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Alyssa Azul Relatable

Modesty: A Stripped Perspective

Growing up modesty was taught to me in relation to what I wore. It was a sin to show too much skin, wear clothing that accentuated curves, or wear too much makeup. I’ve seen girls reprimanded publicly for their clothing, and I also heard that it is a girl’s fault if a guy lusts after her. It’s only a matter of time before she associates modesty with shame, thinking society resents something about the female body. There’s a real problem with this approach.

The truth is, modesty is not simply a way of dress, but a virtue. In my experience raised in the church and serving in ministry for almost 10 years, an open discussion on this topic never happened. Unaddressed, it remained a thorn in my side. My own lack of understanding regarding modesty caused me to be resentful towards men and insecure about my body. 

I’m only scratching the surface, but I’ve taken what I’ve learned from Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body coupled with my lived experience to deepen my understanding of the wounds which a lack of modesty may flow from. 

Why might modesty be a struggle for her?

She feels ashamed.

She feels embarrassed about the parts of her body that she is told to “cover up”. If showing too much skin is a sin, then her breasts, hips, and all parts of her body that make her feminine are wrong. She feels guilty for wanting to look nice. 

Response:

Understand that the aspirations for beauty and adoration is not a sin, or something to be ashamed of. Pope John Paul II said “by modesty the human being manifests almost ‘instinctively’ the need for this ‘I’ to be affirmed and accepted according to its true value.”(General Audience, 1979). The need to be affirmed comes from our deepest desires as women to be seen. When Eve was created, she was first seen by God, then by Adam. Adam, on the other hand, was made to seek. Our desire to be seen is manifested when we choose to present ourselves in ways that attract love. The parts of our bodies that we might feel shame about have a divine function – to create and nurture life. Modesty aims to protect that, so that it is only seen according to its true value. 

She feels repressed.

Believing that it is liberating, she tries to dress in ways that the media or others show as empowering. She feels as though dressing the way that she wants is how she can “take control back” of her body. She may think modesty is not for her.

Response:

Due to our fallen natures as men and women, our good desires have been twisted, which results in the toxicity we see in the world today (ie. the sexual revolution, hook-up culture, etc.) Man’s nature to seek has been distorted to see people as a sum of parts, to objectify for his use. Woman’s desire to be seen is distorted to accept attention from anyone and anywhere, at the expense of her dignity. The world has successfully convinced people that bodies are expendable, which results in the connection between the body and soul being metaphorically “severed”. We all seek to love and be loved, but the truth of authentic love of the person is lost in the noise of a culture that screams self-gratification, loneliness, and pride. Dr. Edward Sri says that “modesty is about inspiring a reaction to the value of the person not just to the sexual values.” Contrary to what many people think, modesty is not repressive, but rather freeing once you understand what you are being freed from.

She is confused.

She doesn’t understand why it’s her responsibility to dress a certain way to keep men from objectifying her.

Response:

As mentioned before, men’s desires are distorted due to their fallen natures, so their journey towards purity looks different than ours. . . a topic of its own for another day! While it’s true that women have a role to play in averting a man’s gaze by dressing in modest attire, I am a firm believer that a woman needs to find the reason to do it for herself. Young girls need to know that they have the power to protect, preserve, and uphold their dignity as a person by making their own choices. Self-esteem is so important. When you have love for yourself, you begin to understand what about you is worth honoring, and what is equally worth honoring in others. A woman who understands that her body is a reflection of her God-given soul and fights to protect that, is frankly, more empowering than who you might find on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Modesty is driven by the commitment to see others and be seen as a whole person, rather than as a sum of parts. With that idea in mind, the conversation on clothing and physical presentation might make more sense.

So what now?

Believe me, no one is perfect. As I write this, I am mulling over whether or not the ripped jeans I’m wearing could even be considered pants. Keeping up with trends and beauty standards today is hard enough, so compassion goes a long way. Clothing decisions are not always black and white because bodies come in all shapes and sizes. This is where building a strong sisterhood is important. I hope we can move towards a place where girls growing up today understand modesty by being taught the beauty and sanctity of their bodies rather than by a slap on the wrist. We’re in this together and we have a responsibility to not only hold our brothers accountable, but our sisters as well. Affirm and uplift each other. Share your wounds. Educate and empower.

Related Resources:

Theology of the Body Explained-Revised Edition by Christopher West

Come, Holy Spirit, Give Us Modesty

 

Categories
Ink Slingers

Welcome Back One-piece

(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

This summer I am welcoming back the one-piece bathing suit. And you can too! It’s not about hiding stretch marks or feeling more confident than in a two-piece (because I do!). It’s about reclaiming modesty.

I think most of us women can reflect on our coming of age years and realize that we hit a certain point––we didn’t want to be “girls” anymore; we wanted to be “women.” We wanted to grow up already. We wanted to wear makeup, shave our legs, and wear two-piece bathing suits (which are essentially a bra and underwear, right?!). We didn’t want to be “cute” anymore. Without knowing it at the time, we were also rushing to give up our modesty and innocence.

I don’t know about you, but that rush into womanhood (as defined by culture) led me down a path away from God and from who I really wanted to be. The culture taught me that my identity as a woman and my beauty was on the outside. I lost respect for myself and for others and that was revealed in my dress–too tight, too revealing, too short. Turns out, this way of living was not fulfilling, nor life-giving.

I suppose this is a prodigal-daughter-like story because God sent a beautiful holy woman into my life to show me what is was like to be a real woman. You might have heard of her, Mother Mary? I came back from a pilgrimage to one of her shrines and my life was forever changed. I first and foremost learned the truth––my identity and beauty came from being a daughter of God and Christ living in me. This changed everything. I gained respect for myself and for others and within six months, I had a new wardrobe.

Mother Mary taught me that her beauty comes from the fact that she loves God with her whole heart. The more I strive to do the same, the more I recognize things in my life that obstruct my love for Him. She has taught me that we must be pure to enter the Kingdom of God. Modesty guards our purity. Our childlike innocence is what lets us see the angels who gaze on God. Mother Mary is the true and best example of womanhood. From her, we can learn everything God desires of us as women.

So back to the one-piece bathing suit. Having learned what I have in my journey and now as a mother of two girls, I feel the importance of this responsibility to show my daughters what true womanhood is. Yes, the culture is still going to tempt them with the rush into womanhood, with manicures at four years old and two-piece bathing suits at five years old, but we cannot underestimate that they still look up to their mothers!

I’m wearing a one-piece bathing suit for my almost three year old daughter. You might be thinking, “She’s three! She doesn’t notice!” but when we went to the beach this past weekend, do you know the first thing she said when she saw me? “Mommy, we match!” as she pointed to her one-piece suit. I smiled and thought to myself, that’s exactly why I’m wearing it. I never would have thought that wearing a one-piece could ever feel so good!

As my daughters get older and we live strive to live the faith, which is often counter-cultural, I hope they always know that I’m on their side fighting with them. That I’m always striving to be a woman like Mother Mary. That they can look up to me. That we match, even if the rest of the world doesn’t.

Mother most pure, pray for us.

Categories
Current Events Evangelization Faith Formation Ink Slingers Interviews Michelle Same Sex Attraction Spiritual Growth

Understanding the Gift of Human Sexuality: An Interview with Jason Evert

understanding the gift of human sexuality

Today I have the pleasure of sharing with you my interview with Jason Evert who will be a speaker at the Theology of the Body Congress being held in Ontario, California next week. He will speak on homosexuality and the Theology of the Body.

jason-evertJason Evert is a renowned speaker and author known for his talks on chastity. Together with his wife Crystalina, Mr. Evert connects with both the young and the old; the faithful and those of little or no faith, as well as those who are seeking answers to the questions that have been set upon their hearts. Through the Chastity Project, various social media outlets, through seminars and talks, and through a new program entitled YOU, Mr. Evert seeks to empower, educate, and prepare the next generation to share the vision, the knowledge, and the love that comes from understanding God’s gift of human sexuality.

We began our interview talking about the new videos on Theology of the Body for teens entitled YOU: Life, Love, and Theology of the Body (which I will have a review of on Wednesday) and continued to tackle a few hot button topics.  

Once again, I feel that Mr. Evert’s words need to be heard in their entirety and so I present our interview in a question and answer format. I pray that you will be inspired, encouraged, and empowered by the wisdom that he shares today.

Q. You are well known for talking about chastity to teens, how do you think the new videos will reach out to a new generation of teens and young adults as opposed to other ways you have brought chastity talks to them?

The previous generation of Theology of the Body for Teens that we came out with was great at the time 10 years ago. Today teens are struggling with brand new issues that weren’t even on the radar 10 years ago. For example, I was talking to a young woman who wanted to go to college at Stanford and as a part of the application process she had to pick a gender… there were 18 genders to pick from and the two genders that were missing were male and female. They weren’t even an option. This wasn’t on the radar 5 years ago let alone 10.

There are questions like “what is marriage?” What does it mean to be male and female? These are fundamental issues that teens really need to have to have a solid understanding of in order to understand God’s plan for their lives. So this new version is really cutting edge in terms in being able to offer solid guidance, not just to teens but to educators to answer these tough questions.

Q. Is it just for use in schools or catechism programs or would families benefit from it as well?

Whether it is a homeschool family or a child who goes to a public school and the parents want to make sure they are getting a truly authentic education in human sexuality rather than “that’s it”… for home use or you can do it with group study, Ascension Press has a really neat offering that if you only had 4 people who wanted to do the study as a group you can just do the digital videos so you pay for the workbooks and don’t have to buy the dvds- you can get free streaming online of all the digital content.

There are 10 chapters, each chapter is about a half hour long and covers all kinds of content- homosexuality, pornography, modesty, vocations, starting over… it’s not just a chastity program. It goes much deeper into identity and John Paul’s full understanding of what the Theology of the Body is.

Q. At the Congress you will be talking about those who experience same sex attraction. How does TOB give clarity and hope to those who experience same sex attraction?

We need to take a good look at our language when we are talking about this topic. A lot of times people speak, “Oh that’s a gay person” “That’s a lesbian person”, “That’s a straight person.” But this isn’t really a Catholic way to talk about what it means to be a human being. What I mean by that is that there really aren’t like 9 different kinds of people. There are really only three kinds of people according to the Catholic understanding of that word.

A person is a rational being, so how many different types of rational beings are there? Well there are three- the Divine Persons- the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There are angelic persons, which are the holy angels and the fallen angels. And then there is the human person made male and female in the image and likeness of God. And that’s it.

Our personhood, our identity, the deepest truth of that is that you are either a son of God or a daughter of God. Our sexual attractions are not the defining factor of our human identity and if we make our sexual attractions the core of who we are, then we will think that our life and our identity is being stifled and we can’t act out on those attractions.

An attraction is something I experience; your personhood is that you are a son of God or a daughter of God. And typically our behavior will flow from our identity. And so if we can first understand foremost who we are as beloved children of God, then our behavior will flow from that. John Paul provides an adequate anthropology, a sufficient understanding of what it means to be a human person. The only adequate response to another person is love. Not only to give that love but also to receive that love.

Q. In trailer I found a quote that was perfect for this conversation, “Being you is not all about you; you are a gift to the world when you love as God loves you.” How does this tie into the Congress and how will you bring this ideology to the Congress?

One challenge with this generation of young people is there is so much centered on myself- I’ve got my Instagram, I’ve got my Facebook, I’ve got my Twitter and I need to tell everyone what I am doing and share the picture of me when I look the best. There is a bit of an overemphasis on me and what I feel. Even with the gender issue of today, what I feel is who I am… regardless of what my body parts are, what I truly am is who I think I am. What the TOB does is call us to step outside of that and say “you are more than just your feeling; you have been created to make a gift of yourself. Stamped into your body is not just parts that you can do away with; stamped into your body is the sign of complementarity that you’ve been created to make a gift of yourself.” That might come within marriage, it might come with priesthood or religious life, or it might come within serving in your community, by making a gift of yourself and by giving of yourself that’s how you truly find yourself.

Q. Our kids are bombarded by society telling them that they should do what makes them feel good and to do what they want and that the Church’s teachings on the sacredness of sex and love are not important. How do we combat this ideology when the world’s voice is so much louder than our own?

There is a lot that we can do. And what we have in our favor is that their minds are made for the truth, their hearts are made for love, and the Church’s teaching on human sexuality truly offer them both.

John Paul II was asked, “If you could only keep one passage from scripture and all the rest had to be gotten rid of, what would it be?” He said, “The truth can set you free.” The truth is that the Church’s teaching on human sexuality is not just a litany of rules, regulations, and prohibitions. The Church’s teaching on human sexuality is really what the human heart longs for. Do we really want a love that is forced or conditional or temporary or lifeless? No, we want a love that is free, total, faithful, and fruitful.

It’s not that the Vatican is imposing these things on us; this is what the human heart truly wants. Unfortunately our world has sold young people this false notion of freedom- that in order to be free you just got to do whatever you want. Sometimes true freedom isn’t doing whatever you want; sometimes freedom is having the ability to do what you do not want in order to do what’s best for another person. The Church teaches that your freedom is best measured by your capacity to love. Anything that inhibits your ability to love- lust, selfishness, pride, ego- those things limit my ability to love to that extent I’m not free.

This language of John Paul II doesn’t argue from the outside in- these are all the rules that you have to follow; instead it argues from the inside out- what is it that you really long for? As a result, even though the world may be louder, the Church’s teachings really resound within the hearts of the young people when they are proclaimed in their fullness.

Q. How can parents incorporate TOB into their family lives so that when they talk to their children their kids won’t just tune them out but will want to listen and want to be responsive?

One thing you could do is study it within your own family. If you’ve got middle school students Ascension Press has a program called Theology of the Body for Teens, Middle School Addition-for 6, 7, 8th graders. For the High school addition not only do they have the dvds that you can watch a home, but they also have the parent guide that you can follow.

The nice thing with TOB is that you can start really young with some of these teachings about what it means to make a gift of yourself. Affirming them when they are young- “Dear Jesus thank you for making little Mike a boy and for making little Sarah a girl and for making Mommy a girl and daddy a boy.” These understandings of what it means to be male and female that we may have taken for granted 10 years ago, need to be affirmed in the young people.

And just starting them with this idea of the gift of self and that you really find yourself by giving of yourself- what are ways that Mommy can give herself to Daddy and ways that Sally can give herself to Joe in our family to love one another. Whether it’s by surprising someone by doing the laundry or doing the dishes without being asked, now, what do you feel after making that gift of yourself?

It’s starting them when they are really young with the principles of the gift of self, of modesty, of the goodness of being male and female in the image and likeness of God.

Parents need to get over any insecurity they have when it comes to talking about human sexuality. Some parents are scared to death, “What if they ask me if I was a virgin?” “What about this?” You need to get over it. If you don’t talk to your kids about the meaning of human sexuality, the world is very happy to fill that void of your silence with a very contradictory message. I don’t care if your parents never talked to you about it or if you feel awkward; sometimes awkwardness is part of the authenticity of it.

Q. What is the most important concept you hope that the Congress goers will come away with from the Congress in general or from your talk?

I hope they will be empowered to take this message to the masses- whether it be in a religion class, their young adult bible study, CCD classes… whatever it is… we need an army of people proclaiming this message of TOB. It’s really a treasure that the Church has been entrusted with. My open prayer is that people will leave this conference feeling empowered and educated and equipped to go forth with these new tools that the Church has been given… that people will feel ready and excited to take this message to others.

Please keep Mr. Evert and all those who are sharing the gift of Theology of the Body in your prayers. He asks that we particularly pray for the fruitfulness of the program.

If you are interested in learning more about the Theology of the Body Congress, please visit their website. The Congress runs from September 23-25th in Ontario, CA. You can read more about it here as well.

If you are interested in learning more about Ascension Press’s new Theology of the Body program entitled YOU: Life, Love, and Theology of the Body, please visit their website (and come back on Wednesday when I review the complete program!)

Categories
Alessandra Current Events Faith Formation Fruits of the Holy Spirit Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth Year of Faith

Come, Holy Spirit, Give Us Modesty

This is the tenth of a 12-part, once-a-month series on the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. This month’s fruit is MODESTY. Be sure to see previous posts beginning with CHARITY and check back next month as another contributor explores the fruit of CONTINENCE or SELF-CONTROL.

Modesty is one of the twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit, along with charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, long-suffering, mildness, faith, continency, and chastity (Galatians 5: 22-23).  When preparing for this article, I had a really difficult time deciding which route to go mainly because it is a topic that ruffles many feathers and also one that has a vast amount to write about. The Venerable Pope Pius XII states it perfectly, this topic is both, “delicate and complex.”  For the purpose of space and time, I will focus on the general aspect of this beautiful fruit of the Spirit. If we take a moment and look at the dictionary definition of modesty we find this:

modesty def

So if modesty is the quality or state of being unassuming or moderate in the estimation of one’s abilities, then each person’s estimation of modesty is different.  Bearing in mind that when we speak of modesty as a fruit of the Holy Spirit, we are referring to Christian Modesty.

modestyFor the purpose of this article, let us examine modesty as a general umbrella term referring to the quality or state of being within one’s ability to dress, speak, act, and behave.  Modesty has to do with all those things and is not simply the way we dress.   So let’s look at modesty as moderation in how we dress, speak, act, and behave. We shall examine what the Lord tells us in Scripture, through the greatest Saints of all times, Church documents, and even most recently through the guidance of one of our popes.  As we address this topic of Modesty as a gift of the Holy Spirit.

 Saint Thomas Aquinas defines modesty as the virtue in which exterior actions, either in deed or in words, are observe.  Modesty is the virtue which refrains our exterior gestures and in this sense it is a broader virtue than the term modesty referring to the Sixth and Ninth Commandments.  But the way we dress does affect all of our exterior actions and motions.  This is why random and irrational and foolish behavior goes against the virtue of modesty.  Modesty also requires humility, as in being content in what you have, what you are able to attend and to moderate our exterior goods.  So Modesty has to do with not too much or too little.  You can be immodest not just in what you wear but also in what you say and the way you behave, and even what you buy and how much of it.  So, in short, moderation is the key to modesty.

virtue
Modesty is a moral virtue, so it is one that affects all those relationships around us including ourselves.   Excess (too much) or defect (too little) is what matters in all areas of our lives when it comes to modesty.  Our dress should suit our state in life.  We do not have to dress above our station in life or below it.  The person with the gift of modesty knows and acts in ways in which his actions suit the place and time, in order.  Our actions are proportionate and directed to a truly good end.  A person who is modest in speech will not say something in which they should not, nor when they should not.  Moderation is key in modesty.  We should never say anything or do anything that out of place or is against our station in life.  The end of modesty is fear of the Lord, Saint Thomas observed and said that we should turn away from earthly things an turn towards God.  We want to have enough fear of God in which we would never want to offend Him by our disordered passions, appetites and emotions.  Modesty, Saint Thomas says, will help us in having due maturity, not just in physical growth but in the certain stage of the interior life.  This stage is set aside by self-denial and striving for excellence in life, not just exteriors but also interior aspects.  Modesty is one of the first virtues lost when we lack in the interior life, it is also one of the last perfected.

So what does the Church say about Modesty?
 Well, in 1957, in a letter entitled “Moral Problems in Fashion Design,” the Venerable Pope Pius XII tells us, “…the very word “modesty” (which) comes from modus, a measure or limit – probably better expresses the function of governing and dominating the passions, especially sensual passions. It is the natural bulwark of chastity. It is its effective rampart, because it moderates acts closely connected with the very object of chastity…”  In the Catechism of the Catholic Church it states that, “Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.” (CCC 2521).    One of the most amazing saints the Church has had, Saint Anselm (Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor of the Church) said this:  “If you want to be certain of being in the number of the Elect, strive to be one of the few, not one of the many.  And if you would be quite sure of your salvation, strive to be among the fewest of the few; that is to say:  do not follow the great majority of mankind, but follow those who enter upon the narrow way, who renounce the world, who give themselves to prayer, and who never relax their efforts by day or night, so that they may attain everlasting blessedness.”
From all of these, the “refusal to unveil that which should remain hidden” is the one line that really stuck with me.  All that is sacred is hidden, all that is beautiful, the most beautiful of all things on this Earth created by our Lord, is hard to get to, hidden.  A couple weeks ago, this quote was floating around on the internet and I found it appropriate for this article:

What particularly stuck with me were the first and last lines, “Everything that God made valuable in the world is covered and hard to get to.  Your body is sacred, You are far more precious than diamonds and pearls and you should be covered too.”  So the next question in my mind was, “why?  Why is my body sacred?”  Two passages from Sacred Scripture came to mind answering my question.  The first was when the Lord tells us in Genesis 1:27 that we are made in His image and likeness, “And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.”  The second verse comes from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or know you not, that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God; and you are not your own? For you are bought with a great price. Glorify and bear God in your body.”  Not only are we taught that we are Temples of the Holy Ghost but also that He is in us but most importantly, that we are “bought with a great price.”  THAT, dear sisters gave me chills!  Our Lord Jesus Christ paid a great price for us to have eternal life with Him in Heaven.  Now the question is what are we doing with the body He has given us?

I end with a poem and a challenge.
 This beautiful poem is written by the Lord Byron but perfectly and poetically describes what a woman of Faith should be or look like; her exterior should be a representation of her interior life.  Lastly, I leave you with a challenge…the modesty challenge, one which I promise I too will take on.  Look at your interior life, the way you dress, speak, act, etc., and ask yourself, if you were to stand before our Lord would you be ashamed or proud of what you have done with the temple He has given you?  The challenge is, if your answer is a resonant, “no” or like me, a doubtful, “I am not so sure” take the next six months to examine some of the documents provided below in the Resources and analyze and examine your interior as well as your exterior life.  Just like our homes, our domestic church, should display that a Catholic Christian family lives there…so should your own body display what a Catholic woman looks like.

She Walks in beauty

Resources for Further Reading on Modesty:
Dressing with Dignity by Colleen Hammond (Tan Books)
The Catholic Girl’s Guide by Father Lasance
The Young Man’s Guide by Father Lasance
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 9, The Ninth Commandment
“Moral Problems in Fashion Design” by Venerable Pope Pius XII
::COMMENTING – Due to the potentially controversial nature of this topic, we invite readers to visit our comment guidelines. When responding to the author or each other in the comboxes, please strive for charity and assume charity in others.::
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Conversion Lynne Marriage Matrimony Prayer Uncategorized

Woman in Love: An Interview with Katie Hartfiel

 

 

 

Katie Hartfiel is a 29 year-old wife and mother of two.  She and her husband Mark live in Houston where they are both active in ministry.  The story of how they met and fell in love is chronicled in Katie’s new book, Woman In Love.

In the book, Katie writes about the inner struggles brought on by her parents’ difficult divorce.  At age 17, God gave her a vision to pray for her own future spouse.  She began writing love letters to her unknown husband-to-be (HTB), pouring out her heart to him and covering him with prayer.  The book reveals the dual love story that unfolds in Katie’s life, first with Christ, then with Mark, as she moves from being a girl in pain to a Woman In Love.  Katie  challenges young women to begin praying now for their future spouses, and encourages them to write personal letters to their own “HTB” while maintaining a pure, chaste life as they wait upon the Lord to lead them to the spouse He has set aside for them since “before they were knit in their mothers’ wombs.”

Recently, Katie took some time to speak with the Sistas about Woman in Love.

CS:  Katie, you have a busy life as a wife and mom.  Why a book?

KH: I have been sharing this story with the high school girls in my youth program for years. I always thought it was a neat story, and it was great to see so many of my girls start to journal to their “HTB”. However, I never really thought of it as a hugely impactful testimony. That was until Steve Bollman, founder of Paradisus Dei and That Man Is You (and also Mark’s boss), used the story to speak to fathers about the value of purity. Several men approached Mark with positive feedback and one of them said, “Tell your wife to put this into a book so I can give it to my daughter.” The Lord used that moment to put the desire in my heart. The timing has been so beautiful with my recent “retirement” from youth ministry. I am excited to share the beauty of God’s plan for pure relationships as He sees fit!

CS: Katie, it’s so strange to me that during the time when you were going through so much pain, I knew you.  I saw you every week singing in the youth choir.   It was obvious that you were a leader in your group, that you loved being there singing–and that you felt the words deeply.  But (I am sorry to say this) I also remember being offended by your clothing.  You were a distraction–a temptation–to boys and men in the congregation.  I thought about speaking to your choir director about it…but I didn’t.  Now, reading what you had to say about modesty blew me away!  One of my favorite parts of the book was your epiphany of why modesty is so important.

But here’s my question: if you were in Mass today, and you saw a girl much like your own teenage self standing in front of the congregation, how would you respond to her?  Now that I know what you were going through as a teenager, I see how much I could have hurt you by making harsh comments–even if I had good intentions. You’ve been a youth director, so I’m sure you’ve had to deal with this issue.  How do you respond to girls in a loving way that encourages modesty without hurting them?

KH: Honestly, modesty may be one of the less scandalous sub-topics of sexual purity, however it is by far the hardest to express. As I share in the book, I heard an absolute multitude of chastity talks, read many books, and passionately expressed my beliefs on purity all while I was oblivious to its application to my wardrobe. It breaks my heart that you, too, witnessed this naivety! In the last seven years in youth ministry I have witnessed many teenage versions of myself struggle in the same department. Many are teens who are so involved and in love with the Lord yet completely clueless.

As a woman it is just so difficult comprehend the cause and effect of our clothing choices. I saw a quote recently that said, “Men will NEVER understand the agony of childbirth, cramps or removing glitter nail polish.” These are things that cannot be appreciated unless experienced. Similarly, we will never truly appreciate the struggle of men in this department.

I asked several of my teens who exercise modesty where their love and passion came from. I was surprised by their answers. For all of them it seemed that they were given a moment like I had in the dance club several years ago. All of a sudden a switch clicked on and they understood their calling to help men grow in holiness. I sort of relate it to a conversion experience. Someone can explain it all day long, but unless they are open to the Holy Spirit in the timing of God’s plan for them it doesn’t make a difference. Words don’t change hearts, only Christ can do that.

As far as confronting girls about their clothing: personally- I have never called them out individually in that way. I don’t know if that is the correct answer but that is just me. It seems to me that a person who is singled out in that way tends to feel defensive. If an individual isn’t in a position to desire change, they must therefore rationalize their behavior in their mind. They have to either believe the other person is right- resulting in a change in behavior OR become ever more convicted that their behavior is justified.

What I have done instead is seek teaching moments. I hoped to form the girls to help them determine exactly what to look for in modest dress, rather than just inform them that their current outfits were inappropriate. Some of these opportunities have presented themselves in one on one conversations with the girls, but more often I tried to address them as a group. For example, when one of our choir girls wore an incredibly short skirt and an usher wore a strapless dress, I decided to create a dress code to be distributed to everyone in the ministries. Instead of singling the girls out I wrote a loving letter to all members of the ministries about the Wedding Feast of the Lamb and how we should approach our wardrobes as if we were preparing for a wedding. Then I gave specific guidelines (similar to the ones in the book). I also gave very detailed modesty requirements for Confirmation. I didn’t allow shorts on retreats and explained that “too short” was too relative, so I modeled knee length jersey skirts at the informational meeting and told them where to buy and for how much. (This literally started a fashion trend with the high school girls!) Of course I spoke to all of our girls about modesty once a year in our Chastity night at our parish.

That is a really long answer, but a complicated question! I think I am still learning in this area, but I DO know I will have a lot to say to my daughters when they are walking out the door ten years from now!

CS: If you had to sum up the main message of your book in one sentence, what would it be?  What’s the most important thing you’d like your reader to take away?

KH:  This is difficult because there are two main themes 1) praying for and writing letters to your Husband-To-Be and 2) pursuing a lifestyle of purity. However, when I was writing I kept asking myself, what is my goal? My goal is that young women redefine their approach to Christian purity. That their life rely on one thing, God’s will for them. I hope that girls will read this book and desire to become Women in Love with Christ and trust Him to lead them to the vocation He has in store for them.

CS: I mentioned to you that I’d like to share this book with my sons.  I think it would help them to see a girl’s point of view, but maybe even more than that I hope it would inspire them to be that kind of guy that you were praying for.  Had you ever considered that your book would be good for guys?

KH: Several of my teen boys have read the book and enjoyed it. I know it doesn’t have the same impact on them whatsoever, but I hope that it helped raise their standards for the woman they seek and who they hope to be. A friend who is a father of two girls and a teenage son told me the biggest lesson he learned was how he wanted to form his son to be the type of man that a Woman in Love would want to marry. I found that pretty incredible!

CS:  In the book, it was especially difficult for me to read what you experienced during your parents’ divorce.  What would you say to girls who are suffering through a painful divorce?

KH: You are not your mother and your future spouse is not your father. Your love story can end very differently. When your parents fail you, look to the ones who never did, your Heavenly Father and Blessed Mother. Never forget that they are crying with you. Be Christ in your home, even when it seems impossible.

CS:  Not everyone goes into marriage so ideally as you and Mark–in terms of being so fully aware of Church teaching, so chaste, so united in their faith, so equally committed to Christ.  Do you have any words for women who find themselves in difficult marriages?

KH:  In the spiritual life, we find our answers at the cross.  The cross is the rule and not the exception.  Christ honored His promise to His Bride even when she deserved it the least. When His people crucified Him, Christ remained faithful. The fruit of this is the salvation and of us all. I would promise this woman that her endurance and prayers will also bring about great fruit. She may see it manifest or she may not but the Lord will always answer those who love Him. In difficult times one may find themselves echoing his very words, “Father let this cup pass… not my will but Thy will be done.”  Faced with great trials, one must grow closer and closer to Christ.

I know this is easier said than done, but I would advise them to never forget that our wedding vows point toward ourselves and are unconditional toward our spouse’s actions and disposition. As I often remind my teens, “you can only control one person: yourself.” In marriage we promise to honor, be faithful and love our spouse in good times and bad.

CS:  Now that the book is finished, what do you do with all your spare time??

KH:  Through much discernment the Lord has recently called me to stay at home with my two daughters, Maria, 4 and Clare, 6m. It has been SO wonderful thus far and every day is such an experience of God’s goodness! In the meantime I am pursuing speaking engagements and am excited to see what doors the Lord opens for the spreading of the message of Woman in Love!

If you are interested in learning more about Woman in Love, you can check out Katie’s website, www.womaninlove.org .  Copies of  Woman In Love can be purchased on the website by clicking bookstore.   If you do not have a PayPal account, you may pay on PayPal as a guest or call 832-217-4440.   You can also “like” Woman In Love on Facebook to receive Katie’s updates.