WWMD

Thanks to all the linky love (oh sheesh, did I just say that?) from real websites like  Mark Shea’s, Bearing, Betty Beguiles, And Sometimes Tea, New Advent, Betty Duffy, Darwin Catholic, Korrektiv, Alexandria, and others, I got a lot more attention than I’m used to for all this pants stuff.  And, as Mark Shea’s readers pointed out, with great pants comes great responsibility.  Which is to say that with a bigger audience comes many more misunderstandings.

Some of that is my fault, because I dwell in the land of hyperbole.

Some of that is their fault, because they are stupid.

Some of that is  no one’s fault, exactly — it’s just that it’s human nature to hear what you think you’re going to hear, rather than what the writer is actually saying.

Danielle Bean once shared a quote from St. Therese of Liseiux:

Why should we defend ourselves when we are misunderstood  and misjudged? Let us leave that aside. Let us not say anything. It is so sweet to let others judge us in any way they like. O blessed silence, which gives so much peace to the soul!

And so, even though I heard all kinds of foolish and outlandish statements attributed to me, I really didn’t get all that upset.  I heard, for instance, that:

  • I never wear skirts (false – I do)
  • I think women who wear skirts are married to monsters (false – some are, some aren’t, just like us two-legs)
  • I think it’s stupid to try and look feminine (false – I try hard)
  • I think it’s impossible for any busy woman to do her work in skirts (false – I  happen to be a hypothyroid clod with fat, chafe-y thighs, but maybe you’re not)
  • and also that I think women should be able to wear whatever the hell they want (false – I believe it’s a matter of charity to dress modestly)
  • and that men should just use some self-control, and then it won’t matter what women wear (false – blame Adam).

Weirdly, none of that bothered me very much.  Usually nothing upsets me more than to be misunderstood, but there were so many smart and funny people who saw what I was saying, it was like being at a fantastic party with all your friends — and a couple of drunks.  Annoying, but not enough to spoil a great evening.

But I got really worked up when they started saying stuff about Mary.  I have always felt an uncomfortable distance from Mary.  I teach my children to call her “Mama Mary” in hopes that they would feel a closeness and affection to her that I never did.  Every once in a while, though, she breaks through to me.  This was one of those times.

A few women in various comment boxes said that we must wear skirts because Mary did — that even if Mary were on earth today, she would never wear pants.  They KNOW this.

Okay, you ladies who know what Mary would do.  If you can’t imagine Mary wearing pants, then try this:   imagine Mary wiping her nose, or yawning, or having heartburn.  Imagine her giving birth.  Or heck, imagine her having to go to the bathroom, but not being able to get up yet because she didn’t want to wake up the baby, who was nursing and allllmost asleep. .  . and then He bit her!  He always does that just as He’s falling asleep.  Oh, and now He’s poopy again, and she still has to go to the bathroom.

Weird, eh?  Not used to it, are you?  But there’s nothing immoral about these images.  If they bother you, because it’s not what you’re used to.  It’s not what you’re surrounded with.  Just like you’re surrounded with earnest, hard-working, kind, sincere women who have chosen to wear skirts, and so it seems utterly natural and obvious that Mary, too, would wear skirts.

How about this:  when Mary said “Fiat” to the angel, she wasn’t doing what everyone else was doing.  She wasn’t following the norm.  She wasn’t doing what all the other holy ladies in her circle were doing.  She was doing something that made her stand apart — she was responding directly to God’s will.  Mary was a BIG WEIRDO, don’t you see?  She was courageous and outlandish and incredibly tough.  She didn’t long for olden times.  She did something new.

I know it sounds like I’m equating the wearing of pants with the eternal Yes of the Mother of God.  Sorry about that!  That’s not what I mean.  I just mean that sometimes we can be blinded by what we’re used to — and that’s not a good thing, even when what we’re used to (say, good women always wearing skirts) is a good thing.

So would Mary wear pants?  I don’t know, and neither do you — she was a strange and unpredictable woman, like no other.  But she was a real woman.  If you think that Mary actually always wore blue, always had a look of fond melancholy on her face, and always held her arms at a 45-degree angle from her sides, then you are paying homage to a statue, and not to God’s real-life Mama.  And if there’s anything worse than a woman in pants, it’s an idolator.  That’s in the Old and the New Testament.

O real life Mama of God, intercede for us.  Help us to understand each other.  And if I ever sit down to write another post about pants, please make the roof fall in on me before I hit “publish.”

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  • CHM

    First!

    Also, awesome.

  • justine

    Wow. I am deeply embarrassed for you. In fact, I believe you, like Mark Shea, have embarrassed the entire Catholic community before the whole world. It is a shame you represent us publicly.

    • j harvet

      [redacted]

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

        It’s okay, Jess, Justine is cool. She’s been on this blog for a lo-o-o-o-ong time, and has long established that she is (a) a true friend and supporter and (b) a howling drunk. Thanks for coming to my defense, though! You’re a true friend, too.

        (Seriously, Justine was just kidding – she always is. You two should friend each other on Facebook – your politics are just about identical!)

        • j harvet

          Whoops. Sorry Justine. Uhh… maybe someone could, huh… you know… delete my, uh, post. Except for the multinational part. That part is cool.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

            Oh crap, I deleted it and forgot to save the multinational part. I haven’t had my coffee yet – have you? Is that baby letting you have any sleep?

          • Jess

            The baby’s sleeping, but I’m not. Was up until 1pm last night – and chatted with DH who is in Bulgaria. *sigh* Can’t wait until he his home!!! If I had a baby that cried all the time instead of this totally laid back creature, I’d go insane.

            Thanks for editing!!!

  • justine

    I hope I was one of the drunks!

  • http://hermitmama.blogspot.com/ Hermit Mama

    Well said.

  • Katie

    Ditto the “well said”.

  • http://shellyembry.blogspot.com Shelly

    This has been a little crazy around here! I do agree with you though. I especially enjoyed this post. Very well said.

  • AM

    I’m reminded of what a friend likes to tell fundamentalist types, very earnestly, when the topic of Mary comes up: “No, see, we Catholics don’t worship Mary at all; we worship STATUES of Mary.”

    • CHM

      Will be borrowing that line.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

      HA! And you know, it gets even worse — even our statues worship other statues:

      http://tinyurl.com/2altxww

    • http://catholicmutt.blogspot.com CM

      This really might be my favorite quote ever! Hilarious!!

    • Lana

      Woohee! That is funny. I’ve never used that one. I always just say that I’m a straight up Mary worshipping papist now, but never thought of that one.

  • ponypam

    I love you, Simcha. The real question is, if Mama Mary would have worn pants at all, would she have worn *whispers* jeans?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

      No, silly, she would have worn these:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyYhdY-A_Hs

      • http://steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

        I’m so T.O.ed that those are “patent pending.”

        Oh, and thanks for making me stare at butts for three minutes and thirty eight seconds. I owe you big for that.

      • Emily D

        Good God where do you find this stuff? I just found your blog maybe 5 days ago (from Conversion Diary) and I can’t stop reading it, or laughing for that matter. Thank you for being so real. (and so stinkin funny).

  • Karen LH

    This whole pants discussion has been a hoot. (My uniform is basically blue jeans, except for Sundays. If I tried to do housework or gardening in a skirt, I’d probably trip and kill myself.)

    But your post title reminded me: I’ve thought for a while that WWMD actually made more sense as a slogan than WWJD.

    • http://redcardigan.blogspot.com/ Erin Manning

      Karen, that made me smile, because when I first saw the post title all I could think of was “What weapons of mass destruction?” and was hoping that Simcha was going to go nuclear on the anti-pants crowd.

      ;)

  • http://wynnanne.blogspot.com Wordfiend

    As a non-Catholic, but Christian nevertheless, I’ve been following this discussion with some bemusement. It honestly never occurred to me that my choosing to wear pants might come between me and my God, or might be an affront to my husband. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  • http://www.bettybeguiles.com Hallie Lord

    Love this post, Simcha! It’s somehow soothing after all the craziness of the last couple of days. (And yes, you were right–it turns out this post-partum woman does have her limits.)

    :)

  • Curmudgeon

    In all of this, the comment that most haunts me is the woman who thought that while pants might be OK for some, God was calling her to wear skirts.

    I find myself contemplating this daily. Because, my sartorial choices usually revolve around the following three factors: who needs to see dressed like a grown up? Is it clean? Is it ironed?

    Now, if stuff starts showing up in my closet (or better yet, laid out on the chair), clean, pressed and accessorized, I will know what God’s will for my daily attire is.

    I am praying for that grace.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

      Doesn’t even have to be the Holy Spirit – I would definitely settle for elves.

      Seriously, I don’t doubt someone who says “God is calling me to do such-and-such.” What do I know? But I wish people would remember that there are, for want of a less hokey word, seasons of our life. We may be called to wear skirts for a time (or donate extra to the soup kitchen, or be friends with a difficult person, or home school, or have another baby, or NOT have another baby . . ) but as lay people, we don’t take VOWS for this kind of thing – it’s not a lifelong calling, necessarily.

  • justine

    j harvet,

    I’m sorry! I totally set you up on that one. I knew someone would step in my trap, and I knew I would be ashamed when it happened…but I did it anyway.

    Help! I’m a stay-at-home mom looking for ways to make myself laugh so I don’t have to do laundry!

    (It’s from the “A fan speaks” quote Simcha has on the upper right hand of her blog.)

    —Unrepentant troublemaker

    • Jess

      I’m a total trap-faller. And I didn’t even spell my own name right!

      But I did think it was funny to think that Simcha would be THE representative of the largest multi-national organization in the world…

      I almost do wish those ridiculous commenters would post again… not the sad ones, like the ones who wring ther hands wondering if God is calling them to wear skirts… but the more ridiculous ones that say “what – you want me to stop wearing underwear under my mini-skirts?”

      • http://annafirtree.livejournal.com Anna M.

        Did I really sound sad and hand-wringing when I said that I wondered if God is calling me to wear skirts? Because I’m totally not. Aside from it being a low priority question for me at the moment, the reason that I started wondering if God was calling me to wear skirts in the first place was because I find it so attractive to picture myself going around in long skirts, cute little boots, and a bandanna, like my romantic notions of what pioneer women looked like. :)

  • Jerry Bauer

    I see your point and all, so this is nit-picking I guess, but the Church teaches that Mary never “gave birth.”

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

      Huh? How so? The Church teaches that she remained a virgin, and there are +traditions+ which suggest that she felt no pain, but I’m not sure what you are referring to.

      • Christina

        Some Catholics believe that because Mary was a virgin before, DURING, and after birth that she didn’t actually give birth. Instead they believe that Jesus just “appeared” in her arms, or something like that. I don’t buy it, but I have heard it several times.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

          It is Church teaching that Mary is “ever-virgin,” which means, yes, even during the birth. However, as Steve pointed out, being a virgin is not the same as having an intact hymen. There is, as far as I know, no official teaching about whether or not her hymen remained intact; but we must believe that she never had intercourse, which makes her a virgin. (I mean, if your nine-year-old daughter had a sports injury that ruptured her hymen, she’d still be a virgin, yes?)

          • Christina

            I agree with you and Steve completely. I am just saying what some people (including Jerry Bauer?) believe since you didn’t seem to know what he was talking about. I think she gave birth in the same manner as the rest of us, but to some that statement is blasphemous.

          • http://ayoungmomsmusings.blogspot.com/ Young Mom

            Um, Jesus just “appeared” in her arms? That seems just slightly crazy. Even the arguement that she gave birth without pain seems ridiculous to me. But I guess one of the things I’ve loved the most about the Catholic Church is the emphasis on the Humanity of Jesus and Mary.

    • Christopher Milton

      Wait, what? Is that dogma? Did Jesus climb out through her belly button or something?

      • SteveG

        No, it is not a dogma, it’s something very, very fringe.

        Some people hold that something like an unnatural birth happened. I once read one guy describing it as Jesus passing through her belly like light through a glass. in other words, one moment he was in her womb, and the next he was outside it.

        The thinking is I suppose is that if he came out the ‘normal’ way, her virginity would have been lost because of the breaking of the hymen (sorry to be so graphic).

        Fortunately, this argument is nonsense because we all know that an intact hymen is not the same thing as virginity.

        As Simcha pointed out, the concept that maybe she felt no labor pain during birth has been talked about at various times throughout church history. The thinking here is that one of the curses of original sin was that God greatly increased Eve’s pain in childbirth, and as a result of the immaculate conception, Mary wouldn’t have to suffer that curse.

        Note though that it says that labor pains were ‘greatly increased’ indicating that they existed before the fall as well.

        Anyway, when I studied this a few years ago, I couldn’t find any evidence that this was dogma either, but I could be wrong on that count.

        • http://babiesbottomsandmore.wordpress.com babiesbottomsandmore

          Although, on the other hand, death is also punishment for sin and Jesus died. I can’t imagine Mary asking to be let off when Jesus didn’t.

          I read some Catholic blog somewhere saying it was nearly blasphemous to suggest that Jesus had a placenta, which seemed pretty ridiculous to me. Next we’ll be arguing that Jesus and Mary never went to the bathroom or smelled bad.

          • Tonia

            Jesus peed? I bet next you’ll be saying he pooped, too.

            The shame.

          • http://catholicanuck.blogspot.com JP

            I think the real question is this:

            Did Mary have stretch marks?

            Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

          • Kelly

            Unnecessary.

          • Peter

            Try harder…you can do it! Resist!

        • http://lettersto.us MightyMighty @ Letters

          Thanks SteveG! This has always appalled me. As someone who has given birth twice now, I resent the implication that there was something impure about that. (Yes, go forth and multiply, you nasty, biologically-based married whore!) Sure, God can do whatever he likes, and if he wanted Mary to have an unusual birth, that’s fine.

          But there is no scripture or strong tradition to suggest that she did. So it comes across as theologians saying, “Ewww, labor and delivery is gross. Mary would never have done that! A woman is only a virgin if her lady parts are tight!” That’s a problem because:

          1.) we don’t get to decide what Mary “never” would have done based on it being “gross” (seriously–did she not have to deal with the infant’s tendency to not walk himself to the bathroom? He never spit up? or burped? or entertained the family with rumble pants during those adorable fist few weeks?) and

          2.) birth isn’t gross. A bit messy and graphic, but also highly symbolic of motherhood. Labor is a lot like dying, and through that death we find life. and

          3.) What about Revelations 12:1-2, “A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.” The Church has long understood Mary to be the woman and the child to be Christ. Why pretend that scripture doesn’t refer to her birth pains?

  • Elaine Miletic

    Does the church teach that Mary never gave birth, or is that coming from private revelation to some saints, and not proposed for all Catholics to believe?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

      I don’t understand what the original commenter meant by “she never gave birth.” Clearly Jesus passed from her womb into the outside world, and that’s how I define “giving birth.” I really don’t get this! There was a medieval

  • Curmudgeon

    Um, the church does not teach that Mary did not “give birth.” There is a theological opinion, but not doctrine, that since labor was the curse of Eve, and Mary was free of original sin that therefore she was spared the pains of labor. But if Jesus was “born of the Virgin Mary”, then she gave birth. Just painlessly.

    As to Mary being spared from labor, it should be noted that the other two curses in Genesis were ‘working by the sweat of your brow’ and death. However, Jesus both worked (and probably sweated) and died. (As did Mary for that matter.) So, if he was not exempt from these, why would Mary have been?

    And, to top it off, Catholics are not fundamentalists and don’t take these passages from Genesis literally.

    • Christopher Milton

      I’m finding that the Church teaches that she didn’t feel pain, but did give birth.

      This blog has a helpful post, and the guy is the host of Catholic Answers Live.

      http://seizethedei.blogspot.com/

      A relevant part:

      The Catholic Church includes the following prayer in one of the Prefaces for the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

      “In your divine wisdom you planned the redemption of the human race and decreed that the new Eve should stand by the cross of the new Adam: as she became his mother by the power of the Holy Spirit, so, by a new gift of your love, she was to be a partner in his passion, and she who had given him birth without the pains of childbirth was to endure the greatest of pains in bringing forth to new life the family of your Church.”

  • Rachel

    I have never commented on a blog before, but I just can’t help myself. I am a practicing Catholic and never even knew some people were making this an issue. Simcha, thanks for your amusing and straight-to-the-point insight. My husband and I have enjoyed these posts very much! Also, I can’t help but wonder– there are over 1 million abortions a year in this country alone, and some people are worried about women wearing pants? Is it just me, or do we have priority issues?

    • http://fumblingtowardgrace.wordpress.com Sarah

      Rachel,

      I couldn’t help thinking the same thing myself. People are dying every day and all this dude can think of is to tell women to ditch their pants. D’oh!

  • http://www.thecottagechild.blogspot.com the cottage child

    I’m so confused – should I be wearing blue pants?

  • Tiffany

    I bet she felt pain. But she probably did the super-holy equivalent of hypno-birthing or something.

  • Valerie

    This is a great post, Simcha. You are an excellent writer and I have really enjoyed reading your blog so far!

    I have to make a smallish point about Mary and the whole pants vs. skirts thing. It’s a historical note really. If you look at the way ALL people dressed back in the time when Jesus, Mary, and Joseph lived, you’ll find that men quite often wore what could be seen as a predecessor to the modern dress or skirt. From the neck down, most men and women’s dress of that era was nearly identical. The real difference between men’s and women’s dress then had to do with head coverings (or lack thereof). Yes, there were probably cultures whose men (and perhaps women too) wore something akin to pants back then but I don’t think that most Hebrew people and Gentiles of the peasant and lower middle classes would have worn something like pants.

    I guess my point is that the idea of men wearing pants and women wearing skirts is a much more modern one. This means that those who would employ the Scripture verse about women not dressing as men do to justify the idea that women should ONLY skirts/dresses ALL the time really have no understanding of that verse or the audience for which it was originally intended. In other words, Mary wore a dress/tunic because EVERYONE in her time wore them — NOT because she was a woman. She wore a veil/mantle because she was a woman.

    Valerie (from the board)

    • Tonia

      Thank you, Valerie.

      My response to the “Mary always wore skirts/dresses” argument has always been “So did Jesus!” So if I’m supposed to wear one, so do all the men in my life.

      • http://babiesbottomsandmore.wordpress.com babiesbottomsandmore

        Cassocks for everyone!

  • http://www.KateWicker.com Kate Wicker @ Momopoly

    I haven’t been commenting, but I’ve been following all of this with interest, and some of the comments really bemused me. I happen to love fashion and skirts, but I also happen to be trying to homeschool my oldest and prevent my youngest from killing herself and/or consuming an entire meal of crayons while also keeping the middle child entertained with coloring and I was up three times last night at the present moment. Yesterday I discovered a snake in my laundry room and had to go Crocodile Dundee on it and wrangle it into a net and get it out of my house. So, yeah, sometimes I don’t even wear nice, tailored pants but workout shorts and a t-shirt (the t-shirt I happen to be donning at this very moment is emblazoned with “Catholic,” however). My husband and I have a date night tonight, and I’ll be putting on a lovely skirt then – or maybe even an A-line skirt (how holy is that?).

    I don’t mean to undermine others’ beliefs or vocations, but there have been many times in the blogosphere when I’ve been blown away by how impassioned people get about things that really don’t seem like moral issues at all. Funny thing is in college I wore skirts all of the time. I went to Mass in them, too, but my skirts were a bit on the short side and weren’t nearly as modest as they should have been. I was spending a lot of time working on looking feminine and pretty. Now I spend less; yet, I think I’m at a better place in terms of my faith life. I haven’t let myself go or anything, and I believe I’m finally beginning to strike a balance between vanity and taking care of this temple and adorning it appropriately. I’m certainly not going to start feeling guilty or like less of a Catholic because I don’t wear skirts every day.

    Anyway, I’m rambling here, but I really admire you, Simcha, for putting yourself out there and risking being misunderstood. I’ve found myself more fearful to broach more controversial topics ever since I received emails calling me a “simpleton breeder” and a “dog who needed to be sent to obedience school” after I explained why I nurse (discreetly) at Mass. What strikes me in both of these “debates” (the skirt one and the breastfeeding at Mass one) is that it’s not the actual nursing or the actual pants-wearing that necessarily bothers people, it’s the idea of nursing (oh, how scandalous. I can’t see a thing, but I know those are exposed breasts under there!) and the morality or at least the attitude of the woman who wears the pants, not the pants themselves that cause the commotion. But it’s clear you’re a faithful woman who has chosen to wear pants. There are faithful women who choose to only wear skirts, too. I just wish all of us would just do as every good teacher admonishes and “Keep your eyes on your own work!”

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

      Thank you, Kate. (Yeah, I got compared to a dog a few times, too, which is why I haven’t posted my email yet . . )

      I know I get combative at times, but generally my purpose is not to change anyone’s mind, but to reassure a certain population (usually young women) that they’re not crazy or evil.

      I really think you ought to rethink having breasts, though. That’s just disgusting.

      • AnneG

        Y’all are not crazy or evil. I think you are great. I’ve really enjoyed reading this, even though I am old enough to be y’alls mother.

        BTW the Church does teach that Jesus was born, implying the usual way: “Born of the Virgen Mary” from the Creed.

        Thanks for the pantslaughs. AnneG in NC

  • Lynette

    I have been following your blog for a few months (thanks to Jen at Conversion Diary) and I LOVE it! My best friend in the whole world has 7 kids and I have told her she MUST follow your blog… you have so many of the same experiences… LOL

    I came from an extremely fundamentalist protestant background to the Catholic faith (where I am free, so free!!) and heard this stupid pants/skirt debate my whole life. I love your take on it — especially the “creeps” part… That is SOOO true!! It’s not the clothes so much as chicks with brains that scare these idiots who only *think* they’re smart. Thanks for the laughs and your razor-sharp wit.

    And for now for the real reason I’m commenting for the first time ever (LOL)…. I just endured being majorly misunderstood by an in-law yesterday who, in turn, lit the family grapevine on fire with their misunderstanding and now the whole family is pissed at me — sigh. So your quote from St. Therese was EXACTLY what I needed today. Of course, considering the fact that I seem to be misunderstood A LOT, I think I need to memorize that quote and use it as a guard over my mouth when I get verbal diarrhea trying to defend myself all the time (which only serves to make things worse — ever notice that? — they don’t want to understand you, they just want to pick a fight).

    So, from one misunderstood pants wearer/defender to another, Kudos!! You rock! =D

  • barboo77

    I would have to think that Mary would feel something in labor otherwise it would have been a scary shock when Jesus just popped out with no warning.

    I often think about the normal things that Mary would have had to deal with as a wife and mother and the normal kid things that Jesus would have done that are not sins (especially before the age of reason)…like knocking over a cup of milk or having an emotional meltdown from being over-tired or hungry. Sometimes I imagine Mary being frazzled from the strain and responsibility…but of course turning to God for comfort instead of wallowing in self-pity.

    And even if Mary was sinless, Joseph wasn’t. Poor Joseph. Women tend to think everything is the man’s fault anyways, but in that family everything HAD to be Joseph’s fault because the rest of his family was incapable of sinning.

    • Denise

      “Women tend to think everything is the man’s fault anyways, but in that family everything HAD to be Joseph’s fault because the rest of his family was incapable of sinning.”

      Oh, goodness – I had never thought of that before. Thanks for highlighting it! It’s awesome the new (to me) ideas that I glean from blogs like Simcha’s.

      Simcha – great post again. If people had a strong response to your message, it was obviously something that needed to be aired and talked about, is how my thinking goes. Kudos for being willing to put yourself out there to make it happen. And I’m going to frame that quote from St. Therese, can’t believe I ever forgot it.

      WWMD. Absolutely. (WWJD is great, too, of course, because that’s what Mary herself would point to.)

    • Tiffany

      This made me LOL!

  • Jerry Bauer

    Here’s a book chapter with some citations on the topic of perpetual virginity “before, during, and after” childbirth: http://ur.ly/lJZu

    Here is a blog post with some more: http://ur.ly/lNR4

  • mandamum

    Simcha,

    Thank you for your thoughtful observations on this issue. I think there are perhaps two goods that could be seen to be in balance (or tension?)–the good of looking perhaps more feminine in a well-chosen skirt in an age of gender-neutralism, and the good of looking “normal” to those who might be interested in what you and your life has to say about faith in God. I think it is possible for each of us to be called to one or the other good, and perhaps to different ones in different seasons, as you say.

    It is good that priests and nuns stand out as a visible witness that there is “something different” about them. But if all of us laypeople also stand out as different (even “weird”) then there are those who will never be reached by our message. We the laypeople are the ones who are called to witness in the lay sphere.

    I would even propose that sometimes, modesty includes not *standing out* unnecessarily. It doesn’t take prairie dresses for you to stand out as different–I saw a group of young women climbing a mountain in Ireland all in skirts, and I immediately thought, “Regnum Christe” and I was RIGHT! Their skirts in unusual circumstances told me who they were–but this is appropriate to their state of life and not necessarily to mine. And someone who is spooked by their life might be attracted by the joy in yours and “sucked in” before realizing you were one of those “God-people” too.

    There is much freedom in the Church when choosing among good things. I am one of those people who feels “called” to dress a certain way–but that’s just with my shoulders covered in public. Big deal. I doubt anyone notices, and I don’t really notice whether others are “shoulder-coverers” or not. It’s mainly a tiny bit of obedience from me. Not something I have to revisit day-to-day, or something I prayed much about, but something that sort of lay heavy on me until I took it up, way back in college. And, like eating meat on Fridays, something that works in harmony with charity when needed. Thank goodness the Holy Spirit can give us clarity on what each of us are called to in being faithful and modest, as in so many areas (especially as we guide our families) where we choose from among good things.

    –Amanda

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

      “There is much freedom in the Church when choosing among good things.”

      Excellent. I love this.

      • Abby

        I think we’re thinking along the right lines, now: it all has to do with charism. There are people who are called to bring the Gospel to the world by fitting in, and there are people who are called to bring the Gospel to the world by standing out.

        • http://arlinghaus.typepad.com bearing

          Abby — Awesome insight.

  • http://paleeocon.wordpress.com/ Big Tex

    After all this, being (in my opinion) an intelligent drunk, I need a beer. Prost!

    • Martha

      Zum Wohl!

  • gussie

    My understanding of Church teaching on the Virgin birth (I could be wrong) is that Jesus was not born by passing through the birth canal as most babies do. He was brought forth in a miraculous way without opening Mary’s body. Here is a quote from http://www.ewtn.com/library/CATECHSM/MOSTCAT.htm:

    “The teaching of the Church, already in the oldest creeds which call her “ever-virgin” tells us she remained a virgin during and after His birth. Some have tried to say the teaching on her virginity was not physical, but just a way of expressing her holiness. But it is more than that: Vatican II (LG # 57) wrote that His birth “did not diminish, but consecrated her virginal integrity.” That word “integrity” refers to physical condition.”

    • Elaine Miletic

      If this were true then why did Mary and Joseph offer two turtle doves as a replacement sacrifice for the first to open his mother’s womb. That was the law; the first to open the womb belonged to God and the parents had to offer a replacement sacrifice. So, if Jesus did not open the womb, why the sacrifice of the two turle doves?

  • Clare

    But I really don’t think a broken hymen is a measure of physical virginity. Virginity relates to sexual relations. Penetration CAN break the hymen, but so can horseback riding.

  • gussie

    It seems to me the hymen isn’t really the focus, it’s penetration, and “opening.” I don’t know, not an expert here, just how I’ve heard it explained.

  • http://agreatdeception.blogspot.com jenny

    I cannot believe that someone just wrote the word “penetration” in a comment thread speculating on the virginity of the Blessed Mother… But then, I can’t believe many of the non sequiturs uttered by freaky-deaky traddies who’ve been blowing up your blog over the past couple days.

    You’re freaking hilarious, Simcha. Keep it coming. Pants party! Or skirt party! Depends on the temperature and relative humidity! (Let’s be honest, this is really all about climate change, isn’t it?)

  • gussie

    Uh, in the discussion of virginity that word usually comes up. these posts should probably be up above carrying on that earlier discussion, then you could skip them. Sorry to expose you to such graphic irreverence.

  • Christopher Milton

    I’m just trying to imagine, or rather not imagine, what kind of sports injury Simcha is talking about. Seriously, my wife and I are just starting the family, but is there some sort of special book I need to read if we have a daughter?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

      Horseback riding?

      If you have daughters, it’s your job as a father to buy a shotgun, not read anatomy books.

      • Christopher Milton

        I get to buy a gun!!! FUN!

        • Martha

          Don’t forget the shovel.

          • http://steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

            Martha’s right. It’s too late to think of that when you’ve already got blood on your hands. Think like a boyscout and be prepared.

  • Martha

    “Fond melancholy.”

    Ha! Nice observation.

  • From the anatomy lab

    An Important fact to remember for this discussion: the hymen is not a solid membrane, not a “veil” as I have seen it described, but more like a ring of tissue surrounding the vaginal opening. Google image for clarity; this is how God designed it. Think: if it were a thin tissue of membrane without an opening, every virgin would die of blood poisoning with her onset of menses.

    To think that an opening could accomodate a birth is certainly a miraculous possibility. But I’ll tell you something else: you’re going to get the same mentality arguing against that as you did for sola skirtura. I’ll get the popcorn…

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

      Oh, mercy, NO! I’ll go all Elizabeth Foss on you all and just close comments.

      It’s threads like this that remind me how weird our faith is. (I’d be worried if it made perfect sense; but still — WEEEIRD.)

      • Jerry Bauer

        Weird how? If Ambrose, Augustine, Aquinas, and various popes have spoken on this, what’s weird? Do you mean foreign, difficult to assent to, or something else?

        Given all its backers, surely this is not an optional belief. Not looking for a quarrel, but it was you who brought up imagining Mary giving birth.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

          Sorry, I wrote that in a hurry – I meant the whole faith is weird. The Incarnation, transubstantiation, a God who suffers, you name it. I am teaching my fifth child the basics of the faith, and find myself explaining the inexplicable over and over again – and I encourage the kids admit that, yes, this is very, very strange stuff.

          I really don’t have a strong opinion about whether or not Mary’s hymen remained intact, and don’t intend to argue about that with anyone.

          • http://steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

            I have this same problem. Sometimes my kids ask me a question, and as I begin to answer it all I can think is, “This is so bizarre, it sounds like I’m making this up.”

        • SteveG

          Mary did give birth, virginally. The links you provide, as well as the comments by the fathers and the popes do not tell us exactly what this means, and they don’t say Jesus did not come through the birth canal. They only say that whatever happened, it didn’t violate her virginity.

          To say that she ‘never gave birth’ as you did above is flat wrong. You seem to be going much further than the church on this.

          • http://ayoungmomsmusings.blogspot.com/ Young Mom

            Um, seriously! Will fundamentalism never end? This is alot of obsession over the state of the Virgin Mother’s vagina, just a bit scary in my opinion. Couldn’t this type of thinking make people obsess and bring their young daughters into the obgyn like every few months to check to make sure that the hymen hasn’t mysteriously dissapeared? WAAAYYY to much thinking has gone into this. Fundies never cease to amaze me.

      • http://catholicanuck.blogspot.com jp

        Simcha,

        I am so glad I am not the only loyal Catholic who sometimes thinks the Church is weird! LOL.

    • Kelly

      Sola Skirtura. I think that’s about the funniest word I have heard in a LONG time. I am definitely using that one in the future.

  • Jennifer “the cornless hussy”

    I don’t usually leave a comment since it’s hard to do with my arms at a 45 degree angle like this but I am seriously about to pee myself over the fact that this has turned into a discussion of the hymen.

    • http://empressg1973.blogspot.com Nina

      But would that be peeing your *pants* or your notpants?

      • Tonia

        Obviously not pants. You can’t fasten pants with your arms out like that. (Skirts you can crawl into like a caterpillar are much easier!)

  • Jess

    It times like these that I think our government DOES have some wisdom with the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. I mean really…

    • gussie

      I think this is the best policy on this question. I was taught the “miraculous birth” theory in a religion class long ago. I don’t know if that teacher was fringe or not. But I have decided, reading all this, that it really is not my concern, and if wise church fathers and doctors and popes have spoken on it, fine, but I am a simple pants-wearing schlep and it really is uncomfortable to think about or talk about. Above my pay-grade, so to speak. If I ever get a pointed question from my kids I guess I will say, well we don’t really need to know the details do we? I prefer to think of the whole beautiful nativity scene and focus on the gift of the Incarnation. I left the discussion earlier to go make a baking soda volcano for my son’s first grade class (yes I wore pants, and they were probably too tight as I am getting fatter, but hey it was just first graders). Something about that experience, or maybe the carpool line, brought this discussion into perspective for me.

      Simcha I have been following your blog for a little while. I never comment on blogs but the pants debate changed that. I did want to tell you, since I’m commenting now, that I appreciate your blog very much, and it brings much needed comic relief to my life. I had a depressing, inferiority-complex time for a little while looking for inspiration or something and finding instead only perfect, more-catholic-than-me mom blogs. Your blog is just what I needed.

      And now that I have decided not to think about how Jesus was born, I am going to show Pingu to my kids for the first time. Thanks for that too!

    • Kevin

      I have come to the conclusion that part of becoming a mature Catholic is learning when to answer a theological or putatively moral question with, “It doesn’t matter.”

      In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas.

  • Jess

    One more observation… children at the ages of 5 or 6 start to ask “where do babies come from” – but parents don’t really answer their question with a medical textbook, but give them the answer that they can handle (“Mommy’s belly” or the like).

    When children get older, and start to figure out that they don’t REALLY want he answer because they get an inkling of the truth, they stop asking.

    Only REALLY clueless kids keep asking, much to the chagrin of the older siblings who know that the answer will make everyone feel a-w-k-w-a-r-d!!

    So, where are we in this discussion?

  • Clare

    YES PLEASE JESS. I am regretting I even got into this. icky.

    It just bugs me when people see the natural design and behavior of the female body as somehow impure.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

    I think my main problem is that when someone says “hymen,” I think of Hyman Kaplan.

    • Martha

      I think of Hyman Roth, from The Godfather. Just one on the long list of unfortunate names.

    • Kate Gahan

      I think of a very good but extremely unfortunately named seafood restaurant in Charleston, SC.

      I really enjoy this blog. I am a new reader via Conversion Diary.

  • Curmudgeon

    Don’t ask, don’t tell! I never thought of it that way, but I did decide for myself, a long, long time ago, that it is really Mary’s business and not mine.

    As for sports injuries, or ‘experiences’, feet first off the high dive. Not to be recommended.

  • Kelly

    Simcha – okay where have you been all my life? LOL! I was stuck in the skirt/dress zone for six years almost immediately after our move to the Trad Mass. I was given many articles and books and it *did* seem to make sense at the time and I immediately made the switch and never looked back until about five months ago. I had been unhappy for a couple of years wearing skirts but at this point had brought two daughters up to wear them and felt it would be confusing to just switch on the fly (no pun intended).

    It was severe foot pain that changed everything! I was told to wear only sneakers. Yup – improper *sensible* shoes to go along with my ankle length skirts ruined my heel! Since pride has sent me to the confession line on more occasions than I care to recount, I refused to wear sneakers and skirts and portray myself as a missionary toting six children in Wal-Mart. I get enough stares as it is. I made the switch back to pants and told my girls they could make their own choice and they wear a little of both now.

    I do wear skirts on Sundays. I am still the same person on the inside and a little free-er on the outside ;) One of the other posters made a comment about Fundamental Protestantism – I find some of the hard-core Catholic dress patrol police to be one in the same with my 10 year experience sitting in the Fundamentalist pew. Even more hurtful? Making the switch has caused more than one “friend” to distance themselves out of my life. Fear makes people do odd things. What is more scary – the floor length paisley skirt, turtle-neck and birkenstocks or the occasional skinny jeans and Yankees T-shirt? Now that’s something to ponder.

  • Clare

    I would say that the occasionall Yankees t-shirt, given that the Yankees represent supreme, distilled, evil, is much scarier than any old paisley skirt.

    love from Philadelphia.

    • Kevin

      Yay to the Yankee hate…to the implied Philly support, not so much. I will forever believe that the wrong team left Philadelphia in 1955.

      And c’mon, Philly…would it kill you to lose a few more games in September?

      (Love from Braves territory.)

    • Tonia

      Better a Yankees cap than a Tomahawk chop!

      (Love from the only Dodgers fan in Georgia.)

  • Kelly

    Clare,

    I am actually a Philly fan – I just said Yankees to stir the pot in a hot topic debate ;) though I can’t say I would wear a Phillies Tee because baseball bores me to tears, but a Flyers Jersey and a nice pair of jeans – yeah.

  • Lauren

    To me, this issue just reflects the fact that a lot of people feel the need to connect a certain practice with being Catholic, when in fact, it isn’t. While the certain practice in itself can be good and harmless, what really boils my blood (like Simcha) is when poor unsuspecting women get sucked into thinking they must do a, b, and c if they call themselves a good Catholic (insert breastfeed until 2, cosleep, babywear, homeschool, WEAR SKIRTS, etc.) In my line of work (NFP), I run into a lot of difficulty with some people confusing practices for doctrine. And when it makes a poor woman’s life more difficult because it might not naturally jive with how SHE would do it in her home, that’s where I get angry. It isn’t doctrine, people, it’s diversity. Flavor. Just had to get that out.

    • Kelly

      “It isn’t doctrine, people, it’s diversity”

      THANK YOU…..JUST – THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Maggie Dee

      Thank you! I love the diversity of the “universal” church!

      P.S. – My husband got quite a kick out of signing the permission to wear pants card.

      • http://ayoungmomsmusings.blogspot.com/ Young Mom

        DIVERSITY! It’s what makes me WANT to be Catholic!

  • Elaine Miletic

    I get it how tight fitting jeans are immodest; have that fight with my daughters all the time, but what I really, really do not understand is how anyone could say that a dress is more modest! Having raised three beautiful teenage daughters I watched the men and teenage boys at church and have to say that the boys and the men do a whole lot more oggling of girls in dresses. And the dresses I am talking about are knee length or a little longer. Very 50′s looking, but very much emphasizing the female figure. Yes, they look way more femine, but yes they draw way more male attention too. And how anyone could think that bare legs with nothing blocking access is less lust causing then decent slacks fully covering the goods is beyond this gal. I guess a mother keeping an eye on the guys who are keeping an eye on her daughters has a different perspective on dress wearing.

    • Christopher Milton

      Egad! Good wo-man, mother’s watch for such a thing!?!? How did I survive being a teenager? Surely such a mother would mention it to the shotgun (and shovel) toten father….

      Solution to the barely covered goods… pants under skirts. Like skorts, but floor/ankle length, maybe with a rabid badger caged under there.

      • Elaine Miletic

        “maybe with a rabid badger caged under there”

        That’s hilarious!

      • Kevin

        Your idea sounds good at first…but it presents a moral dilemma. Because:

        a) It couldn’t possibly be morally licit to place a male badger there.

        b) But who is going to volunteer to get close enough to that rabid badger to determine its sex for you?

    • http://catholicanuck.blogspot.com JP

      I can certainly agree with you about the skirt/pant ogling dilemma!

      However I did witness a family one time…Mum and two daughters. All wearing jumper-type dresses with no waists, down to their ankles. Under this were long-sleeved turtle-necked shirts and dark stockings.

      And they all looked like they were in horror of being in contact with the many NO Mass-goers who were female and wearing pants.

      Not in the least attractive.

  • Kelsey

    It’s so funny that this whole pants discussion is happening right now. A couple of weeks ago I started wearing pants again, after 1 1/2 years of skirts only, and I was a little freaked about it. I feel like this is a sign that my decision was the right one! (For me.)

    For the record, I started wearing pants again because the skirt thing had, frankly, done it’s job. It helped me to embrace my femininity and appreciate what it means to be a woman. It made me more sensitive to modesty. It was fun. But eventually, it became a big burden and I was really only continuing it because I was too proud to admit that I could change my mind about something I had, at one point, been very convicted about. So I bought a pair of jeans – and I am thoroughly enjoying them!

  • TB

    I love you.

  • http://www.etsy.com/shop/ChavahsGarden Syd Palmer

    Like so, so, so many above, I just have to start off by saying that I love love love your blog, Simcha. Renee K-R introduced me, and it’s the only one I read and actually subscribe to because I know the delightful zaniness of the world will be highlighted, along with total groundedness. Makes my day every time. Thank you!

    And as an STL/PhD Catholic theologian, I feel called on to add a few things to the ever-virgin discussion, although I hope I don’t dampen the great, upbeat mood of this post in the recovery-from-the-pants saga! So the whole thing about the hymen: The ancient world’s definition of virginity was indeed whether or not the hymen was broken, working on the assumption that if it was broken the woman wasn’t a virgin. There is a very orthodox theologian (Donald Keefe, SJ) who has pointed out that our understanding of what virginity really means has grown and developed (as happens with doctrine in the Catholic Church, see Newman), so that we shouldn’t base our understanding of her ever-virgin state on the hymen’s intactness but on our belief that she never had sex, to be blunt. He points out that Jesus’ integrity as God and man is never questioned despite the fact that he had holes in his hands and feet (and side) so why should this level of argument play a role in this definition of Mary’s perpetual virginity? However, this is NOT to reduce it to some mere symbol (in the most reductive understanding of that word). We believe that she really was ever-virgin, but that has many, dare I say infinite?, levels of meaning all based on the physical reality.

    Now I’ll try to be even more brief: in both the Hebrew and the Greek texts of Gen 3, the words used for woman’s suffering are not the usual words for pain in childbirth but more often than not used for mental and spiritual anguish. They can be used for physical hardship, but are in no way specific to labor (although the noun for labor does appear there, just not with the usual cast of birth pangs vocabulary). I think this shows the spiritual aspects of motherhood, not unlike the sword piercing Mary’s heart in Simeon’s prophecy in Luke and that, in a way, birth is the easy part. It’s all the rest, the actually trying to raise kids well so that they become mature, stable people, that’s where more of the interior anguish, and joy, will come from.

    Rats, I didn’t mean for this to be a downer, but just to offer a few points of clarification. Anyway, thanks as always, Simcha!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

      Not a downer at all, Syd! I have been thinking about a few things sort of relevant to this – which may or may not be related to what you’re saying. One is that there’s always the danger of going, “Oh, we can get beyond this purely physical meaningless stuff — hymen, no hymen, whatever — it’s just a bit of skin, so how could that possibly have any significance for the salvation of the world (or whatever)? We’ve learned to get beyond that.” I’m not saying that anyone HERE is saying that – it’s just something I find myself thinking from time to time, in various contexts (besides virginal hymens!).

      I mean, it’s true that the physical aspects of what human beings, including Mary, experience are more fleeting and less profound than the eternal spiritual realities that the Church does teach definitively about — but, at the same time, God did become man — so isn’t it some kind of light heresy to say that it doesn’t actually matter what actually happened physically? I think that physical realities have spiritual truths inherent in them — not merely as tangible analogies, but actually inherent in them.

      Well, this is the part where, as you can see, I don’t really know what I’m talking about. Maybe this gets into the realm of what a symbol actually is. I know that “symbol” means more than “something that stands for something else, ” but I have a hard time following it beyond that. Personally, I can’t get myself to care very much what actually happened to Mary’s hymen (other than to warn people against thinking of her as some kind of Blue Fairy). But I can see that it might be important to try and figure it out, for theological reasons.

      I forget what the other thing is that I was planning to write, thank goodness. Talk about a downer. This is why I usually stick to fart jokes.

      • gussie

        Well now I have a question, although I was going to quit thinking about this. And maybe you know the answer, Syd. Does the Church say how Jesus was born? Is there official Church teaching? If not, I am in the “not for me to determine” camp. Not that it doesn’t matter, it certainly matters, but maybe it’s in the category of things that we just don’t know the answer to, and however much contemplating and pondering and logical reasoning we do we aren’t going to figure it out. I never knew there was debate about this before (not a topic that comes up much) but I did learn one thing and figured that’s what everyone believed. Till this came up here. So that’s my question: does the Church have an answer. Syd? Catechists? Doctors of the Church? Mystics (must provide credentials)?

        • gussie

          Sorry this question is a downer too. And I love your blog because I can be too serious and your blog always picks me up, so I apologize for any downerness I have contributed. This is one reason I usually don’t comment, I don’t have consistent coherent thoughts, and I can be a downer. I need to go back and look at that picture of your toddler raiding the cupboard, and leave the theology for my menopausal years.

        • http://www.etsy.com/shop/ChavahsGarden Syd Palmer

          Well, gussie, I’ll give you my initial take but I can look this up more thoroughly to be sure. My understanding is that the Church just says that Jesus was born. Period. Full stop. Hence all the imaginative room for the speculations that have been mentioned in other posts above, like it happened painlessly or that Jesus somehow floated out of Mary’s womb, etc. The reason there’s all this speculation is because the Church says only that he was well and truly and humanly born. I don’t think the teaching gets any more specific than that (but I’ll check). I suspect that the “without pain” etc versions came from the fact that if Jesus was born naturally and the hymen wasn’t broken (which is why the definition of her perpetual virginity includes the word “during” in the “before, during, and after” as any other reasoning for that “during” is well nigh unthinkable!), that was a somewhat logical extension. But as I said, I think that’s as far as it goes.

          And just to respond briefly to Simcha: the physical reality is indeed crucial. If I implied that it wasn’t, horrors! I just meant to say that it is crucial but our accent on which part of the physical reality is the most essential has deepened and developed, as doctrine is wont to do. (As several folks said above: a hymen can break in any number of ways, so is that really the most important part of the incarnate aspect of her perpetual virginity?) Not contradicting the past, but getting ever closer to the heart of the mystery: which includes the incarnation and physical reality.

          Ok, better stop before I get any more incoherent and rambly.

          • http://whereyoucamefrom.blogspot.com/ Katie

            If only Mary had blogged her birth story!

          • http://ayoungmomsmusings.blogspot.com/ Young Mom

            Goodness! Maybe she just had a really really stretchy-strong hymen. I really don’t think we need to prove it can happen scientifically, the Virgin Birth already falls squarely into “miracle” territory.

            Sorry, I like never comment on doctrine stuff, I must be overtired.

          • http://catholicanuck.blogspot.com jp

            FWIW:I did actually know a Catholic doctor who said he’d seen an intact hymen in a woman with several children.

            So there…

      • Kate Gahan

        This is pretty fascinating but at the same time really, really sad. The sad part for me is that I was really glad when the Latin mass came back. There are parts of the traddie thing that are really valuable but the fear has always been that it will start to cannibalize itself by focusing on trivialities. Pant/skirt wearing should be a non-issue. Ugh.

        I never heard of pant condemnation before but it is making me wonder what else may be on the list. The above post about birth-pangs made me wonder if, in some circles, an epidural (I’ve had four glorious injections) would be interpreted as interfering with one of the penalties for original sin. Although, I am pretty certain, God has ways to even up the score…like making one think homeschooling is a good idea. Is there an epidural for homeschooling? So far I’ve made do with a bottle of tequila but I may need something stronger at some point.

        You can thank me later for comment generation…

        • Barbara C.

          You know, I think I did read about some Protestant fundamentalists who believed that using pain medication during childbirth went against the penalties of original sin. I think I did read that some where…

          I didn’t use pain medications them with my past three because how not cool it was when I used them with my first…oh, and I’m scared of big needles in my spine…I’m a wuss like that. But I wear pants, what do I know?

        • Kelly

          Being in the “thick of things” you would be really surprised what other things are on the list from what type of government one should subscribe to – to negative feelings about antideprssion medication to a full pendulum swing within the homeschool world as to the TYPE of education one should give their child to yes, the ever so popular pant/dress conversations. Sigh.

          We really should just do the best we can each day and ignore/pray for the fanatics ;), do what is best for our family and keep our consciences clear by frequent reception of the Sacraments. What else is there?

        • http://exlaodicea.wordpress.com berenike

          Indeed, there was a great deal of discussion about epidurals, and not just among Sad Protestant Fundamentalists (c). Bl. Maria Beltrame (or Quattrochi, or whatever her surname was) either held it to be quite wrong, or at least had serious doubts (this is a fuzzy memory of a footnote from a slightly slanted biography, so don’t take this as any more than a starting point for reading!). Queen Victoria stopped the mouths of doubters in the UK when she insisted on chloroform, apparently (again, vague recollection of something I read somewhere).

  • Elizabeth

    I myself felt that distance from Mary. I heard a speaker at a Weekend of Grace women’s retreat talk about how Mary wants to lend us anything of hers that is better than what we have (just like our own mother’s do). The Holy Spirit tells me that, if I want to become more comfortable with Mary, I have to ask her for help every day. So I ask her to lend me her patience, her courage and her trust. It’s a lot easier to talk to her now than it used to be, but it took a lot of practice. My thinking on this is that God gives us all the saints as well as Mary and Jesus and the Holy Spirit (who I sometimes think of as the mean babysitter–which is a reflection of my own tendancy to disobedience) so that, even if we have issues with our own mothers and/or fathers, we can find someone who we will feel comfortable talking (praying) to. We project onto God, Jesus and Mary the images we have of our earthly parents. Many of your commenters clearly feel that uncomfortable distance from Mary, some due maybe to their perception of their earthly mother’s disapproval or lack of acceptance, and that perceived lack of warmth expresses itself in a somewhat intimidating dress code for Mary. My favourite mystery now is the visitation of Elizabeth by Mary. I say aloud “Mary visits Elizabeth (my name is Elizabeth too) and then I remind myself that when I’m in need, Mary will be in a hurry to reach me too (that’s the goodness of God). I recommend that any of the previous commenters who don’t feel close to Mary meditate on that mystery and say aloud “Mary visits (insert own name)” to help the healing along.

  • http://breakingground.wordpress.com/ sara

    I haven’t read all the comments thoroughly so please forgive me if I am repeating something.

    I’m a protestant so what do I know… but it seems to me that if Jesus was born of Mary then she did give birth to him. To deny it seems heretical. There, I said it. Actually, all this airy fairy poof and Jesus appeared stuff smacks of gnocticism.

    And if some folks don’t know what a virgin is, they need to go back to school. A virgin is someone who has not had sex. That’s an easy one. Give me something harder.

    Simcha, I really enjoy your blog.

  • http://www.havingleftthealtar.com/ Katherine

    Wow. I’m new to your blog but the directions this post has gone in comments is a bit …, well, I feel like my head is looking 16 directions at once.

    Anyway, I see nothing wrong with a woman wearing pants provided they are 1) modest and 2) don’t make a she look like a he.

  • Phil

    Two points ((plus one aside):

    I’ll start with the aside. I found this controversy via Google Alerts which I’ve been running for TOB and lately added modesty and chastity for my own reasons (THAT has yielded unexpected results, I’ll tell you).

    Next, your new post made me ponder another very serious way Mary was different. I’d like to add to your list her taking a vow of perpetual virginity, which was quite at odds with the ambitions of the Jewish maidens of the day. As a result she might well have been the first (and the only) girl on her block to have done so – and for blocks around, I’ll wager. Every Jewish girl hoped to be what Mary actually became, which is the mother of the Messiah. Yet, Mary’s decision led to the unbelievable, which describes my reaction to the notion that she wouldn’t wear pants.

    On a serious note, my last point is that I am a relative latecomer to practicing chastity in my own life after 30 years living in active contradiction to Chruch teaching. I have noticed that too many men and women have less than charitable views about our responsibilities toward each other, even regarding a seemingly simple and overrated virtue like chastity.

    I’m not impressed by women who claim they have no obligation to observe modesty in dress because they’re not responsible for what is male responsibility for their own problem. This debate has raged endlessly, but rarely goes to the reality that anything a woman wears that offers men the opportunity to focus on a woman’s body parts insttead of who she is as a person must be contrary to the best interests of both – and the way to true charity must be clearly indicated. To insist on the “right” to flaunt your body parts is to insist that men will view you and treat you accordingly. It may not seem fair but it is and always will be a fact, like it or not.

    However, this absurd kerfuffle about women not wearing pants raised is a disaster comparable to the way over-sensitive people of color, guilty white liberals, and a host of opportunistic race hustlers find racism in places where it is, in fact, not. The result of crying wolf so often is to make it all the more difficult to put appropriate focus on real racism when it occurs. In the same way this over-heated nonsense about women wearing pants (unless they be terribly immodest) will keep prevent agreement between men and women about why modesty in dress is about knowing other as persons and not bodies.

    So, I applaud your shutting down the extreme elements behind this false notion of modesty but I hope the Catholic blogosphere doesn’t lose sight of our responsibilities to each other regarding modesty.

    BTW, it still feels a little strange to see things this way :-).

  • Jamie Smits

    “Some of that is their fault, because they are stupid.”

    Is this what Mary would say? Maybe this whole list of comments didn’t need to happen. In fact, maybe this blog post didn’t need to happen. Satan revels in controversy, especially within the Church.

  • Faith N

    It is called a bit of twisted humour, Jamie. You may be in the wrong place! For some of us Simcha’s brand of humour is incredibly refreshing.

    Speaking of refreshing– new (to me) info on the Virgin Mary! Dr. Mark Mariavalle taught us in Mariology that the “light through glass” scenario was doctrine. I have always felt close to Mary- (pantswearer that I am, she loves me!) and this adds a whole new perspective!

    Actually, I prefer a tunic and leggings. Which rung of hell does that put me on?

  • jess

    Jamie,

    Satan revels in mediocrity. Christ didn’t bring peace but the sword. Read your bible.

    • Mercury

      Ah, yes, the “sword” line which justifies all kinds of uncharity among some Christians. “What, I’m just bringing the sword of Christ!”

      In other words: I have the right to be a humorless busybody and condemn everyone else because Christ said He’s bring a sword. Keep dreaming.

      I have a feeling he meant Faith in him would be divisive and often violently so for his followers, not that His followers should “bring a sword” and use it to swing at everyone who doesn’t agree with them.

  • AM

    I once went to an FSSP Christmas morning mass where the priest actually preached about this light-through-a-pane-of-glass thing, with great earnestness, as an issue where we must hold the line against pernicious modern heresies. He never said “hymen” but it was obvious even to me at 13 that it was about that. On Christmas morning, that was the most important thing he could find to preach on! Traddies really are their own worst enemies sometimes.

    • Peter

      See my post below…this is not a opinion without foundation in tradition and so is seemingly permissible.

      Just because ‘traddies’ like to look past 1968 doesn’t make them wrong, or their own worst enemies.

      • A different A-M

        Peter, AM didn’t say this opinion is impermissible. If the most important topic for a homily on the feast of the Nativity is light-through-glass, the priest makes himself and his crowd look bad to the rest of the Church.

        It’s as if the President spent the State of the Union address telling the nation whether to use paper or plastic shopping bags.

    • http://exlaodicea.wordpress.com berenike

      I think it’s rather beautiful. There is quite a lot in the fathers about this, is there not?

      • Peter

        It seems that the Feast of the Nativity is a most appropriate moment to preach on the unique nature of the Blessed Mother, especially in response to ‘modern heresies’ which negate or down play Our Lady’s role in salvation. One can echo Bonaventure, Augustine, Aquinas, in preaching on this…stellar company to say the least.

  • Elaine Krewer

    Wow, this has been an (ahem) interesting debate to say the least. Now it’s veered into a debate over whether Mary “really” gave birth to Jesus or not?

    On that topic, if anyone has read Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” you probably know that Macbeth was told by the witches that no man “of woman born” could ever harm him — but his mortal enemy Macduff was able to kill him because Macduff was “from his mother’s womb untimely ripped”, i.e. he was born by the medieval equivalent of a C-section. I guess I picture Jesus as having been born through a sort of miraculous C-section, which in those days would have been miraculous simply because Mary survived it.

    As for what is Church doctrine, well, the bottom line is that Mary was a perpetual virgin. The “mechanics”, for lack of a better word, of how she accomplished that while also being the mother of Jesus are best left in the “mystery” file right alongside transubstantiation and the Trinity, I suppose.

    Believe it or not, I think there are some very old books out there, based on alleged (not necessarily approved) private revelations which claim that Mary never got sick, never sweat or got dirty, never had to take a bath, and never showed her age either. Now THAT, I believe, is total horse hockey.

  • Sarah

    Simcha, you rock! Such a rebel. I have found myself repeating over and over to those in my nasty little homeschool social circle: Put a skirt on a mean woman, and she’s still a mean woman. Someone just gave me an idea for a theme party, and I just might do it. NO SKIRTS ALLOWED.

  • Kelly

    I am reminded of what St. Padre Pio says, “You must concentrate on pleasing God alone, and if He is pleased, you must be pleased.” When I was in my dresses only mode and miserable I could feel my spiritual life becoming colder and dryer. The dresses weren’t doing this to me it was my outward attitude being uncomfortable in my own skin – standing out in the crowd. I outgrew that phase, if you will.

    Now I am trying to please God in a different phase of life. I no longer feel that pius, holier than thou – I feel more like I am the every day sinner – just like everyone else. I have no need to feel like I need to stand out and make a statement. I need to work on what’s inside first.

  • gussie

    I love that quote from St. Therese! I need to put that on my fridge. About not caring how others judge us. It reminds me of something the sweet receptionist at our pediatrician’s office said to me, when I was struggling with the kids and fuming about a rude comment from someone else–”Don’t never pay nobody no mind.” That’s the short version, I could tattoo it on my hand as a reminder.

    • Denise

      ”Don’t never pay nobody no mind.”

      Oh, that is so good as the “short version”! Coming from the South originally, I can so clearly hear one of those wise-in-their-hearts sweet ladies saying it in a lovely and kind drawl…

  • Peter

    Maybe this will be useful? or at least prompt further discussion…which might not be at all useful…

    “To Eve it was said: In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children. Mary was exempt from this law, for preserving her virginal integrity inviolate she brought forth Jesus the Son of God without experiencing, as we have already said, any sense of pain.”

    (Catechism of the Council of Trent for Parish Priests, Trans., John A. McHugh, O.P., Charles J. Callan, O.P., South Bend, Ind., Marian Publications, 1972, p. 4).

    • http://www.havingleftthealtar.com/ Katherine

      See, that belief just bugs me. It is no comfort to me when giving birth that our “Mother” has not experienced this. How can you know what someone is going through if you haven’t gone through it? Jesus didn’t have original sin and yet he accepted death. Why couldn’t Mary have accepted the pain of childbirth? Even the contractions of the shrinking of the uterus after birth can be painful but she was exempt from it? That just makes her beyond my reach to relate to her. How can I bring my troubles to her if she never had morning sickness or a painful labor? Makes her seem millions of miles away to me.

      • Phil

        Katherine,

        I respect your point of view while taking exception to it. Please understand I do not intend to offend you, and I hope I can pull this off accordingly.

        I hope you can see that by your lights millions of men would never be able to turn to Mary because the male and female experience, as you infer them to be, are mutually exclusive. Yet there are many male saints totally devoted to her, and I pesonally know many men more devoted to her than me.

        Instead, I would encourage you to consider how Mary, while indeed spared the pains of childbirth and morning sickness, was later unspared when her heart was pierced repeatedly (look into the Seven Swords that pierced her heart). I think a strong case can be made that ultimately our Mother knows more about suffering than the rest of us put together. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to trade my suffereing with hers.

        The sentiments you expressed are seem natural in a time when identity politcs (i.e. if you don’t share my experience there is no value or relevance for me in yours) have bled over into our religious life. Ultimately we can trust the three Persons of the Trinity don’t need to experience the suffering of each person who ever lived in order for God, His Mother, and His saints to be the spiritual resource for which we pray.

        Try setting aside the views you expressed, contempate the suffering we know Mary DID experience, and trust her (and her Son) to be the Mother to you that Jesus intends.

        BTW, I’m not much better at this than you are, so please don’t allow yourself to feel too alone in your feelings.

        • http://www.havingleftthealtar.com/ Katherine

          Phil,

          It is true by my reasoning, men would not be able to relate to Mary in that way, but can they relate to their wives in that way either? Men simply cannot fully understand all that childbirth entails simply because they cannot experience it. That does not mean they cannot relate to Mary as Mother just as they would relate to their own mother. I do not have that luxury. I cannot relate to her as I would relate to my own mother. But this belief that Peter put up makes it hard to relate to her as a fellow Mother as well. Throw in the perfect child and a saintly husband and she is easy to see as out of reach.

          Second, while Mary MAY have been spared the pains of childbirth, whether she truly did or not is not known for certain and the Church does not dogmatically teach it either way.

          Third, granted Mary experiences many sufferings, but just as I cannot know what it was like for her, as Christ’s mother, to stand at the foot of the cross, if she did not experience the pain of childbirth then she cannot know what it is like from experience, only divine knowledge. Furthermore, I would never compare my sufferings to hers, but I would never compare them to anyone else’s either. I certainly wouldn’t say mine are worse than hers, but why would anyone compare sufferings?

          I don’t know what “identity politics” are. I despise politics and avoid it a fair amount. I do trust that God, Trinity and all, by divine knowledge understand all suffering, and perhaps Mary, by divine knowledge if she didn’t experience it, knows it too, but that doesn’t make it easier to relate. Have you never had a friend or a family member go through something painful and while you sympathized, you simply could never imagine yourself in their position? You cannot say to them, “I know how you feel.”

          I have a very hard time relating to Mary. The suggestion that she never experienced any of the inconveniences of pregnancy or the difficulties of childbirth just makes it even harder.

  • Peter

    From catholic.com…also ‘helpful’?

    Q: What, if anything, was unique or different about the physical birth of Jesus? Some of my Protestant friends claim that Jesus could not have passed through the birth canal for Mary to remain a virgin. Is this true?

    A: The Church has dogmatically defined that Mary remained a virgin her entire life. This belief has traditionally been understood by many Church Fathers and others to imply that Mary gave birth to Christ without the rupturing of her hymen. A common patristic expression connected with this idea is the description of Jesus passing from Mary’s womb “like light through glass.”

    Although this is a common idea in Christian belief, it is not required by the Church’s teaching. All that the teaching requires is the belief that Mary had no sexual contact with a man and that the birth of our Lord did not violate her virginity. If her hymen was ruptured by Jesus’ physical birth, that would not contradict what the Church has defined. Virginity is not defined by the presence of an intact hymen; after all, many women are either born without hymens or lose their hymens in ways completely unrelated to sexual contact. A hymen may be evidence of virginity but it does not constitute virginity.

  • http://www.snoringscholar.com Sarah Reinhard

    Simcha,

    As an avid pants-wearer, I’ve been enjoying all this pants-talk. But now you have crossed the line and really revved it up.

    You, my dear lady, ROCK. This picture of Mary as a WOMAN, as a PERSON, as someone APPROACHABLE…ah, you are RIGHT ON.

    So, THANK YOU for not only bringing it up, but applying it in an earthy, hands-on way, for making Mama Mary someone more than just a statue on a pedestal at the front of the church.

    Oh, and for making me laugh myself to peeing while reading this? Not so sure I’m going to thank you, but it was a bit therapeutic…

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

    (This isn’t addressed to any one in particular — I’m just jotting down what I’ve been thinking about.)

    I guess I can imagine that Mary was preserved from physical pain – because after all, her body was preserved from the corruption of death, when she was assumed body and soul into Heaven. As the vessel that held God the Son, maybe her body was spared the corruption of pain, as well. I’m far from convinced that the Church actually teaches that she didn’t suffer pain, though.

    If she was spared physical pain, I don’t buy the argument that this was +because+ of her immaculate conception. As others have pointed out, she most certainly did suffer emotional and spiritual pain — and aren’t those the result of original sin, too, just like physical pain?

    On the other hand, who knows? I don’t really see that there’s anything dangerous about believing either thing (unless you imagine that people who disagree are less holy). If the Church has rule on this,she’s done a wonderful job of keeping it a secret.

    I think that we all like Mary because she can be so many things to so many different people. In some ages, her queenship was what people focused on; in other ages, it was her docility, or her pureness, etc. Nowadays, people are obviously very confused about what it means to be a woman and a mother, and I hate the idea of (as others have pointed out) making her seem less accessible to people who need help.

  • Jay

    It has been amusing to follow these blog posts. I am also in the camp that never knew how passionate this issue is to people. I’ve been trying to read the posts but has anyone brought out the fact that men should be sporting some skirts for modesty as well? I mean really -driving to mass tonight I kept thinking about how pants can accentuate the bums of men and what about the crotch area-sorry to be so risque. Than I thought there are some horny ladies out there. Then the chorus to “all you single ladies” came to my head replaced to “all the horny ladies”. Did Jesus wear pants? I think the men’s mid section would best be covered in a tunic to help all the horny ladies out there. I am going to petition for that on the blogosphere. Help a sister out….

    • Abby
      • The Jerk

        Wait, are those men or women? I can’t tell! Why oh why don’t they wear gender specific clothing?

  • TM

    I’ve been resisting commenting on the pants topic, because I hate to get into debates, but it seems that this discussion won’t leave my head unless I write down my thoughts…

    As a theology major who wrote my thesis on modesty and purity, I’ve run across the pants argument more than once. I take pleasure in wearing skirts and in seeing them on others; however, my personal opinion is that skirts aren’t any more modest than pants.

    I wear pants most of the time (modest ones), even to Mass sometimes. As for what someone wears to Mass, it should be respectful of Our Lord Jesus, and should reflect our desire to give Him the best we have. Some people look downright ugly in a skirt and therefore, the best, most feminine/modest thing that they have to wear is pants.

    I’ve never been criticized for how I dress by a man. However, occasionally, a woman will suggest that I should be wearing skirts. I think that it is because some women who wear skirts-only enjoy feeling superior to other women in how they dress and superior to men in their ability to control their thoughts.

    My general rule of thumb is to be neither the first nor the last to adopt a custom since true modesty does not draw undue attention to self.

  • TM

    And as to the “arrow” argument (ugh)… I think that the issue is how the woman is standing, not what she is wearing. It wouldn’t look any better to stand that way in a skirt.

  • diane

    Assorted thoughts:

    I want a WWMD? bracelet.

    Parting the Red Sea or a Virgin birth-really which seems more challenging?

    I was going to say something about pants but will skirt the issue entirely.

  • Kevin

    There’s one skirt-related issue I can’t believe I didn’t bring up before.

    How does the sola skirtura crowd handle the issue of women playing sports? I can see a few possible solutions:

    1) Females get a pass for wearing pants if part of a required uniform for an otherwise beneficial activity.

    2) Females should only participate in sports that allow for the wearing of skirts.

    3) Females can participate in any sport, requiring any attire at all…so long as men are barred from watching them compete.

    And what about swimming? Should properly traditionalist women and men just stay away from the beach and the pool altogether — unless they can get to one that is either so remote or under such strict rules that there will be no risk of seeing the legs of anyone they are not closely related to?

    Oh, the conundrums here are endless…

    • Charlotte

      The uber-TRADS and SSPXers often don’t swim in public or go swimming at all. Some with money have their own swimming pools so that they and other like-minded can swim together in their swim dresses.

      There’s a very conservative Baptist college in Watertown, WI. The girls’ sports teams wear long culotte skirts/skorts. They are laughing stocks to the other Christian and Catholic colleges they play.

    • Kelly

      This sports and skirts topic is interesting to me (a re-vert pant-wearer), in particular. I grew up in public school and played all the sports available to me. I was also a gymnast and a diver in the summer. I have had to give *certain* sports some serious thought for my girls and thankfully none of them expressed an interest. I did start a field hockey team and the girls wear pleated catholic school uniform type skirts (but it’s field hockey and that’s what we wear so it’s all good), but I personally don’t have a problem with my girls playing basketball or softball or soccer or anything that wouldn’t be SUPER revealing for them. Again, COMMON sense as a Catholic.

      The whole “women playing sports” topic is often a big no-no in the more right-wing bent traddie circles. *shrug* Oh yes, having spent my teenage years as a Fundamentalist Baptist (parents decision, not mine) I remember the whole Coolots things and sports *shudder* and yes, laughing stock is very accurate.

  • http://www.yumfoodblog.blogspot.com Sandmama

    Thanks for this article. I missed the whole pants thing but I really liked your reminder to think about Mary as a real mother, as our mother.

    I do love Our Lady as a perfected wife and mother but I think I love her more as a person who lived through what we live through and far far worse! with dignity, grace, love and acceptance.

    Anyway, I really appreciated the reminder today. (Homeschooling 3, online standardized testing, clogged plumbing, husband out of town…)

    God Bless.

  • Mercury

    Kevin, I saw one trad website decrying Pope John Paul II because he encouraged boys and girls to play sports as a way to master their own bodies and thus bolster the virtue of chastity. The guy basically said the Pope was encouraging licentiousness by encouraging women to do sports. My question is, has any man who’s not a total pervert ever been turned on at a swim meet?

  • RC2

    In the UK, the Pope lit a candle to Our Lady of Cardigan. So I guess that’s part of the mystery solved.

    • http://www.farm-hijabi.blogspot.com Coffee Catholic

      I would love to see that statue!!

  • http://www.farm-hijabi.blogspot.com Coffee Catholic

    It’s not really about pants or skirts, is it? There’s a much deeper issue at hand here that has to do with gender roles, gender identity, Women’s liberation, the sexual revolution, and the extremely aggressive masculinization of women in the secular pop culture all around us.

    The blog “Tea at Trianon” stated very calmly in a pants post:

    “The Cardinal [Siri] did not think slacks on women were immodest but feared they were a symptom of the eventual and overall masculinization of women to the detriment of their role in the family and in society. In many ways, his words were prophetic.”

    Indeed. That and the objectification of women via “sexy” styles like skin-tight pants and low riding pants that display the thong to all and sundry.

    We Catholics know exactly what is and what isn’t modest when it comes to all styles of clothing, be it skirts or slacks, suits or chinos. So what is the debate????? Who cares what anyone else says. We are only bound to obey Holy Mother Church.

    That said, maybe we should have a huge “Women In Pants” day and post the pictures all over the web and send them over to that charming Taliban-esque blog…

    • http://datelineapocalypse.wordpress.com The Jerk

      How about a “Women in Huge Pants” day?

  • http://www.havingleftthealtar.com/ Katherine

    Actually, after a friend’s photo of her toddler in her diaper was linked to a porn site, my husband and I became more protective of our children’s modesty.

    We bought them these bathing suits:

    http://www.tugasunwear.com/sun_protective_girl_s_low_tide_sunsuits.html?osCsid=r11pqobdchcfj7eu7vegiou2q2

    They love them and I like how much they cover.

    Of course I couldn’t very well require them to wear modest swimwear and I not so I now wear this:

    http://www.wholesomewear.com/slimmer-c.html

    I don’t have the extended version but it is still much more modest than the other bathing suits I have (and I’m hoping will help especially with my growing baby belly).

    I take my girls to our community pool for swimming lessons. I’ve had one little boy ask me, “Is that your bathing suit?” so yes they can attract attention, but I’ve also had one mom ask me where I got them because she was appalled by all the 2 pieces on sale for her 18 month old.

    Women can and certainly should be able to play sports but that doesn’t always mean they need to show as much skin as possible.

    • NYa

      Oh, well, if that’s good, then this is better:

      http://www.ahiida.com/

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

        Now cut that out. The original poster stated that her motivation was to protect her children. I don’t go to these extremes with bathing suits, but doing so is not the same thing as REQUIRING women to cover up for the sake of men.

        If this turns into an “all modesty is just like the Taliban” conversation, I’ll just delete it all, so please let’s skip it. My apologies if I misunderstood your implication, NYa.

      • http://www.havingleftthealtar.com/ Katherine

        NYa,

        I’m honestly stunned by how rude you are. I guess I expected more from Simcha’s readers. Perhaps I am too new to her blog.

        Do you honestly think that preserving modesty has to result in head-to-toe coverings? Or are you trying to suggest that those who prefer the covering of the bathing suits I linked to are like some Muslims with their objectivistic and abusive treatment of women?

        I understand not everyone understands modesty to mean exactly the same thing. Provided no one is arguing the nudist to be modest, I don’t think it is criminal that there are minor variations in the understanding of just what is modest and what isn’t. But do you have to mock me and my children simply because you understand modesty differently?

        I only commented because Kevin brought up the issue of women playing sports. I was simply trying to give an example that women could play sports in modest attire, even if someone didn’t find the standard bathing suit modest enough. Frankly, to some extent, the same could be said for men. I, personally, am thankful college basketball is no longer played in short shorts.

        I would not call our bathing suits “extreme” either. Plenty of surfers wear suits that cover just as much. They have short sleeves and shorts all in a one-piece. That makes them “extreme”? So do people who wear shirts to go swimming qualify as “extreme” as well?

        I don’t condemn anyone for wearing the standard one-piece girls’ bathing suit. Why would our swimsuits deserve such a response?

        • Tonia

          “I was simply trying to give an example that women could play sports in modest attire, even if someone didn’t find the standard bathing suit modest enough. Frankly, to some extent, the same could be said for men. I, personally, am thankful college basketball is no longer played in short shorts.”

          Absolutely! Depending on the sport/activity, the clothing needs to be adjusted. Kevin wasn’t (I don’t think) saying that girls had to wear tight shorts to play soccer…just that they would find shorts easier than long skirts. The same is true of swimming. Any standard swimsuit would be easier than a dress.

          I agree that short shorts and speedos are more indecent than many other sports outfits I’ve seen.

          • Kelly

            Speedos are just plain disgusting – this coming from a former swimmer/diver. Just gross.

        • Mercury

          Katherine, the suits you show exceed my standards of what I think is acceptably modest. That said, you are acting from very noble reasons to protect yourself and your children, and not from the sick viewpoint of the Islamic ideal. You don’t deserve to be treated that way, especially since you didn’t criticize anyone.

          I only said at the beginning of this post that we disagree because I wanted to make it clear that we can have differing ideas without condemning or thinking ill of others.

    • Tonia

      I certainly understand the need to protect your kids from what happened to your friend’s toddler. I think the suits you found for your girls are cute! They don’t seem extreme to me, but I would swim in a tshirt and shorts if I was going to a public beach or pool where I’d encounter a lot of people I don’t know. (My suit is a one-piece with a ruffle that’s supposed to be a skirt…not as covering as yours, but it’s modest enough for me.)

      That may be the difference in all of this. What I think of as modest is different than someone else’s idea. I’m sure that goes for many of my opinions…different. It doesn’t make me weird or wrong (except where I am, I suppose). I think it behooves all of us as humans to remember that no individual is the morality judge of the planet. Nor do we have the right to wander around as self-appointed morality police.

      Which leads us back to the pants-are-wrong idea. Says who? and why? I don’t tell anyone (other than my step-children, on occasion) what to wear; I don’t take it well when others try to tell me what to wear.

    • Kevin

      Katherine, while I might not have settled on the exact same solution you did, I think your children are fortunate to have a mother who is willing to put such care and thought into finding just the right suits for her family.

      I’m sorry that my remarks on sports and swimming are threatening to start up the controversy all over again. I wasn’t intending to make trouble.

      Rather, thinking of the attire debate in that light made it look different to me, and I thought it might be enlightening to others. It certainly highlights how far outside the mainstream one must go if one takes the idea of modesty far enough. Skirts in church is one thing…skirts on the basketball court (or forbidding girls’ basketball altogether) is quite another.

      Which isn’t to say that being way out of step with society is necessarily a bad thing. It isn’t, of course, any more than it is necessarily a good thing.

      I do think, however, that the farther outside societal norms you’re going, the more certain you need to be that this is truly a necessary and vitally important and high-priority stand to take.

      • Tonia

        I agree, Kevin. Picking your battles, and knowing why you’re picking them, is important.

    • gussie

      I try to make my kids wear short sleeve swim shirts with their suits, not for modesty (their simple one-piece suits are plenty modest I think) but because they have been cursed with my superwhite Irish skin which burns and blisters even at midnight. (they can take the shirt off when the sun’s not so bad.) I wear suits from lands end usually, and I sometimes wear a coverup or rashguard just to keep from getting burned. my shoulders have been so fried I am one of those people the dermatologist likes to point at. my kids are on swim team and they don’t wear shirts for meets, but they are totally modest for the pool. It’s not like they’re in church. or a restaurant. They’re at the pool and the standard for modesty is different there. racerback, yes. thong, no.

      Someone mentioned ballet a while ago, again, different standard. same with sports. In these settings it’s clear that there is a common understanding, a mindset, that is different. My husband was a lifeguard for many years (he’s not as white as me) and we’ve talked about this–it really isn’t a turn-on to be around people in swimsuits all day.

      I found that commentary by the minister’s wife to be VERY INTERESTING. I never thought about it that way but that makes perfect sense. How sad, it is truly a warped way to view the human body.

      • gussie

        Okay I looked at the swim burqa and I think the dermatologist would approve.

  • Mercury

    What I hate about this whole debate is that it causes me now to look at women’s clothing sexually when I never did before, even when I was a man who ogled women and didn’t even attempt to screen out unchaste thoughts.

    Because of this whole stupid debate, I now notice things as “potentially immodest” or “potentially sexual” that I would have never even noticed before. It makes me feel sick, dirty, and judgmental.

    A few months ago, if I had seen a woman in shorts or a one-piece bathing suit on the beach, it would have not even registered in my mind. If she was a pretty girl, I’d notice it no matter what she was wearing. but now that I’ve been reading all this bullcrap from certain Catholics, I can’t look at anyone without thinking “I wonder if that’s immodest”

    EWTN had a show in Germany on the Sacraments with a pretty young lady interviewing a priest. She had a skirt on that showed her calves and even her knees when she sat down. Now, I would have NEVER previously thought of anything sexual about this, it never would have incited lust in me, even when I was a very unchaste man. But after I discovered Catholic modesty crusading and Catholic Puritanism, it ruined the show for me, because all I could think was “well, I see how it could be sexual or immodest, etc. ad nauseam”

    This is a sick mindset. It is not normal, and it is not becoming of a Christian.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

      That’s depressing, Mercury. I hope it’s a passing phase. Once again, it reminds me of that brilliant post by the minister’s wife, “Excessive modesty makes me feel objectified.”

      http://ayoungmomsmusings.blogspot.com/2010/08/excessive-modesty-makes-me-feel.html

    • Tonia

      Mercury, I spent far too much time at mass yesterday contemplating the mother who put a sweater on her daughter (over her strap-but-no-sleeve sundress) before Communion, but not during the rest of Mass.

      Mind you, the daughter was closer to two than 10, and it was over 90 outside. I didn’t think twice about the dress until mom added the sweater.

  • NYa

    Simcha, it’s your blog, so I’ll bow out, but I don’t get it; her motivation is to protect her children so she wears that “wholesome” swimwear over-the-topness? To me it sounds fear based and not modest.

    And no, if you’re on a competitive swim team, you can’t wear that. You’d probably drown. Yes, it’s my opinion that that swimwear is well on the way to taliban nuttiness. She doesn’t, that’s fine, but so, too, is my opinion.

    I would be just as appalled if Catholics started insisting that modest Catholic women should seriously consider that as appropriate swimwear (instead of, say, a one-piece racerback) as I am when it’s suggested that modest Catholic women should eschew pants.

    And I’m not rude, I’m just not nice. Nice bores me; I’m a NYa.

    • Kevin

      “And I’m not rude, I’m just not nice.”

      That’s a distinction without a difference, if you ask me. (And it’s exactly the sort of thing your average Internet troll tends to say in this situation.)

      But then I’m looking at it from the peculiar perspective of one who would rather run the risk of being bored than needlessly offend others.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

      She didn’t insist that everyone should wear it — she said that’s what she’s chosen for her family.

      Personally, I think the ultra-modest suits she linked to look silly, hot, and uncomfortable, but I don’t care what she wears, since she wasn’t suggesting it was for everyone. (I have no idea if she thinks they should be for everyone – I’m just going on what she said here!)

      I think that the standards for beach modesty are different from the standards for street modesty (just as street modesty is different from Church modesty, etc.). But if someone just says, “Look, we don’t like showing a lot of skin, so we wear these get-ups” is NOT the same as saying “Women’s bodies are dangerous and shameful and should be hidden” – which is what the bathing burqa says.

      Once, my daughter, who was about 2, was dancing around in just pants in front of the window – and a neighborhood boy, about 9, said, “Look, you can see her boobs!” So without thinking I ran out and threatened to break his nose, and chased him and his friends off the street. (Not the smartest move, maybe, and I’m glad no one told the police.) I’m saying that once you’ve had the experience of your children being viewed in a lecherous way by someone, you don’t know what your reaction might be.

    • Mercury

      I get your point, but I think she made it very clear she wasn’t expecting everyone to take up the same standards. I think the standards are a bit far, but she’s entitled to think that and to raise her children that way. She never accused you of sin.

      In my book, her opinion fits in with those who wear skirts always but don’t put that burden on others.

  • http://www.havingleftthealtar.com/ Katherine

    I’m originally from NY. I don’t know many NYers who are needlessly rude.

    • Mercury

      Haha, I’ve never even been to NY but I used to know many people in college (Tulane in New Orleans is live a New York outpost) who were from there, and their needless rudeness is pretty much why I’ve never been there.

      Southerners have high standards of hospitality and kindness and we DO expect it from others (probably our fault).

      Any other Southerners out there ever try to strike up a conversation with a Yankee store clerk :) ?

      • http://www.havingleftthealtar.com/ Katherine

        Mercury, LOL. I believe it. And the South is generally known for it’s hospitality, but I’ve encountered rude people everywhere.

        I didn’t say what I wanted to say very well and that is my fault.

        What I was trying to say was that being from NY is not a reason nor an excuse for being needlessly rude.

  • http://www.havingleftthealtar.com/ Katherine

    I mentioned this conversation to my husband. He said that, in Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II calls our culture a “culture of death” and urgently calls for “a general mobilization of consciences and a united ethical effort to activate a great campaign in support of life.” (95) My husband said he has wondered if, given how sexualized our society has become, “we need to build a culture that respects human sexuality and human dignity and perhaps a greater sense of modesty is necessary than the past few decades suggest.”

    Perhaps those who others view as having a more sensitive (or if you prefer the word “extreme”) interpretation of what is modest and what is not are responding to a society that has become overly sexualized. Perhaps it is their attempt to strive to live according to the Gospel in the face of a sexualized culture. To some that may mean only skirts. To others that may mean modest pants. To some it may just mean no bikinis but to others it may mean bathing suits like the ones we wear.

    I think what matters is that Christians support each other in the pursuit of sainthood regardless of where each of us is on the journey or how our paths may differ. Returning to the original subject of this post, I can imagine Mary wearing modest pants, but I cannot imagine Mary criticizing Elizabeth if she only wore skirts.

    • http://ayoungmomsmusings.blogspot.com/ Young Mom

      ” I cannot imagine Mary criticizing Elizabeth if she only wore skirts.”

      I completely agree! That’s why everyone should dress the way they feel comfortable and stop telling everyone else how their clothes could induce “sexual thoughts” or make them look “manly”. It’s as bad as approaching someone in the mall to tell them that what they are wearing makes them look fat, would ANYONE (who isn’t a complete idiot) do that?

  • Laura

    I am so disappointed I missed this post because 1.) my husband is a “Theologian to the Stars” [yeah, Benny-boy calls us all the time] and I could have had him weigh-in on the virgin birth thing, except we’ve been having this really excellent string of sleep-deprivation fights lately, so he probably would have refused and 2.) New Yorkers take PRIDE in their rudeness. Anyone claiming to be from NY and is shy about being rude is an imposter, you jackass, and 3.) I was so fat this last summer that I definitely would have worn a swimming burqua if I only knew they existed, and everyone would have thanked me.

    Too little, too late.

  • NYa

    Let’s just reiterate what went on here. Katherine comes here and posts a link to what I think is a worse-than-Amish option for contemporary swimwear. I post a link back. A link. One to a burquini. It’s funny and meant to point out that it’s just a few short steps away from the style Katherine posted. Because, well, it IS. Especially the modified one on the same page; it looks almost exactly like the one she posted. That should scare you.

    And she called me rude. So I answered: I’m not rude, I’m just not nice. I called MYSELF not nice, not anyone else. Because I’m not.

    Simcha tells me that she thinks that get up is silly, too, but because Katherine’s not telling everyone they should wear them, it’s all good. Fine; that’s her opinion. I don’t agree; I think it’s off the deep end – it calls unnecessary attention to oneself and I don’t think that’s modest. I can’t believe everyone else thinks it’s perfectly fine for a Catholic to walk around wearing that, believing that it’s normal and even good and something to be promoted. I don’t; I think that level of cover-up, like too little clothing, is also objectifying to women. I think it’s psychosexually unhealthy. I think that about Hasidic Jews, the Amish and burka-wearing Muslims; all cults that don’t do too great a job with truly loving their women. To clarify: this has nothing to do with her kids or what they wear. It’s her costume I’m pointing out. Or, rather, reacting to her pointing it out, since she was upholding it as a standard she thinks is a good level of modesty.

    Mercury: yes, she didn’t accuse me of sin, but neither did I of her.

    And then Laura thinks it’s fine to call me a jackass. Got it.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

      Listen, NYa, you are welcome to post things designed to cause upset, but please don’t do the “it was just a little joke, and besides, I was clearly right” thing. This is obviously a blog with lots of room for argument, but you have to be willing to take as good as you get. How old are you, anyway?

  • lickona

    Did you just call Korrektiv a real website? You need to sit down.

  • LAURA

    I call my children jackasses, and that’s when I like them.

  • LAURA

    My husband is jealous of my Staten Island heritage because he wishes he could use the f-word in his common parlance. I don’t, but I can if I want to.

    Speaking of bad words, could Damien be induced to write a really inspiring piece on how life is much better for people who don’t smoke? A certain man who may or may not be married to me would, I’m sure, love to read and be improved by something like that.

  • http://asksistermarymartha.blogspot.com sistermarymartha

    It continues to amaze me that people who argue in such away also expect to all sing together in heaven.

    The Catholic Church does indeed have a list of rules and “You girls can’t wear pants” is not on it.

    Mary, by the way, was born without Original Sin and therefore did not experience physical pain, especially not heartburn, as she was an excellent cook.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

      Thanks for joining in the conversation, my friend. I love a good schtick, but folks, be aware: the above is the opinion of a layperson, nothing more.

      • Mercury

        If Mary didn’t experience physical pain, then why did Jesus?

        And wouldn’t not experiencing physical pain make life difficult, since pain serves a practical function as well (get your hand off of that hot stove, a spider just bit you, you’e gotten a papercut, don’t stare at the sun, etc.) I get that her birth pains may have been mild or non-existent, but I don’t think she was like that character in that Bond movie. She was still human.

        And if Jesus Himself suffered temptations, didn’t Mary as well? (Of course the difference is that they never acted on these sins)

  • Charlotte

    OK, when the woman masquerading as “Sister Mary Martha” is even getting in on this debate, that’s kind of weird.

    Or maybe not.

  • fka

    I liked that Mark Shea posted a pic of St Gianna Molla in ski pants on his site. She’s a saint bc she had her priorities right & obviously valued her daughter’s life more than her own. Pants or no-pants wasn’t part of her saint-equation, thank the good God!

  • http://www.sherryantonettiwrites.blogspot.com Sherry

    Simcha, late to the party but realy enjoyed your post. Love the reality of Mary, the tough mother of God who took on the gift/challenge of loving God with her whole heart her whole life and the discussion of loving the statue of Mary rather than the reality.

    As for pants, I live in them. Why? I’m on the floor every day with toddlers and I have thick thighs. Nothing against dresses, but don’t remember attire being the focus, but how we conduct ourselves. Well said and kuddos on all the recognition. You deserve it!

  • agellius

    This was interesting. I consider modesty extremely important, but I don’t think pants can be immodest per se, any more than skirts can be modest per se. The key, in my opinion, with pants, dresses or skirts, is that your clothes not hug your body like a leotard — and this goes for men too.

    My wife likes to wear dresses to work and to mass, but wears pants most other times. She looks very nice either way, but in my opinion dresses look more, well, dressy. However that is not always the priority.

    My favorite part was where you said you believe in dressing modestly as an act of charity. Thank you!!

  • Robert

    It is an defined article of faith that Mary was a Virgin before, during and after the birth of Christ (De Fide)

    This was taught by several writers including Ambrose of Milan, Augustine of Hippo, and the Lateran Synod in the year 649 under Pope Martin I. The Catholic Church interprets virginity as including mental virginity (virginitas mentis), sensual virginity (virginitas sensus), that is freedom from sexual desires and corporal virginity (virginitas corporis). The dogma of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary defines the latter. Mary was always a virgin, even after giving birth to Christ. Jesus’s birth sanctified his mother’s virginity. (Wikipedia)

    (Corporal virginity, in other words, the hymen intact.)

    Catholic Encyclopedia (newadvent.org):

    The dogma which teaches that the Blessed Mother of Jesus Christ was a virgin before, during, and after the conception and birth of her Divine Son.

    The virginity of our Blessed Lady was defined under anathema in the third canon of the Lateran Council held in the time of Pope Martin I, A.D. 649. The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, as recited in the Mass, expresses belief in Christ “incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary”; the Apostles’ Creed professes that Jesus Christ “was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary”; the older form of the same creed uses the expression: “born of the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary”.

    There is much more here: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15448a.htm

    You can also read about it in Dr. Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, sold by Tan Books, a highly regarded summary of the teachings of the church.

    I’m not sure that the church has defined HOW exactly Jesus was born, HOW Mary maintained her virginity during the Birth of Jesus, just the fact that she DID maintain her virginity DURING the Birth of Jesus. I have seen theories, like the “light passing through…” theory, which is also found in Mary of Agreda’s “City of God.”

  • Sarah Dauro

    Not only did you have my big mommy catholic booty falling on the floor laughing. You are a breath of fresh air – love, love, love you!

  • http://marriedtoadeacon.blogspot.com/ Cecilia

    hee hee hee! Great post! And I’ve been picturing Mary as a real mama ever since my firstborn bit me right on the bum while a teething toddler. I hadn’t had enough sleep & wondered if Jesus ever bit her on the bum….

    oh, and I wear a veil/mantilla with pants. Even jeans. Apparently that combination upsets almost everyone in the blogosphere, ‘though I’ve never had anyone in person get all tetchy about it.

    I’m new to your blog & happy the pants talk brought me here.

  • Natalie

    Great post. :) I just have to throw this in here… with all the “virgin birth” commentators… ;)

    CCC-

    “499 The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. 154 In fact, Christ’s birth ‘did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it.’ 155 And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the “Ever-virgin.’ ”

    Ok, so we all know that’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches. We also know that there is no definitive teaching on whether He passed through her “like light through glass,” or however it may have been. However, I would just like to point out (in case anyone hasn’t already… I’m sorry I didn’t have time to read through all 200+ posts ;) ) that OBVIOUSLY virginity, as defined as such, means having no sexual relations. Ok. Now… if virginity, as related to the Church’s teaching on Mary, ONLY meant that she didn’t have sexual relations, then why would it be so important that they stress that she was a virgin DURING the birth of Christ? I mean, come on… birth is NOT sexual relations. No one is having relations while birthing! And the Church has never held that virginity only means an “intact” hymen. So that can’t be it either.

    I’ll admit this one is stumping me. Of course there are certain things that are supposed to be a mystery… after all, our own personal sexuality is a great mystery, known only to us, to God, and the one with whom we have chosen to share it if we are married. If our own sexuality is such a sacred mystery, then it shouldn’t be surprising that Mary’s, which is known only to God, should be an even greater mystery to us. But still… I’m thinking that the “light through glass” people perhaps have a point… SOMETHING different happened… otherwise there would not be such a big deal made by the Church about her being a virgin DURING the birth of Christ.

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  • http://coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com Elizabeth @ Coppertop Kitchen

    First: “it was like being at a fantastic party with all your friends — and a couple of drunks” LOL!!! Second: Having not grown up Catholic, I have always felt a distance from Mary as well; it makes me feel so surprised and amazed when people talk about their close relationships with her! I’m always much more comfortable when I think about her like a human woman, too. A woman who sometimes felt tired, or tempted, or frustrated, and was just able to respond better than I can. THAT’s an image that inspires me.

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