Pope St. John Paul II once wrote in a book, entitled The Way to Christ that: “Men must be taught to love, and to love in a noble way; they must be educated in depth in this truth, that is, in the fact that a woman is a person and not simply an object.” In truth wouldn’t every young girl and woman on earth love for boys and men to receive such an education? I was pondering on this thought the other day when ascending the escalator from a London Underground Tube station, as the following strapline above an advertisement for a fashion show caught my eye: “A dress doesn’t have to be short to be revealing.” And underneath was a photo of a young woman admiring a beautiful and very elegant evening gown. The point being that (as the old adage goes) it’s not what you wear but the way you wear it that counts. In other words our style of dress, be we women or men (but especially women I think) should say something noble about our personality, or enhance the nobility of our inner dignity and not just draw the eye to what St. John Paul would call the “sexual values” of a person.
So as I ponder on the eternal relevance of the virtue of modesty, which is not just about the way we dress and what we might or might not prefer our growing sons and daughters to wear; it is also about our mental and emotional attitude toward all sorts of attractive things in life: food, drink, luxuries, as well as the opposite sex etc. Modesty in all things, as the saying goes, is a golden rule for a simple and uncomplicated life.
One final thought about modesty of dress though is this. Another word for fashion is “mode”. So when we look at the word “mode” and then add “st” we get “mode-st” – “modest”. But then if we take “mode” and add “St” (i.e. Saint or saint for saintliness/sanctity) then we begin to see the virtue of modesty afresh because when we see how being properly attired can help us grow in holiness, then to be “modeST” really is part of our overall path to saintliness and the heavenly court where we will all be robed in God’s glorious light, truth and beauty.
This weekend I will be on pilgrimage to the famous shrine of Our Blessed Lady at Walsingham in Norfolk, England, an ancient shrine dedicated to the simple beautiful Catholic truth that Mary of Nazareth is the one who can bring us to follow Christ simply. I will pray for all readers of this weekly blog at the ancient shrine and entrust you, your families and your loved ones to her maternal intercession.