The following is a piece taken from Maura Byrne's site, Made in His Image. For the link to the original location, scroll beneath the passage. Maura Byrnes spearheaded a new movement called Made in His Image (MIHI), a non-profit which exists to offer hope and healing to victims and survivors of abuse and women struggling with eating disorders. It's an awesome site worth checking out and sharing with a friend. Find her on facebook too!
By Maura Byrnes
God designed a woman to be of great charm and mystery. And when a woman dresses modestly, she reflects this beauty and appeal in a unique way. I desire to educate women through this fashion section of my blog on the nature and dignity of the human person, specifically the feminine genius. When a young woman is educated on her dignity, I believe it changes her whole outlook on life, which includes how she dresses, in order to portray her inherent dignity to others.
What is modesty?
At the core of modesty is moderation, simplicity and a regard for decency in your behavior and dress. Modesty starts inside a person’s heart and mind. Modesty asks questions, Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose in life? If a woman can’t honestly answer those questions the probability of her dressing modestly is unlikely, because she doesn’t understand the reasoning behind it. But, if a woman can boldly say that she is a daughter of God, created in the image and likeness of God, then, modesty will naturally flow from her very being because she knows her worth. Modesty cherishes the sacredness of the human body in our overly sexualized world.
Dressing modestly doesn’t mean that you have to dress in turtlenecks and long skirts. Personally, I can’t stand turtlenecks, but dress modestly. Yes, it will take extra effort when shopping to find modest clothing, but it can certainly be done. Modesty reveals a woman’s inner beauty for the world to see, while preserving her body for her husband in the holy sacrament of marriage.
At the core of every woman is the natural desire for respect. No woman desires to be mistreated, but in reality, when a woman dresses immodestly she is inviting disrespect upon herself. When she dresses in a revealing way, she is inviting others to notice her body, and possibly lust after what they see. But, when a woman dresses modestly she is protecting herself from being used, while concealing the beautiful mystery of her body. A man told me that women would be shocked if they were to enter the head of the average man in a crowded room of immodestly dressed women.
Women, who are the crowning of God’s creation play a unique role in reversing this tragedy. How? By embracing the strengths, essence and authentic value of womanhood. In his letter to women, Pope John Paul II refers to these unique characteristics of women as the feminine genius. What an exceedingly beautiful task we have been given!
What is the Feminine Genius?
Our culture is plagued with false truths about beauty and self-image because often times women don’t know what their true and lasting identity lies in. Confused, women turn to the media for reassurance and guidance. And what does the media tell them? It tells them that in order to be considered “beautiful” they need to look like the latest ninety-five pound manufactured celebrity on the cover of People Magazine. So, because of society, countless women strive after false beauty, perishable fame and attempt to quench their thirst for happiness with fleeting pleasures. But Truth tells women that lasting beauty stems from virtue and character, which is found within.
In fact, woman has a genius all her own, which is vitally essential to both society and the Church. It is certainly not a question of comparing woman to man, since it is obvious that they have fundamental dimensions and values in common. However, in man and in woman these acquire different strengths, interests and emphases and it is this very diversity which becomes a source of enrichment. – Blessed John Paul II
The following two articles are most definitely worth the read:
Mulieris Dignitatem – John Paul II’s Letter on the Dignity and Vocation of Women (Check out Fr. Mike's essay on YCW hre).
Letter of Pope John Paul II to Women
What are these “different strengths and interests” that John Paul II talks about?
One of the greatest treasures Blessed John Paul II left to the world is his book -Theology of the Body. In it, he talks about the human person and explains how God is made manifested through humanity. Theology of the Body delves into what it truly means to be a man and woman, and how we should live out our masculinity and femininity in accords with how God created us. If we yearn to be the best version of ourselves, then we must embrace the unique qualities of our gender. To do this we must go back to the very beginning when God created us. Genesis 1:27 tells us, God created man in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
God created us out of love, for us to love and be loved. The way in which this love is expressed and revealed is different for men and women, which is how God in His infinite wisdom designed it to be. And it is the unique characteristics of men and women that enable this love to come to fruition. We exist to complement one another. In Theology of the Body, John Paul II tells us that we are called to exist as a gift for one another. He describes this gift as a sincere gift of self, and it is only when we lay down our life for another in this way that we will experience genuine fulfillment.
In order to understand God’s plan for humanity in our fallen world we must go back to the beginning and see what God intended for us. It is only when we do this that we will be filled with hope and peace. In the beginning of time after God created the world he saw that it wasn’t good for man to be alone, thus He created woman. Eve was created as a sincere gift for Adam, and Adam as a gift for her. They were created to complement one another in their union, each to offer themselves to the other as a gift.
Our society today has lost sight of this quintessential ideal due to selfishness. Our culture is plagued with violation and unrest due to a “hook up” mentality, lack of chastity and self-control, pornography and a genuine lack of respect for the human person.
How can we bring our culture back to God’s original design? Women, in order to do this you must embrace your femininity in a unique way. You were created with a unique purpose and plan and your dignity flows from the Father’s love for you.
Some qualities that are unique to women are receptivity, sensitivity, generosity, and maternity. Please keep in mind that men can most certainly be receptive, sensitive and generous, a woman simply embodies these characteristics in a different way. The way in which a woman expresses these values is not better than the way in which a man does and most certainly not in a lesser capacity either. Simply put they are just different, and different never means greater or lesser. Picture for a moment Leonardo da Vinci’s painting – the Mona Lisa, now picture the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo. While both works of art are masterpieces, one is not better than the other, they are simply different.
Location for this article is found here.