After three years of marriage, Lucille and I were reflecting on the timelessness of it. Somehow, the last three years have past as though they were one moment in time. That, I believe, is a special grace in itself and a reflection of the time, energy, and work we have put into our marriage.
We have been blessed with a great first child in Anne-Marie, and are eagerly anticipating the arrival of Pitou, our second child now in the womb, in April. Great gifts are our children and very rewarding to have in our lives. Anne-Marie has taught us so much about life and ourselves. It has been a great education.
Just before our anniversary day, Lucille and I were discussing her article* on modesty. I must admit that modesty is something that is very much undervalued in our society today. It is practically impossible to go anywhere by car, transit, foot, or any other method without someone around having exposed flesh or some form of media environment and/or medium pushing something or other via flesh or sex.
Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires one's choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet. CCC 2522Before marriage, I still found this tendency to expose flesh disappointing and disheartening. I tended to sense in my heart that something was amiss in the woman who dressed, or un-dressed if you will, in this manner. (For the purpose of this article, un-dressed is defined as one who is scantilly clad or dressed in very tight or revealing clothing).
To me, a woman's eyes are her most important feature. It is there, in her eyes, that I would discover whether she would be a worthy friend, someone who would hurt me, or someone who didn't even acknowledge my existence.
The first time I saw Lucille, something about her caught my eye. She was dressed modestly, and yet, I was attracted. Once the opportunity presented itself to look into her eyes, I knew in my heart that I had finally met someone who I could become good friends with. That much was very apparent as she has very peaceful and gentle eyes.
After Lucille and I married, I came to realize concretely why I have a real hard time with un-dressed women. My wife is a very beautiful woman, and she has a unique and awesome way that she carries herself. Back in the day we called it, "poise". She carries her personal worth, dignity, and integrity in her poise. Through marriage, she has gifted herself to me.
So why, since the mutual love and gift of self that Lucille and I share is so intimate and beautiful, would I even begin to want to see anyone else's flesh or physical items? Does this un-dressed woman not realize that she is sharing an intimate part of herself that only her (future) husband, or in the case of one consecrated to virginity and/or a religious community Jesus Christ, should see, touch, and experience?
What kind of male, as James B. Stenson* mentions, does the un-dressed woman want? A predator or a protector? A predator will focus on her, because to him she may be advertising sex. Without realizing it, to the predator she is also presenting her vulnerabilities. The protector will want to shield her to some degree, but in my experience, she will push him away for the predator.
As Lucille mentioned in her article, a woman who contracepts needs another form of attraction mechanism since, without realizing it, her phermones no longer flow due to constant infertility. Thus we have in many cases, the un-dressed woman compensating for her lack of phermones.
But I say this to you, if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:28Whether married or not, what a man does when he sees the un-dressed woman is directly connected to whether he, while a teenager or young adult, chose to become a predator or protector. If predator, he will be thinking along the lines of what he can get out of and from the woman. If protector, if at all possible he will be averting his eyes and, if the situation permits, somehow making a connection through the eyes with the woman, the real person.
The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honourable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude. CCC 2362A man and woman, in Sacramental marriage give themselves as a complete gift to the other. The gift of self encompasses the whole person, the spiritual, mental/emotional, and physical self. Here are some observations and questions on un-dressing and fidelity:
- A woman who is married and who un-dresses when she goes out is essentially sharing a part of her gift with other men than her husband.
- Does she see herself as a gift, or as an object for her husband, and perhaps other men?
- Does she allow her own eyes to get caught up in a male other than her husband?
- Does her husband see her as a gift to be received, and the gift of himself to be offered back and received by her mutually? Or, does he see her as a way to sexual gratification, or some other selfish need? This question can be asked in the reverse form for her.
- A man who is married and allows his eyes to be caught up in an un-dressed woman other than his wife is expressing a desire to share his self gift with another woman.
As has already been mentioned, a husband essentially belongs to his wife and she belongs to him. If one of the spouses in any way has given themselves over to desiring after another, or allowing another to desire them, then some part of their gift no longer belongs to their spouse! It now belongs to that other! Remember, the gift is spiritual, mental/emotional, and physical. No one part of who we are is exclusive of the other.
Fidelity expresses constancy in keeping one's given word. God is faithful. The Sacrament of Matrimony enables man and woman to enter into Christ's fidelity for his Church. Through conjugal chastity, they bear witness to this mystery before the world. CCC 2365
Fidelity to one's spouse by guarding one's gift for them is important to maintaining a strong marriage! It is important to note that this fidelity can be eroded in very tiny steps ... just an overt glance here or there, taking the time to turn one's head to catch another glimpse, or flirting with another, etc. Essentially one makes a conscious decision to share one's gift with someone other than their spouse in some way, shape, or form. The temptations and the decisions start very small and work their way up to terrible consequences in a hurry!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to be faithful to our spouse or future spouse. Help us to discover our true dignity and self worth that we find in You alone. Help us to live chastely in our marriages. Teach us to discover the true meaning of the giving of ourselves to the other as You do Sacramentally in the Eucharist, and did in Your Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Help us to keep the focus of our entire self on You and our spouse.
Thank You Jesus for the self giving love that we can offer in the gift of ourself to our spouse in marriage. Thank You Jesus for the total gift of love that we receive from our spouse in marriage. Thank you for the gift and fruit of our married love that we discover in our children.
Fidelity to one's future spouse, whether Jesus or a person in the future, also starts from a very young age. It involves something that can be very difficult for a young person to grasp: looking at the big picture or having a long sighted view on life. And yet, if the young one has made a birthday gift for their parent or friend, and they open it before that day, how would the gift giver feel?
The parents, father and mother, are instrumental in teaching the child to have the long sighted view on life and love.
With the understanding of self as being sacred and a gift; being formed with the humility needed to have a deep prayerful relationship with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, Church, and others; the witness of a father who chastely loves his wife and a mother who chastely loves her husband the child will have the tools needed to grow up understanding the foundations they need to dress modestly and protect their virtue. These tools will also give girls the ability to see whether a boy is a predator or protector, and the boys the ability to realize that they must make a choice as to whether they will be a predator or protector.
As parents, we turn to Our Lady and St. Joseph for the ultimate witness in bringing up our children in relationship with God the Father.
Prayer: Mary, our Mother, teach us as parents to bring up our children with a deep relationship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
St. Joseph, teach us to live chastely, teach us to have a pure heart that is focused on our spouse, or future spouse alone.
Thank you Mary and Joseph for giving us such a beautiful example of love and fidelity in marriage. Thank you both for sharing with all of humanity the gift of your love for Jesus Christ!
Update: A work in progress. Some changes to the grammar and the addition of a couple of CCC quotes. Pax.