I have noted an abundance of threads about modesty. I find this curious. In my own life, I have never even been aware of modesty as an issue, let alone an issue of seemingly considerable importance to many people.
To explain where I am coming from, I am a cradle Catholic. On my mother’s side of the family, we have been Catholic since shortly after being emancipated from slavery. On my father’s side, we have been Catholic for four generations.
I was born and raised in New York City, historically one of the most Catholic cities in the US. I was baptized as an infant and confirmed as a child; I received the sacraments of reconciliation and Holy Communion. As a family, we attended church every Sunday and holy day of obligation. My brother and sister and I were all altar servers. We prayed and read the bible at home. My parents have always subscribed to both America and The Tablet.
The only way in which I arguably “missed out” in terms of a Catholic upbringing was that my siblings and I were all sent to public schools rather than Catholic schools (I don’t regret this, as NYC has excellent specialized high schools). The reason for this was that my parents have always, as a matter of principle, chosen to teach in public high schools. (When they were first married, they lived in the UK, where my dad was studying. During this time my mom taught at what they call a “public” school, which is actually a kind of private school (such as Eton), for the reason that she was able to work there despite not being a qualified teacher. This experience confirmed their belief in the injustice of a two-tier education system in which the rich are able to buy a superior education for their children.)
My parents have always been very active in the parish, mostly in ministries concerned with social justice, such as the food pantry and teaching English to migrants. They are long-standing members of Democrats for Life of America. In 2007, in obedience to the Church, they terminated financial support for Amnesty International, while continuing to support many of AI’s aims, e.g. as National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty national action team volunteers.
My question, therefore, is this: why was “modesty” never part of my Catholic vocabulary? Please don’t misunderstand me. I was never encouraged to be positively immodest. But my clothing choices have always been essentially the same as those of a majority of western women. Indeed, the only Catholic I know who practices what I would call modesty is a young woman who is a Chaldean Catholic refugee from Iraq. I have observed that she will cover up with a large scarf in the presence of a man who is not a relative. However, I assume that this is more a cultural practice than a strictly religious one. Most of those posting about modesty on CAF, however, seem to be Latin Rite Catholics from the United States. That is why I find it so puzzling that I have never met anybody with this particular concern in real life.
I am not here to debate modesty as such. I am more curious to learn how it is that I managed to go through so much of my life without knowing that this is such an important concern for many Catholics.