Rest In Peace! And Keep In Touch

TBM Topic 32: Pray for the Living and the Dead

“Rest In Peace! And Keep In Touch” by Julie Robison
Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion on Facebook and Twitter!


During Lent, we will be discussing the Spiritual Works of Mercy.

Why pray for the living and the dead?

This Lent, we Bright Maidens have been discussing the Spiritual Works of Mercy. This topic is a good one for Lent because

1. The spiritual works of mercy are reminders of our unofficial duties as Christians (verses the precepts of the Church); they’re ways people can attempt to better their spiritual lives through daily graces verses physically abstaining from foods or forms of entertainment, too.
2. The marriage between the spiritual and earthly world can be tangibly shown.
3. The marriage between grace and works can be manifest in writing, as well as in thoughts and actions.

The last point is an important point: some Christians say praying for the dead is useless and unbiblical. If that’s the case, then so is praying for the living. If our fate is so fixed, why ask God for help? Why seek a relationship with Jesus if believing in him is enough?

Praying is how we communicate with God, be it in praise, penitence, thanksgiving or petition. It can be freeing and intimate. It can also be humbling and intimidating. Life is overwhelming, and even starting prayer may be difficult. Luckily, even sitting quietly in the presence of God is praying. Taking time to listen to God is just as important as talking with him. In this way, we can pray without ceasing! (1 Thessalonians 5:17) This is how all relationships work at a human level.

When Blessed John Paul II was asked how the pope prays, he responded, “You would have to ask the Holy Spirit! The Pope prays as the Holy Spirit permits him to pray. I think he has to pray in a way in which, deepening the mystery revealed in Christ, he can better fulfill his ministry. The Holy Spirit certainly guides him in this. But man must not put up obstacles” (Crossing the Threshold of Hope).

At a convent’s cemetery in Salzburg

Praying for others is just as important as your personal relationship with God. As we humans are all interconnected, it is an act of fraternal charity. Moreover, not praying for a person because “they are dead” insinuates that there is not a communion between Heaven and Earth. People departed from this life are not gone; they are at a higher level of communion with God.

This is why Catholics pray to saints; not “to” them, as one would pray to God, but to them like we ask our family and friends to pray for and with us. I pray to St. Anthony (patron of lost things) fairly often. I could pray directly to God, but I like including my saintly friends in my daily tasks. If a person work in a big corporation, would they go to their boss for every little thing? Or do you ask a co-worker to help you out with a minor problem?

This is not to imply that we should not pray to God for the little things: but remember, he already knows all. So he might be sending an angle to watch over you, or a new friend into your life, to help guide and shape you. In the Gospel of John, a story is told in which Jesus gives Peter the power and strength to continue his ministry:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 

He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” [Jesus] said to him, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).

So, we too must continue this ministry, out of love of God. So, too, we must pray for the living and the dead, out of love for self and neighbor. Praying for all people is biblical, as well as being part of a Christian’s core mission.

Prayer is an act (work) of love. Even Billy Joel got that in his scandalous song, “Only the Good Die Young”: You said your mother told you/  All I could give you was a reputation/ Ah she never cared for me/ But did she ever say a prayer for me?”

There is one mediator between God and humans, and that is Christ (1 Timothy 2:5); but there are billions of helpmates to be found on earth and in heaven, continuing the mission of Christ, peacefully and together. This is why we pray for the living and the dead: to partake in this life, an extraordinary one, and rejoice in the hope with encapsulates all of us as members of the body of Christ, the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1).

Church in Munich, Germany

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel thus about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 


For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:3-11)

Is The Spirit So Willing?

TBM Topic 30: Forgive Offenses Willingly

“Is The Spirit So Willing?” by Julie Robison
Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion on Facebook and Twitter!


During Lent, we will be discussing the Spiritual Works of Mercy.

As I write this post, I begrudgingly admit I am working on forgiving someone for saying something that hurt my pride. I am currently working on cleaning out my room. I am getting married in less than nine months and, in good conscience, I cannot bring into this marriage my very own section of some rain forest.

I have books. Hundreds of books. Then there’s the one box from grade school, and two boxes from high school, the huge bin of magazines, and the multiple drawers and boxes of college papers I have yet to go through. Then there’s my research, for current and pending projects, and five shoe boxes of epistolary correspondence. I just started on my sixth this past Christmas.

A member of my family, the Purger, said he’d help me, as long as I sign a contract saying I would not get mad about what he threw away.

Writing messages long gone, unlike my letters. (far L)

“Never!” I protested. “What if you threw away my letters?”

“Why are you saving them anyways? It’s not like you’re Flannery O’Connor. No one is going to read your letters in 50 years.”

“I’m not saving my own letters,” I huffed. “I’m saving responses to my letters.”

The comment stung. Stings. We had to stop the conversation and part on civil terms. I am now typing, depressed in spirit, in my room. Fortunately, I kept cleaning too. I had a church bulletin from the beginning of Lent, and, wouldn’t you know it! Fr. Ed says it best:

I have often thought that it would be nice to have a special name for the final Sunday before the Season of Lent begins. As a culture we have the traditions of Mardi Gras and Carneval during these days, during which people celebrate and eat and “party” before Ash Wednesday. But perhaps the Gospel for this weekend gives us a better tradition to follow: forgiveness. 

We have all heard the old saying, “To err is human, to forgive divine,” and actually it is quite correct. Who alone but God has the power to forgive sins? Who else but God sees all there is to us, both good and bad, and love, understands and absolves? When we were able to forgive one another for the hurts against us, we are, in effect, showing the face of God to those we forgive. Because we are forgiven first by Him we are able to give that gift to others. 

In the Gospel this weekend, a paralytic is brought to Jesus for healing. Little does he expect the first words to him from Jesus: “Child, your sins are forgiven”. After this Jesus says the famous words: “Rise, pick up your mat, and walk”. Why is the other statement first? Because Jesus heals the deepest wounds first. He shows that the physical paralysis of this man is not as important as the spiritual paralysis that can happen when we fall into sin. He heals this first, and does so with great love, even calling the young man “child” as he does. 

What a gift this is for him, and for all of us who have heard the story for the last 2,000 years. Jesus forgives, heals and loves us. Perhaps this gives us an indication of what this final Sunday before Lent can be about: forgiveness, healing and love. In a word, it’s about Jesus.

And in like fashion, I went downstairs and apologized for overreacting, and then told the Purger I forgave him for hurting my pride. And I mean it. If Jesus can suffer death to redeem my sins, then I can swallow my pride, admit I was wrong, and forgive, just like Jesus. Because it really is about him, not you.

Besides: if Anne can forgive Gilbert, anything is possible!

Early in the morning, as they were walking along, they saw the fig tree withered to its roots. Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” Jesus said to them in reply, “Have faith in God. Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him.Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours. When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions. (Mark 11:20-25)

I Am That I Am

TBM Topic 26: Instruct the Ignorant

“I Am That I Am” by Julie Robison
Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion on Facebook and Twitter!


During Lent, we will be discussing the Spiritual Works of Mercy every week.



Ignorant is not a word I particularly care for, yet most people are culpable. It comes from the Latin words in (not) and gnarus (knowing).

New Advent defines ignorance as “lack of knowledge about a thing in a being capable of knowing. Fundamentally speaking and with regard to a given object ignorance is the outcome of the limitations of our intellect or of the obscurity of the matter itself.”

Today, we Catholics (and fellow orthodox Christian and Jewish brothers and sisters) face bigotry based on ignorance of our faith, religion and history. The greater good would be served, society is led to believe, if God was kept in the pews and within the walls of our homes. God is good as long as God is contained.

But our God is an awesome God – awesome in the “awe-inspiring” way. God is not our bro. God is not our homeboy. God is the Almighty one – the Alpha (first) and the Omega (last) – the one who is, the one who was, the one who will be (Revelation 1:8).

And he will not be contained. We cannot limit his power, his mercy, his goodness or his Kingdom Come. Our reasons are not his reasons, and this is the first step to instructing ignorance: discernment of our own vocation.

Flannery O’Connor wrote that “Ignorance is excusable when it is borne like a cross, but when it is wielded like an ax, and with moral indignation, then it becomes something else indeed.”

For many, the best reason to be a Christian is the joy and fellowship of other Christians. For others, Christians are the best reason not to be a Christian – their small-mindedness, their inability to compromise, their, well, ignorance.

And so, who has the high ground here? The miserable Christians who pray, “I believe – help my disbelief!” Or the one who discuss God’s take on a few things, would certainly invite him over for a drink, and then be done with the old chap. He’s not really our kind of man, if you know what we mean.

We certainly do. Which is ignorance on their part. I truly this many people intentionally stay ignorant of God – learn things about him, sure, and learn about things that surround him. But not him. After all, it is hard to look at God on the cross and really know that he knows our hearts. He can touch and change our lives, if we only get to know him. Our God is the God of all; our path towards God will never be repeated for another.

While discussing a struggle with my sister last night, she told me I had to believe the consequences would be bad if I continued. She did not mean in the short term, or even in human terms: she meant, if I really wanted a change of heart, I’d have to care more about offending God. The kind of caring that shows considerations for another feelings. In short, I need to know God on a much more personal level, the kind that changes my actions and words in the long-term as well as the short.

We Catholics have a prayer for that: the Act of Contrition. We say it after the sacrament of Reconciliation. It goes, O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.

This prayer is not said or meant lightly. Humanity is like a heat-seeking missile: it seeks Truth. It is not pretentious to claim to know Truth, as the Catholic Church does, for example. 2,000 years of bad press and still the truths found in the dogmas and sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, resonate across every color and creed.

No one has it easy. No one knows (or can know) “everything.” Ignorance infects the best and most brilliant among us. It is the humility to ask God, to knock on his door, to seek his guidance, that really begins the journey. Some times, people need other people to help them get there, be it in books, blog posts, or conversations.

Perhaps more importantly though, a person needs to be self-aware where they are ignorant. One can always instruct where they know and understand, but they must also be willing to learn. That way, knowledge leads to wisdom, and not a higher level of ignorance.

Don’t Feed the Angels

TBM Topic 23: Angels

“Don’t Feed the Angels” by Julie Robison
Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion on Facebook and Twitter!



An important thing to remember about angels is that they are terrifying. I am not sure when angels started to be domesticated, but nearly every time one appears in the Bible, the humans are frightened. So much so that angels had to start saying phrases like, “Fear not!” and “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.”

Angels are celestial beings, created as beings between God and Man. They are warriors, messengers, servants and worshipers of God.

Hebrews 1:5-14 reads:

For to which of the angels did God ever say: “You are my son; this day I have begotten you”? Or again: “I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me”? And again, when he leads the first-born into the world, he says: “Let all the angels of God worship him.”  

Of the angels he says: “He makes his angels winds and his ministers a fiery flame”; but of the Son: “Your throne, O God, stands forever and ever; and a righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom. You loved justice and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, anointed you with the oil of gladness above your companions”; and: “At the beginning, O Lord, you established the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; and they will all grow old like a garment. You will roll them up like a cloak, and like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”  

But to which of the angels has he ever said: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool”? Are they not all ministering spirits sent to serve, for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

With a modern twist, does not that last sentence remind you of Clarence in It’s A Wonderful Life? Clarence, an angel who had yet to get his wings, was sent to help George Bailey see all the good in his life and how his life changed other people’s lives for the better.

Clarence looked like a kindly old man, but still he put shock and awe into the bridge attendant and George himself, who could hardly believe it. Yet, Clarence was an angel. He was a warrior for George’s life, saving him before he attempted suicide; he was a messenger, showing the eternal truth that each man plays his role in this world and thus matters; he was a servant for God, sent from above to talk to George; and he was a worshiper of God, receiving his wings when the bell rang for a job well done as God’s good and faithful servant.

The world is a battlefield between Good and Evil; we must never forget that. Thus, angels move among us humans- be it our Guardians Angels, the one who sits on our shoulder, the ones singing above us during Mass, or the one protecting you in dark times. Angels are not our friends; they are our protectors. They have loyalties to God alone and approach us in His name.

The Bible is filled with stories involving angels; so is your life. How can you tell? Perhaps never, if you’re not inclined towards the mystical. Nevertheless, the one thing a person should never do with angels is to lessen the reverence for them by seeing them purely as shiny halos and fluffy wings. Angels are not so docile. They say, “Hark!”– not “hello” or “hey” when greeting or proclaiming. They demand attention. They demand reverence and respect, because they come directly from God.

So don’t feed the angels; they already share in the Heavenly banquet!

This Little Piggy

TBM Topic 21: “The Parable of the Lost Sheep.”

“This Little Piggy” by Julie Robison
Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion on Facebook and Twitter!



To answer the prompt of the Lost Sheep, I advert your attention a few verses down in Luke 15 from verses 1-7 to verses 11-31 and the parable of the Prodigal Son.

The parable of the Prodigal Son is an old favorite: the son came, went, strayed, repented, and came back. The older brother gets mad; the father shows how his love is even. The take-away message is, Even if you go away, God will welcome you back with open arms. But if you’re excited about God’s mercy, you’re only seeing the denouement and missing the best part: the turning point(s).

We Americans should be able to sympathetic to the younger son, going off to enjoy his youth in the city, sowing his wild oats. But perhaps we do not understand the kind of shame he feels upon becoming bankrupt. It’s the kind of shame which leads to repentance. It’s the kind of shame that aches, spiritually and physically. It’s the kind of shame that feels no shame in wanting to eat pig scraps. I’m not sure exactly what pigs eat. But you know life is hard-knock when you’re salivating over livestock grub.

This is God’s grace: it knocks sense into you. It’s the Holy Spirit saying, let me in! This life isn’t enough to satisfy you!

I could relate personal stories, but I’d like to try a different approach: I’m issuing a challenge. I think every life has one aspect of this story constantly on repeat.

Are you a lost son? Are you on the road to repentance but not quite craving pig scraps yet? Or are you the older brother with your righteous anger and resentment against another’s seemingly undeserved good fortune? Perhaps you are like the Father, waiting with open arms. Or could you see yourself as one of the pigs, giving someone else a wake-up call?

No part is too small is this great life. As my friend Gina so aptly reminded a few of us this weekend, one person’s “yes” can be a domino effect for more yeses. Faithfulness in small matters reaps great reward and trust, as the Gospel of Luke reminds us.

More over, when will your soul awake? When will you stop searching and realize that Christ is enough?

H/T Kortni

The Parable of the Lost Son is a closer look at the Lost Sheep parable; it gives that one sinner a face. It reminds us that we’re all sinners, and we all want God to search for us and rejoice upon having us back. Moreover, we all have need of repentance. Constantly. Hellooo sacrament of reconciliation.

Moreover, we need to be praying for the non-believers who do not desire our prayers as much as we should pray for those who ask. Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and we must desire it to have it. Does that mean we’ll always get it? No. Does that excuse people for not believing? No.  But our desire for God’s pig scraps will lead to even great rewards. He gave us the will to desire it, now seek Him we must!

Mel Gibson and Me

TBM Topic 18: Scapulars

“Mel Gibson and Me” by Julie Robison
“I Feel Weird” by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
“Suspicious Superstitions?” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion on Facebook and Twitter!

Mel Gibson, hot mess extraordinaire, wears a scapular.

Now, I’m not one to dig into celebrity gossip, but it’s hard not to ignore the facts:

1. Mel Gibson is a Catholic.

“We’ve seen worse.” –The Catholic Church

2. Mel Gibson has said and done some pretty dreadful things since producing The Passion, including divorce his wife.

3. Mel Gibson has [recently] been spotted wearing a scapular.

My personal pet theory is that we’re all living within appalling strangeness of the mercy of God, and Mel Gibson is just another soul in need to redemption, sanctification and help against temptations from the Devil. Everyone Else on the other hand, has taken up drinking haterade around Gibson. Fortunately, Robert Downey Jr. has come to his defense of late, asking Hollywood to forgive Gibson’s trespasses.

But back to scapulars.

I like that Mel Gibson wears a scapular. Correction: I like that the Mel Gibson who has royally messed up his public, private and career life still wears a scapular. If Mel Gibson was still married to his wife and making quality films, everyone would still be mumbling about what a religious fanatic he is. Instead, he’s been labeled a twit.

Romans 4:16 says, “All depends on faith, everything is grace.” That scapular, to me, is evidence of God’s grace still working in Mel Gibson’s life. Is that scapular a fact that grace is in Mel Gibson’s life? No. But we cannot see God’s ways. We can only see the scapular.

Scapulars are considered sacramentals in the Church, and are meant to enhance the faith. Sacramentals come from the Church; they “are indicated by the word Sacramentalia, the object of which is to manifest the respect due to the sacrament and to secure the sanctification of the faithful” (New Advent). Sacramentals are common things (i.e. relics, water, incense) that are another way to help people open up to receiving God’s grace. The physical sacramental (in this discussion, for example, the scapular) does not possess any power. That being said, like all passing things in this world, sacramentals may be occasions for God’s miracles.

There are a number of examples of sacramentals (specifically, relics) in Scripture: the hemorraging woman who touches Jesus’ cloak (Matt. 9:20-22); the use of the bones of Elisha brought a dead man to life (2 Kgs. 13:20-21); sick people cured when Peter’s shadow passed over them (Acts 5:14-16); and, of course: “And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them” (Acts 19:11-12).

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and sweet baby JC

That being said, sacramentals are easy targets for non-Catholics to “prove” Roman Catholics are heretics, which is why the scapular is such a hot topic. The brown scapular in particular, passed down from Our Lady of Carmel, bears these words: “Those who die wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.”

Wow. That’s quite a promise. It’s also, however, not an assurance of salvation. The only assurance anyone has of salvation comes in the personhood of Jesus Christ. Scapulars are devotions. Oftentimes, people feel so strongly about their faith that they argue the scapulars’ salvation legitimacy through the Blessed Mother. That argument is a red herring. Even worse, it can distract a truth seeker from the road to Rome, and can distort another’s understanding of Mary’s role within God’s plans for the Kingdom. She only and always points to her son, period.

FAQ: Whenever you (Julie) fly on an airplane, your father insists you wear a scapular. Why do you listen to him?

That’s my discretion. The Church does not have any teachings on scapulars. I choose to respect my father’s wishes.

So you wear a scapular?

Yes. I mean no. Not usually, but yes while traveling. I do carry it around with me too.

Why?

Good question. My answer is not impressive; I enjoy keeping the reminder of our faith close to me. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not from you; it is the gift of God. It is not from works, so no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). With eyes so dimmed by sin, the scapular is a reminder to me. I see it and think, My God! Am I prepared to meet you now?

Which brings me full-circle back to Mel Gibson. It’s easy to judge a man by his earthly actions, especially when they have been less than honorable.

But let the scapular be a lesson in humility to you: there are interior reasons why people wear scapulars.

Behind closed doors, people pray. Behind brave faces, people despair. In moments when life seems like too much, I find myself staring at the crucifix or even just holding a rosary. When I can barely find words, I take comfort in the material reminders of my faith as much as I do a hug from a friend.

My bestie boo’s husband gives great hugs

The scapular is a gift and, aided by a genuine faith, the wearing of such a religious item may lead to a true change of heart for some people. Others may find it a distraction and that is okay; if this is the case, I imagine God would prefer the absence of scapulars rather than a fake piety or bitterness.

“But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”… And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:9,13).

I’m pulling for you, Mel Gibson! Praying for you too.


A special guest post by B.! “Scapulars are Distractors from What’s Really Important”

The Gucci Awakening

TBM Topic 11: Catholic Modesty

“The Gucci Awakening” by Julie Robison
“Never Give Beauty Another Negative Thought” by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
“Be decent to each other” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

Joshua also said to the people, “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will perform wonders among you.” (Joshua 3:5)

“People in my grade look so much more mature than me,” said my 15 going on 16 year old sister. We peered into the computer screen, and looked at a girl we’ve all known since she was a wee tot, not yet 16, wearing a tight fitting tank top and shorter skirt. I felt a twinge of simultaneously feeling young and old at age 23, wearing a green blouse and blue jumper dress, and then felt sorry for her, so grown up in looks and  not realizing her whole worth, and the need to protect her body, not just show it off.

Two Sundays ago, the head pastor at my grandparents’ parish wrote in the bulletin about proper Mass attire during the summer months. Father wrote,

Once again the summer months are here and we have to remind ourselves of proper Mass clothing. It is hot, and sometimes we don’t give it a second thought, but we should be conscious of what we wear to Mass. Remember our church is air-conditioned. Men and teenage boys should wear trousers and a dress shirt. Women should wear modest dresses that fall below the knee, and modest blouses and slacks. Flip flops, shorts, tee shirts, and any type of immodest clothing should not be worn to Holy Mass. Remember the rule: I am conscious of what I wear to Mass and it is modest for the Holy Congregation. We owe this respect to Jesus and Our Lady, and to each other. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

While I am in complete agreement—perturbed, even, at how people are so casually dressed at Mass—my grandmother, aunt and I said the same thing: good luck getting women to wear dresses that fall below the knee.

Sorry it’s above the knee Father, but I love this skirt.

Today’s retail stores simply do not offer many (if any) dresses or skirts that long at the wide-scale level. Most of my dresses and skirts go to my knee, or slightly above. Pencil skirts notwithstanding, dress and skirt lengths today do not typically go past the knee unless they are going all the way to the ankle. Moreover, length is not the only litmus test for modesty.

In South Korea, women do not show their shoulders. They may wear very short skirts and high heels, but their chest area is completely covered. A lot of summer dresses in the States have skinny straps and lower fronts (and sometimes lower backs as well). I wear cardigans to work almost every day, especially if my dress has no sleeves. But what of the dress’s fit? I tried on a dress last week for an upcoming wedding. It wasn’t tight, but it was fitted, and made me self-conscious of my figure. I asked the sales ladies for their opinion.

“If you’ve got the figure, wear it!” was the consensus. I did not buy it. Besides the color being too muted for my Irish skin’s liking, I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea that this dress would fit me so well. Clothes should fit, but there is a line between fitting and fitted. I do not like being stared at, or wearing something that I know will prompt stares. I was stared at a lot in Asia because I was usually the only Caucasian walking around, but that was different than prompting men to give you the once-over.

Totally normal, every day activity

Ephesians 5:1-4, 15-16 says, “So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma. Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving. … Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil.”

Since we are now under a Democrat president again, there has been a lot of Bible thumpin’ across America, calling for a revival, religious and political. Take back America! But what are we exactly taking back? We do not live in the Founding days of the country. Since the major wars, women’s fashion has used considerably less fabric. The sexual revolution during the 1960s helped confuse the meaning and understanding of the word “decent.” Sex has become less sacred and more socially acceptable to talk about in common venues. Sex, as a symbol, has become an esoteric subject more related to fashion and less to the family, where, when sex happened, so did kids.

Jennifer Moses, in her May 19 WSJ op-ed “Why Do We Let Them Dress Like That?”, asked the tough questions: “Why do so many of us not only permit our teenage daughters to dress like this—like prostitutes, if we’re being honest with ourselves—but pay for them to do it with our AmEx cards?”

She writes,

We are the first moms in history to have grown up with widely available birth control, the first who didn’t have to worry about getting knocked up. We were also the first not only to be free of old-fashioned fears about our reputations but actually pressured by our peers and the wider culture to find our true womanhood in the bedroom. Not all of us are former good-time girls now drowning in regret—I know women of my generation who waited until marriage—but that’s certainly the norm among my peers.

If you have a problem with the way I dress, says the Modern Woman, you’re an old fart.

No, no, says the Modern Man- you keep wearing the short skirt and showing me your cleavage. More power to you!

Fine J-Lo, you can be a Mom AND wear Gucci

R.R. Reno, the new Editor in Chief of First Things, wrote in the June/ July issue about “The Preferential Option for the Poor.” His answer to our poverty problem is not only that there is not enough money going around. He writes about today’s “Gucci bohemians”:

A Christian who hopes to follow the teachings of Jesus needs to reckon with a singular fact about American poverty: Its deepest and most debilitating deficits are moral, not financial; the most serious deprivations are cultural, not economic. Many people living at the bottom of American society have cell phones, flat-screen TVs, and some of the other goodies of consumer culture. But their lives are a mess. 

And why? It’s a complicated question that I can’t convincingly answer here. But I want to end with a suggestion, if not an argument. 

On the question of social justice, Pope John Paul II once wrote, “The needs of the poor take priority over the desires of the rich.” For most of my life (I was born in 1959), the rich and well-educated in America have desired nothing more than the personal freedoms of bohemian liberation. The rich, we must be clear, include the secure and successful academic and professional upper middle classes. I am not talking only about people who live in penthouses, but about people like us and those we know. 

This bohemian liberation has involved the sexual revolution, of course, with the consequent weakening of the constraining and disciplining norms of a healthy culture of marriage. But the ways in which the rich have embraced their freedoms hasn’t involved only sex and marriage. It also includes the verbal antinomianism typified by George Carlin’s campaigns to normalize obscenity, suburban librarians insisting on the right to view pornography, tech billionaires who dress like dockworkers, a feminism that mocks the social mores that make women ladies and men gentleman, and many other attacks on older notions of bourgeois respectability.

“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society,” wrote St. Francis of Assisi. The return of modesty comes with singular witnesses dressing appropriately and stylishly. Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, for instance, was beautiful as it was modest, and millions of people saw that, and loved it. I couldn’t walk through a grocery store without seeing magazine covers oozing over her and her dress, right next to a picture of an actress falling out of her own respective garments.

Classy, beautiful, simple and modest. So fetch.

Reno went on to say,

The bohemian fantasy works against this clear imperative, because it promises us that we can attend to the poor without paying any attention to our own manner of living. Appeals to aid the less fortunate, however urgent, make few demands on our day-to-day lives. … Want to help the poor? By all means pay your taxes and give to agencies that provide social services. By all means volunteer in a soup kitchen or help build houses for those who can’t afford them. But you can do much more for the poor by getting married and remaining faithful to your spouse. Have the courage to use old-fashioned words such as chaste and honorable. Put on a tie. Turn off the trashy reality TV shows. Sit down to dinner every night with your family. Stop using expletives as exclamation marks. Go to church or synagogue.

I quote him at length not only because he says it well, but to show that this problem is not generational for the Catholic Young Thangs. But it’s our cross to carry, and our creative outlet. We are blessed to uphold beauty and goodness and truth for the Church, and we get to show it through our dress as well as our actions and words. Modesty is not only about covering up – it is about acting, speaking and thinking in a way that is considerate of others, as well as one’s one being. Otherwise, the immodesty of one creeps into the others, inwardly and, soon enough, outwardly.

Modesty reminds me of when “Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.”

It’s time to awaken our inner beauty, and seek virtue through the presentations of our bodies. It is written in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, “Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.”

Modesty: the best policy! 

Glorify does not mean hide away in a brown sack; rather, the body can be used as a means of praise. By not using the body as a temptation, it is an opportunity for we Christians to preach the Gospel without words, helping attract people to God through our sanctified bodies and souls, and to show the goodness that is the Lord. Modesty is a person’s expression of this, and is a gift to all who come into its sight.