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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Uh, Fr. Pio, uh, yeah ... sure... who knew you had xray vision?

I read his herman-
euticalness's funny posting regards Saggy Trousers/Baggy Pants, and MaggieClitheroe mentioned in the combox that St. Padre Pio (1887 - 1968) apparently had it in for women going to him to confession with skirts/dresses shorter than 8 inches BELOW the knee. I wondered if it was a misquote -- but no, another website dedicated to the good man lent support, it quoted from a book by Dorothy Gaudiosi called Prophet of the People:

“Padre Pio wouldn't tolerate low-necked dresses or short, tight skirts, and he forbade his spiritual daughters to wear transparent stockings. Each year his severity increased. He stubbornly dismissed them from his confession, even before they set foot inside, if he judged them to be improperly dressed. On some mornings he drove away one after another, until he ended up hearing very few confessions. His brothers observed these drastic purges with a certain uneasiness and decided to fasten a sign on the church door”

Well, I guess for sure that would have left Jackie Kennedy out, plus most women (99 percent of them, most likely) not dressed all in black a la Sicilian Widow or Burqua queen style. Apparently women had also been changing dresses in church too...otherwise they wouldn't have forbidden it.
My question ... okay, I've been going to confession since I was 7. Behind a grill. When Padre Pio lived 99% of the time he'd have had confession with a grill too. Did he use X-Ray vision to know the women weren't properly dressed? Did he quiz them? How did this drill work?

Female Penitent: "Bless me father, for I have..."
Padre Pio: "Hold it right there, WHAT are you wearing?"
Padre Pio: "I said what are you wearing? I want to make sure you're appropriately dressed."
FP: "Isn't that a little weird, you can't see me....I'm outta here."

Next female Penitent same stuff -- but this time she says:
FP: "A dress."
PP: "You're not some hot to trot vixen in capri pants with bare arms? Are you sure?"
FP: "NO, of course not. [beginning to think he's a bit nuts]
PP: "Does your dress go past your knees?"
FP: "Yes."
FP: "*sigh* well, if you MUST know, I DON'T know."
PP: "Here, take this ruler. You measure and tell me."
FP: "Two inches below the bottom of my knees, I'm a respectable matron."
PP: "The HELL you are, OUT, OUT, OUT, I tell you....." [Now why Padre Pio, an Eye-Talian, would be measuring in inches, when he'd more likely be measuring in froggy style metric, I dunno.]

And what prompted the scandalous indignant outrage regards a skirt 8 inches below the knee as opposed to a skirt 7 inches below the knee? Did he have a dream one night where in he was chased round his cell by some hoyden with skirts that length? Did his momma wear her skirts exactly 8 inches below and because it was his momma he figured that was "pure as the driven snow" but anything above that was scandal, pure scandal I tell ya.

Well, I took costume's a good thing Mary didn't sin, because as far as I know, she didn't wear a bra because those things weren't invented until the 20th century.

And God help him had a man wearing a kilt entered the box.

PP: Get out of here you brazen plaid covered strumpet!!!
Male Penitent: Uh-HUM...I'm like, you know, a dude, Father....
MP: "I'm not wearing women's clothing. I'm a Scotsman. It's a kilt."
PP: "Oh. Well, tell me you're not going commando. Are you going commando?"
MP: Sure am, and I have a purse and a dagger too.
PP: OUT, geeeeeddddouttahere.....before I sic my donkey on you.

The whole thing gives me pause to wonder if perhaps another monk with different standards would have posted the following:

I always had reservations about the Franciscans...this just sort of adds to it. And you may have guessed I was never crazy about St. Paul. But then that tent maker probably wouldn't have liked me much either, so we're even.

Yes, yes, Fr. Groeschel not withstanding.... Modesty is one thing, but one has to wonder if perhaps Padre Pio's elevator wasn't getting to the top floor or if the jacks and sixes weren't missing out of the deck. My sixth and seventh grade nuns were MERCILESS with a ruler if they thought anyone was overdoing it. But in the mid 60s, when Padre Pio had this thing posted, even THEY gave us two inches ABOVE the mid knee. They did eventually want us to get asked out the senior prom so most of us would eventually raise good Catholic families and all that jazz, and even THEY knew that most boys are not exactly going to ask the girl with the burqua to homecoming. I'd have loved to have seen the exchange between our nuns and Padre Pio.

PP: Okay, I can barely see your face and hands but WHY do you let your girls go about like trollops?!

No wonder his confession line was short.


Anonymous said...

You end your post with "no wonder his confession line was short." Well, if you knew anything at all about St. Padre Pio, you would know that so many people wanted to go to him for confession that reservations were needed a week in advance. I would suggest you do a little more research into the truth about about St. Padre Pio. As he once said to someone who did not believe in hell, "You will when you get there."

Anonymous said...

Alright, I'm new here. In light of the great picture (top-right) I can't tell if you're kidding or not. Are those signs for real? Did Padre Pio have those stipulations? I've gone round Robin Hood's barn about dresses, veils, and the like, and can't tell if this is a spoof. I'm already suspected of heresy for grumbling about such things, but need to know if you're just messing with your readers...

gemoftheocean said...

I know it might be over your head, "anon" but it's called "satire." ;-D Ramona says "hey."

Have a nice day, unless you have other plans.

gemoftheocean said...

gsk: Check out the links I provided. Apparently the signs were real. Despite anon's sulk, by definition his confession line was shorter than it might have been. Granted no one has infinite time (at least on earth) but the Padre Pio link, which is very serious, tells us that he sent a lot of people packing. As to whether I'm "messing" with my readers or not ... I'm simply wondering how offended Padre Pio *really* could have been - I doubt if face-to-face confession was very common (in the western rite, at any rate) given the time period he lived in. And just because someone was a saint, I don't think that automatically means they were 100% easy to get along with or didn't have their exasperating peadillos. The hagiography of St. Jerome tells us as much.

Anonymous said...

Amen! (thanks)

ArchAngel's Advocate said...

Actually European confessionals look a lot different (1/2 way down the page) than the "Coffin boxes" of our youth. Also, I suspect that he didn't do it for the souls of his female penitents but those of his hot-blooded Italian male ones LOL!

gemoftheocean said...

AA: I've seen that style too...but always where the priest's own curtain is drawn. His eyes seem closed at any rate. It seems odd NOT to draw the curtain, given there are such things as lip readers. Whenever I've seen such structures in use the curtain has been drawn.

At any rate, good thing he wasn't a missionary. I can remember seeing in one of Maria von Trapps books a picture of Fr. Wasner (sp?) with a native woman from Papua New Guinea. She was bare chested but the good Father seemed well enough comported not to ogle her like a teenager.

I have to say that I'm not overly enamoured of the Vatican custom which makes ordinary women look like something of a 19th century dragon slayer at formal visits. The men look sensible in conservative suits most of the time...but the women are forced into wearing something clearly anachronistic that no woman would wear on ANY other occasion. It's a costume. And frankly, NOW looks joke like and silly. (IMO) You could say that men's white tie is an anachronism too, but this standard is still used in many other formal settings. Besides which, it looks elegant. Not so the widow's itchy looking weeds the women are forced to don.

LizzieD said...

Tres amusant, GOTO.
When I was in Rome last summer, I noticed that people were asked to cover up any nakedness prior to entering Churches, and if unable to do so were offered a flimsy piece of fabric, which looked somewhat like white gardening fleece, to hide their unseemly bits! Since I alone dressed in an anachronistic manner (and felt surprisingly comfortable doing so, but then I've never really been 'in with the in-crowd') I was one of the few females who was not offered this rather disgusting bit of a rag to cover up with - of course, the handy cotton pashmina type shawl I always carried to keep the blistering sun off my head, was useful for covering up the bit of bare arm below the elbow that I allowed myself to show off to the elements, prior to crossing the threshold of any Sacred place.
By the way, don't men wear a rather "silly costume" whilst offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? and if anyone goes to see the Queen, don't they get dressed up in their best togs, something they wouldn't be seen dead in (or maybe only would be seen dead in) at Mass on a Sunday? And don't women get dressed up in the most ridiculous fashions for proms and theatre events? stuff they would not normally walk down the street in for fear of being mistaken for one of those young ladies Jesus was so fond of trying to convert back to purity?
One of the most bizarre things I saw in my last parish, was when they got a new organ, and decided to have an organ recital in the Church with sherry and nibbles at the interval. People bought their tickets, The Blessed Sacrament was removed, and people who normally turned up for Mass in their most raggy threadbare casual clothes, proved that they were not too poor to dress well, when they put their minds to it! I had always charitably given them the benefit of the doubt for turning up at Mass the way they did, thinking they couldn't afford decent clothes, but no, they evidently had them lurking in their wardrobes ready for an important occasion, when the King wasn't around.
As for poor Padre Pio, I thought it was well-known that he had foresight - he even knew one's sins before one got into the confessional box, so I'm sure he could have had a preview of what one was wearing; or perhaps his Guardian Angel told him; or perhaps he was bi-locating to view the queue in advance of each one entering - who knows, but I would ignore his advice on modesty at peril!!
I'm off now for a bike ride in my 12 inch below the knee light cotton skirt (given my height, that means practically floor length) can be done, ladies, it can be done - you just have to hitch it into yer knickers!!!

gemoftheocean said...

12 inches below the I thought you lived in England and not the North Pole!!!! But whatever floats your boat!

I had thought along similar lines on your point re: priest's vesture et al before I posted this blog item.

I don't think the priest's garments can be seen as anachronistic because they have been in continuous use at the altar. Whereas, the "getup" important visiting ladies going to the Vatican are forced into simply makes them look downright frumpy. And it is a indeed a COSTUME no woman would wear to ANY other place.

People don't necessarily get all dressed up to go to the theatre. It depends if you go to see or be seen. Ditto church. "standards" will vary from place to place of what sticks out or not. Climate, culture, etc. will somewhat alter what's acceptable and not acceptable. Around here (SW California) I don't want to see any spaghetti top tank tops ( or decolletage of any sort) , or shorts cut to the butt cheeks, or tight fitting garments. Long tailored shorts in summer are even considered okay. But everything should be clean. And frankly, we get a share of homeless transients who are sometimes pungent who have scruffy clothes on. But personally I'd rather see them THERE at Mass (and often times they are most respectful and really grateful to be there) and go to a parish where all manner of people are present, than belong to one of those "Our lady of the Cadillac parishes" where people are dressed to the nines in those circular churches all looking at each other rather than at what's happening in the sanctuary.

Via Media in all things I say.

And thanks for the lengthy comment.

Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Well I think those instructions are plain ridiculous. as you know I have 8 daughters & I've watched some families do the long skirts (gee I did it myself!) thing.mantillas..might as well wear a burkha..I love Padre Pio..but our Priests see it more important to get the teenagers to Mass..OK some guys ogle my girls in Mass & when taking round the collection..I am so gonna knock them out!
But this modesty thing is actually more about what's in a person's heart coz they could be right strumpets going round in long coverings.
As an aside my mom works a lot with muslim girls & women with the full regalia...let me tell you the underwear they have on would make me blush!!

swissmiss said...

I'm a spiritual child of Padre Pio and I don't own a skirt or dress any longer, just pants. Didn't know it irked him so much. Hopefully, he is waiting outside the gates of Heaven for me with a change of clothes.

He's one saint that scares the heck out of me even though I ask his intercession!

gemoftheocean said...

Jackie, if I was forced to wear a burqka I'd have to wear underwear like that too just for fun. It's probably the only sartorial fun they have. Or I'd probably just go "commando" because I can't imagine picking that (are the guys gone?) dental floss out of my butt. And your girls are so good looking they'd get looked at even in a burkha. How do you spell that stupid word anyway? I agree with your take on the long skirt thing. It's not a good idea to wear skirts that don't cover you adequately in a light breeze or sitting, standing bending. But 8 inches below the knee? My grandmother from the "old country" wore hers just a couple of inches below the knee, but even she would have thought he was out to lunch on that one.

Swiss: I'm with you. Pants most of the time. I do have a few skirts, dresses for backup, but the "industry" is going to have to come up with something better than panty hose for me - that stuff was invented by EEEEvvvvviiiiillll people with nothing but planned obsolescence in mind. I think it must have been created by the same "men" who came up with the concept of "size zero." "FEH" on them.

Kasia said...

I'm not a Padre Pio expert, but I have heard that when he was criticized for his turning away women who were not dressed modestly enough (as you alluded in the post, it was looked upon askance even in his day), he said "Do you think *I* do not want to hear their confessions? *He* won't let me!" (motioning at the sky and presumably referring to Jesus)

Just for grins, I measured the skirt I'm wearing to work today. It comes down about 8 1/2 inches below the bottom of my kneecap, so probably about 2/3 or 3/4 of the way down my calf. And it's supposed to be 89 and humid today here in Detroit. Now, I will cop to sometimes hiking it up to drive when it's unbearably hot, but that has as much or more to do with the fabric than the length. If it were a cotton summer skirt, I probably wouldn't feel the need to do that; but I wear these year-round.

Seems to me - and I don't know much about the time frames of sartorial trends in semi-rural twentieth-century Italy - that Padre Pio's instructions were easy enough for the older women to follow. He died in what, the Sixties? So even if he was saying this in the Fifties, well, my mother was being made to kneel down to check whether her skirt touched the floor in small-town Illinois in the Fifties. And if it didn't, the offending girl was sent home "until you can dress properly, young lady".

My guess, FWIW, is that Padre Pio was reacting against a dramatic break in sartorial tradition - the shortening of skirts, which really started in the 20th century - and I think there's something to be said for it. Even the most liberal interpretations I've read of Jewish modesty laws require that the knees and elbows be well covered; and since Catholicism stems out of Judaism, shouldn't we give their modesty laws some consideration?

I could say more, but I won't hog up your combox. ;-)

And the most accepted spelling I am aware of is "burqua". :-) (Spelling is to me what anachronistic media glitches are to you.)

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