. It works well for me and my family though.

    • Mark Walker

      Don’t really get your point…

      Yes, advertising is not the operation of a free market.
      Advertising is the antithesis of a free market.

      What your media acquisition methodology has to do with the validity of your choices compared with those of others though escapes me.

      Being unaware of some artists is no claim to fame, I discover artists all the time. I was introduced to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy this weekend.

  • guest

    strife.. why comment on the life of a young person and their suffering ( or lack of it) , when the examples you brought up of your own suffering were of your yute? it makes no sense

  • Chris R

    The popes of the last century have spoken often of the practical application of

    modesty in the modern world, as the pagan, anti-woman/ anti-family culture

    reared it’s ugly head in the west. They spoke especially of the importance of

    preserving womanly virtue in the public sphere, and modesty of dress. They knew

    it was necessary to preserve civilization. Unfortunately, most modern Catholics

    either haven’t read these things, or would rather engage in a form of moral

    relativism and judge their behavior according to what is acceptable to the

    world, with no regard for previous teaching. The language used in these posts,

    as well as the pictures presented give ample proof of how far from descent

    Christian behavior we have fallen. We have fallen so far, that shame is

    non-existant, and we don’t even recognize that we no longer have it. Once

    serious Catholics focus on loving God and neighbor first, and stop trying to

    justify living in accord with our pagan culture, perhaps they will re-discover

    shame and realize just how evil their immodest habits of speech and dress are,

    and how much damage they do to souls through these failings.

  • Ce Gzz

    I could almost stand up and shout YES YES!! The path through Chastity is teaching me great lessons, and I wonder why, even if I attended a Catholic school, I was never told anything so powerful like this!?? It is an urgent call to prepare myself better and burn the world in Christ’s Love!

  • Mark Walker

    Those church going folk had a pretty darned solid idea about Modesty’s physique back in the day… They saw fit to pass this idea on in solid marble too… Seems there’s some significant confusion on the point…

  • Mark Walker
  • Jo Jjp

    I want you to write a book about our modern age! I will buy it!

  • Jo Jjp

    I think it’s also worth noting that there is a difference between fashion and style; fashion changes, style remains… as the saying goes. Whereas fashion dictates how you should look in order to ‘fit in’ style is a way of expressing yourself through your appearance so it shouldn’t mask your true self but embellish and frame it, like a tasteful border on a photograph for example.

  • Christine V

    This article reminds me of Emily Stimpson’s new book, These Beautiful bones. She has a whole section dedicated to modesty and alot of the points made here really drive the message home.