In High School, I definitely used to “roll my kilt”. Yep – even a church-going, youth group volunteering kiddo like me! I’d leave my house with my kilt to my knees and roll it up when I got to school, otherwise, I might be a fashion outcast. No thanks. This, along with other immodest infractions that compelled my mom to pull me aside and my dad to raise a disapproving eyebrow on several occasions throughout the ninth grade, is how I began to put my identity in the way I looked. I didn’t think I had much else to offer other than my perfectly compiled appearance – and that left me feeling pretty vapid.
Modesty isn’t about hiding because we’re bad; it’s about revealing our dignity.
“In the early Christian Church, several bishops were gathered outside a Cathedral in Antioch, when a beautiful prostitute passed by on the street. Upon noticing her, the crowd of bishops looked away to avoid being seduced. Bishop Nonnus, however, stared intently at her, and then said to his fellow bishops, ‘Did not the wonderful beauty of that woman delight you?’ The bishops remained silent. Nonnus insisted, ‘Indeed it delighted me,’ but he wept for her. When the prostitute saw how the bishop looked at her with such purity, she was caught off guard. No man had ever looked at her with such purity. He was not lusting after her, but rather saw something in her that she did not even see in herself. The simple purity of that one bishop’s glance marked the beginning of her conversion to Christ. She soon returned to find him, and today, we know this former prostitute as St. Pelagia.” (Kayala)
He saw something in her that she didn’t even see in herself. Why did he cry? What was it? What did he see? (Hint hint. Her dignity.) When she converted to Catholicism, do you think she still dressed the same way? I don’t think she did. Because she discovered her identity as a daughter of God. Modesty isn’t about hiding something that is bad, or too tempting, modesty is revealing your identity as a child of God.
During NET training for my second year as a missionary, we were given a very compelling chapter to read about modesty. After reading it, I truly began to desire modesty. I began to dress modestly with my whole heart engaged, not just out of obligation. One night, another missionary gave me one of the most genuine compliments I’d ever received: simply that I looked beautiful. But he said it with such purity and love – like he was seeing me as I was created. Dressing this way, I finally felt like I was revealing my whole self, not just my body. In showing less, people saw more.
Modesty isn’t about hiding our bodies because they’re bad; it’s revealing the beauty of the whole person. Revealing your dignity as a child of God.
–written by Miriam Pereira, staff member