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Five Reasons to Wear a Veil (and Five Not to…)

Five Reasons to Wear a Veil

I’ve been a Catholic for a whopping twenty-five years, but only for the last two of them have I been choosing to wear a mantilla or chapel veil when in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Whilst veiling is becoming an increasingly popular decision among young Catholic women, my journey to the mantilla has been far from easy. Everyone, it seems, has their own opinion on whether or not I should cover my head, what it signifies, whether it improves my relationship with God.

Let’s get one thing straight. The only people who should be involved in your decision to wear the mantilla are you and God. That’s it. But for those of you who – like me – were on the fence about veiling for many years, let’s explore some reasons why – or why not – women choose to veil.

Reasons to Wear a Veil

  1.  It reminds you that you’re in God’s house. When I was dating my husband, we used to meet on a bridge between our houses and walk down to Mass together. This being a town in the north of England, it was usually freezing and frequently snowing, so we’d walk wrapped up in coats, scarves and hats – which, of course, he removed on entering the church. It was his way of saying, I am in God’s home now. I, however, had no such symbolic action, and felt marginally guilty that I had no way of expressing my respect in such a way. + Wearing a veil allows me to take a moment at the back of the church to acknowledge that I have just entered Christ’s presence, and to show Him the respect and honour He deserves.
  2. To focus your attention on the altar. I’m a chronic people-watcher, and it’s a bad habit – especially during Mass. Wearing a long mantilla with sides that drape around my face helps me to keep my attention focussed on the altar. I can’t peer left or right without actively turning my head, which serves to stop my eyes and mind wandering when I ought to be praying, attending, or responding. I can’t claim it’s a miracle cure, but it’s helping me remember where I am and why I am there, and in that respect, is important.
  3. The sanctity of womanhood. Next time you’re in a church, take a glance around you at what is veiled. The tabernacle. The altar. Perhaps even the whole sanctuary has a canopy? Veiling has long been used in the Catholic Church not to conceal what is beneath, but to distinguish it as Holy. + Women play a vital and sacred role in the Church in our role as mothers and life-givers. Veiling distinguishes us from the men in this regard, and reminds us of our vocations. Whatever vocational path God has cut for you, we are all called to embrace our role first and foremost as members of His Church. Just as a bride wears a veil on her wedding day, so we wear a veil before Christ, the first Bridegroom.
  4. Following the tradition of thousands of years. Perhaps it’s a hangover from my History degree, but I particularly enjoy connecting myself to the more traditional aspects of Catholicism. The Church’s teachings and traditions define and shape many aspects of Catholicism, and head coverings are a significant part of this. Early Christian women would never have been seen in public, far less in a church, without their hair covered by a scarf, hat, or veil. In wearing the mantilla, we are following the path of thousands of saints and women who have gone before us, joining our prayers to theirs.
  5. Mary veiled. Take a look at any picture of Our Lady, and she will almost certainly be wearing a veil. From the Annunciation to the Crucifixion, she may be wearing a lacy mantilla, a thick shawl, a hijab-style covering, a silken scarf, but she is almost never depicted as bare-headed. As Catholic women we are called to imitate Mary, and veiling was one of the ways we, too, can indicate our obedience to God – embracing Mary’s Yes rather than Eve’s No.

Reasons Not to Veil

  1.  They’re pretty. Yes, mantillas are gorgeous! They appear now in every colour of the rainbow, with a huge variety of laces, patterns, and styles – from tiny kerchiefs to draping shawls. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the beauty of a mantilla, or cooing over different designs, but if the main reason for you choosing to wear one is the prettiness of the lace, I’d encourage you to take a step back. + Whilst mantillas can, do, and should enhance women’s natural beauty, we should not be wearing colourful mantillas to draw attention, to take pride in our beauty, and to the distraction of others. Only you can say where the line falls for you, but when materialism is your primary concern in decision-making, it’s time for a rethink.
  2.  To prove your piety. Mantillas are more commonly worn by more traditional Catholics, usually at a Latin or Old Rite Mass – although as they grow in popularity, they are often seen now among younger women at Novus Ordo churches too. Whilst the majority of women who veil consider it a deeply personal decision, I have come across one or two who have looked down on others for choosing not to wear a mantilla, considering them to be less pious or less faithful Catholics. Wearing a mantilla does not make you any ‘better’ a Catholic than anyone else, it does not prove your piety, it does not give your prayers more kudos with God. And if it reaches the stage of judging other women for their decision not to veil, I encourage you to take it off and spend a few Sundays bareheaded.
  3.  If it becomes a distraction. The constant adjustments and re-adjustments, fidgeting with the ends, the desperate grab to try and keep the stupid thing on your head! Wearing a veil can be a pain at times and isn’t always the easiest thing to keep balanced, especially if you have babies or toddlers who are at the grab-and-pull-anything age. If you find yourself fidgeting awkwardly with the veil or re-adjusting it hundreds of times throughout the Mass, you’ll need to either pin it firmly to your hair or ignore it altogether. The veil should never become more of a hindrance to your prayers than a help.
  4.  You don’t want to. Some women aren’t comfortable with wearing a head covering, particularly if they would be the only one. It took me several years before I was comfortable wearing the mantilla at a Novus Ordo Mass, or where I’d be the only one – and this is fine! However, if you’re worried about the opinion of others, remember that this is a decision between you and God – no-one else should come into it.
  5. To cover up. This is a curious last point. Most religions that require women to cover their heads or hair do so because women’s hair is considered a private or sexual part of the body, to be concealed in the presence of the opposite sex. But the mantilla is different; its role is to highlight, not conceal. This is often indicated by the fact that mantillas are often lacy or transparent – the aim is not to cover the hair or conceal the head, but to show respect. + That’s not to say that modest dress has no role to play in how we should dress for Mass, but rather the mantilla is not a requirement for modest dress.

Ultimately, only you can decide whether or not to wear a mantilla, and this article only scratches the surface of the different reasons why women choose, or do not choose, to cover their heads. If you’ve never worn a veil before, or it’s just not ‘something people do’ in your parish, I encourage you to give it a go! If you’re nervous about veiling on your own, see if you can find a mantilla buddy – you may find that you’re not the only one who has been thinking about it.

It took me a while before I was confident wearing my mantilla at Novus Ordo masses, or when I was the only one – but now, I’d feel strange without it. I veil for God, to show the respect I have for Him and His Church – but I also veil for myself, to prepare myself for Mass and to help keep my prayerful focus. In doing so, I have taught myself not to care what others think of my dress code or personal choices, and come to love God in my prayers all the more.

 

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Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kathleen Spiritual Growth

Why I Veil: A Millennial Perspective

This Lent, I started covering my head during Mass. I know, I know- off the Traddie rails, am I right? But hear me out.

I wanted Lent to be different. I wanted to be able to say that I had prepared in a way that I hadn’t the rest of the year. I really felt strongly that I should start to do this.

And guys? It was amazing.

The Sacrifice of the Mass

The biggest thing that veiling has done for me has helped me stay focused on the sacrifice of the Mass.

As a mother of two young kids, here’s what my preparation for Mass looks like. I get up (probably late) and run around like a crazy person making sure we’re all dressed and have the diaper bag and everyone is wearing shoes and coats and underwear. My son is mad that he can’t wear his football shirt. My daughter is mad because she doesn’t like to go anywhere or do anything if she has to, but would prefer to float through life without any obligations. (Me too, kid. Get in the car.) My husband stands in the wrong place or something and annoys me because he’s not in my head and I’m mad at him for not doing what I’m thinking of asking him to do because I didn’t leave enough time to get ready. Once we get to church it’s an hour of picking up thrown books, handing out this week’s Magnifikid to my daughter if I was smart enough to bring it, handing out last week’s Magnifikid to my son to color on and having him flatly reject it (sorry, you can’t read, so you don’t get your own subscription), and convincing both children that Daddy will, in fact, come back after being an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. He didn’t go away to war.

And if it’s a weekday Mass? All that an hour earlier and by myself. Do you know how much ambient noise there is at a weekday Mass? None. Do you know how much noise my tired cranky children produce? Not none.

Wearing a veil has become a physical reminder to myself that I am in the presence of God in the Blessed Sacrament. I am participating in literally the most important thing I will ever do. Not that the obligations of my family go away, but I am able to switch my mind back much faster and focus much more after distractions.

It’s Not About Me

Wearing a veil at Mass has changed the way I feel about myself as a woman in unexpected ways.One of the concepts that I love is that we veil what is sacred. The tabernacle and altar are veiled. Women are sacred- we have a duty unlike any other. We have the privilege of veiling before the Lord that men do not.

When wearing a veil at Mass, I am not Kathleen anymore. I’m not the girl that’s worried about her forehead wrinkle and that weird hair that sticks up at my hairline. I am a daughter of God, and I am able to be much more humble before Him. It is not about me.

As someone who can tend towards the sin of vanity, I had hoped that this would happen and it has truly allowed my relationship with my God to deepen.

Sacred Femininity

One thing I never expected was the way veiling would make me feel about my femininity and even my fertility.

Since I had my son four years ago, my attitude towards my fertility was that it was basically a long slog towards menopause. I had (have) grave medical and psychological reasons to avoid or postpone subsequent pregnancies. Super fun when you practice NFP and you’re not even thirty yet.

But veiling has made me focus on my femininity. That focus has made me realize that while I don’t know if I can handle a pregnancy now (or in the near future), my fertility is a sacred gift from God and not something to be merely managed. The power and privilege to have the ability to carry a child (with regards to how God designs us, not restricted to married or fertile women) is unbelievable, and I am so unbelievably lucky that I get to experience that.

Veiling is not for every woman. It is not required for Novus Ordo Masses (although I wear mine at NO Mass), and if it makes you uncomfortable this is clearly not the sacramental for you. But if you are intrigued by the idea, I suggest giving it a try. I promise, you will never think about yourself before the Blessed Sacrament in the same way again.

 

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Veiling Through the Joyful Mysteries

In June I shared ‘Lifting the Veil…’, a post about my decision to begin veiling. In reading the subsequent comments, I found renewed vigor in my resolve to veil and gained insight into addressing many of the questions that arose concerning my reasoning behind this devotional act. Contrary to the objection that veiling is an act of drawing attention to oneself, my logic is much more personal and spiritual. It was also edifying to note a comment relaying that, after she noting my personal reasoning, it occurred to a reader that it was legitimate to consider personal piety as outweighing cosmetic vanity. Equally heartening was a comment from the male perspective. Evidently some priests and other males see veiling as…

“one of very few symbols that manages to say something good and positive about the dignity of Christian women and girls”.

For those of us who often worry about what others think, being the rare veiler in your parish also presents an opportunity for mortification. Contrary to some popular assumptions, drawing attention to oneself is not the intent; it is actually a hurdle to overcome. Neither is veiling relevant to location. Veiling is certainly more prevalent at the Vatican, Latin Mass, or EWTN but isn’t it the same Jesus present in each and every sanctuary? With this acknowledgment comes the revelation that veiling is purely in submission to and respect for the Presence of God – wherever He is.

The reading from Ephesians we heard recently also gives great insight into this aspect of respect – as a two-way street. We wives are called to be subject to our husbands even as they are admonished to love us as much as they love their own bodies. Men are also called to honor their wives as God honors the Church. The full message is to “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ”. As our priest explained, sacred scripture is not to be taken one line at a time and misused with the intention to abuse someone. It is to be taken as a mirror of God’s relationship with us. When both man and woman (Jesus and Church), employ their proper and complimentary roles, there is equal dignity and harmony for the good of all. Therefore, when I veil, I show respect not just for Jesus present in the Eucharistic Sacrament but also for the dignity of my role as a woman.

Returning to scripture, we can call to mind how, when Saint Veronica encountered Jesus carrying His cross, she took off her veil and He wiped His face with it. When He handed it back to her, the image of His face remained and gave a special blessing to the practice of veiling. This event is still honored in most Catholic Churches in the form of the Stations of the Cross. The name Veronica – vera icon (true icon) – comes from this occasion. We can also look to Our Blessed Mother for the symbolism of humility and submission to Christ. Statues of her appear in all Catholic Churches as well and we are called to emulate her ‘yes’ to the call from God. This leads me to meditate on veiling as I pray the Rosary.

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Veiling Through the Joyful Mysteries

The Annunciation (Humility) – Mary learns from the Angel Gabriel that God wishes her to be the mother of God and humbly accepts. (Luke 1:26-38)

When I first felt the call to veil, it was a tiny whisper. I didn’t know why I wanted to veil or even if my desire was pure. After prayer, discernment, and discussion with my husband, I felt ready to commit and say my own ‘yes’ to God. Veiling is not as much about the outer sign as it is about the inward resolve to be a better daughter of God, sister of Jesus, living with the Grace granted by the Spirit.

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The Visitation (Love of Neighbor) – Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth and is praised by her as “blessed among women.”(Luke 1:39-56)

When I wear my veil, I hope to be a comfort to others. I strive to display modesty and the unique feminine qualities that only women and girls possess. In a world that is stark in its lack of respect for the unique gifts of women, I want to be there for my sisters in Christ and give them comfort and solace and maybe the courage to look deeply into their own femininity and thus strive to praise God in stature, dress, and voice.

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The Nativity (Poverty of Spirit) – Mary gives birth to Jesus in the stable at Bethlehem.(Luke 2:1-20)

With the dawning of every new day, we are born again to a new opportunity to live as a child of God. All distractions, failings, and fears from yesterday are gone and we are invited to strive for sainthood anew. With the donning of my veil, I say to Jesus, that I am ready to take on the challenge – of being the best me I can be, regardless of history or failures in previous attempts.

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The Presentation (Purity of Mind and Body) – Mary and Joseph present Jesus to His Heavenly Father in the Temple of Jerusalem forty days after His birth.(Luke 2:22-39)

We present ourselves to God upon entry into His house. We go there to seek Him out, to ask His blessing, to petition for our most basic needs, and to honor and glorify Him. When I place the veil upon my head, I am signaling to myself and to anyone who cares to take notice, that my intention is to humble myself in His presence.

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Finding the Christ child in the Temple (Obedience) – After searching for three days, Mary and Joseph find the twelve-year-old Jesus sitting in the Temple discussing the law with the learned doctors.(Luke 2:42-52).

We find ourselves in body of Christ. We did not ask to be brought there but are instead drawn there by answering our Father’s call. He wants us for Himself and when I veil, I find it to be a sacramental way to show that I am His.

 

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Fruits of the Mysteries of the Rosary – http://www.rosary-center.org/joyful.htm

Scripture references – http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/prayers/rosary/annunciation.htm#ixzz24foLoG31

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A Call to Veil: The Mysterious Unfolds

When I look online for information about veiling at Mass (or anywhere in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament), it makes me sad to see that this is such a controversial topic. To me, veiling is a beautiful devotion, like the Rosary, that has the potential to edify the entire Body of Christ by drawing attention to both the sacredness of women and the magnificence of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

My journey to wearing a veil began as I read a discussion thread about this very topic among several good friends of mine. For months, I had been attending daily Mass and was finding myself quickly falling head over heels in love the same Eucharistic Lord I had nonchalantly received hundreds of times since my First Holy Communion in 1995.

When my friend Elaine mentioned why she veiled, she noted that the Church is rich in symbolism. She said, “The Church veils holy things—the tabernacle is veiled, behind the veil is the Body of Christ, and I am a vessel of life. A living tabernacle.”

This veiling of sacred things speaks to a kind of hiddenness that doesn’t seek to conceal in the negative sense, but rather draw us into the depths of mystery, allowing for the mysterious to unfold. In the Old Testament, Moses veiled his face. The Holy of Holies was veiled. Brides are often veiled before the “veil is lifted.” Even Jesus, the infinite God whose glory is revealed in heaven, is “veiled” before us by the accidents of bread and wine. As a wonderful priest puts it, “Like the effect of the virtue of modesty, by the very fact that something is hidden, it is allowed to become that which it is: mysterious and beautiful.”

Elaine also mentioned that veiling represents the desire to humble oneself before God: “When a man walks into church he removes his hat as an act of humility. Men show their bald spots and all of that in this act. When a woman covers her hair, her glory, she is similarly humbling herself before God.”

My heart heard that. I was absolutely in love and in awe with the magnificent reality of the Eucharist and Christ’s perfect act of self-giving—He, the God of the universe, wanted to be in such intimate union with me, yes, ME! that He wanted to physically enter into the very depths of my being and consume me with His love! And I just wanted to be His.

I admit, I also wanted to really feel like the precious child of God I’d been told so many times I was. Up until recently, I had never really believed it. I understood that God loves us…“us in general,” but not necessarily me in particular. After all, I had heard so many times from my loved ones how I had failed to be what they wanted me to be (most notoriously, thin and perfectly in control of my emotions), that I figured I was nothing special. I was nothing for someone else to die for, let alone God himself. So as I discovered the intimacy of the love of God, I longed to feel just how precious I was in His eyes, in spite of my sins and imperfections.

The first time I wore my veil before the Lord, I recalled Elaine’s words. “I am a living tabernacle.” In my heart, my longing to be His, wholly and completely, felt like fire. It reminded me of the fire I could see emanating from the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I was that precious child of God, and I just wanted to be His.

Now, before I enter the sacred space that houses the Blessed Sacrament, I pause. I remind myself that the mystery I am about to enter in the Mass transcends time. I carefully slip my veil on over my head, ready to enter that sacred space and longing ever so intensely to allow Christ to marry me in the Eucharist. I am His bride.

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If you are thinking about beginning this beautiful devotion, remember that it is God before whom you wish to humble yourself. Like a religious habit, your veil is a public proclamation of your desire to submit to the will of God for your life and to answer the universal call to holiness and continual conversion. Your veil is also a sign of the great dignity that is due to a woman, who has the potential to receive life within herself… both human life and the supernatural life of God. This is an important message the world needs to hear, now more than ever! Above all, wear your veil for the greater glory of God.

Lily is a full-time, homeschooling mother of three (soon to be 4, in February 2012) with a special love for veiling in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Looking to promote a deeper reverence to the Blessed Sacrament, Lily founded Veils by Lily in August 2010 and now spends most of her spare time filling orders and returning inquiries about veiling. She blogs occasionally at The Catholic Wife.