Back in the day, not long ago, Christian women always covered their heads at church, and now many more are veiling once again (at my parish). Chapel veils, also commonly called mantillas, which comes from the word manta, meaning cape, are typically circular or triangular shaped pieces of black or white lace that are draped over a woman’s head when attending Mass, or in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. While lots of women are going back to wearing chapel veils, others (I do) are also wearing things like stylish hats or scarves. Personally, most of the time I wear a veil, sometimes scarves (they keep me warmer in the winter) and occasionally hats. I wear hats in honor of my late grandmother, she loved hats and I remember her when wearing hats to church. May she rest in peace.
Why do I cover my head in church? Honestly, when I saw other women veiled I thought it made them even more beautiful and reverence glowed. I wanted to love God that much too. So I did my research about veiling and decided that is one way I wanted to honor our Lord. My first veils or mantillas were handmade by a lovely girl on her way to becoming a sister named Alyssa, who is now a Norbertine Sister. My other veils are also handmade by another sweet girl named Marissa and she is now a Marian Sister of Santa Rosa. I am so happy for them!
Here are a few reasons I veil:
1) It’s in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 11:1-16) – A letter from St. Paul to the Corinthians
I’m not going to post the whole passage and explain everything, feel free to
Read more… 1 Corinthians 11 (Linked to usccb.org)
A couple passages about holding on to the veil tradition:
2 I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold fast to the traditions, just as I handed them on to you
Everybody has traditions, so why wouldn’t I keep this one going. Just sayin, it’s a loving one.
16 But if anyone is inclined to be argumentative, we do not have such a custom, nor do the churches of God. 1 Corinthians 11:16
After reading 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 decide for yourselves; is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that for a man to wear long hair is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her pride? For her hair is given to her for a covering.
Okay, Okay… I know that this is a widely debated passage, but let me try to make it clear.
2) The Church veils things that are sacred
The tabernacle is veiled. The chalice is veiled. Altars are veiled. Moses veiled his face after he had seen God. I want to be reverent in the presences of God and a veiled woman shows reverence for God. And symbolizing the veiled bride of the Church, but also honors herself as a woman before God.
“This is why the female body should be veiled, because everything which is sacred calls for veiling. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, he veiled his face. Why did he veil his face? Because he had spoken to God, and at that very moment there was a sacredness that called for veiling. Now… feminists after Vatican II suddenly discovered that when women go to Church veiled, it is a sign of their inferiority. The man takes off his hat and woman puts on a veil. My goodness, how they have lost the sense of the supernatural! Veiling indicates sacredness and it is a special privilege of the woman that she enters church veiled.” Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand
It is also a way of emulating, Mary, our Blessed Mother, who is the model of purity and humility. Furthermore, a chapel veil, signifies the role of women as a life-bearing vessel. The chalice holding the blood of Christ is veiled until the Preparation of the Gifts, and the tabernacle is veiled between Masses. Both of these vessels hold the Eucharist – the very life of Christ. In a similar fashion, the woman was endowed by God with the special gift of bearing new human life. Because of this, women, as all things holy and sacred, are veiled.
3) Men and women “are different”
Men represent Christ, the bridegroom, which is why Catholic’s have the male priesthood. Women represent the Church, the bride. All laymen take part in the feminine nature of the Church, but women symbolize the Church as the bride.
Veiling goes against a society that tells us that men and women are the same, that there are many genders, and that gender is not important when people want to marry. A woman choosing to be submissive as a wife, as woman, to her husband is against all that our society tells us about man and woman. St. Paul talks about women submitting to their husbands, the Church submitting to Christ, Christ loving the Church to the point of his suffering and death, and husbands loving their wives in this same way.
4) Women and men “are equal”
St. Paul said this, which went against his culture’s ideas about men and women: “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.”
Remember that when Jesus and St. Paul talk about women in the Scriptures it is in a new way that was not normal to their cultures. Women veiling is not putting them lower than men, but must be seen in conjunction with men not covering their heads. It emphasizes the difference of men and women, and the symbol they are as the image of God.
5) A veil draws attention to the natural beauty of a woman
Human beings in general naturally enhance their natural beauty with clothing. Women naturally have beautiful hair, and a veil accentuates that beauty. Mainly we want to bring the best of ourselves to liturgy, and veiling is a way of doing so.
6) It is part of the tradition from the Apostles
St. Paul writes that he wishes the Corinthians to “hold fast to the traditions, just as I handed them on to you”. He did not make this up just for their culture. He is passing on a tradition of women covering their heads and men not doing so. This tradition was from the Apostles and it was maintained until the 1960s when sadly so many liturgical traditions were discarded.
The 1917 Code of Canon law required women to cover their heads and forbade men from covering their heads. The 1983 Code of Canon law omitted the passage about women covering their heads, but maintained that men should not.
Still boggles my mind why anyone would want to offend God. It is unclear why the Code was changed, though it is clear that head covering by women is no longer required by Church law. It is also clear this has been a tradition passed down, and as laity there is no reason why we cannot continue that tradition even if it is not in the Code of Canon law. It is a beautiful reverence to God and I will continue to veil and encourage others to veil and pass down the beautiful tradition.
7) I pray better when wearing a veil
I choose to veil not just in church, but when I go to the adoration chapel at my parish (the lord is present so I cover my head), and at times when I pray in private. It makes me feel closer to our Lord and helps me focus on what is being said during mass (blocks out distractions around my line of sight). Here’s a nice prayer to pray when putting on a veil when entering a Church, “Blessed am I who is called to the marriage feast of the Lamb.”
Instead of judging women, try to find the beauty and love for women showing reverence to God. Women (myself) who wear a veil do not think we are holier than others and we are not being rude because we don’t want to chat when inside church for mass, we are there for God. Not everyone is aware that when going to mass and entering the church our focus should be about our Lord. It’s not social catch up with your family and friends time (it’s very hard to pray when the people next to you are having a full blown conversation). Please, respect others around you praying to God. It’s a time of prayer before mass begins and after mass when the priests have exited and the sings has ended. Then, we all proceed “outside” for social time. My parish even has a place with coffee and doughnuts for social time.
8) Having a veil or fancy hat instantly dresses me up for mass
On Sunday, when I put something on my head, I am saying to myself and to others I’m dressed for church. As a working woman that I am, I can mentally distinguish between work wear an church wear by using a veil.
9) Covering myself in a beautiful veil in the presence of God feels loving
It makes me feel beautiful (some men think that veils are “very attractive”). The beauty of the veil is something that honors God in the same way beautiful architecture or beautiful vestments do. They contribute to giving God the worship that is due to Him.
10) Because of the Angels
Because Angels are present at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Men must show reverence as well as women. Women show reverence by covering their heads, and men show reverence by not covering their heads.
(1 Corinthians 11.10) for this reason a woman should have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels.
Did you know…
Women still cover their heads when they have an audience with the pope. Would you cover your head for the pope? If your answer is yes, than why not for the love of God? Women, pray on wearing a veil and men pray for your women to wear them. It truly is a great honor and will deepen your spiritual life. It will take some getting used to like anything new, but I know you can do it. God bless and a long life of veiling.