Saturday, October 24, 2009

Saint Augustine's Letter to Proba on Prayer

In the "New Covenant" made by our Creator God with humanity (Jeremiah 31:31-34) every person can know God from within - because the Holy Spirit is revealing our Creator to all who are willing to know the Lord and trust in Him. We can still help each other along the way; so may you be pleased to find here a variety of helps to the life of faith in God through Jesus Christ. G.S.

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From a letter to Proba by Saint Augustine, bishop

Liturgy of the Hours, Vol. IV, pp. 407-9; 412-3; 416-8; 421-2; 425-6; 429-30. Office of Readings - 29th week Ordinary Time

Why in our fear of not praying as we should, do we turn to so many things, to find what we should pray for? Why do we not say instead, in the words of the psalm: I have asked one thing from the Lord, this is what I will seek: to dwell in the Lord’s house all the days of my life, to see the graciousness of the Lord, and to visit his temple. There, the days do not come and go in succession, and the beginning of one day does not mean the end of another; all days are one, simultaneously and without end, and the life lived out in these days has itself no end.

 So that we might obtain this life of happiness, he who is true life itself taught us to pray, not in many words as though speaking longer could gain us a hearing. After all, we pray to one who, as the Lord himself tells us, knows what we need before we ask for it.

Why he should ask us to pray, when he knows what we need before we ask him, may perplex us if we do not realize that our Lord and God does not want to know what we want (for he cannot fail to know it) but wants us rather to exercise our desire through our prayers, so that we may be able to receive what he is preparing to give us. His gift is very great indeed, but our capacity is too small and limited to receive it. That is why we are told: Enlarge your desires, do not bear the yoke with unbelievers.

The deeper our faith, the stronger our hope, the greater our desire, the larger will be our capacity to receive that gift, which is very great indeed. No eye has seen it; it has no color. No ear has heard it; it has no sound. It has not entered man’s heart; man’s heart must enter into it.

In this faith, hope and love we pray always with unwearied desire. However, at set times and seasons we also pray to God in words, so that by these signs we may instruct ourselves and mark the progress we have made in our desire, and spur ourselves on to deepen it. The more fervent the desire, the more worthy will be its fruit. When the Apostle tells us: Pray without ceasing, he means this: Desire unceasingly that life of happiness which is nothing if not eternal, and ask it of him who alone is able to give it.

Let us always desire the happy life from the Lord God and always pray for it. But for this very reason we turn our mind to the task of prayer at appointed hours, since that desire grows lukewarm, so to speak, from our involvement in other concerns and occupations. We remind ourselves through the words of prayer to focus our attention on the object of our desire; otherwise, the desire that began to grow lukewarm may grow chill altogether and may be totally extinguished unless it is repeatedly stirred into flame.

Therefore, when the Apostle says: Let your petitions become known before God, this should not be taken in the sense that they are in fact becoming known to God who certainly knew them even before they were made, but that they are becoming known to us before God through submission and not before men through boasting.

Since this is the case, it is not wrong or useless to pray even for a long time when there is the opportunity. I mean when it does not keep us from performing the other good and necessary actions we are obliged to do. But even in these actions, as I have said, we must always pray with that desire. To pray for a longer time is not the same as to pray by multiplying words, as some people suppose. Lengthy talk is one thing; a prayerful disposition which lasts a long time is another. For it is even written in reference to the Lord himself that he spent the night in prayer and that he prayed at great length. Was he not giving us an example by this? In time, he prays when it is appropriate; and in eternity, he hears our prayers with the Father.

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The monks in Egypt are said to offer frequent prayers, but these are very short and hurled like swift javelins. Otherwise their watchful attention, a very necessary quality for anyone at prayer, could be dulled and could disappear through protracted delays. They also clearly demonstrate through this practice that a person must not quickly divert such attention if it lasts, just as one must not allow it to be blunted if it cannot last.

Excessive talking should be kept out of prayer but that does not mean that one should not spend much time in prayer so long as a fervent attitude continues to accompany his prayer. To talk at length in prayer is to perform a necessary action with an excess of words. To spend much time in prayer is to knock with a persistent and holy fervor at the door of the one whom we beseech. This task is generally accomplished more through sighs than words, more through weeping than speech. He places our tears in his sight, and our sighs are not hidden from him, for he has established all things through his Word and does not seek human words.

We need to use words so that we may remind ourselves to consider carefully what we are asking, not so that we may think we can instruct the Lord or prevail on him.

Thus, when we say: Hallowed be your name, we are reminding ourselves to desire that his name, which in fact is always holy, should also be considered holy among men. I mean that it should


not be held in contempt. But this is a help for men, not for God.

And as for our saying: Your kingdom come, it will surely come whether we will it or not. But we are stirring up our desires for the kingdom so that it can come to us and we can deserve to reign there.

When we say: Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, we are asking him to make us obedient so that his will may be done in us as it is done in heaven by his angels.

When we say: Give us this day our daily bread, in saying this day we mean “in this world.” Here we ask for a sufficiency by specifying the most important part of it; that is, we use the word “bread” to stand for everything. Or else we are asking for the sacrament of the faithful, which is necessary in this world, not to gain temporal happiness but to gain the happiness that is everlasting.

When we say: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, we are reminding ourselves of what we must ask and what we must do in order to be worthy in turn to receive.

When we say: Lead us not into temptation, we are reminding ourselves to ask that his help may not depart from us; otherwise we could be seduced and consent to some temptation, or despair and yield to it.

When we say: Deliver us from evil, we are reminding ourselves to reflect on the fact that we do not yet enjoy the state of blessedness in which we shall suffer no evil. This is the final petition contained in the Lord’s Prayer, and it has a wide application. In this petition the Christian can utter his cries of sorrow, in it he can shed his tears, and through it he can begin, continue and conclude his prayer, whatever the distress in which he finds himself. Yes, it was very appropriate that all these truths should be entrusted to us to remember in these very words.

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Whatever be the other words we may prefer to say (words which the one praying chooses so that his disposition may become clearer to himself or which he simply adopts so that his disposition may be intensified), we say nothing that is not contained in the Lord’s Prayer, provided of course we are praying in a correct and proper way. But if anyone says something which is incompatible with this prayer of the Gospel, he is praying in the flesh, even if he is not praying sinfully. And yet I do not know how this could be termed anything but sinful, since those who are born again through the Spirit ought to pray only in the Spirit.

We read, for example: May you receive glory among all the nations as you have among us, and May your prophets prove themselves faithful. What does this mean but Hallowed be your name?

We read: Lord of power and might, touch our hearts and show us your face, and we shall be saved. What does this mean but Your kingdom come?

We read: Direct my ways by your word, and let no sin rule over me. What does this mean but Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven?

We read: Do not give me poverty or riches. What does this mean but Give us this day our daily bread?

We read: Lord, remember David and all his patient suffering, and Lord, if I have done this, if there is guilt on my hands, if I have repaid evil for evil…. What does this mean but Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us?

We read: Rescue me, God, from my enemies, deliver me from those who rise up against me. What does this mean but Deliver us from evil?

If you study every word of the petitions of Scripture, you will find, I think, nothing that is not contained and included in the Lord’s Prayer. When we pray, then, we may use different words to say the same things, but we may not say different things.

We should not hesitate to make these prayers for ourselves, for our friends, for strangers, and even for enemies, though the emotions in our heart may vary with the strength or weakness of our relationships with individuals.

You now know, I think, the attitudes you should bring to prayer, as well as the petitions you should make, and this not because of what I have taught you but thanks to the teaching of the one who has been pleased to teach us all.

We must search out the life of happiness; we must ask for it from the Lord our God. Many have discussed at great length the meaning of happiness, but surely we do not need to go to them and their long drawn out discussions. Holy Scripture says concisely and with truth: Happy is the people whose God is the Lord. We are meant to belong to that people, and to be able to see God and live with him for ever, and so the object of this command is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience and a sincere faith.

In these three qualities, “a good conscience” stands for “hope.” Faith, hope and love bring safely to God the person who prays, that is, the person who believes, who hopes, who desires, and who ponders what he is asking of the Lord in the Lord’s Prayer.

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You may still want to ask why the Apostle said: We do not know what it is right to pray for, because, surely, we cannot believe that either he or those to whom he wrote did not know the Lord’s Prayer.

He showed that he himself shared this uncertainty. Did he know what it was right to pray for when he was given a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to bruise him, so that he might not be puffed up by the greatness of what was revealed to him? Three times he asked the Lord to take it away from him, which showed that he did not know what he should ask for in prayer. At last, he heard the Lord’s answer, explaining why the prayer of so great a man was not granted, and why it was not expedient for it to be granted: My grace is sufficient for you, for power shines forth more perfectly in weakness.

In the kind of affliction, then, which can bring either good or ill, we do not know what it is right to pray for; yet, because it is difficult, troublesome and against the grain for us, weak as we are, we do what every human would do, we pray that it may be taken away from us. We owe, however, at least this much in our duty to God: if he does not take it away, we must not imagine that we are being forgotten by him but, because of our loving endurance of evil, must await greater blessings in its place. In this way, power shines forth more perfectly in weakness. These words are written to prevent us from having too great an opinion of ourselves if our prayer is granted, when we are impatient in asking for something that it would be better not to receive; and to prevent us from being dejected, and distrustful of God’s mercy toward us, if our prayer is not granted, when we ask for something that would bring us greater affliction, or completely ruin us through the corrupting influence of prosperity. In these cases we do not know what it is right to ask for in prayer.

Therefore, if something happens that we did not pray for, we must have no doubt at all that what God wants is more expedient than what we wanted ourselves. Our great Mediator gave us an example of this. After he had said: Father, if it is possible, let this cup be taken away from me, he immediately added, Yet not what I will, but what you will, Father, so transforming the human will that was his through his taking a human nature. As a consequence, and rightly so, through the obedience of one man the many are made righteous.

The person who asks for and seeks this one thing from the Lord makes his petition confidently and serenely. He has no fear that, when he receives it, it may harm him, for if this is absent, anything else he duly receives brings no benefit at all. This is the one, true and only life of happiness, that, immortal and incorruptible in body and spirit, we should contemplate the Lord’s graciousness for ever. It is for the sake of this one thing that everything else is sought and without impropriety requested. The person who has this will have all that he wants; in heaven, he will be unable to want, because he will be unable to possess anything that is unfitting.

            In heaven is the fountain of life, that we should now thirst for in prayer as long as we live in hope and do not yet see the object of our hope, under the protection of his wings in whose presence is all our desire, so that we may drink our fill from the plenty of his house and be given drink from the running stream of his delights, for with him is the fountain of life, and in his light we shall see light, when our desire will be satisfied with good things, and there will be nothing to ask for with sighs but only what we possess with joy.

            Yet, since this is that peace that surpasses all understanding, even when we ask for it in prayer we do not know how to pray for what is right. Certainly we do not know something if we cannot think of it as it really is; whatever comes to mind we reject, repudiate, find fault with; we know that this is not what we are seeking, even if we do not yet know what kind of thing it really is.

            There is then within us a kind of instructed ignorance, instructed, that is, by the Spirit of God who helps our weakness. When the Apostle said: If we hope for something we do not see, we look forward to it with patience, he added, In the same way the Spirit helps our weakness; we do not know what it is right to pray for, but the Spirit himself pleads with sighs too deep for words. He who searches hearts knows what the Spirit means, for he pleads for the saints according to God’s will.

            We must not understand by this that the Holy Spirit of God pleads for the saints as if he were someone different from what God is: in the Trinity the Spirit is the unchangeable God and one God with the Father and the Son. Scripture says: He pleads for the saints because he moves the saints to plead, just as it says: The Lord your God tests you, to know if you love him, in this sense, that he does it to enable you to know. So the Spirit moves the saints to plead with sighs too deep for words by inspiring in them a desire for the great and as yet unknown reality that we look forward to with patience. How can words express what we desire when it remains unknown? If we were entirely ignorant of it we would not desire it; again, we would not desire it or seek it with sighs, if we were able to see it.

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In the "New Covenant" made by our Creator God with humanity (Jeremiah 31:31-34) every person can know God from within - because the Holy Spirit is revealing our Creator to all who are willing to know the Lord and trust in Him. We can still help each other along the way; so may you be pleased to find here a variety of helps to the life of faith in God through Jesus Christ. G.S.

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© 2006-2021 All rights reserved Fr. Gilles Surprenant, Associate Priest of Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montreal  QC
© 2006-2021 Tous droits réservés Abbé Gilles Surprenant, Prêtre Associé de Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montréal QC
 

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Monday, July 6, 2009

MOD - Modern or Modest? - by Flavia Fernandes - Mumbai, July 2009

In the "New Covenant" made by our Creator God with humanity (Jeremiah 31:31-34) every person can know God from within - because the Holy Spirit is revealing our Creator to all who are willing to know the Lord and trust in Him. We can still help each other along the way; so may you be pleased to find here a variety of helps to the life of faith in God through Jesus Christ. G.S.

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👉 19.  MOD - Modern or Modest? - by Flavia Fernandes - Mumbai, July 2009

Scandals can come through various sources, e.g. profane paintings and sculptures, immodest dresses, loose lifestyles and even toys. All these may cause the loss of many souls. Immodesty in dress, apparent in everyday life, is the most common source of scandal. It is not only a major problem in our own times, but it is also one of the greatest stumbling blocks to our own salvation and to the salvation of others. Though modesty or immodesty is usually attributed to women, this is not entirely true, for even men may dress immodestly.

The heart of a person can be seen by how he/she attires his/her body. We have only to go back in time and reflect on how Satan duped our First Parents Adam & Eve, to see where we stand today.

Clothing has been in existence since time immemorial; in fact, since Adam and Eve. Before their fall it was Sanctifying Grace that covered their nakedness. Genesis 2:22-25 tells us “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame,” because God had created them in His own image and likeness: holy and pure; without sin, blemish, or guilt. Indeed, they were one with God and with each other.

After their fall, through the sin of Disobedience, they lost Sanctifying Grace, Integrity and Immortality: “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons… (Genesis 3:7)

By violating God’s command, their whole being, body, soul and spirit, was profoundly affected by sin. Even after covering themselves with fig leaves, Adam was still hiding from God, because he was afraid on account of his nakedness. It is from this point on that the tale began of immodest dress, which, on account of fallen human nature, arouse the base passions of men and leads them into sin. Instinctively, therefore, Adam felt that his own and his wife’s nakedness needed to be covered.

We know that leaves are fragile and would disintegrate in no time, so they could not provide the required protection. Could it be that, since these aprons did not provide enough coverage in God’s eye, “the Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of skins, and clothed them”? (Genesis 3:21)

If God had permitted nakedness, he would not have clothed our first parents. But God did want them to be clothed and so clothed them Himself! How misguided therefore are the nudists, who have created nudist colonies, thinking they are going back to nature.

It is obvious that in order to make garments of skins for our first parents, an animal had to be sacrificed to obtain the skin to cover them. This can be interpreted as being symbolic of the sacrifice of Jesus the true lamb on the cross in expiation for sin.

From the pierced side of Christ flowed the sacramental life of the Church: From the Water which cleanses, there issued forth The Sacrament of Baptism, from the Blood, which gives life, there flowed the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The Sacrament of Baptism is the first of all the Sacraments, because it makes us children of God, and because, without it, no other sacrament can be received. The white garment placed on the newly baptized signifies Sanctifying Grace that was lost as a result of Adam and Eve’s Original Sin. When the Priest lays the white garment on a baptized person he says: “… you have become a new creation and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.”

Thus it has become our duty to help others by word and example, particularly by our modesty, to keep their souls unstained. How much will we be held accountable on judgment day, if by our immodest dress, we have been the cause of the downfall of others! On the other hand, how much shall we be blessed for having been, by our modest dress, a source of good example to others!

Those who have had the misfortune of giving bad example, thus wounding souls and exposing them to eternal perdition, should take care to make reparation in this world, in order to avoid being subjected to a most terrible expiation in the next. It was not in vain that Jesus Christ cried out, “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptation comes!” (Mathew 18:7)

There was a time in history, not all that long ago, when ladies adorned themselves in apparel, which was feminine, yet graceful and altogether modest. But as years went by, the decline of our society greatly influenced the fashion industry. And so immodest fashions came into being, created by the spiritually depraved, who were eager to lead others along the same road!

Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel or Coco Chanel, as she was popularly called, was a dancer, actress and cabaret singer, before she went into designing hats and then women’s clothing. She had affairs with certain wealthy men, who financed her fashions. She created women’s clothing made out of wool jersey (stretchy knit fabric, not woven), which had been used only for men’s underwear, and she used it to make clingy dresses.

Luis Reard, a French automotive engineer who was running his mother’s lingerie business, created a two-piece “atom-sized” swimsuit for women. He named it ‘Bikini’ after the testing site, Bikini Atoll, of the atomic bomb in the Pacific Ocean. His choice of the name is so apt as the bikini too has an appalling destructive nature – destruction of Souls. Since the bikini was so tiny, none of the models in Paris would wear it on the fashion runways. So Reard hired Micheline Bernardini, whose regular job was a nude dancer at the Casino de Paris. She had “no qualms” about strolling down the runway in this bathing suit.

We now live in an age where, in the name of modernity and progress, so many people have lost all sense of modesty. Satan has duped the world via the media and carnal standards around us that nakedness is not only uncovered, but actually exalted! Another ploy of Satan is seen in clothes that fully cover the body but are so form-fitting and/or transparent that it is as if the body is fully exposed. Many Clothing Houses all over the world follow the dictates of Satan creating apparel to kill the soul. The aprons that Adam & Eve made of fig-leaves would put these apparels to shame. Fashion shows propagate such sinful apparel, which are blindly followed. We see the effects in almost all walks of life – dancers, singers, actors, sportsmen & sportswomen, cheerleaders, royalty, etc and the common people.

Different dress codes like casual, formal, informal etc. have been created by the world for different occasions like sports, meetings, funerals, receptions and even for audiences with Kings and Queens. What about the dress code “Modesty” that should be followed when we go to Church or Chapel? There is a sacred tradition dating back to biblical days that the Lord should be worshipped in holy attire – “Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name; worship the Lord in holy array” (Ps.29:2). The Church is a holy place where God himself, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, dwells in our midst: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Wearing immodest clothing in Church makes a mockery of this holy place. With what audacity do we find the King of Kings insulted in his own House by His own people who come immodestly clothed? How often our Churches on Sundays, on Solemn Feast Days of Christmas and Easter look like a fashion parade! How often do we also see the garments worn by the godparents/relatives of the child being baptised, 1st communicants, Confirmation candidates, brides and their attendants sadly lacking in modesty.

Pope Benedict XV wrote in his encyclical Sacra Propediem on January 6, 1921 (which is relevant even today):

“One cannot sufficiently deplore the blindness of so many women of every age and station. Made foolish by a desire to please, they do not see to what degree the indecency of their clothing shocks every honest man and offends God. Most of them would formerly have blushed for such apparel as for a grave fault against Christian modesty. Now it does not suffice to exhibit themselves on public thoroughfares; they do not fear to cross the threshold of churches, to assist at the Hoy Sacrifice of the Mass, and even to bear the seducing food of shameful passion to the Holy Altar, where one receives the Author of Purity.”

This story is told of Archbishop Roncalli (later Pope John XXIII) when he was Papal Nuncio in Paris (France) : He was invited to a dinner at which also a very immodestly dressed woman was present. Conscious of this open insult to his dignity as representative of the Vicar of Christ, he decided to give her a mild rebuke. After dinner, he approached the woman with an apple from a bowl of fruit and offered it to her. She replied that she had eaten sufficiently. The Cardinal, however, persisted saying gently, “But I do think you should eat this apple. The woman asked, “Why should I eat it?” The Papal Nuncio replied, “Madam, it may help you to eat the apple. It was only after Eve at the apple that she realized she was naked!”

In our days too, do many people realize they are half naked? Today, how many Catholics dress immodestly and no one seems to bother or warn them. Indeed, the road to hell is far smoother and more attractive today than ever before. Many ignore God’s Word in the Bible about modesty. Maybe that is why He has sent Our Lady time and again to warn against immodest fashions.

Our Lady revealed to Blessed Jacinta, one of the three seers of Fatima: “Fashions will be introduced, which will offend Jesus very much”.

On 25.5.1970 at San Damiano, Italy, Our Lady told Mamma Rosa Quattrini:- “Pray, pray for young people, because so many of them, by their way of life, are on the road of sin, on the road to impurity, which cause the loss of many souls. With their immodest fashions, they make heaven and earth tremble… Listen, young people, listen to Me, your Heavenly Mother. Listen to Me, while there is still time, for when you will present yourselves at God’s Tribunal, what will become of you?”

In the Marian Movement of Priests, which was established by Our Lady, She urges the faithful who support Her Movement to follow “An austere manner of life by repudiating styles which are ever increasingly provocative and indecent.” (Msg.26 Nov.1, 1973)

The Blessed Virgin Mary, herself the epitome of Modesty, would be the very BEST model of Modesty for a woman to imitate and St. Joseph her most chaste Spouse would be the BEST model for a man to imitate. In all her apparitions all over the world, Our Lady appears modestly clothed.

She is also the BEST model for mothers to imitate, when it comes to training their children in modesty. Catholic Tradition tells us that Jesus’ tunic, “woven without seam from top to bottom” (Jn.19:23) was woven by her. Now, as a loving and concerned Mother, She offers us Her treasured garb, the Brown Scapular. It is a holy garment that joins us to Mary in a mystical union. All Catholics should take advantage of this spiritual armour, which so perfectly shields us from the wiles of the wicked one. When we place ourselves under Her Blessed Mantle, we should consciously observe chastity, according to our state of life. By all means we should avoid wearing immodest clothing, for that would amount to a sacrilegious use of Her Scapular.

Jesus was stripped of the modest clothing Our Lady had made for Him, when, by the brutal scourging, the fury of Hell vented itself upon His Sacred Body. Truly He was bruised for our iniquities, for our immodesty, sensuality and immorality.

When meditating on the 10th Station of the Cross – “Jesus was stripped of his garments” :

We should remind ourselves that Jesus submitted to this ignominious suffering in order to atone for our immodest way of dressing.

We were bought with a price and hence should glorify God in our bodies (ref.1Cor.6: 19-20)

We should resolve to take corrective action to bring back Christian modesty in dress.

Mod – Modern or Modest? (Part II)       By Flavia Fernandes, Mumbai, July 2009

Guidelines for Modest Clothing

In order to take corrective action in regard to immodest dress, it is necessary to know and understand why people indulge in wearing such clothes:

Lack of knowledge of Scripture, weak faith and refusal to follow God’s commands.

The desire to look modern, attractive and acceptable to Society and/or to one’s peer-group.

Imprudent parents who accustom their children to live scantily clothed and so lose their sense of modesty.

Bad example of parents, who themselves wear immodest clothes.

Parents who encourage their own daughters to follow the latest fashions, even if they are immodest, in order to get good jobs, husbands, etc.

Desire to impress people and so exert influence upon society

Lack of time and/or expertise to make one’s own garments.

Cheaper clothing produced on a large scale versus expensive tailored ones.

The fashion industry making it hard for families to find wholesome clothing.

God has not compromised about modesty and wants His people to reflect His own Holiness. This applies both to the Old and New Testaments. If we sincerely wish to please God, we should respond to His call to seek his desires on how we should be clothed. “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7). The Holy Bible gives instructions right from Priests to the laypeople.

When God gave the 10 commandments to Moses, He also gave him various other instructions. One of the instructions about clothing for the Priests was, “And you shall make them linen breeches to cover their naked flesh; from the loins to the thighs they shall reach;” (Ex.28:42).

“A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.”(Deut.22:5). However, in our days we find more and more women wearing masculine clothing reducing the boundary line between man and woman, leading to distressing consequences in family and in society.

In Leviticus 19:28, God forbids tattooing of the body. Yet, we see some people wearing immodest clothing, showing off tattooed exposed parts of their bodies.

God says to come out and be set apart, holy and consecrated to Him. Therefore, whatever we do, everything should be done for the glory of God (ref.1 Cor.10:31)

Since faith formation is primarily given in the family, it is the bounden duty of parents and godparents to form their children firmly in the faith, so that they will not stray from it. Our Lady has warned that lack of discipline “is manifested by the flouting of those obligations which are proper to one’s state of life…” (MMP msg.169).

Lack of discipline in childhood will easily continue and reflect itself as the years go by. It manifests itself in the sharp drop of vocations to the Priesthood and to Religious Life. But even if some vocations come out of these families, they find it difficult to conform to the strict rules of their vocation and to the spirit of the founder of their Religious Society, so they try to bring in the spirit of the world into it. “Today each one tends to direct himself according to his own tastes or free choice, and with what scandalous facility are violated the norms of the Church, which have been reaffirmed again and again by the Holy Father, such as the obligation for Priests to wear the ecclesiastical dress!” (MMP Msg.169).

Here is a story from purported revelations by Our Lord to a holy old sister in Rome. It was the time soon after the 2nd Vatican Council when Religious seemed to have lost their bearings and nuns began to give up their habits in order to adopt the dress or ordinary worldly women, in the vain hope that in this way they would be able to attract young girls to the religious life. What actually happened was that thousands of nuns lost their vocation, and, God forbid that a good number of them may have lost their souls as well! Jesus was telling the aforesaid holy nun that many sisters had abandoned their habits and had turned to a worldly life. Then all of a sudden He told her to look up into the sky. At that moment a soul was crossing the sky like an arrow and plunging into hell. Jesus commented sadly that she was a nun who had adopted the minigonna, which obviously no girl should ever adopt because it invites people to lustful looks and desires and thus becomes guilty of the sins others may commit on her account!

Hence, if Priests and Nuns follow fashions, the laity would not think it amiss to do the same. Keeping God’s commands foremost in our minds, let us strive to take measures to come out of this darkness into His wonderful light. It is possible to dress modestly and yet look good.

Here are a few important points to keep in mind and remedial measures that could be taken, remembering that modesty is one of the Twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit.

A few types of clothing to be avoided:

We should remember that generally a dress becomes immodest when it tends to tightness and form-fitting, or exposes flesh and draws attention to the “body”. Hence:

where women are concerned, the immodest attires would be: sleeveless, bare midriffs, shorts, mini or micro-mini skirts, low necklines showing cleavage or more, halters, backless, off-shoulder, shoulder-less, spaghetti straps, slacks, transparent garment material; sensual styles eg. Dresses that reveal halter-straps of bras, those that have petticoat or bra patterns on the outside of the dress, those that have a slit at the skirt either at its side/s, back or front showing a lot of leg that are often more provocative than other dresses a man’s carnal nature is often stirred more by a dress that leave more to the imagination than is actually seen. Women should also be careful that their garment should not be revealing even when bending over or raising their arms.

Where men are concerned, immodest attires would be: form-fitting, transparent, sleeveless, unbuttoned shirts, exposed chests, shorts, tight trousers, trousers having pattern of briefs on the outside as popularised by the late Michael Jackson.

Some exceptions:

Where sick, old or patients having intolerable medical ailments may be allowed to wear certain clothing that could border on immodest e.g. a wider neck, thinner material, sleeveless, in order to give them relief from their physical suffering.

Remedial measures:

Follow Marylike standards for modesty in dress while purchasing or making garments, which meet this standard. According to this standard, dresses conceal rather than reveal the figure of the wearer, they do not emphasize unduly, parts of the body and have sleeves extending at least to the elbows and skirts reaching below the knees. They also require full coverage (even after jacket, cape or stole are removed) for the bodice, chest, shoulders and back; except for a cut-out about the neck not exceeding two inches below the neckline in front and in back and a corresponding two inches on the shoulders. They also avoid improper use of flesh-coloured fabrics and do not admit transparent fabrics (e.g. laces, nets, organdy, nylons, etc.) unless sufficient backing is added. However, moderate use as trimmings is acceptable. (It is said that because of impossible market conditions quarter-length sleeves are temporarily tolerated with Ecclesiastical approval until Christian womanhood again turns to Mary as the model of modesty in dress).

Make use of full cotton petticoats for all dresses.

Insert a pleat or godet into the offending slit of the skirts to cover one’s modesty.

Where sarees are concerned, they should not be draped below the navel nor tightly to accentuate the shape of the body. If the blouse is of thin material, it should have a lining. The ‘pallu’ should be draped in such a way to cover the body instead of falling loose.

In the case of ‘Salwar-kameez’, a pleat or godet should replace the slits at the sides of the Salwar and use should be made of full petticoat. The kameez too should not be of thin material as otherwise the legs could be viewed against the light.

Care should be taken when buying branded clothing as they promote certain evil tendencies e.g. ‘Killer’ jeans. Avoid buying such brands. It is safer to get clothes tailored.

Never buy/wear clothes/T-shirts that have anti-Christ symbols or messages on it e.g. “OM”, swastika, dagger. It’s an open invitation to the evil one.

Never buy/wear T-shirts with a foreign language printed on it, which you do not understand. It may have a bad or evil message on it.

Where it is impossible to redeem a garment, open it up and make a patchwork sheet/curtain/bedcovers/suitcase covers, bags, rugs or use as kitchen rags. Never give immodest clothing to charity.

If women have to wear trousers where it is the dress code laid down by the Company, hospitals, airlines etc. the women should see to it that the blouses reach well below the fork-length (at least mid-thigh) and the trousers are not form-fitting but loose enough. There could be a collective request from the staff to the management to change the dress code.

Inculcating a holy attitude by doctors, nurses and other attendants in hospitals/homes towards patients who have to expose their bodies for medical treatment or care.

Keeping the Virgin Mary as their model, those who teach tailoring should instill in their students the values of modesty and teach them to follow the tenets of modesty.

Male tailors who tailor ladies clothing should inculcate a holy attitude when measuring ladies bodies.

Certain clothing houses in some Western/Catholic countries sell only modest clothing, which can be bought online through the Internet anywhere in the world. A search of ‘Mary-like standards of dressing’ on the Internet helps not only find such clothing houses but also gives a detailed spiritual guidance on modesty.

There is an urgent need for experts to take up the challenge to teach tailoring of modest clothing, at a low cost, in our Schools/Parishes/Institutes.

Parishes could join together to place orders for modest clothes directly from the manufacturer in order to get good clothes at a cheaper rate.

Some pious practices:

Wearing clothes too can become a prayer for us as it does for a Priest. When he dresses for Mass,

The Amice reminds him of the blindfold put upon Jesus by the soldiers, when they struck Him in the face (worn in Latin-rite Masses)

The Alb reminds him of the white robe the soldiers put on Jesus when they mocked him and treated him like a fool;

The Cincture reminds him of the ropes with which Jesus was dragged from place to place;

The Maniple reminds him of the cords with which the hands of Jesus were tied (worn in Latin-rite Masses)

The Stole reminds him of the Cross Jesus carried to Calvary and on which He died;

The Chasuble reminds him of the robe which the soldiers took from Jesus when they nailed Him to the Cross

Make the Sign of the Cross before changing our clothes: to ward off any temptation, To prevent our nakedness from being exposed in case of sudden death or untoward incident. The following scripture verse, which refers primarily to the soul, may also be applied here: “Lo, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is he who is awake, keeping his garments that he may not go naked and be seen exposed!” (Rev. 16:15)

Resort to the Sacrament of Confession where Jesus awaits us with love.

We as Catholics are called to be the salt of the earth and light to the world. As we sow, so shall we reap. If we do not follow our calling, we will only invite chastisement through the likes of the Shivsainiks, Ram Senas and Talibans of this world to shame us.

May our Blessed Mother the Virgin Mary – the Woman clothed with the Sun and crowned with Stars be our model, guide and support on our journey via the narrow path through this world to our eternal home.                        👈

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In the "New Covenant" made by our Creator God with humanity (Jeremiah 31:31-34) every person can know God from within - because the Holy Spirit is revealing our Creator to all who are willing to know the Lord and trust in Him. We can still help each other along the way; so may you be pleased to find here a variety of helps to the life of faith in God through Jesus Christ. G.S.

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© 2006-2021 All rights reserved Fr. Gilles Surprenant, Associate Priest of Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montreal  QC
© 2006-2021 Tous droits réservés Abbé Gilles Surprenant, Prêtre Associé de Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montréal QC
 

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Règles du discernement des esprits de la première semaine - Selon Saint Ignace de Loyola, fondateur de la Société de Jésus au 16e siècle

In the "New Covenant" made by our Creator God with humanity, as reported in Jeremiah 31:31-34, every human being can know God from...