Maria Goretti and swimsuits

Maria Goretti and swimsuits

Today is the feast day of St Maria Goretti, the eleven year old virgin and martyr.

In the final month of her short life, Goretti repeatedly refused the sexual advances of Alessandro Serenelli, a nineteen year old neighbour, who in the end attempted to rape her at knife point. Goretti resisted, reportedly screaming “No! It is a sin! God does not want it!” Serenelli stabbed her fourteen times, and though her wounds were mortal, she lived another 24 hours, in which time she forgave Serenelli and despite her terrible suffering spoke only of God and the splendour of Heaven.

I get the impression that these days, for everyone who celebrates her heroic witness, there is another who is uncomfortable with the story.

Do we really want to encourage the message, some will ask, that it’s better to die a virgin than to survive a rape? I think Goretti’s integrity and courage can be universally admired. But not surprisingly, her sexual mores are a bit too alien for some.

It’s especially apt, I think, to present the following video on her feast day. The video, like the life and death of Maria Goretti, raises challenging and controversial claims about purity and modesty.

Jessica Rey is an MBA, an actress, and now a fashion designer who repudiates the immodesty of the bikini. Apart from anything else, her history of the swimsuit is illuminating!

Now I’m wise enough not to pontificate about female fashions and modesty on this blog. But I will add this: the scientific study Rey cites is dubious. The photos in that study were cropped at the neck, so that the women’s bodies were depicted, but their faces were not. In such circumstances, it’s not surprising that the men responded to those photos as they would respond to impersonal objects. Whatever the effect of the bikini, headless bodies are always dehumanizing! This is a point which is worth clarifying, but it certainly doesn’t discredit Rey’s other claims.

  • Cathy

    Great post Fr.John!
    People may be interested to know that Alessandro serenelli’s father kept pornography around the house, it was a something that led to the violence inflicted upon St. Maria Goretti at the tender age of 11.
    St. Maria appeared to Serenelli in jail, he called for a Priest who heard his confession, he also asked for pardon from Marias mother.

    His words to the youth are to avoid pornography.

    • Thanks Cathy! I didn’t know that.

  • MuMu

    Why can’t you pontificate on female fashions, Father John?

    If enough young men – priests, seminarians or just lay guys — outed the effects of seeing scantily-clad women on their bodies and brains and their respect or lack of for the subjects, it might help start a revolution of modesty among young women.

    I see increasing numbers of young women parading around the streets looking slutty and ugly and yet they long for marriage and family, says my GenY youngest daughter.

    NOBODY is telling these kids the truth about chastity and how to convey chastity in dress. The culture tells them to look and act like slags and they’ll get a boyfriend and be happy.

    When I was young priests regularly “pontificated’ on all these related matters, because they wanted young people to be saved from the devastating harm of fornication, abortion, divorce, etc and because they wanted to build up the Body of Christ with happy, strong marriages.

    Get talking, guys. Use your masculine authority. Young women will listen to you.

    • Ah, well, the key to that claim was pontificating on this blog. Come to that, I’d like to think I don’t pontificate at all! But it’s a subject I certainly speak about in other contexts: at youth groups, in the confessional, in conversation, etc. You’re right MuMu!

      • MuMu

        OK Padre. HARDLY ANYBODY is telling these kids….

  • Oh Saint Maria Goretti who, strengthened by God’s grace, did not hesitate even at the age of twelve to shed your blood and sacrifice life itself to defend your virginal purity, look graciously on the unhappy human race which has strayed far from the path of eternal salvation. Teach us all, and especially youth,with what courage and promptitude we should flee for the love of Jesus anything that could offend Him or stain our souls with sin. Obtain for us from our Lord victory in temptation, comfort in the sorrows of life, and the grace which we earnestly beg of thee (here insert intention), and may we one day enjoy with thee the imperishable glory of Heaven. Amen.

  • MuMu

    I’d like to add something cheering to this post: my 18-year-old GenYspy tells me there are quite a few “nicely dressed girls” at uni. “they wear nice shoes (when questioned further on what he meant by “nice”, he said “Brogues”)!! They wear tights and skirts that are not too short, he says. His opinion is that middle-class girls are better-dressed than those from a low socio-economic stratum.

  • Joel

    I think you’ll find these things trend. Less was more 5 years ago, not so today from what I can tell.

    You’ll still get short shorts (you call them daisy dukes I think) in summer but longer skirts, maxi-dresses and genie pants are around too. The ‘indie’ look is gaining momentum and that leans towards covering more than less it would seem.

  • Christa B. Mcintyre

    The trouble with purity nowadays is that we don’t believe in it – or at least we say we don’t. When we read of one saint or another that he or she was a virgin, we are more inclined to deride than to admire. And that is sad: here is not the place for a long disquisition on sex, but suffice it to say that sex is a valuable thing that should not be squandered or used trivially; any more than one should use champagne for cleaning floors.

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