A gift to Our Lady
8 September 2021
By Maria Madise
Today is the birthday of our Blessed Mother. Her nativity is one of the only three earthly birthdays celebrated in the liturgical calendar, together with Our Lord Himself and St John the Baptist, because these three were without sin.
How to please our heavenly Mother on her birthday? The most thoughtful gifts always reflect what is most valued by the recipient, their interests and desires rather than the preferences of the donor. So then, what would she appreciate most from us?
The answer, surely, must have to do with purity. Purity, which is intrinsic to her, is shocking by its absence from our world. The complete freedom from all impurity, on the other hand, made the Immaculate a worthy tabernacle for the Word Incarnate. What greater gift – what greater consolation or relief – could we offer our Blessed Mother today than to make reparation and commit to purity of heart and mind, so that her Son might dwell amongst us?
The gift of purity from us, her children, becomes more urgent by the day. London, like any large city, has never been known as a centre of modesty, however, something dramatic seems to have happened during this pandemic. Scenes and images which used to be restricted to revellers on Friday or Saturday night can now be seen in broad daylight, right under the eyes of children. All reserve appears to be gone, nothing is seen as inappropriate. On several occasions walking through the streets of London with a friend or colleague they have remarked: “Now I have really seen everything.” And yet, the costumes, that would perhaps not be out of place at a “drag show”, a nightclub or on the beach, are only the visible tip of the terrible iceberg that threatens to sink our society into the depths of corruption. At the root of this is the devil’s attack on virginity, purity and everything that reflects the Immaculate Heart.
The fruit of impurity is clouded judgement. In his letter to Titus, St Paul wrote, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.” (Titus 1:15) To confirm the truth of this we need look no further than to Christian marriage and the family, the building blocks of any civilised society, which today are mocked and degraded by being equated to the sinful union of couples of the same sex by law. Or to our schools where children are robbed of their innocence through an education pointing to impurity and sexual “rights”. Or the tragedy of abortion, which destroys both virginity and motherhood, and is now brought to women in their own homes. Our era, in which the distance between man and God grows ever wider, is marked by increasingly serious offences against purity, the loss of any sense of decency, of modesty in dress, words or comportment.
And since the need for reparation for such widespread sins has become so urgent, let us celebrate the birthday of the Blessed Virgin by starting to take steps towards restoring her image in our society.
The question of dress is usually a delicate one and difficult to discuss with due consideration for all circumstances. On the other hand, in the current cultural climate, where the understanding of Christian modesty, authentic femininity and masculinity are under serious attack, there is much that can be done by example.
Let us consider how, in the past, Church authorities, including popes, frequently drew on Scripture and the example of the saints to emphasise the need always to dress modestly – at work as well as at times of leisure, because Our Lord and our faith in Him are always the same, and we are always seen by angels, saints and the entire court of God.
St Paul taught that women should appear “in decent apparel; adorning themselves with modesty and sobriety” (1 Tim 2:9). St Francis de Sales commenting on this passage does not hesitate to remark that “the same may be said of men”.
Indeed, both Christian men and women ought to express modesty in their dress. By the way we look, speak and act we give witness to who we are and what we believe. We are in the battle and a soldier’s uniform shows his readiness and competence to fight. It is the appearance of a police officer that allows those about him to recognise, respect and obey him as an officer of the law. Likewise, whilst we may seek comfort and convenience in our dress we may then find ourselves less likely to be recognised and respected in ourfight for an authentic Christian civilisation. We should, therefore, look like Christians “on duty” at all times, and accept this as a sign of contradiction of the neo-pagan world around us. Speaking of first-century Rome, The Catechism of Perseverance recalls: “The admirable purity of our ancestors appeared in their exterior. Nothing was more striking than the contrast between Christian and pagan women in this respect.” Therefore, timeless standards for dress should be joyfully welcomed and embraced.
Let us also be mindful that it was daring individuals, who had no fear of the opinions of others, who introduced the indecent and egalitarian fashions that are now destroying our once Christian culture. Therefore, it must be faithful Christians who dare to lead our society back to a higher standard of decency more pleasing to Our Lord and Our Lady.
The special role of women
In seeking to restore purity in our culture, everyone has their part to play, but women have perhaps the most notable one.
Since the French Revolution and the particular efforts of the masonic lodges to corrupt Catholicism, women were considered to have an important role. This programme of corruption was determinedly pursued but especially in connection with the feminist movement in the 1960s, these efforts bore ample fruit. The magazine L’Humanisme wrote at that time:
“The first conquest to be done is the conquest of women. Woman must be freed from the chains of the Church and from the law. […] To break down Catholicism, we must begin by suppressing the dignity of women, we must corrupt them together with the Church. We spread the practice of nudity: first the arms, then the legs, then all the rest. In the end, people will go around naked, or almost, without batting an eyelid. And, once modesty has been removed, the sense of the sacred will be extinguished, the morality will be weakened and faith will die of asphyxiation.”
Until fairly recently, Church leaders zealously protected the purity of her daughters. In his address to a group of Catholic girls, Pope Pius XII lamented:
“Many women… give in to the tyranny of fashion, be it even immodest, in such a way as to appear not even to suspect what is unbecoming. They have lost the very concept of danger: they have lost the instinct of modesty.”
Later, he commented on the inherent connection between the morals of an individual and the morals of the culture and the nation, so well-known to the enemies of the Church:
“It is often said almost with passive resignation that fashions reflect the customs of a people. But it would be more exact and much more useful to say that they express the decision and moral direction that a nation intends to take: either to be shipwrecked in licentiousness or maintain itself at the level to which it has been raised by religion and civilization.”
Our Lady herself issued warnings against the corruption of her daughters. “Certain fashions are to be introduced which will offend Our Lord very much,” she said in Fatima. “Those who serve God should not follow these fashions. The Church has no fashions. Our Lord is always the same.”
And already much earlier, 1594-1634, in Quito, Ecuador, Our Lady of Good Success had said:
“Unbridled passions will give way to a total corruption of customs because Satan will reign through the Masonic sects, targeting the children in particular to ensure general corruption.
“In those times the atmosphere will be saturated with the spirit of impurity which, like a filthy sea, will engulf the streets and public places with incredible license… Innocence will scarcely be found in children, or modesty in women.”
So what are Catholic women to do today? The pure image of feminine nature should be kept before our eyes in the Immaculata, the Virgin, writes Edith Stein.
“The most pure virgin is the only one safeguarded from every stain of sin. Except for her, no one embodies feminine nature in its original purity. Every other woman has something in herself inherited from Eve, and she must search her way from Eve to Mary. There is a bit of defiance in each woman which does not want to humble itself under any sovereignty. In each, there is something of that desire which reaches for forbidden fruit. And she is hindered by both these tendencies in what we clearly recognise as woman’s work.”
To fulfil her destiny, to be truly happy, every woman must take Mary as her example. Regardless of her particular role or state in life, she must joyfully submit herself wholly to God in everything she does. Edith Stein continues:
“Whether she is a mother in the home, or occupies a place in the limelight of public life, or lives behind quiet cloister walls, she must be a handmaid of the Lord everywhere. So had the Mother of God been in all circumstances of her life, as the Temple virgin enclosed in that hallowed precinct, by her quiet work in Bethlehem and Nazareth, as guide to the apostles and the Christian community after the death of her Son. Were each woman an image of the Mother of God, a Spouse of Christ, an apostle of the divine Heart, then would each fulfil her feminine vocation, no matter what conditions she lived in and what worldly activity absorbed her life.”
Archbishop Fulton Sheen noted that “to a great extent the level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood”. We can only fathom the full dignity and beauty of Christian civilisation when we consider that its level is none other than the Blessed Virgin. On her birthday, let us renew our aspiration and commitment to that civilisation owned and crowned by her.
The attitude of the Church Militant
Above all, purity is the winning banner under which the Church Militant mobilises. It is the promise of victory given by our Mother herself: In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph.
It is the Immaculate who will crush the head of Satan — it is not the most powerful who will win, but the most pure because holy purity holds a more profound power and a greater strength.
A pure soul is focused on God. And this is what we celebrate today: a creature so pure in whom her God could enter.
Today’s world is wrapped altogether in a raging storm of impurity where every Christian must fight for survival. In this fight, we may say to ourselves: I am not as bad as the world! But let us, children of the Church Militant, not compare ourselves to what we resist but model ourselves on the one we love.
 Pius XII, Address to a group of Catholic Action girls on 6 Oct. 1940, quoted by Robert T. Hart in Those Who Serve God Should Not Follow the Fashions, Little Flowers Family Press 2017, p. 5.
 Pope Pius XII, Address to a Congress of the “Latin Union of High Fashion”, 8 Nov. 1957; quoted by Robert T. Hart in Those Who Serve God Should Not Follow the Fashions, Little Flowers Family Press 2017, p. 26.
 Prophecies of Our Lady of Good Success About Our Times, TFP 2000.
 Edith Stein, Essays on Women, ICS Publications, Washington 2010, p. 119.