Modesty Matters

Summer is just such a wonderful time of year. The weather is warm and inviting, the birds are chirping and the flowers are blooming. Unfortunately with this lovely warm weather comes a barrage of skin both attractive and unattractive. In direct correlation to the temperature rise, the amount of clothing worn by many women and girls deceases, at an often alarming rate.

A few weeks ago at church I found myself sitting behind a beautiful young lady who was dressed in pajama pants and a spaghetti -strapped top that did not meet the top of her pants. She spent the entire Mass slouched in the pew picking her fingernails. Her long, fake fingernails. In spite of how annoying this was, I wasn’t really upset with the girl.

It was her mother I had the issue with.

I tend to be more formal when dressing myself and my family for Mass. My girls wear skirts and dresses and my boys wear khakis and collared shirts. No sneakers, jeans or t-shirts allowed. These rules won’t work for every family but I have made them work for mine. There are some rules that do work for every family though. In general if you wear it to the beach — don’t wear it to church, if you wear it to bed — don’t wear it to church and if you wear it to the gym — don’t wear it to church.

Here on Long Island, and I’m sure everywhere else in America, the first warm breeze blows and out come the belly buttons, upper thighs and undergarments as outer garments. I am frustrated beyond telling at the selection of clothing for girls in sizes as young as six that have less to do with enhancing their femininity and more to do with exposing flesh. This is annoying in the mall; it is outrageous in church.

We, as a society, are doing a terrible job at protecting our daughters’ virtue.

Yes, I said it. Virtue. Not a word you hear much when it comes to young women but one that needs to be shouted from the rooftops. Here is another one: Innocence. Protect their innocence. Our girls and, to a lesser extent,¬†boys, are being subjected to a marketing strategy referred to as the “tweening of America”. The term “tween” refers to the ages from nine to twelve and Madison Avenue feels they have found a gold mine in this demographic. They seem to be right, as parents line up on Saturday morning at salons to pay $45 to have their ten-year-old daughters’ hair highlighted and their twelve-year-olds’ legs waxed. Eight is the new fifteen according to the New York Times. This is sheer insanity.

To dress a six-year-old as if she were seventeen deprives her of her childhood. To allow a seventeen-year-old to dress as if her body was little more than a vehicle to display the latest trend is to deprive her of her personhood. Little girls should be dressed like little girls. They should wear clothes that celebrate their little-girlhood and announce to the world that they are beautiful as children of God, not as living racks for designer labels. To allow a twelve-year-old to dress in a manner that can only be considered provocative is to put her very soul in jeopardy. She becomes an object to be desired and possibly she becomes an occasion of sin for the boys around her. There are some genies that cannot be put back into the bottle and allowing a very young girl to display herself in a revealing way is not something a parent can allow until the age of seventeen and then suddenly develop a no tolerance policy for that kind of wardrobe and the behavior that will accompany it.

little girl outsideNow before you all start emailing me, I am not suggesting that all the girls go Amish in their clothing choices. It is possible to be stylish, pretty and covered up. I know it is; I’ve seen it happen. Right here in my own home and in the homes of my friends. Pretty girls dressed in pretty clothes appropriate to their ages and covering everything that needs to be covered. Teaching your children modesty in their clothing and in their demeanor awakens them to the fact that they are spiritual beings, designed by God for good and holy reasons. It ingrains in them a respect for the human person and gives them a dignity which they will fight mightily to retain. It will give them armor to fight the war against chastity that society will draft them into at a ridiculously young age. A strong sense of modesty will teach your children that their bodies are sacred spaces not to be abused or treated ill. They will surround themselves with like-minded peers and you will find as they get older that their inclination will be to shun what is not modest and embrace what is.

The Vatican has the same concern for your children as God does. The value placed upon preserving their innocence cannot be underestimated. In the document The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality we find this admonition:

“Parents should politely but firmly exclude any attempts to violate children’s innocence because such attempts compromise the spiritual, moral, and emotional development of growing persons who have a right to their innocence” (TMHS N. 83, emphasis mine).

Your children are created in the image and likeness of God and when they behave immodestly and dress immodestly they outrage their very Creator. When they are in church they are in the very presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Does He deserve less than what you would put them in to visit their grandparents or attend a birthday party?

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