Modesty preserves devotion and purity in the soul, and makes us fit for society; whereas immodesty ruins all these things

December 13, 2021 • 3 min

From The Sinner’s Guide, page 397
By Venerable Louis of Granada

Another fruit which we derive from this exterior modesty is a greater facility in preserving the recollection, devotion, and purity of the soul.

The interior and the exterior man are so closely united that good or evil in one is quickly communicated to the other. If order reign in the soul its effect is experienced in the body; and the body, if disturbed, renders the soul likewise restless. Each may in all respects be considered a mirror of the other, for the actions of one are faithfully represented in the other.

For this reason a composed and modest bearing must contribute to interior recollection and modesty, while a restless exterior must be incompatible with peace of soul.

Hence the Wise Man tells us: “He that is hasty with his feet shall stumble.” [Prov. xix. 2.] Thus would he teach us that he whose exterior is wanting in that calm gravity which is the distinctive mark of God’s servants must inevitably stumble and frequently fall.

A third effect of the virtue we are considering is to communicate to man a composure and gravity befitting any office he may fill.

We behold an example of this in Job, who tells us that the “light [the dignity] of his countenance never fell to the earth.” [Job xxix. 24.] And speaking of the authority of his bearing, he says: “The young men saw me and hid themselves, and the old men rose up and stood. The princes ceased to speak, and laid the finger on their mouth. The rulers held their peace, and their tongue cleaved to their throat,” [Job xix. 8, 9. 10.]

But the gravity and dignity of this holy man were mingled with so much sweetness and mercy that, as he tells us, “when seated as a king with his army about him he was a comforter to them that mourned.” [Ib. 25.]

Wise men condemn this want of modest gravity, less as a fault in itself than as a mark of levity; for, as we have already observed, an unreserved and frivolous exterior indicates an uncontrolled and ill-regulated interior.

Hence the author of Ecclesiasticus says: “The attire of the body, and the laughter of the teeth, and the gait of the man show what he is,” [Ecclus. xix. 27.] “As the faces of them that look therein shine in the water,” says Solomon, “so the hearts of men are laid open to the wise,” [Prov. xxvii. 19.] by their exterior acts.

Such are the benefits which result from a grave and modest deportment. We cannot but deplore the conduct of those who, through human respect, laugh and jest with a freedom unbecoming their profession, and allow themselves indulgences which deprive them of many of the fruits of virtue.

“A religious,” says St. John Climachus, “should not abandon his fasts through fear of falling into the sin of vain-glory.” Neither should fear of the world’s displeasure cause us to lose the advantages of gravity and modesty in our conduct; for it is as unreasonable to sacrifice a virtue through fear of offending men as it would be to seek to overcome one vice by another.

The preceding remarks apply to our manners in general. We shall next treat of the modesty and sobriety which we should observe at table.

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