To Veil, Or Not To Veil, That Is The Question

First a little information about myself. I am a convert. I made my profession of faith in 2004. Currently I am an Aspirant in the OCDS and will receive my Scapular at our ceremonies in May. I have noticed that a very small minority of women cover their heads at Mass, though more do at our OCDS meetings than at my parish. This has raised some questions for me.

I have asked my priest about it and I understand the reasons of modesty and submission. I know what St. Paul writes about a woman praying with her head uncovered. I also know that because of the culture at that time, for her to have her hair uncovered or to cut her hair immediately identified her as a “loose woman” at best and a prostitute at worst. Not the message you want to send at church. However in his writings on the subject he leaves it open that customs may change in the future. In terms of the Church, much like receiving in the hand or on the tongue, it is a neutral issue, and each woman can decide for herself. That being said, I have two questions for the women who choose to cover their heads.

  1. If you wear the veil, why do you do so?
  2. What do you feel when you do?

I appreciate your answers.

I am a cradle Catholic and revert of sorts. I have been veiling for about a year. Like you, I struggled with the decision. I think it is a very personal decision. In my case, I started exploring the idea of veiling after reading the passage you mention in Corinthians. I am also aware of the customs of Paul’s day and that it is not required of women in the Church today to veil. However, the custom of veiling was tradition in the church up until the 1960s. From my understanding, veiling was never formerly abolished by the Church. I personally believe the church received some feminist pressure to do away with the veil as a sign of oppression. I do not have any references to quote so perhaps someone else could comment on that. For me, veiling is more a matter of humbling myself before the presence of Jesus. Personally, it is an outward reminder that helps me to have interior awareness before mass. At my current parish, I am the only one who veils and honestly, it is a bit awkward and sometimes I wish I didn’t veil because of the looks I get but my goal is humility before God and not being concerned with others’ opinions is sometimes a good reminder. For what it’s worth, I wear a small lace veil in black or dark brown (I have brown hair) so I don’t think it’s as obvious or distracting as some other veils might be. I sort of view veiling as a sacramental. If it helps you in your walk with God, great, use it. If not, don’t. God bless you with your decision.

I veil because I believe God wishes me to, and by doing it I feel like I am obeying his will and humbling myself before him. I actually veiled in my protestant days, because it’s just something that I’ve always felt right doing.

Also, for a year and a half now I’ve had bright pink hair, and the one time I forgot my headscarf it caused so many people who hadn’t seen me outside of church to comment on it that I felt it’s actually incredibly immodest (for me, specifically) not to veil, as I was distracting people in mass. For the same reason, I don’t wear a mantilla because my hair still is VERY visible through the lace :wink:

If you feel called to it, you should go for it! :thumbsup:

When I was a boy, well before Vatican II, it was manditory that women had their hair covered when inside of a Catholic Church, wether or not there were religious services going on. Likewise, it was forbidden for mens heads (hair) to be covered inside of Church. For the laity to disobey these rules was considered a sin. The only exception to the head covering rules was for priests and Bishops, etc. whose heads were covered as part of their vestments.
I was away from the Church for almost 50 years, and the head covering situation changed to what we have today. Hiwever, old customs die hard, and I think that women who wear hats, veils or shawls to Catholic Churches are merely respecting the old customs.

I know that women were required to veil in the Canon Law of 1917, but that was dropped in the current Code of Canon Law, which came out in the 1970’s, I believe. I don’t know if it was dropped because of feminism, though given the Church’s stance on other feminist issues I kind of doubt it. I personally can’t see that a group of men in Rome would much care what a minority of women think in America;). Perhaps it’s a custom that fell by the wayside more because in a general fashion sense, wearing hats and gloves fell out of fashion. If you aren’t buying those things for every day use, it’s doubtful you will buy them for Sunday only use. Much like men wearing hats has fallen out of fashion.

That is precisely the reason for my questions. It is not fashionable today for women to cover their hair. In fact today the fashion requires an obscene amount of money to be spent making our hair look beautiful. Our hair hasn’t just become the “crowning glory” God created it to be, but also a source of arrogance with all of our dying and extensions and all of that. To veil because it’s pretty or customary is not a good reason, theologically speaking.

A few older women at my church veil. It caught my attention a few years ago and I wondered why they did it. So I googled about veiling and found quite a few articles on it. It was just something that I felt drawn to for many months before I voiced the possible interest of veiling. Then, one of my older friends said she had veils and asked if I’d like one. I told her I would. So she gave me a veil, which I placed on top of my dresser for the next few months. I continued to contemplate it and research it. Then, a couple years ago, on Sunday, January 1st, I decided that it was a good time as any to begin. I didn’t think I felt ready, but I didn’t think I would ever feel ready. A few months later I attended a daily school Mass, and while waiting for Mass to start I felt odd. I looked around and couldn’t figure out what was different. Then it occurred to me that I wasn’t wearing my veil. I had forgotten it. That’s when I knew that I was meant to veil.
Sometimes I forget it, but most of the time I have the veil when I need it. I wear it to the chapel for adoration, confession, and Mass. For a short time last year I wondered if I should continue veiling, then that very day before Mass, a young father caring his baby came up to me and told me it was nice to see other young women veiling. I took it as a sign and encouragement to keep doing it.
I don’t particularly feel anything while wearing it. But I do feel called to veil. So I just do it.

Obedience. Hmmmm.

It was not fashionable in the 60’s either and that is why the small circular chapel veils were favored with young women wearing bouffant hairdo’s after Jackie popularized the wearing of the mantilla veil. Prior to that most women in my area wore hats and head scarves.

First of all, let me say that if one wishes to wear a chapel veil, do it. People should mind their own business. However, the claim that the Church required veiling is not true. The Church required a headcovering, and didn’t care if it was a veil, a hat, a a scarf, or a piece of kleenex. The type of headcovering was dictated either by need or culture or yes, fashion.

I have seen, in the past 20 or so years a sort of folklore growing up around the chapel veil. I am 65 years old and wore a hat to church until my 20’s, so I know what the feeling about it was. I don’t know where this romantic notion of the chapel veil came from. The fact is, it was popularized by Jackie Kennedy in the 60’s in this country, and yes, it was a fashion statement as well as a practicality. You could fold it up and put it in your purse and it didn’t need to match your outfit. There was no “black is for married women and white for unmarried women”, and very few saw it as a calling–covering your head was just the rule.

Now I am not meaning to be rude or mean, and I do not question anyone’s spiritual motives–that is between them and God, but I do not think it proper to make up things about the subject. I never heard one woman claim that God had called her to wear a veil. Ever. But if you feel He did, of course you must obey. But one needs to look at it objectively and not romanticize it. Wearing a hat fulfills the same purpose, and if you don’t want to stand out, wear a hat. God does not require one to make oneself uncomfortable in order to serve Him. It’s not more holy. That type of thing has to come from Him, not us.

That is all I have to say. If you come into my Church wearing a veil, I won’t give it a second thought. But let’s be realistic about the subject.

I think that the wearing of the veil today means something more than it did to us women from decades ago. I have not resumed the tradition of covering my head, but I know that some women today feel drawn to wear the veil and struggle with the idea. For some it is a personal decision and trying to explain it could be difficult for fear of being misunderstood. My daughter is among them. Since the topic of feminism has come up, I’ll say that that was one of the things that my daughter mentioned. Since there were so many women who dissented from church teaching in previous generations the return to the veil is a way for women to indicate their faithfulness to the Church. My daughter had heard about some of the difficulties that I endured with women who were dissenters from Catholic teachings. So please, dear reader, do not misunderstand or take this as an insult if you do not cover your head. She does not think that she is more holy or better than you if you don’t. There are women who have never dissented from Church teachings and have prayed and sacrificed all these years for the Church. I think it is kind of ironic today that when I was a young mother, my struggle was with the extreme feminist and today, as far as I can see on CAF, the diputes are mainly between those who have preference for the EF and the OF. :frowning:

I have a couple of simple, dark-colored crocheted veils and scarves that I wear. I don’t choose to wear hats because that likely would be distracting and unusual in my parish, but that could be an option for other women, too.

I cover my head at Mass and Adoration because I feel called to do it as a devotion; it helps me to focus on submitting my will to God because it’s a tangible sort of reminder that I am under His Authority. It also helps me to mentally separate the Mass from the common, ordinary, everyday–because I don’t veil anywhere else. It is a devotion that helps me be more reverent and submissive, as well as helping me be less distracted at Mass.

But I am also aware that it’s not a requirement and that covering her head won’t necessarily help every woman in the same way. For instance, for a woman who may feel tempted to wear it because it is unusual in her parish and will get attention, who thinks it will make her look holier, and/or who wears it to get compliments on her lovely, ornate veils (or hats or scarves), it may not be such a good idea.

That said, I think the first few times a woman veils, she naturally tends to be a little distracted by it and by what others may think of it, simply because it’s something new and different to her (kind of like changing your hair color or getting a drastically different cut/style would be)–so I would suggest, if a woman wants to try it out, she should allow for a little time to get used to it and to let others around her get used to it before making a decision.

As another poster said, if it works for you and helps your prayer life, do it. If not, then don’t. :thumbsup:

A couple of things: “Veiling” is a fairly new terminology, as most women, at least in the US (aside from ladies of certain ethnicities) wore hats, berets, or scarves. I have mentioned before that I think “veiling” has acquired a certain romanticism that was never the case when covering one’s head (which I did as a child in the 60s) was, indeed, required.

Well ahead of the Code of Canon Law change (which, I assure you, had nothing whatsoever to do with feminist pressure) a document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a document called Inter Insigniores which included this: “It must be noted that these ordinances, probably inspired by the customs of the period, concern scarcely more than disciplinary practices of minor importance, such as the obligation imposed upon women to wear a veil on their head (1 Cor. 11:2-16); such requirements no longer have a normative value.” That constituted an acknowledgment by the Church that the covering of women’s heads simply no longer carried the significance that it once did; times and perceptions change.

Now, that said… one is certainly free to wear a hat, scarf, veil, mantilla if one so chooses and is doing so for the right motivation. It is, however, important that we have our facts straight with regard to past and present Church attitudes on the subject of head coverings.

We’re on the same page here. Very well enunciated.

I double down on “covering” nowadays. I’m 61 and we wore hats mainly, and Kleenex in emergencies. No one wore mantillas.:rolleyes:

^^ This. Very “this”.

I don’t always cover with a veil. Sometimes I cover with a hat if I’m going to be in the church for a talk or something. Or like if it is cold outside, I keep my crochet hats on that match with my outfit, or if I happen to not come prepared, then I don’t cover. But my 3 veils are always in my purse, so I am usually prepared. I’ve got white, black, and lite pink ones. I am hoping to get a brown one to match my hair so that it is not as noticeable, but it is fine, either way. I veil because of the calling, because of the research. I have put much thought into it. It is not something I have done half-heartedly.

Hi there. I am a Third Order Carmelite and made my Permanent Profession last year. I, too, have noticed more women veiling when I go to Darien, IL for Carmelite functions at the Nat’l Shrine of Saint Therese and the Carmelite Spiritual Center. When I joined in August of 2006 that wasn’t the case.

My story of veiling began in early 2009. I made a Novena to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots. I had several intentions I was offering it for, but never expected the surprising turn it would take. One evening when I was driving somewhere, I was listening to EWTN radio and someone called in about the issue of veiling. The expert answered well and mentioned that it was still a valid option for those women who want to. This was an 'AHA" moment for me. I am a convert and always loved the images of women in their veils and was a bit saddened by the fact that women no longer did. It never occurred to me that I had the option to veil if I wanted to. It really felt like our Lady was undoing this knot for me.

I was really excited about veiling but not sure how to go about it. At first I attempted to wear this really long white scarf but that made me look like a Muslim and I didn’t want to scandalize fellow Catholics in thinking that a Muslim was receiving the Eucharist. I then looked into the turbans that cancer survivors wear but that didn’t seem right, either. I then found traditional chapel veils-mantillas- on a really nice Catholic website and dove right in. I felt conspicuous and uncomfortable at first, but I offered it up and that soon went away.

This Lent will be my 5 year anniversary of veiling. I now have several beautiful veils and I love to honor our Lord this way. Almost all reactions to my veiling have been positive, both men and women. I now see more women in my area veiling, especially those that attend the EF. I choose to match my veils to the liturgical season- I have a purple veil for Lent and Advent, red for Pentecost and the feasts of martyrs, etc. I feel that it’s a meaningful way to enter into the Sacred Liturgy. I veil at Adoration and Confession, too.

Hope this helps. :blessyou:

Same age here! Been there, done all of that! Elderly Italian ladies wore mantillas in our Massachusetts parish.

We have one or two older ladies in our huge parish here who wear a hat or chapel veil, and no one bats an eye.

Any woman has always been able to cover her head; no one ever said it was forbidden, even if no longer required. Again, veils were few and far between “back in the day”; hats, berets, scarves, etc., were the norm at least in the US.

Very interesting about Our Lady, Undoer of Knots. The painting is lovely; btw, in that painting, Mary’s lovely long hair is uncovered. :wink:

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