Padre Pio wrote a letter to Anitta Rodote, one of his spiritual daughters, reflecting upon one’s comportment at Holy Mass and in everyday life. I found his stress on modesty very striking and pertinent after reading about this nun’s performance. Here are some excerpts from his letter:
In order to avoid irreverence and imperfections in the house of God, in church which the divine Master calls the house of prayer – I exhort you in the Lord to practice the following.
Enter the church in silence and with great respect, considering yourself unworthy to appear before the Lord’s Majesty. Amongst other pious considerations, remember that our soul is the temple of God and, as such, we must keep it pure and spotless before God and his angels.
Take Holy water and make the sign of the cross carefully and slowly.
As soon as you are before God in the Blessed Sacrament, devoutly genuflect. Once you have found your place, kneel down and render the tribute of your presence and devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Confide all your needs to him along with those of others. Speak to him with filial abandonment, give free rein to your heart and give him complete freedom to work in you as he thinks best.
When assisting at Holy Mass and the sacred functions, be very composed when standing up, kneeling down, and sitting, and carry out every religious act with the greatest devotion. Be modest in your glances; don’t turn your head here and there to see who enters and leaves. Don’t laugh, out of reverence for this holy place and also out of respect for those who are near you. Try not to speak to anybody, except when charity or strict necessity requests this.
If you pray with others, say the words of the prayer distinctly, observe the pauses well and never hurry.
In short, behave in such a way that all present are edified by it and, through you, are urged to glorify and love the heavenly Father.
On leaving the church, you should be recollected and calm. Firstly take your leave of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament; ask his forgiveness for the shortcomings committed in his divine presence and do not leave him without asking for and having received his paternal blessing.
Once you are outside the church, be as every follower of the Nazarene should be. Above all, be extremely modest in everything, as this is the virtue which, more than any other, reveals the affections of the heart. Nothing represents an object more faithfully or clearly than a mirror. In the same way,nothing more widely represents the good or bad qualities of a soul than the greater or lesser regulation of the exterior, as when one appears more or less modest.You must be modest in speech, modest in laughter,modest in your bearing, modest in walking. All this most be practised not out of vanity in order to display one’s self, nor out of hypocrisy in order to appear to be good to the eyes of others, but rather, for the internal virtue of modesty, which regulates the external workings of the body.
Always keep the modesty of the divine Master before your eyes, as an example. . . Try to see a certain lovable majesty in his presence, a certain pleasant authority in his manner of speaking, a certain pleasant dignity in walking, in contemplating, speaking, conversing; a certain sweet serenity of face. Imagine that extremely composed and sweet expression with which he drew the crowds, making them leave cities and castles, leading them to the mountains, the forest, to the solitude and deserted beaches of the sea, totally forgetting food, drink and their domestic duties.
Thus let us try to imitate, as far as we possibly can, such modest and dignified actions.
St. Padre Pio, pray for us!
From volume III of Padre Pio’s Letters, “Correspondence with his Spiritual Daughters (1912-1923) 1st edition (English version), Fr. Alessio Parente, O.F.M. Cap., Editor; Edizioni Padre Pio da Pietrelcina, Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary, San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, 1994, Translated by Geraldine Nolan, pp. 88-92.