Genesis 4:9 - Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Stop me if you've heard this one before: Your sibling does something and gets hurt/breaks something/or just plain annoys an adult. 'Why weren't you watching him/her?' comes the question from a parent. 'It's not my *job*!' Rinse and repeat often enough, and you eventually understand - it is your job to watch out for your brother or sister.
Christians (whatever denomination you may claim), are a family. More than that, all of humanity is a family, and we have one Father - God. And the answer to that first question, 'Am I my brother's keeper?' or 'It's not my job' - is Yes. Yes, you are. It is your job.
And I fear that this has gotten lost in our society - our selfish, me and only me society has infected our faith, and we forget that we are not in this alone. Too many people have said, 'it's between me and God'. And, to a point, I won't argue that. Ultimately, your faith, your fate, and your soul is between you and God. I can't know, truly, what thoughts go into your actions, any more than you can know mine. However, while it is a personal faith, it is also a *communal* faith. The quote, 'Solo Christian is no Christian' comes to mind, though unfortunately I can't recall who to credit with the quote.
The point is this: We do not act in a vacuum. If a Christian sins, whether they are a public figure or not, whether anyone else even knows about it or not, it will affect others. For those whose lives place them in the public eye, their sins can affect the entire community. I think now of those who claim to be Christian and yet support abortion, or commit adultery. Yes, their repentance and forgiveness can only, truly, be between them and God, because only God knows if they are truly sorry for their sins, and resolved to never commit them again, and committed to healing the wounds that their sin has created in so much as that is ever possible. But their sin, their sin is public. They have harmed the community by their actions, perhaps led others down the wrong path, leading them to sin as well.
Bear with me, there is a point to this. :)
I have read people who claim that they are more modest in a bikini than many are fully clothed. I have read those who say that we (society) have finally! managed to desexualize the body, and so states of dress and/or undress are meaningless. (Of course, they say this while demanding that things like headcover and modest dress be banned.) Certainly, I disagree with this last idea - if we had managed to desexualize the human form, porn and skin mags would have long ceased to exist, because the images would not arouse anyone! As for the first, well. While I would never call you a 'harlot' or anything of the sort (again, because I am not a mind reader), I would quibble that you can consider yourself modest.
Modesty does not just consist of whether or not you are sleeping around - actually, it consists not of that at all. That would be chastity. Modesty is defined as 'reserve or propriety in speech, dress, or behavior.'
Modesty in speech - I should think that's a fairly simple idea. For me, I struggle to refrain from being loud and obnoxious. From cussing, screaming (unless confronted with a spider, in which case screams - or as I like to think of them, ferocious battle cries - are acceptable), gossiping, slandering, etc. In other words, I try to *think* before I open my mouth.
Modesty in behavior - In some ways it flows from the modesty in speech. Don't flip people off in traffic, be kind. Don't be a braggart. Don't over indulge - in anything. Being drunk or high is (obviously) completely unacceptable. Don't place yourself in situations that may cause scandal. For example: There are two people where I work. A married man and an unmarried woman. They have been friends for years, long before he married. They go out alone together almost every day, several times a day. The word around the office is that 'there's *something* going on there'. Whether or not it's true, their actions are giving people the impression that there is something there. 'High and mighty', 'holier than thou' attitudes are also unacceptable. Jesus came for sinners, of which I am just one. And obviously, don't actually commit sins such as adultery.
Modesty in dress - Here's where people seem to get touchy. They seem to have the impression that so long as they don't *mean* to be sexual, they don't *intend* to entice another, as long as they are chaste *in their hearts* that it doesn't matter what they wear. Again - 'it's between me and God'. Fine, even *if* I accepted this, which I don't, *we are our brothers' keeper*. (See, I told you I had a point!)
Matt 5:28 - but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Matt: 15:19 - For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.
James 1:14 - But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.
James 1: 15 - Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
1 Timothy 2:9 - In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with modesty and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
And don't think I'm picking on the guys, that's just the language of the Bible. Reverse the gender, same thing. Women lust after men who dress provocatively, and don't let anyone tell you different. What's my point? We are commanded to be modest not just to protect ourselves, but to help others protect themselves from temptation.
Would you knowingly offer an alcoholic a drink? Would you hand a diabetic a chocolate bar? I should hope not. We know that there are people, men and women, who struggle with chastity. We may not know who they are, but we know that they exist, all around us. Why, as we are responsible for our brothers' welfare, are we willing to tempt them to sin so casually? Without a thought for what we are doing to them?
So, if for no other reason, we must be modest so that we are not a stumbling block to our brothers. It's one of the first jobs that we are given - brothers keeper.
But what's modest?
For myself, I find that these guidelines make sense, and I am striving to meet them, though I fall short at times.
(Taken from Little Flowers Family Apostolate)
"A dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers breadth under the pit of the throat; which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows; and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knees. Furthermore, dresses of transparent materials are improper." - The Cardinal Vicar of Pope Pius XI
1. Looking to Mary as our guide and model, her dresses in all approved apparitions fully cover her from head to wrists to feet. Should we accept any less for ourselves? Ask yourself - have you ever seen the Blessed Mother portrayed in anything less than this? Have you ever seen her in any of her approved apparitions with even her head uncovered? Could you imagine her in any of the fashions of today even seemingly simple loose fitting PANTS? We should therefore follow her example and not follow any of the worldly fashions.
2. Mary-like dresses have sleeves that extend at least to the elbows, which excludes sleeveless dresses, tops, short sleeves or cap sleeves. (Note: Quarter length sleeves are tolerated, with Ecclesiastical Approval, for the time being until Christian womanhood again turns to Mary as the model for modesty in dress.)
3. Skirts and dresses, following the direction of Blessed Padre Pio, should extend at least 8" (eight inches) below the knee. This would exclude anything shorter than that, such as mini or micro skirts. They are also to be full enough to conceal the figure of the wearer and not reveal. Just because it is a dress, does not mean that it is modest. If the dress is to narrow or has a dropped waist, or is designed in such a way as to emphasize unduly parts of the body, they would be considered immodest and not appropriate for wear. Flesh colored fabrics, giving the example from a distance of 'flesh' are improper at all times.
4. Dresses should fully cover the chest, back, shoulders and the neckline should not exceed two inches below the pit of the throat, nape of the neck or sides. They should not admit as modest transparent fabrics, laces, nets, organdy, nylons, etc unless sufficient backing is added. They may be used as trimmings. This would also eliminate tight sweaters and blouses or other shirts.
5. This list would also exclude pants, slacks, culottes, jeans, shorts and such, as they have been proven to be men's attire, and harmful for women and society at large, and against God's command in Deut. 22:5. Most unbecoming is also sloppy-looking clothing such as jogging pants and oversized t-shirts and such, for both women and men.
6. Swimwear for women must at all costs be modest. The soul of another could be at stake! Due to the impure society in which we live, all public pools should not be used at all. Prefer instead to have your own swimming pool or swim at another Catholic family's pool. Even in the these conditions, modesty must be kept in check. Unfortunately, women will not find any appropriate swimwear in any store in any Western country. Some substitutes are biking shorts over which a skirt is placed extending to knee level. A loose top is added. Otherwise, one could simply wear a dark t-shirt and long shorts as a substitute. One could also do as I have personally done, simply discontinue swimming as a penance for the immodesty of others. (Note: not me. I swim, and have no intent to give it up. I simply wear the most modest bathing suit I can find, and I don't swim in mixed company. This is as quoted from the website)
7. For Men: Loose fitting, long pants or sufficiently long shorts that come at least to the knee. Long sleeves and pants for Church attire. This excludes all tight clothing, especially immodest swimwear, tight exercise clothing, or topless dressing in public.
SUMMARY: Our children need to be taught from the youngest age the importance of proper attire that is modest, that is becoming and feminine for women. These guidelines are designed to instill a sense of modesty in both boys and girls, and restore a sense of femininity in girls and women. Be sure to always sew or purchase clothing that matches these guidelines and you will not be an occasion of sin or source of embarrassment to yourself or others. Adapted from The Mary-like Crusade by Fr. Kunkel (1944-1969)
Now, I personally lean towards 'Muslim' styles of clothing. I believe that they are the simplest, most convenient way to make certain that all that should be covered, is covered. However, where I can achieve a similar level of modesty with modern clothing, I feel free to do so. Also, I do still wear pants, I just wear very loose pants. And, of course, I believe that a head cover is part and parcel of modest clothing. But this post has probably gotten long enough. :)
So, on the anniversary of the first day I put on a snood, these are my thoughts. They wound up being less about headcovering, per se, than modesty in general. But when I started trying to think of what I had to say - this is what came. Actually, the line 'am I my brothers' keeper' is *exactly* what popped into my head and wouldn't go away.
I hope that they made some semblance of sense, and, of course, any mistakes and misunderstandings are my own.