A Guy’s View of the Veil
Forest Gump, the fictitious lead character of the 1994 Academy Award winning movie of the same name, famously said, “I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is.” Well, apparently I must not be a smart man either, because I am actually going to tackle the touchy topic of women veiling at Mass.
At the outset, I want to make two things perfectly clear. First, I do realize I am a man and that most men stay clear of this topic by about a mile. However, as a Catholic, a husband and a father of four daughters, this is close to my heart.
Second, and let me be perfectly clear about this, veiling does not make one woman any more or less pious than another. Or to put this in a slightly different way: if you choose not to veil at the Holy Mass you are no less holy than the woman next to you who does.
What Does Holy Mother Church Say?
First, the juridcal assessment of the venerable practice of women veiling for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass comes to us from Cardinal Raymond Burke, the current Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome. In responding to a letter he had received from a Catholic woman who was inquiring on the topic, his Eminence wrote:
“The wearing of a chapel veil for women is not required when women assist at the Holy Mass according to the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. It is, however, the expectation that women who assist at the Mass according to the Extraordinary Form cover their heads, as was the practice at the time that the 1962 Missale Romanum was in force. It is not, however a sin to participate in the Holy Mass according to the Extraordinary Form without a veil.”
In other words, there is no requirement to veil, but there is an “expectation that women…cover their heads” at the Traditional Latin Mass.
The expectation does not come from the 1962 Missal (which makes no such requirement), but rather from Canon 1262 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law which stated in part that “women…shall have a covered head and be modestly dressed, especially when they approach the table of the Lord.” However, the release of the 1983 Code of Canon Law omitted Canon 1262 thereby removing the obligation for women to cover their head at the Holy Mass.
My Wife’s Story
What is even more interesting to me, however, is the deeply profound effect veiling has upon those who choose to do it.
Approximately five years ago my wife Angela began veiling after seeing a small, but ever increasing, number of women in our parish resume the traditional practice. Their example of personal piety intrigued her.
She proceeded to research the practice of veiling, finding quite a few good articles online regarding it. As with other traditions of the Church, she found that veiling fell by the wayside for many during that wonderful time known as the 1970’s.
The widespread rejection of femininity and of the sacred directly lead to the disappearance of the chapel veil. As feminism replaced femininity in all aspects of society, something as radically traditional and gender specific as the veil had to be discarded.
In addition, as the Holy Mass became a place for constant innovation, where the profane was ushered in and the sacred was rejected for simply being old, something as “pre-Vatican II” as the veil was no longer welcomed. Instead of recognizing the power of ritual and discipline to set the Mass apart from ordinary life, many of the faithful chose to extend the ordinary into the sacred space of the liturgy.
Additionally, my wife began to see the veil as a natural continuation of modesty in dress. This is something that is noticeable in many traditionally minded parishes.
She also meditated a great deal on our Blessed Mother. As Mary veiled in the presence of her Son, Angela could no longer see a reason for her not to do the same in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord. Indeed, veiling is a very Marian act.
Given the opportunity at an annual diocesan Eucharistic Congress, she purchased her first veil.
In the years since she has noticed incremental changes in herself. From initially feeling insecure and self-aware she no longer even thinks about it. These days the idea of sitting in the presence of our Lord without veiling, either at Mass or in Adoration, would feel odd to her. As she recently explained to a friend, coming to Mass now without her veil would feel like the equivalent of showing up barefoot.
Angela has also said that wearing her veil helps her to focus in prayer while at Mass. Under the veil it is as if she can listen and respond to our Lord more attentively; at least as much as possible with our youngest wiggling all through Mass some days.
Truth and Beauty
As a man I love to see women veiling. There is a real, visible, femininity and beauty in the practice. As a traditionally minded Catholic I appreciate the continuity with our liturgical heritage that veiling represents. I have also seen the connection between modesty and veiling, particularly among younger women. While veiling may very likely grow out of their understanding of modesty in dress, it none the less reflects a natural development of such understanding.
In addition, the Truth of our Lord’s Real Presence in the Eucharist is subtly reinforced by the practice. Every time a woman pauses to veil before entering Church she is proclaiming that, indeed, it is Jesus who is truly present within the tabernacle.
One last observation.
Please do not reference veiling as a devotion. Often this is how I have heard veiling casually dismissed. As I said at the outset, veiling is not required and is not a sign of greater piety. However, it is also not a devotion. It will often lead to judgmental glances and even frowns. If a woman chooses to veil it is often an act of the will on her part; an obedient response to something intellectually grasped, even if not emotionally understood.
It is not the same as choosing to pray a daily rosary, or the hours, or being vested in the scapular.
As a man, if I choose to wear a suit to Mass it is not by any means a devotion. It is called presenting myself in a manner appropriate to the occasion. My tie or suit coat is not a devotion; they are instead a reflection of the sacredness of the Holy Mass.
I would suggest that veiling is in the same vein. The devotion is for our Lord in the tabernacle, not to the lace or cloth (albeit blessed) that sits on a woman’s head.
As I said in the beginning, I’m not a smart man. If I were I would have steered clear of this altogether. However, I hope one guys view of the veil, as well as my wife’s personal experience, will help some women as they discern for themselves.
Posted on February 9, 2014, in holiness, liturgy and tagged canon 1262, cardinal burke, chapel veil, Eucharist, extraordinary form, latin mass, mantilla, veiling, veils. Bookmark the permalink. 84 Comments.
Thank you. I’ve been veiling for about one and a half years now and on the very rare occasion that I forget my veil at home, I don’t feel completely dressed for Mass. On those rare occasions, my husband says he misses seeing it. You’re right. Veiling doesn’t make us more pious but it’s good that we are able to continue this beautiful traditional practice. If you would like, here’s what I wrote about my experience of veiling: http://catholicinsight.com/to-wear-or-not-to-wear-church-veils-and-mantillas/
Thank you Terry. I remember reading your column regarding this. It is interesting to see how many women have both the same concerns for, and joy from, veiling. Your husband seems to feel the same way I do. Because veiling is feminine and beautiful men respond to it. I know of many BXVI priests who appreciate its reappearance in recent years. God bless!
I don’t see at all why a man cannot have an opinion on this.
Yours is valuable.
Don’t feel too bad, you were not alone. I blogged the same issue last year.
🙂 Glad to see the movement seems to be endemic church-wide and happening by God touching womens hearts.
Thank you Colin!
I’m not sure why you don’t see it as a devotion. You could easily claim that wearing a suit is a devotion as well since devotions as a basic definition are “external practices of piety.” Why else would you wear a suit or a habit or anything but the normal clothes you wear every day?
“In the present context, this term is used to describe various external practices (e.g. prayers, hymns, observances attached to particular times or places, insignia, medals, habits or customs). Animated by an attitude of faith, such external practices manifest the particular relationship of the faithful with the Divine Persons, or the Blessed Virgin Mary in her privileges of grace and those of her titles which express them, or with the Saints in their configuration with Christ or in their role in the Church’s life(13).”- From the Directory of Popular Piety and the Liturgy http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccdds/documents/rc_con_ccdds_doc_20020513_vers-direttorio_en.html#INTRODUCTION
I see what you are trying to say, but I do agree with the author of this article. Veiling, for me, was a calling from the Lord. It is not something I choose, nor something I would have ever had the courage to start! 🙂
The Lord put it on my heart…and after much prayer, discernment, and conversation with my then-fiancee (now husband!), I discerned that it was the Lord’s gentle invitation.
I know that some may use it as a devotional item…but it is (as the author said) to show devotion to our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. I cannot be devoted to a chapel veil or a hat in the same way that I am devoted to praying a certain prayer, or fulfilling a certain function (e.g. pilgrimage).
Hope that helps!
I am 47, amd I am feeling the calling to veil. I never have since I joined the Church 30 years ago.
Please continue to prayerfully discern Noelle. Your humility and docility to the Holy Spirit will not steer you wrong. Thank you for reading the post and for your comment.
Thank you for this article! It is so good to hear it from a man’s perspective. As a young married woman who veils, I too have gone from feeling very self-conscious to now feeling odd if I am not veiled at Holy Mass. When I first started, I wrote a blog article about it (http://catholiccustoms.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/the-science-of-the-veil-rediscovering-the-mystery-of-femininity-through-head-coverings-at-mass/), and it is inspiring to read others’ articles/thoughts about the same topic!
Thank you for your comment Jessica and for the outstanding post you wrote on this subject at your blog. God bless!
This is the definition of Devotion: de·vo·tion (dĭ-vō′shən)
1. Ardent, often selfless affection and dedication, as to a person or principle. See Synonyms at love.
2. Religious ardor or zeal; piety.
a. An act of religious observance or prayer, especially when private. Often used in the plural.
b. devotions Prayers or religious texts: a book of devotions.
4. The act of devoting or the state of being devoted.
Like anyone else, you are entitled to your opinion. But there are many many Catholics who believe, as I do, that the requirement for veiling did not ever go away. It would be as if you went over the rules with your child, but left out “do not lie”. Just because you didn’t mention it doesn’t mean you would be pleased if your child lied OR that it wasn’t a rule. This is how I feel about some things dismissed because they were not directly spoken about during Vatican II. That said – I do not pretend to be a Catholic Authority. I would NEVER dream of shoving MY opinion down anyone’s throat in terms of YOU MUST or YOU SHOULD NOT. But for a man to speak of personal, individual devotions he knows nothing about… I am not concerned. I find it a devotion to Mary and Jesus… and that’s that for me.
The beauty of the Magisterium and canon law is that it is objectively true, regardless of how you personally believe. It’s not like US federal law, where the federal law is the minimum and the states can interpret it to be stricter. If the canon says it’s not required, then the requirement did go away, no matter how you feel about it.
It isn’t the veil itself that is the devotion so much as the wearing of it. Wearing a habit is considered a devotion. The habit itself is just material. It is the wearing of it that is significant. It shows a devotion to the Lord. It is the same with the chapel veil or your Sunday best.
That’s how it begins… sooner or later all catholic women are covering their bodies with their eager husbands by their side. You are referring to the 70’s when women’s liberation movement began. If you look at photos from different universities in the Middle East, for instance from Cairo, you’ll notice that women at that time had normal clothes without veils. Today the photos show you only black “bats” and if I visit Cairo (which I’ve done), I’ll be sexually harassed even attacked by men, if I don’t cover at least my head. It’s a weapon for the control of male sexual desire. Why to take a step backwards again?
I don’t buy the explanation that veiling helps women to concentrate better on the Mass, such details shouldn’t have that kind of effect on your brain. I begin to think that it’s indeed also a question about showing others how devout and pious you are.
This is one woman’s view of the veil, it might help some women not to bend under pressure.
“It’s a weapon for the control of male sexual desire.” Oh spare me that cr@p, for goodness sake. As a woman myself, I call complete hogwash. How is the veil a “weapon” to control “male sexual desire” when the veil’s purpose isn’t to conceal a woman’s femininity, but to ENHANCE it?? Please take a look at the picture above and tell me what’s so “repressive” about a piece of beautiful lace that frames that lovely lady’s face (rhyme unintentional)?
Well this woman’s view is that more women SHOULD veil themselves and take pride in the fact that we are women, and women devoted to Christ. I don’t know what kind of nonexistent “pressure” you’re talking about, when in fact many parishioners give ME the stink-eye for choosing to cover my head. If anything, women are being pressured NOT to veil themselves.
Don’t even try to compare us to Muslims. Muslim women are forced to be draped in shapeless rags from head to toe every moment of their lives. The mantilla, by contrast, is reserved for Christ’s presence and has nothing to do with controlling men’s sexual desires by pretending we don’t have different body parts. If anything, it teaches us to embrace our differences, just the way God created us.
Couldn’t have said it better myself, Anne. It’s about time we as women reject this notion that we have to remake ourselves into men to count. Hogwash! We are all made in the image and likeness of God, both male and female. The differences are something we should celebrate, not cast aside. It’s repressive to make us into something we aren’t!
Karen Z. Your comments are very inspiring. Thank you for taking the time to read the blog and, most of all, for your response. God bless!
A bit late to this debate but just to be clear veiling is a sign that women are NOT in the image of God. St Paul viewed women as secondary and derivative creatures not fit to stand before God uncovered. Fine if you want to wear table lace on your head but the meaning behind it is ugly.
@Jan It was mandatory for women until the 1983 Code of Canon Law to wear a head covering. Many women before the Council wore hats. My grandmother had a big collection of them. There is nothing ugly about a woman covering her head. Jewish women did it universally until fairly recently. Perhaps you have issues with St. Paul; but then you must also admit you have issues with all of the Patriarchs, Judges, Prophets, and the first 263 Popes.
Then too, since none of the apostles contradicted St. Paul on the issue they were obviously well aware of the universal and from the beginning of Judaism tradition.
Thankyou for your response. I would have responded with rage to that woman. You said it well. I get “the stink eye” & offer it up for my sins. There’s a lot more female oppression taking place than male oppression. Just read pirjo’s message
Hi. I don’t know if you will see this comment because it’s now 2022, but anyway. . . I was a Catholic and at the age of 42 became Muslim. When we pray in the mosque, and even when we pray in private, we cover our heads out of respect for Allah and because He said to wear our best clothing at every time and place of prayer. I never think of it as a means of controlling anyone’s desires, but I do feel a great sense of privacy when I wear it. It’s a relief. Originally, it was to help women make a social transition from nakedness to modesty and to let men know that new standards were in place in that part of the world, and that they should not pay Muslim women any attention. No cat calls please. Some societies wrongly force women to wear hijab and some don’t. I don’t believe in any kind of force, and indeed, the Qur’an doesn’t call for it or mete out any punishment for not doing it. This is something the so-called Iranian leaders should wake up to. Anyway, I just wanted to say we are more alike than different. – Mariam
Thank you for this! I love your perspective and am thankful that you took on this topic. I think it’s a shame that just because you are a man you are made to feel like you can’t have a voice or an opinion when it comes to something women do. I wrote an article over at Catholic Stand on why I veil. If you’d like to read my views you can here: http://catholicstand.com/humility-and-devotion-through-veiling/
Michelle, your comments are very kind. I enjoyed your article on this topic as well. An excellent observation you make is that “…in the Church we veil all things that are holy. We have the Tabernacle veil, the Humeral veil, a Chalice veil, a Ciborium veil, to name just a few.” Very well said.
I hope you continue to read the blog and share your thoughts. God bless!
Thank you. I too have been troubled by this issue since VCII opened the Pandora’s Box.
Reblogged this on oneintheirhearts.
Your reference to Marian devotion is key, and could be brought out more. Plus, notably, men must, in humility and deference to the Blessed Sacrament – even in deference to any indoor space, in days gone by – uncover and remove their headgear. Hats and veils worn by women, especially when in the Lord’s presence, signal their communion with Our Lady, by their gender and their motherhood, whether actual or otherwise.
Thank you for your comment and excellent insight Fr. Fewel. I have noticed that many women who veil also have a strong devotion to Our Lady. We are blessed to see a resurgence of such piety in these times.
Your wife is obviously young. Have her go in church and sit with a KLEENEX on her head for an hour during mass, then ask her how “focused on prayer she is” because THAT was what we were subjected to if we found ourselves in church without hat or veil pre-Vatican 2.
I’m not buying into this. I love the TLM, but as for myself, the veil can take a hike. Someone needs to ask Cardinal Burke why the CLERICS at the EM form of the Mass are supposedly sitting there during the Gloria and Creed thinking “I’m not praying, no, not me praying, Paul said praying with a hat on was shameful to men, so I’m not praying…except RIGHT HERE when I lift my hat off at Jesus name for a second or two, now I’m going back to not praying so I’m not a “woman.” ”
Ask Cardinal Burke to go sit in church with a Kleenex on his head and “report back” what a wonderful experience it was.
Karen – Back then, We had to cover our heads.And if we forgot, we had to find something to cover it with. You didn’t have to wear a Kleenex if you remembered your Chapel Veil.
Michelle – no one is saying he can’t have an opinion. I find his blog post baffling in the end. Why he felt the need to tell others what to call or not to call their personal experience is beyond me!
All – In the end, veiling is entirely personal. It doesn’t have to be us vs. them. It doesn’t have to be you are right I am wrong…
We are all on our own paths.
I don’t care, truly, what anyone else thinks about it. It’s between myself and Mary/Jesus. It’s my own little Devotion to our Blessed Mother and it is entirely MY business.
Hi there, I think my reply is just in general… most men feel like they can’t comment on anything now if it has anything to do with the female person. That is in part to the feminist movement who in their effort to say, “We don’t need you telling us what to do” instead said, “We don’t need/want your opinion at all… but we want to give ours about what men should do.” That’s all I meant. If you read my article you’d see you and I are probably very much on the same page. Have a beautiful day.
I did read yours. And I noticed that you use the word devotion describing your call to veiling.
I think his article is good in parts. I do respect his opinion and like some of his thoughts on veiling. However, I think he is wrong on the devotion part.
You have a great day as well.
See, you defend that INANE practise. No, we DIDN’T “have to find something” even a snot rag to cover our heads. The point was if you DID forget you WERE expect to do something that dumb. Do you think MEN would have been stupid enough to do that if there had been such a requirement for them? Would any BOY have been made to look like a fool? NO. But women and girls were “expected” to make themselves look like dunces. And do you really think Paul who was whining about women had in mind some frilly lacy eye catching feminine thing for women to put on their heads? He had more the “burlap burqua style in mind, I’m sure so the women wouldn’t put sexual thoughts into men’s heads.
I defend it AND practice it.
Karen your reaction is WAY overboard.
You’re right Karen, forcing someone to stick a piece of lace- or whatever is handy- on their head is an inane practice. However, the story isn’t about forcing someone to do something. It’s about celebrating a choice some women make. Forcing us to NOT wear a veil would be equally inane.
Although I disagree that it’s about not putting sexual thoughts into men’s heads (because, really, women who wear black lace in public are notorious prudes…lol) what would be so bad about that anyway? Would it really be so bad if we went out of our way to not get sexual attention during Mass?
Anyway, I’m sorry you had such a bad experience with this practice. I hope it didn’t sour you on the Church altogether.
I have always thought of this as “Men uncover their heads as a sign of respect & women cover theirs for the same reason”. Personally, I love my veil, if I have a distraction near me, I can bow my head and my veil comes forward to help block the visual distractions. I like to “hide” behind it after Holy Communion…a little time “alone” with our Dear Lord.
Diane, ostriches think they are hiding their heads too, but everyone still sees their big ole rumps. Frankly, where I lived normal HATS far out numbered veils. And it’s odd you see so many little Catholic traddie girls decked out in braids done up by their mothers. Paul railed against them too.
Karen, I will pray for you, that you are able to let go of all the anger toward a piece of lace. Nobody is saying YOU have to start veiling again if it isn’t in your heart. But to berate those of us who do? Wow. Prayers coming your way. And I mean this in charity, please don’t think I am trying to pick a fight.
Wow, Karen…just wow. You took something beautiful and made it ugly.
When I’m taking my family to a parish where we do not normally attend I check first for where “the band is” and second for how many veils I see. This is an extremely accurate sign for me as to the reverence I’m about to see in the Holy Mass. And wow Karen I don’t know what happened to you when you were veiling but let go of it and your pride. You’re way over the top.
You said it, you are not a smart man. What a bunch of horse hockey, and I am trying my best, and failing, to write respectfully. This talk about modesty is the ” veiled” attitude that women are somehow seductive by their very nature and appearance, and belongs somewhere in the Middle Ages if not earlier. Why not a burka? The very mention of ” the profane” gives you away as disrespecting the way God made us in our natural state. I am pretty sure there is not a divine preference for one gender or another, nor a divine disapproval for his own creation of one gender, which requires some type if rectifying. I can’t believe veiling is even a topic as far as worship is concerned. This only reinforces for me how silly the male dominated Church can be; and also how silly women are who fall for this ridiculous stuff, taking themselves into feeling a deeper devotion because of something on their head.
Reading this article and all of the comments leaves me with the sad confirmation that Catholics are all over the place catechetically and otherwise, and quite ready to jump down each other’s throats, often without truly knowing what they are talking about. This embarrasses me. How can we set an example for the world, and spread the Gospel to others by our actions and presence when we obsess about a piece of lace on a woman’s head? Whether for or against veiling, there are much more important issues to discuss. There is a shameful lack of reverence in the people attending Mass these days, but veiling is not the cure all. I was born after Vatican II, and have never worn a veil, but have heard all the stories of Kleenex on the head enforced by crotchety nuns. Were the nuns Christ-like? Did they see Christ in the girls they humiliated? Did these girls go on to become devoted adult Catholics or did they become bitter and leave the church? The women who I encounter who choose to veil have not been the most charitable Christians to cross my path, so the comment above that the number of veils seen at a Mass is an extremely accurate sign of reverence….well…maybe. I’d rather that the world think of Catholics as the people who love and serve God by loving and serving His flock. Veil. No veil. That debate is a distraction Satan uses. Regarding pride- many women who I have met who veil are extremely pride-filled and toot their horns about being better Catholics, but they are sinners like all of us, and the veil becomes their way of pretending how holy they are. I own two mantillas and have never worn them, because I did not want to be insincere. God knows why we wear what we wear. God is moved by a contrite heart, a loving heart.
Thank you for your comment Monique.
The women I know personally who veil, beginning with my beautiful wife, are obsessed with Our Lord, not their veil. Veiling is an outward manifestation of that devotion to The Lord, and has a foundation in both scripture and tradition. The comments in this thread seem often to fall into two categories: those who have felt called to veil in Our Lords presence, as Our Lady did, and those who are incredibly angry and seem to resent a venerable practice.
To be clear, you do not seem to fall into either of these categories from the tone of your comment.
In my experience, I have seen little of this “the veil becomes their way of pretending how holy they are” attitude than I have seen careless, irreverent and prideful disobedience from many who reject all things “old”.
Again, thank you for reading the post and God bless!
I find this article very interesting and it gives me insight on what the American society thing about this tradition.
In Spain, where I come from, the “Mantilla” was and is a fashion accessory (nothing more than that), mainly used for important events where a formal dress is required as a way of showing respect and reverence (weddings, processions, bullfights, balls and during Holy week). It is just an accessory. Its use it is not frequent and depends usually on family traditions and heritage.
The women that use it, they simply want to be beautiful externally in front of the Lord as a way showing and love. And these can happen with and without veil. It’s no different from the use of full suit & tie by men.
We want to show with these little human things our wish to have our hearts prepared for the Lord. But we have to remember that what is important it is in the inside, and Jesus warned us about that many times.
However, I found some disturbing sentences and comments that I would like to discuss:
The fact that someone feels uncomfortable at mass because she forgot her mantilla means that maybe that veil is not helping her, since its absence it’s distracting her from what’s important in the mass. It should not be of more importance than forgetting your watch at home.
I read some of the answers to the article and I really felt sad to see a guy stating that he could judge the reverence of a community by the number of veils.
Mike, I hope you’ll take this with humor: If you have the supernatural gift of reading the hearts of a whole community (as great saints before), please tell me and be my spiritual director, I would love to receive advice from the next Saint Pius of Pietrecina. 😉 with love!
Luis no problem with humor but lets not put words in my mouth either. At no point did I claim that I could read the hearts of a whole community. Of course I have no way to know what someone is thinking or feeling inside. However, there are certainly external signs of reverence that I find missing in most masses. If you’re sad that the reverence of a community is visible then you should be sad for what the Mass has become.
When I see “a band” and no veils I know what I’m more likely to see at Mass. I’m more likely to see folks come in their sports jerseys and uniforms rather than dressing to be present in front of and receive our Lord. I’m more likely to see a priest rushing through the Mass. I’m more likely to hear a weak homily that fails to instruct the faithful. I’m more likely to see an army of Extraordinary Ministers for Holy Communion rather than a Priest or Deacon handing out communion and having it take a bit longer. I’m more likely to see people receiving communion in the hand than on the tongue. And more likely that they’re receiving it standing instead of kneeling. More likely to see the sign of peace turn into Woodstock minus the beach balls. More likely to see folks bolt out the door after communion and not genuflect on their way in our out of the pews.
That’s what I’m more likely to see when I don’t see veils at Mass. And that’s what makes me sad. If I just described your parish then you should be sad too.
I agree with you 100%. What we wear to mass says a LOT about our attitude towards our Lord.
Way-back-when no one thought much of it to see a woman in church with a kleenex on her head. They simply knew she had forgotten her veil! No big deal! It’s a privilege to wear a veil and thereby remind all entering the church that they are in the presence of the Eucharistic Lord. And because the veil is precisely a reminder to all of the Real Presence before us, it does indeed inspire silence and reverence.
Very well said Mary.
That only women should cover their heads was preached by the Apostle of the Gentiles: “But every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered disgraces her head” (1 Cor. 11:5-6). Thus this custom, rooted in Scripture, became a tradition practiced by Catholic women from the earliest days of the Church.
It was not only Scripture and Tradition that prescribed women to cover their heads in church. It was also mandated by Canon Law. In fact, the old Canon 1262.2 stated that women must cover their heads “especially when they approach the holy table.” This Canon was never repudiated in those heady days of change that followed Vatican II. It was simply ignored.
Good references and an excellent observation Ray. God bless!
There is also the Marian aspect, to imitate Our Lady. The veil of the tabernacle symbolizes the Blessed Mother. As it is written in Jeremias “A WOMAN SHALL COMPASS A MAN” (Capitals are in the Douay). Needless to say, the Holy Ghost inspired Saint Paul to insist on it in one of his epistles.
Head-covering for women has been mandated since the time of the apostles. It is an apostolic tradition. It did not become “a requirement” of canon law back in 1917. It is an immemorial custom, more specifically an apostolic immemorial custom which was acknowledged in canon law. It was never contradicted in subsequent law thus is still in effect. Women are to have their heads covered in church.
There may be devotional aspects to wearing a veil or other covering, but it is not grounded in these or any subjective attitudes. Some women may find wearing a veil may enhance their spirituality or devotional life and that is good. Also, it may be a manifestation of true piety.
It seems Karen, from her comments, does not see the importance of wearing a covering in church. Also, she seems to have some male issues as seen by her constant comparing with men: Do you think MEN would have been stupid enough to do that if there had been such a requirement for them? Would any BOY have been made to look like a fool?; Ask Cardinal Burke to go sit in church with a Kleenex on his head and “report back” what a wonderful experience it was.
It seems interesting to me that women who have an issue with wearing a covering have an issue with something else, namely pride. I think wearing a veil is a great way for a women to manifest proper dispositions of humility and submission.
After reading this post and the comments thereafter I felt a need to reply because so many people are so up in arms about women wearing a veil. May I start by saying the writer of this post is not forcing anyone to wear anything on their head nor had he condemned anyone! He is simply stating his opinion on the matter those re his feeling and we have no right to judge him for them that is God’s job not ours!
That being said I love wearing veils when I attend mass, they add femininity to the dress I feel something that we are slowly losing these days. I love my veil though, and I do feel closer to Jesus when I have it on, to me it is like bowing my head at Jesus’s name it is a sign of respect. And it is not like we are covering ourselves completely or anything, honestly it could be deemed the opposite, the veil is usually lace a see through piece of fabric that frames the woman’s face beautifully, how is that harmful to a woman at all.
Also I read about how degrading it used to be to force a woman or girl to wear a napkin on their heads if they had forgotten their veil. I have had to do this, many times I might add. I lived in an area for many years where the church I attended required the women to wear veils and when I had to wear a napkin I never once felt like everyone was watching me, judging me or at all degraded I just felt like a dumdum for forgetting it.
Lastly I would just to explain for me not wearing a veil to mass or even to a Catholic church for that matter makes me feel like I am naked (I have done it before) it is like, for me, going to church in a mini skirt and cropped top! Yes I realize different cultures do not do this, I lived in France for two years and went to the traditional mass, they never wore veils only hats in the winter because it was cold, but even when I was over there I wore my veil because I didn’t feel right with out it. And if that is the way a person feels then let them don’t hate someone because they do or do not like/wear veils. Like I said before We as Catholic laymen have no right to judge anyone for what they do or don’t do especially if it is something stupid like a chapel veil that would never said anyone to hell, that is God’s job and his job ALONE! so please remember when responding to something like this can we at least be Catholic about it and not spread so much hate, there is way too much of it in the world as it is with out us adding to it over something that really isn’t that important.
Okay – Quick question… Why do I see parents insist on veiling their very young girls?
I always thought the reason was to not distract the men with their hair – Hence the shaving reference…
As someone who veils I don’t insist on any of my daughters veiling, however, some of them like to veil and have asked on their own if they can. I see no harm in allowing them to do such. There is no rule in our family about veiling. If you feel called to do so then you may, if you don’t feel called then you don’t have to. I have 7 daughters and only a few choose to veil. They may or may not decide to stick with it, that will be completely up to them. Just wanted to give you some insight that maybe parents aren’t forcing their daughters to veil but the daughters actually *want* to veil.
Well-written post, tho I have never worn a chapel veil and probably never will. . . . I’m curious though, for how long was “veiling” actually a tradition vs. just covering your head? In centuries past and in various Catholic cultures, didn’t most women just wear a hat? And if so, where does that leave the arguments specifically for a _veil_? It seems like a lot of those arguments don’t really apply to a hat.
I posted on my blog about why I veil, as have many ladies I follow and no one has said it better than you.
Thank you so much for your very kind words Candy. They mean a great deal to me.
Thank you for your comments. I began veiling over two years ago. I spent time reading articles and reading scripture and canonical references to veiling. I especially liked this comment you made, “If a woman chooses to veil it is often an act of the will on her part; an obedient response to something intellectually grasped, even if not emotionally understood.”
On my journey I kept seeking understanding. I wanted to imitate our Lady, but thought I needed an explanation for those who would ask me why I had put on the veil. I wanted the answer to justify why I had begun to veil. I was in a Bible study at the time and we were studying Genesis and the leader made the comment that Abraham obeyed before he understood, and Noah obeyed before he understood. I felt that was God’s way of letting me know the obedience to follow where he called me was more important than me “fully” understanding why.
Thank you for sharing your experience Kathy. Obedience, which is an act of the will, seems to be a huge part of so many women’s journey to veiling. God bless!
As one of the previous bloggers said, we are all in the Catholic church (big c). We are all members of the catholic (universal) Church as well. In our Church we have generals and members of peace movements, people who prefer guitars and those that prefer the organ, those that prefer various rites. This is a unique “oneness” that is a part of the Church. It is sad to see that any one of us does not respect the preferences,sensibilities, and choices of others. Instead, we should strive to the beauty in each persons sincere personal faith choices. For myself, as a husband and father, I appreciate women who choose to make modest choices in dress. Although my family does not use the veil, I see those that do as making a sign of reverence, humility, and their femininity. I also could read into the wearing of a veil a deliberate rejection of the modern heresy of objectifying the body. And these are women that take their faith seriously. What could possibly be wrong with that?
I agree with your sentiments Carlo.
Reblogged this on The Girl In The Veil and commented:
I love this. I’m hoping to be able to put my veiling story up soon.
I think you young people romanticize a piece of lace way, way too much. Females *covered their heads* and did not necessarily “veil” as you put it, prior to 1962. This included hats of all shapes and sizes, including but not limited to beanies, really big bows, Easter hats, knit hats, babuskas, and chief from scarves. I know for a fact a bevy of women who took a young priest to task for saying in his homily that he loved “the beauty of the simple mantilla” over the expr sive Easter hats being worn that Sunday. He was shortly transferred after that remark.
i agree. Veiling is a Marian act. I wish there was something I could do as a man to show reverence to our Faith. I pray the Rosary but that is mostly private. I am an EMHC and a Deputy Grand Knight but that too is not very public. Women are outwardly blessed and get to display their purity in relationship to God!
Thank-you. I veil at the extraordinary form, and even at an ordinary form if it is at a parish that understands and appreciates the Tradition. I am at a crossroads and am trying to muster the courage to wear it at my local not-so-traditional parish. I will undoubtably get looks and probably some who will assume I’m trying to send a holier than thou message, but it is not that way at all. At this point, when I enter that parish, I pause and mentally pull on my “invisible” veil. I know it is ridiculous that I fear going against the grain at my local parish. The Eucharist is the same nomatter where I attend Mass, as long as it is Mass. It deserves the same respect. Your writing helps me gather the courage. Perhaps there are other women at my parish who are discerning this as well. Perhaps if I actually obtain the courage, others may find it easier to follow their own hearts if they are also being pulled in this direction.
Hi Beth! I linked an article I wrote before up above in one of my other comments, but I thought I would share it here. I understand that worry about looks and thoughts. It was difficult for me to make that leap to wear my veil to the ordinary Mass. I hope my journey will bring you encouragment and courage 🙂 (((HUGS))) and prayers from Georgia! 🙂
Forgot to list the site. Low cost handmade for women & children.
Please share my site. I consider this a ministry, and offer the lowest prices I can to make them affordable to all women & children. To the Glory of God.
Thank you for this article – the steps that lead your wife to veiling are much the same as my own. I have been veiling for over two years and wouldn’t go back if you paid me. This small gesture makes a profound difference in my own awareness of the Real Presence. It has also lead me to greater appreciation of my own femininity and a call for modesty (don’t read: “ugly” – I know how to dress “up” for the occasion). I have little memory of veiling as a very young child. As I grew older, I began to look at books and music and movies and even windows dating from the years just before I was born and saw the veils and the kneelers and the altars and the vessels and I felt cheated from my own inheritance. I never understood why a people who once placed their best before God would suddenly give up all that beauty for blue jeans, bare walls, and banal music. Not veiling was never my choice, but rather the heavy handedness of one generations trying to obliterate what came before them so as to deny it to the next. I am very grateful I now have the FREEDOM to veil.
As you describe it, my reasons for veiling are much like your wife’s. I began veiling this last Ash Wednesday and have not seen another veil in my parish or the neighboring one yet (though a few when I go to our Cathedral or the nearby Shrine of Our Lady of Czechtohowa). My veil reinforces reverence in me and during Mass, especially the Consecration. Over time I have received a few comments from both men and women. All the comments from the men have been positive (‘I forgot how much I missed veils until I turned an saw you wearing one.’ “You look classy.’). From women more inquiry and wondering why I was wearing a veil (‘I thought someone in your family died’ ‘I thought it was just for Lent’). If asked why, I share that for me it is a matter of reverence in the presence of the Eucharist.
I do find it interesting that so many people are saying that women are *forced* to veil, implying that if we were not forced, we would not veil. They lament that, in their view, women are not afforded the opportunity to think and make that choice for themselves. Isn’t that exactly what they’re doing- assuming they know what is best for other women, and assuming that no woman who veils does so freely? Hypocrites.
For not being a smart man you sure did say a lot of smart things. I’ve been veiling for some time now and I also called it a devotion, but now I see that it is not. Thanks for the clarification. God bless.
I respect the revival of veiling among young women, though I don’t feel called to it myself. My hair is short so it doesn’t stay on properly, making it a distraction rather than an enhancement….and I just generally sort of feel false and pretentious. But I think the practice is more meaningful if it’s adopted willingly in discernment and not erroneously considered “still a requirement” by ultra-conservative circles. Simcha Fisher wrote an excellent piece on the “Discernment of Amoral Issues” that comes to mind. Not all movements of personal conscience point to an objective moral imperative.
I don’t give much weight to the opinions of unorthodox conversos. All of her writings I’ve seen promote modernism and go against the historic saints and popes of the Church. Very unimpressive.
“The man existing under God should not have a covering over his to show he is immediately subject to God; but the woman should wear a covering to show that besides God she is naturally subject to another.”
I would like to wear a veil at Mass but I don’t want to bring attention towards myself.
I can identify. But when I came back to the church 4+ years ago, and veils were virtually gone, I went into research mode. Ultimately, God convinced my heart and I’ve veiled continuously since. One point: our audience is always the God we honor. I don’t concern myself with how others respond.
If you want to read my research, it’s here:
Click the “Our Story” tab at the top. Blessings on your journey.
“The man existing under God should not have a covering over his to show he is immediately subject to God; but the woman should wear a covering to show that besides God she is naturally subject to another.”—St Thomas Aquinas
It is a show of piety. And it may not be a sin, but it is something which women are obligated to do. You may not sin against members of your family or community, but you can still not fulfill your obligations.
Pingback: Choque de Civilizações? | mmjusblog
Pingback: 3 Reasons Why Modern-Day Women are Choosing to Wear the Chapel Veil – Simply Skye