Friday, August 24, 2012

Obligatory Post on Veiling

As I want to encourage Catholics to learn and embrace some of our neglected traditions, I may as well start this blog off with the discipline of wearing a veil, a subject that often rouses curiosity.  It’s going on two years since I again (as a grown woman) started wearing a veil in Church.  Here I put into a list format some writing I have done in the past -- most of these points are my own but a handful I picked up here and there in the Catholic blogosphere.  They range from lighthearted to serious, practical to introspective, but are listed here in no particular order.

Why I Wear a Veil

  1. I just have to.  Ever since I started, I can no longer bear to be in the presence of our incarnate Lord, present in the tabernacle of every Catholic Church, with my head uncovered.
  2. St. Paul admonishes us in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.  Notice the context: St. Paul is speaking about the Mass.  And notice that St. Paul does not mince his words.  (However, I do accept the Church’s teaching that the requirement to cover is no longer in effect due to cultural differences.)
  3. During the time that I was wearing a veil to the Extraordinary Form Mass but was not yet wearing one to the Ordinary Form Mass, I felt that I was showing disrespect at the latter.  You could also say that I was feeling rather dis-integrated.
  4. It was very much a calling that I put off and put off and put off until the Lord made it abundantly clear to me that this was something He wanted me to do.  After much discernment and then eventually discussing it with my pastor and having my husband’s support, I finally decided to start veiling at the Ordinary Form Mass.  The deep peace I then felt let me know it was the right thing to do.
  5. I ran out of reasons and excuses not to.
  6. When my now 12-y.o. received his First Holy Communion, at the beginning of the homily, the priest complimented the boys and girls on how beautifully they were dressed and told them that the Eucharist is so special that it would be appropriate to get so dressed up every time they receive communion.
  7. It reminds me in a very substantial way that when I’m entering a Church, I’m setting foot on holy ground.
  8. The sight of my veil in my peripheral vision, while not a distraction, is a gentle reminder to me that I’m in the Lord’s presence.
  9. The sight of my veil in my peripheral vision blocks out distractions.
  10. I may appear to be in the minority, but inasmuch as there is but one Mass – taking place in Heaven – and we are taking part in it alongside the angels and the millennia of saints that have come before us, I realize I am actually one of a vast, vast majority of women veiling.
  11. Even so, it can be lonely to be the only woman in a Church wearing a veil.  As I put it on while I’m walking in, I’m sometimes saying, “I’m only doing this for you, Lord.”  Yet this does provide me with much-needed doses of humility.
  12. I learned more and more about the Mass through books I read and discussed with a study group and then through regular attendance at the Extraordinary Form Mass.  As St. Pio of Pietrelcina’s famous quote about the Mass ("It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without the Holy Mass.") began to make sense to me, I was driven to dress appropriately and eventually to veil.
  13. What finally got to me was hearing the priest chant more parts of the Mass:  I recall particularly being struck by the chanting of the dialog before the Preface.  I was beside myself with the chanting, then seeing the chalice veil used by certain priests at every Mass they celebrated.  These seemingly minor changes raised the solemnity of the Mass up a few notches.  How could I keep from veiling any longer? 
  14. We were starting to learn about the then-upcoming new translation of the Roman Missal, and how the ordinary language of the old dynamic equivalent translation was not as appropriate for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as the elevated language of the new literal translation, language you wouldn't use on the street.  It dawned on me that likewise, dressing in an ordinary way for Mass is not quite as appropriate as dressing in this extraordinary way, i.e., wearing a veil, something you wouldn't wear walking down the street.
  15. It gives the priest or EMHC a visual cue not to be surprised as I'm about to plop down on my knees to receive Communion.
  16. With 20/20 hindsight, it’s now clear that moving the tabernacle off to the side of the Church, not ringing bells during the consecration, and receiving Holy Communion in the hand while standing have all resulted in a drastic loss of faith in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and consequently the loss of enormous numbers of people from the pews.  The lost discipline of veiling, which had been a very clear visual indication of being in the presence of Christ’s flesh, without a doubt, also contributed to that loss of faith and of the faithful.
  17. A good track record from 33 A.D. to 1970 A.D. as compared to post-1970 A.D. can in itself be good enough reason to return to the status quo ante.  Given the turmoil of the period, any post-1970 changes are automatically suspect.
  18. This G.K. Chesterton quote: “In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, 'I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away.' To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: 'If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.'"
  19. When women stopped wearing veils in the 1970s, it was an act of defiance (at least by those who promulgated the change) as the requirement to cover one’s head was not removed from Canon Law until 1983.  Any changes in discipline initiated in a spirit of rebellion ought to be re-examined.
  20. Having said that, there is a silver lining to the requirement’s having been abrogated from Canon Law.  When we wore veils back when it was required, it showed that we were being obedient.  Now that it’s not required, it provides us with an opportunity to show our reverence and submissiveness and our desire for holiness and humility before the Lord.
  21. When I was a little girl, I always wore a doily-type chapel cap and couldn’t wait until I could wear a “grown-up” mantilla like my mom’s.
  22. As my mom had long since passed, I look to my heavenly mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, for guidance.  I want to be like her.
  23. Each of us is a composite of body and soul.  What we do with our bodies, including the way we dress, is an outward expression of the internal soul.
  24. Each of us is a composite of body and soul.  What we do with our bodies, including the way we dress, can direct and guide the soul and set it aright.  These interior changes are subtle and take time, but are very real.
  25. I don’t have to worry about a bad hair day.
  26. Mantillas are beautiful and quintessentially feminine.  Besides, I'm not a hat person.
  27. It's unmistakeably Catholic.
  28. As Mantilla Amontillado, the famous ecclesiastical fashionista, put it (hilariously), “Another reason: I wear it because it annoys liberal Catholics, and that is always fun, you know?”  Okay – this is not normally one of my reasons.  But there was the time when we were walking up the steps of the Basilica to go to the opening Mass of the Fortnight for Freedom while the pro-contraception protestors were across the street displaying their signs while singing sappy hymns.  I have to admit I was a bit showy putting on my veil that one time, as if in doing so I was proclaiming, "As for me and my [/our] household, we will serve the Lord."
  29. After I started to veil, I began to experience a profound sense of daughterliness.  I’m not even sure that daughterliness is a word, but you ladies can get what I mean:  the feelings that come from the most wonderful father-daughter relationship you can imagine or your most cherished memories of your relationship with your own dad, multiplied a thousandfold.
  30. Since I don’t judge other women for not wearing a veil, I realized that I could give them the benefit of the doubt that they wouldn’t be judging me either.
  31. Dig deeper into the passage in 1 Corinthians 11:  From man’s direct relation to Christ, his head should not be covered.  But woman, not related directly to Christ on the hierarchical scale of sociosexual relations, but to her husband, requires a covering as a sign of that relationship (from the notes in my NAB).  How fitting that this symbolism of marriage between man and woman should be visible at the celebration of the wedding feast of the Lamb, i.e., that it help manifest the marriage between Christ and His Church, which human marriage reflects.
  32. Although I do accept the Church’s teaching that the requirement to cover is no longer in effect, I personally don’t like to brush it off as “cultural differences” when at the same time St. Paul’s dictates against homosexual acts are now often brushed off as “cultural differences”.
  33. I don’t veil because I’m holy.  I veil because I want to be holy.  Really I do.
 Well, I guess that should just about cover it.  (No pun intended.)


  1. I love this post Sue! I'm so thankful that you shared all this with me last year since I've grown in that feeling of peace and "Daughterliness" as well in this past year of veiling. Having been born in 1984 I didn't even know all the reasons behind veiling or that women ALL used to veil, any of it. I was so thankful that it was taught to me and then, like you, couldn't bear not to veil. Even though I still feel self conscious and see people making note of me every single Sunday, I just say the same thing in my head, "all for you Lord..." and just let it go. I don't judge them for not wearing one (heck, I didn't even know what the meaning was behind them til last year!) so I just hope they don't judge me either, like you said. I hope as more young women wear a veil to Mass these days and the message spreads, the devotion will return more. It's such a beautiful way to just say to the Lord that we love him and know He is truly present. :) Btw- I LOVE #10- that's a great one!! I never thought of that but that's so true!

    1. Thanks, Lisa. And it's so sweet to see your daughter in church with her veil on. The little ones just get it!

  2. I only began veiling last Christmas. I intentionally made my first veiled Mass a Tridentine one to help ease me into it. When I first wore a veil to our regular parish's NO mass, I was the only one. Over the past 8 months though, I've seen a few others veiling as well.

    I have to admit though, being pregnant with #5 and having 4 children 6 and under, most of the reasons to veil don't even dawn on me during Mass. I find it hard to reflect on the reasons I'm wearing one when I'm trying to keep the 3 year old quiet or the 1 year old keeps putting my crucifix in my mouth and I let her because, hey, at least she is quiet! I still can't help but notice the people who look, even turn around repeatedly!, to stare at me. And I hate attention. So, while it wasn't my intention, veiling has, for me, for now, become more of a mortification than anything. But that is kindof nice too… my current season of life doesn't permit me to offer up much beyond what I have to do (there are simply too many demands to be able to take on much else) so it has, inadvertently, become a little thing I CAN do.

    Thanks for sharing your awesome list!

    1. Hi Katherine -- it was nice to have met you a couple of days ago! Since my sons were 7 & 10 when I started veiling, and therefore not distractions to me during Mass, at first veiling itself was a distraction. But that went away after a while. I really don't want to reflect on veiling during the Mass -- most of the reasons listed above were more part of my discernment process. But having said that, I think veiling is a little bit like fasting -- you don't want to dwell on your fasting at all, but the hunger is there as a constant reminder (similar to my reason #8 above). I'm thankful that at our parish, I've never really noticed anyone staring at me -- although I could use whatever additional mortifications come my too. But my older son has been asked a number of times by boys his age at our parish, "Why does your mother wear that thing on her head?" So children always need to be prepared to give an answer too!

  3. Actually, it's a couple of altar severs, and the guys on my basketball team.