Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Approach to Catholic Fashion 3: clothes and ideology

A sanitised and prettyfied 'goth' outfit.
There'll be better examples on the last bus home.
Many Catholics, some visible in the combox in other posts in this series, take modesty in clothing
seriously to the point that they no longer think anything else worthy of consideration in choosing clothes: one commenter, in particular, said there was no reason why a Catholic should not wear the Muslim hijab in one of the pictures. I doubt, however, that any Catholic would ever do so, and I think that the reason would be an instinctive fear of appropriating not only the clothes but their ideological underpinning as well. This post will discuss the way in which clothes express the ideology of the person wearing them (or at any rate that of the designer), and in doing so, I hope, demonstrate the paramount importance of making informed choices about what we as Catholics wear.

The fact that clothes are a kind of language through which we communicate with the people around us is obvious, but still bears repeating. Every society has created a dress which reflects its values, and the ideas which preoccupy it. Within what might be called the mainstream standard of dress there are groups who deliberately dress differently in order to demonstrate that they set themselves at odds with convention: their dress not only distinguishes them from the crowd but makes it clear in what way they are different. This is most clearly seen today in the style tribes: for example goths, who sprang from  the rock music scene of the 1980s. Musicians were influenced by horror in film and literature, and their fans responded by adopting the appropriate dress and props. As time went on the net was spread wider to encompass the occult, and as the movement grew authors and filmmakers looked to the Gothic literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for inspiration. It’s unnecessary, however, to know much about the origins and development of the movement, to understand and interpret the clothes of a goth, when we meet one. The black hair, eyes and fingernails, the black clothing (often ripped), the piercings and, occasionally, dress styled along period lines, usually Victorian, speak to us more forcefully than any UCAS personal statement can that here is a person who rejects the superficial, optimistic materialism of our time, and furthermore, is deeply preoccupied with supernatural concerns of the darkest sort.

This can be seen, of course, over and over again, in sub-cultures as various as skater boys and bohemians. That much is obvious, and I’m sure that no one would disagree. But aside from these subcultures, which after all are making a deliberate effort to identify themselves sartorially as a group in as noticeable a way as possible, and who have taken possession of a certain style of dress, it is still possible to see, in every garment made by any manufacturer at any time, the influence of philosophies and ideologies, some good, some bad, some indifferent, but nevertheless there. Often the maker will be unaware of the influence over him – sometimes even the designer might be so, too, although that is less common. I think this situation is best summarised by the film The Devil Wears Prada, a witty and provocative take on Vogue and its famously unapproachable editor, Anna Wintour. The new secretary, ignorant of all things fashionable (and dressed accordingly), is inclined to be scornful of a room full of fashion editors and stylists preparing their next fashion shoot: she is an Ivy League graduate, and naturally above all that sort of thing, and inadvertently lets this out to the aforementioned editor. She is skewered in a few sentences, as follows:

I see, you think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select, I don't know, that lumpy blue sweater for instance, because you're trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don't know is that that sweater is not just blue, it's not turquoise, it's not lapis, it's actually cerulean, and you're also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002 Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns, and then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent, wasn't it, who showed cerulean military jackets...and then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers and then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic casual corner where you no doubt fished it out of some clearance bin. However that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs, and it's sort of comical how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when in fact you're wearing a sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room.

None of us should underestimate the truth and force of this statement. Everything we wear has been created in a particular way with a particular aim, and is, like it or not, making a particular statement. It may not be a statement that we fully understand, and for that reason, like the secretary in the film, we may not be aware we are making it and be inclined to doubt that we are making it. But it is there, visible to the people around us; and we need to understand clearly that if we haven’t made a conscious effort to choose a style statement, it will be chosen for us by people with whom we probably have very little sympathy.

Again, this is a matter which, like the understanding of beauty, takes time to understand. As Dr Shaw has very clearly put it in his philosophical interludes, it is the exercise of the virtue of prudence. It would be impossible, in one blog post, to list the many philosophies which are at variance with the Catholic Faith and then go on to describe all the many garments which it can be seen are derived from them or influenced by them. Here, I will simply point out three prevalent ones, and the ones that Catholics might even be tempted to wear for modesty’s sake, but which should be avoided if possible.

Nirvana. Not a pretty sight: but they're not supposed to be.
First of all, grunge. Originating, like many such movements, in the alternative rock acts of the 1980s, this can be most easily identified ideologically with the lyrics and mind-set of Nirvana, the rock group headed by the late Kurt Cobain. It is essentially nihilistic, and is concerned with the expression of social alienation as well as a rejection of the conventions of society. In fashion terms, this was expressed by anti-aestheticism – a way of trying to say that the wearer was truly authentic. In other words, if you are dressed with no regard for your appearance (even if you have taken modesty into account) you may well be dressing in a grunge-derivative style. A muddy palette is most earnestly to be avoided in this regard, as well as clothes which are dirty, or damaged, or have clearly been chosen only for their cheapness and durability. (Nothing wrong with cheapness or durability, of course, but taken together and with no other quality to recommend them, and you’re wearing grunge.) It may not be strictly within the remit of this post to mention it, but not washing also puts you firmly in grunge country. It was said of Kurt Cobain that he was "too lazy to shampoo", and this would not be at all at odds with the rest of the above principles. But did it make him a more authentic person? No, just a very anti-social one.

Jeans are bad enough, but these are specifically designed to look as though
you've picked them up off your boyfriend's bedroom floor.
Secondly, feminism. Now the idea that feminism can be expressed through fashion appals true feminists, but it’s undeniable that they have used clothes as a vehicle to express their views (denim dungarees, anyone?), which further underlines the fact that no group can escape the concrete fact of clothes speaking a language that is clearly understood by all. It’s easy to avoid dungarees, of course, but there are also subtler ways in which clothes can be feminist, and it is necessary, unfortunately, to try and keep abreast of the progress of feminism as it tacks erratically from sexual empowerment to Playboy bunnies to Fifty Shades of Grey and back again, taking in different understandings of the place of women in the workplace, in order to avoid the latest feminist on-trend message. In the 80s it was big shoulders and power suits (unfortunately wearing a skirt doesn’t necessarily safeguard you) – now I think the one biggest thing to avoid is the trouser suit. Look out for anything that looks like it has been borrowed from men’s tailoring, and try to avoid looking too much as though comfort has been your only concern when dressing. I know there’s no need for me to warn a traddy reader against anything advertising sexual availability or sexual freedom, but that kind of clothing would probably fall into this category too, though there can be an overlap here with other subcultures such as punk.

Punk is another one to look out for. I must say it is amazing to me that punk is still going, and I think it must be in part attributed to the continuing influence of Vivienne Westwood, still going strong at 73. Punk is the sartorial expression of anarchy (the non-recognition of authority and absolute freedom of the individual – in political terms, a society without a publicly recognised government). This is directly opposed to Catholicism, which is hierarchical and ordered. Punk fashion is usually achieved by combining a conventional element, for example a tartan skirt, which is then contradicted by clunky boots and aggressive jewellery. The overall effect is that of a garment at war with itself and its wearer: it is a brutal, brutalised style. Safety pins, rips and black leather often feature. As time has gone on particular brands have become associated with this, such as Doc Martens, and the movement has developed into expressions of sexual fetishism, deviancy and perversity. It’s not necessary to sport a bright pink Mohican to promote a punk style. That Dress, worn by Liz Hurley (usually known as the 'safety-pin dress') was an example of an anti-fashion statement worn on the red carpet, the one place where you might think haute couture was still safe. Unbecoming, unflattering, it nevertheless made her name: it anticipated a trend, and made a complex fashion statement the ramifications of which are still working themselves out.

For people who regard themselves as above fashion, or at any rate outside it, designers such as Issey
Classic Eskandar: trying to look like nothing
in particular. Can be elegant, can be bizarre, but
it has been so often imitated they even fought
a legal battle about it.
Miyake and Eskandar have a strong attraction. They wanted to reject the tidal movements of fashion and put themselves outside its parameters, and their garments have been worn by many people who sought to identify their style as transcending fashion. However by the nature of clothes design, these designers found themselves involved in the very industry which they set out to contradict. Though both have created some beautiful clothes, their ideological position in relation to fashion is fundamentally incoherent. There is a lesson for us too here: much as we might like the idea of saying that as Catholics, fashion is not for us, nevertheless we can’t help being caught up in it and must make the best of it, rather than trying to pretend that we are disconnected from it.

Aside from these ideologically driven styles, we should be aware of dangerous sociological influences on fashion. Pick up a copy of Vogue, and you will see them at work. The cult of youth, which disparages age and experience, is clearly visible in baby doll styles, and very high hemlines. The blurring of gender roles can be seen in tuxedos for women and so called “boyfriend” shirts and trousers. Also very worrying is the attempt (mentioned in my previous post) of deconstructing clothes by taking them out of their proper setting. Institution after institution has been forced to reduce or drop their dress codes altogether in the face of this insistence on wearing the wrong clothes: I see from the news that Wimbledon is the latest victim. This is sad because once such a tradition is reversed, it’s almost impossible to reintroduce it; and, of course, once sensitivity to appropriateness has been lost, rebuilding it becomes painfully difficult: it’s hard even to get people to see that there is anything needing rebuilding. Even more pernicious, in my view, is the cult of ugliness: Miuccia Prada boasted of making “ugly clothes from ugly materials”, and in anything like that, or in anything that seems to want to uglify or contradict the feminine form, we should see opposition to the beauty of God’s creation all around us.

Our Lady said the the children at Fatima that "there are no fashions in Heaven": anyone attempting to recreate a Puritan-style uniformity of dress within Catholicism should take note! It therefore behoves us to look beyond the craze of the moment, or indeed latest mad list of details constituting a Mary-like dress. What we put on should be determined not by these things but by sensitivity to our situations and the people around us, and in doing so should attempt, in however feeble a manner, to emulate the many and varied beauties of nature, and to embrace the many colours, shapes and textures it gives us.

Catherine of Medici weds the future King of France in 1533.


  1. Brilliant post - felt I have learnt something!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I am deleting the above comment of mine because I think I better understand your intentions upon further reflection and I do respect them as well :)

  3. I wouldnt mind being able to dress like the Sheikhah of Qatar. Im a Steampunkette at heart but got too old to pull it off. Queen of Puddings dont be too hard on the earnest ladies in their flowered long dresses. They are usually very fine characters and surely you dont want to come off as another Tracey Rowland, do you? The most beautiful woman I ever saw was a barefoot Amish lady walking down a dirt road. She had not a sticth of makeup on and wore a plain purple dress but she was a knockout.. Its not the clothes that make a woman beautiful.

    1. To be fair, upon some further thought I think I see where QofP is coming from.

      I think she is reacting to Tracey Rowland's comments that trads look bland and uniform. So she is perhaps attempting to reintroduce our old language of expressing beauty (or at least show why we should strive to rediscover it) so that trads can dress modestly and with beauty.

      I think her goal is fine. But she turns in to a Tracey Rowland because she ends up criticizing the trads as being bland due to following rules and standards which she thinks is the cause of the uniformity (or puritanical looking fashion).

      That is an error because it is not the rules that lead to such uniformity. The rules help preserve modesty perfectly fine!!! It is the lack of a language to express beauty through clothing that causes the uniformity.

      Now is that uniformity a problem? Is it necessarily ugliness? I think the answer is NO!! As long as it is voluntary and women or men have decided to forgo the need for such vanity, it is perfectly fine to dress that way. But QofP then falls in to the second error in concluding that to forgo such attempts at beautifying oneself is ugliness.

      That is an error because any man or woman can voluntarily forgo the need to express beauty through their clothes. They can even decide to forgo showing themselves to the world completely as those who join monasteries do. But even then there are limits as Dr. Shaw pointed out because we cannot express ugliness (which means 'falsities or distorted truths' in this discussion) instead.

      So I think QofP means well and she only wants to teach fellow trads the way to shed the blandness. And what she attempts to teach is the language of expressing truths through clothing that was lost in the past century due to modernism. I think many can benefit from it who are trads and are looking for ways to add some beauty to their dress.

      But as it irked you, it irked me initially as well because it came across as being a necessary thing.

      I think QofP may perhaps agree (and we can all agree) if we state it as follows

      1) It is important to dress modestly
      2) But it is also important to not dress in an ugly manner (represent or express falsities or distorted truths)
      3) It is optional whether one wants to learn a fashion and dress beautifully

      How does that sound QofP?

    2. Btw, just to put a concern to rest, I think though learning a fashion and dressing beautifully is optional, given the means, most trads will definitely adopt to pursue that option. Some may even go overboard and be a little caught up in vanity haha.

      But anyway, just thought I should say that in case someone misunderstood me as painting a picture of a world where most are uniformly dressed while some are in fashion.

    3. Dymphna, I think, with you, that it is essential that anyone who participates in this debate should do so graciously and politely. It's too personal a subject for any other approach. I love your description of the Amish lady: I can visualise exactly how she must have looked! I don't doubt you for a moment when you say she was a knockout: indeed, I think many clothes adopted by the Puritans and other similar Protestant sects were very elegant. But there is a reason why Catholics haven't been told to adopt this style wholesale, and I think we need to bear that in mind when considering clothes for ourselves.

  4. P.S. I apologize Queen of Puddings for my replies in past posts. I think I didn't understand your intentions which are very good and I myself agree that what you are calling trads to rediscover is indeed something they need to do.

    I do of course have the disagreement with you on whether all trads must necessarily rediscover the art of dressing beautifully but that is a very minor point I think that is perhaps not even worth debating over.

    So I hope you will accept my apology and keep up the good work! :)

  5. Hello, this is an interesting post, maybe it is hard, or impossible, to wear clothes which don't identify the person with a particular group? It seems to me that most areas, regions, faiths, ages, in this part of the country have some sort of 'uniform'. To avoid everything except what speaks of your 'own' people for Catholics especially as we don't have a uniform must be so difficult.

    I also think people can wear certain clothes or colours without trying to look like they are, or want to be, from a particular group, black messy clothes, doesn't always mean that person follows the traits of a typical 'goth'. Maybe that is what the previous commenter was saying about the hijab? Just look at the Russian Old Believers, if one of those women walked into a Catholic Church in England we would assume she was a Muslim, and not a Christian, maybe?

    Maybe it is what's taken to extremes which truely defines someone correctly as being part of a certain thought pattern or group? An overall effect someone gives by their clothing and demeanour?
    And I think modesty is, for me, an issue of the heart, mind, tongue, as well as what I put on my back so to speak. It is challenge to learn from Christ and be meek and humble of heart. I think of myself if I can manage some of that then the outward will reflect the inward. I think there are many Bible passages which support the idea of outward appearances reflecting someone's inward spirituality. Maybe within the realms of purity the two go hand in hand? A calmness to someone, a quietness.

    Also I haven't seen anything on the topic of headcoverings, which I'm particularly interested in. I would be interested to read you take on it QofP, in another post perhaps? Thank you.

  6. The difference between QofP and Tracey Rowland is this. Rowland claimed that trads confirm to a certain extreme stereotype, and attacked them for it. QofP has identified the source of the stereotype - it is represented by the two books which push a certain ideology at trads - and explains why it is misguided.

    QofP does not claim that everyone in traddy circles is dressed like that. Far from it. There is, however, a debate going on among trads, which in a dim way Rowland has picked up on, in which QofP is engaging.

    1. Dr. Shaw,

      As I have repeatedly said here and in many places to you now, the rules are not misguided. They serve the purpose of giving guidelines to dress modestly quiet well.

      The problem is with the likes of you, QofP and Rowland who seem to think that the rules like those in the book leads to uniformity or puritanism. So to that extent, all three of you are in the same boat.

      The rules are fine. The uniformity comes to be because people today are lacking an established language of clothing to express truths.

      You of course have the additional issue Dr. Shaw where you mentioned in your last post that modesty is not primarily concerned with the sexual aspect. That is of course an error on your part since it is a claim that contradicts the CCC.

      Anyway, I am sure everyone appreciates your effort and that of QofP's to engage. BUT BUT BUT, there seems to be zero room for anyone to disagree with you and both of you seem to think that you have it all figured out. So in trying to avoid enforcing an ideology, ironically it is the very thing both of you are doing anyway.

      So please, all I ask is that you take a step back and at least admit that maybe, just maybe, other people who object to your stance may have something valid to say.

  7. Anonymous2:50 pm

    Thank you Queen of Puddings, for your thoughts.
    The Divine Redeemer, however, said that "You cannot serve God and mammon." In the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 6:24-34), the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity explicitly said "be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than the meat: and the body more than the raiment?". He equates such considerations as being the service of mammon (ref: Mt 6:24).
    The Incarnate Word goes on to rebuke those that are solicitous about raiment, calling them "of little faith", and further "Be not solicitous therefore, saying, What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the heathens seek."
    But seeing that the Messiah, the Son of the living God, is well not really "with it", let's just ignore what he said.
    So let's turn to Tradition. In the first four centuries, Christians adopted the local custom of clothing, as long as it was chaste. Hebrew Catholics (Jews that convert to the Catholic Faith), can still wear traditional ritual clothing like kippot, tallitot, tefillin, in accordance with the Law. Exactly the same as an Orthodox Jew. All Catholics in the beginning would have adopted the Jewish custom of clothing, which was later poached by Islam.
    One should be very careful in saying that Islam has the monopoly on chaste clothing, that wearing a hijab equates with professing that Mohammed is the Great Prophet. It is highly incorrect and probably highly offensive, especially to the Iraqi Catholics, who are dying in droves at the moment.
    The hijab, like many traditional items of clothing are far more ancient than any erroneous beliefs that have claimed them for their own.
    The Catholic Faith has always in her Tradition held that local customs, such as dress, should continue in the lay faithful. Examples exist throughout the Catholic history, such as in Japan, China, India, Africa and on and on.
    21st Century Britain is a melting pot of people and cultures. In a truly multi-cultural society such as Britian, surely a Catholic is free to not be solicitous in choice of clothing, even if it was a hijab or a kimono? It would be perfectly within their right to wear such clothing if they wished, and to be well respected.
    I think there is a real risk of a "reverse dictatorship of fashion". We all know that modern clothing is dictated by the media and it's indentured slave - the Fashion Houses. Well, let's not get trapped into reacting the exact opposite and reimposing Canon 68 of the 4th Lateran council - imposing a difference between "us" and "them". There is a third path; Do not be solicitous. Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven.

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    2. Euphrosnia: I have put up with an extraordinary amount of your verbiage, but I am not going to tolerate your rudeness. It is unnecessary. Take it elsewhere.

      Catholic Scout: you place an interpretation of the notion of being over-solicitous which is incompatible with scripture, tradition, and common sense. Our Lord had a seamless garment. Tradition tells us this was woven for Him by Our Lady. Whoever made it, it must have taken many hours of loving work. Is this an example of being 'solicitous'? Shouldn't he have just worn a bit of sacking roughly stitched together? Why go to the trouble of making a garment whose value was recognised even by the Roman soldiers deputed to kill Him, if clothing is just something of no importance?

      The point of this post is that what we wear communicates something to the people who see us; many types of clothing express clear, anti-Catholic ideologies. I see you have nothing to say about the detailed points. If you have no counter-arguments, then I suggest you do a bit more thinking on this topic before criticising others.

    3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    4. Yes I do expect you to read the posts on this blog IF YOU AFE COMMENTING ON THEM.

      And no, you can't expect anyone to read your comments if you don't make them of a reasonable length, number, and coherence.

      That's how blogs work. If you don't like if, go and boil your head.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. I apologize Dr. Shaw for my posts.

    I do disagree with you and to the best my ability, I can only arrive at the conclusion you are wrong. If that is my abysmal intellect compared to yours, then so be it. I cannot however accept what I reason to be error. So I hope you understand my insistence that you are probably wrong.

    But either way, I think it is shameful for us to bicker over this matter when both of us at least agree that we should dress modestly and communicating distorted truths or anti-Catholic ideologies is bad (whether it be through dress, images or word).

    I apologize once again and I hope you will excuse my difficulty.

  9. This was an interesting series of posts, but I had the same reaction by the end that I had to the woman who made the speech last year about badly dressed trads: how is any Catholic raising a large family supposed to be able to afford all those clothes? Evening clothes? Day clothes? I'd be happy with clothes that have all their buttons and no holes. And shoes that fit for the children.

    I guess I'm suggesting that dressing elegantly certainly sounds like a wonderful idea, but it's a luxury that most traditionalists (that I know anyways) simply can't afford. We have much more pressing concerns.

    1. You can only do what you can do. Limitations of time and money aren't the issue here - it is ideology.

      Anyway, wearing evening clothes during the day is not the cheap option!

  10. Anonymous10:24 am

    Dr Shaw, thank you for your response.

    My comments are never intended as "ad hominem".

    In this case, I was addressing an important point, that thus far (as far as I can tell) was not present in any of the considerations of the Queen of Puddings. So far in three articles, nothing has been mentioned of what the Incarnate Divine Logos actually said.

    Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, gave explicit and forceful teachings regarding this subject. Since He is the Divine Lawgiver, surely what He instructs is of paramount importance to His followers? "He therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and shall so teach men, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But he that shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Mt 5:9 - the end of the Sermon on the mount, where He gives instructions regarding clothing.

    I am at a loss to see any "interpretation" of scripture in what I said, since, I am just quoting directly from it. I cannot, for the life of me, find any thing in Sacred Scripture or Tradition that contradicts what I said. I can only find confirmation. I appreciate critical analysis of my comments, but I would be most grateful if you can spare a moment to back it up with something more than brow-beating.

    Your argument concerning the garment, that Tradition rightly says was made by the Blessed Virgin Mary, does not hold as being evidence against Christ's own teaching (that would make Him a hypocrite). It was a gift from His Blessed Mother, He didn't make it for Himself, or go buy it. Sacred Scripture actually points to something quite the opposite.
    Holy Gospel according to Luke 7:24 - "But what went you out to see? a man clothed in soft garments? Behold they that are in costly apparel and live delicately, are in the houses of kings".

    As to your questions
    "Is [many hours of loving work] an example of being 'solicitous'?" - no.
    "Shouldn't he have just worn a bit of sacking roughly stitched together?" - I doubt that the Son of God would spurn a gift from His Blessed Mother. Plus a seamless garment was necessary for the fulfilment of Sacred Scripture "They have parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture they have cast lots" - Ps 21:19.

    "Why go to the trouble of making a garment whose value was recognised even by the Roman soldiers deputed to kill Him, if clothing is just something of no importance?" - I think that here there is an interpretation of the Calvary that is not supported by Sacred Scripture, nor Tradition, I am not aware of anything that supports the view that the Roman soldiers disputed over the garment because they recognised it's [implied - *great*] value. It does, however, figure that the garment was made for the fulfilment of Scripture. That's all. It's not a fashion statement. The Divine Redeemer didn't go to Calvary with a "BVM-exclusive label" in the seamless work - God forbid.

    Wikipedia has an interesting article on the Seamless robe of Jesus, which supports my points, rather than yours. Especially pointing out that the robe was worn underneath outer garments (hence hidden from view).
    I was hoping that everything which I have said, precisely relates to the detailed points. We battle the world, the devil and self. But we can't fight it with it's own weapons. Christ showed us the way. It doesn't mean we walk around in sack-cloth (ad ignominiam). It just means what it says "be not solicitous about what you shall wear".

    I feel that the main objection against my comment is one that was lodged directly to Christ in His own time - "Many therefore of his disciples, hearing it, said: This saying is hard, and who can hear it?" Jn 6:61. It's not easy to follow what Christ said, but that is what we as Catholics must do and preach it to, as love knows how.

    Catholic Scout.

    1. Anonymous10:42 am

      Sorry mistyped the scripture reference, it's Mt 5:19.

  11. Catholic Scout. I have addressed your Scriptural argument. Since it would indeed be absurd to say Our Lord is a hypocrite, it is obviously your interpretation of His words which is problematic.

    On what you have said now, it would appear that Our Lady was at fault in making the seamless garment.

    The making of this garment would have taken, as I said, many hours. It was a thing of value. My point is that - obviously - making and giving and wearing this garment does not represent what Our Lord meant by being 'solicitous'.

    Indeed, since he said we should not be solicitous about what we are to eat or where we are to live, your interpretation has created a wider problem. Does this mean we can't take out insurance? Should we not exercise prudence? No, it does not mean that.

    As you know, our philosophy of clothing in these posts can be summarised as the exercise of prudence about clothing. Our Lord did not condemn that.

  12. Anonymous3:47 pm

    Dear Dr Shaw,
    From the Commentary of St John Chrysostom on the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 6, Mt 6:28-29
    " "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."

    "Having spoken of our necessary food, and having signified that not even for this should we take thought, He passes on in what follows to that which is more easy. For raiment is not so necessary as food.

    "Why then did He not make use here also of the same example, that of the birds, neither mention to us the peacock, and the swan, and the sheep? For surely there were many such examples to take from thence. Because He would point out how very far the argument may be carried both ways: both from the vileness of the things that partake of such elegance, and from the munificence vouchsafed to the lilies, in respect of their adorning. For this cause, when He has decked them out, He does not so much as call them lilies any more, but "grass of the field".

    "And He is not satisfied even with this name, but again adds another circumstance of vileness, saying, "which today is". And He said not, "and tomorrow is not", but what is much baser yet, "is cast into the oven". And He said not, "clothe", but "so clothe".

    "Do you see everywhere how He abounds in amplifications and intensities? And this He does, that He may touch them home: and therefore He has also added, "shall He not much more clothe you?" For this too has much emphasis: the force of the word, "you", being no other than to indicate covertly the great value set upon our race, and the concern shown for it; as though He had said, "you, to whom He gave a soul, for whom He fashioned a body, for whose sake He made all the things that are seen, for whose sake He sent prophets, and gave the law, and wrought those innumerable good works; for whose sake He gave up His only begotten Son."

    "And not till He has made His proof clear, does He proceed also to rebuke them, saying, "O you of little faith". For this is the quality of an adviser: He does not admonish only, but reproves also, that He may awaken men the more to the persuasive power of His words."

    The commentary goes on with wondrous clarity and charity, I do recommend it to you and all your readers.

    The Catena Aurea on Matthew (chapter 6) lists quite a few Fathers, who comment on the particular words of the Divine Redeemer that I refer to, please refer me to one that disagrees with my position (which apparently you "have addressed" - I missed that, were you meaning the glib remark that my "interpretation of His words is problematic"? - please remember what I said about John 6:61).

    I do not dispute for a moment that the Divine Redeemer requires prudence of us. But here the Fathers say that the Incarnate Word of God "teaches us not only to take no thought, but not even to be dazzled at the costliness of men's apparel".

    My point is that the arguments put forth by the Queen of Puddings are not entirely in agreement with the teachings of the Founder of our religion, nor the traditional interpretations of the records of His teaching.

    I take offense at being accused of finding fault with Our Lady. As St John Chrysostom points out "And as in saying, they sow not, it was not the sowing that He did away with, but the anxious thought; so in saying, they toil not, neither do they spin, He put an end not to the work, but to the care."

    The Immaculate Conception was *never* mired by "fault". She freely and perfectly obeyed *all* of the Lords commands. It is not a base and redundant thing to fulfil Scripture. After all, fulfilment of Scripture brought about the Salvation of the human race, which I pray will one day include you and I (please God)!

    1. Anonymous3:47 pm

      St John Chrysostom continues "After this He instructs us, not to aim at all at such ornament. See at least the end thereof; after its triumph "it is cast into the oven": and if of things mean, and worthless, and of no great use, God has displayed so great care, how shall He give up you, of all living creatures the most important?

      "Wherefore then did He make them so beautiful? That He might display His own wisdom and the excellency of His power; that from everything we might learn His glory. For not "the Heavens only declare the glory of God", but the earth too; and this David declared when he said, "Praise the Lord, you fruitful trees, and all cedars". For some by their fruits, some by their greatness, some by their beauty, send up praise to Him who made them: this too being a sign of great excellency of wisdom, when even upon things that are very vile (and what can be viler than that which today is, and tomorrow is not?) He pours out such great beauty. If then to the grass He has given that which it needs not (for what does the beauty thereof help to the feeding of the fire?) how shall He not give unto you that which you need? If that which is the vilest of all things, He has lavishly adorned, and that as doing it not for need, but for munificence, how much more will He honour you, the most honourable of all things, in matters which are of necessity.

      "Now when, as you see, He had demonstrated the greatness of God's providential care, and they were in what follows to be rebuked also, even in this He was sparing, laying to their charge not want, but poverty, of faith. Thus, "if God", says He, "so clothe the grass of the field, much more you, O you of little faith"."

      We're not perfect, Dr Shaw, and while we cooperate with God to receive the Supernatural Grace and Theological virtue of Faith in "the greatness of God's providential care", then, of course, the natural and cardinal virtue of Prudence will be the least that we could do. But what we must teach and preach, is the Gospel Truth and not only to preach the lowest common denominator.


    2. Please note that you lessen the chance of anyone reading your comments if you make them at absurd length.

      If you don't want to think about it, fine. I'd rather you didn't refuse to think about it at such length on my blog.

      It comes down to what Our Lord and the Fathers meant by 'solicitous'. You are wrong to attribute an absurd and extreme meaning to that term, for the reasons I have already set out. Now go away.

  13. Lord have mercy! This whole thing has gotten so bloated I'm not sure what its about anymore.