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Wearing A Veil (Mantilla) This was written by a Catholic Woman. 

Traditionally, women cover their heads in church. This practice follows a received custom practiced from very early in the Church. St. Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians (11:4-5), writes: "Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered, disgraces his head. But every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered disgraces her head." In other words, such a woman wounds her feminine dignity. However it seems that this practice of women covering their heads at Mass is one that has lapsed in the Novus Ordo since the Second Vatican Council.

In 1970, Pope Paul VI promulgated the new Roman Missal, ignoring mention of women's veils. But at the time the missal was published, it didn't seem necessary to keep mandatory such an obvious and universal practice. And mention in Canon Law or the Roman Missal is not necessary to the continuation of the tradition, for it is rooted in Scripture and has been practiced ever since the early Church.

God has established a hierarchy, in both the natural and the religious spheres, in which the female is subject to the male. St. Paul writes in 1st Corinthians: "But I would have you know that The head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and The head of Christ is God." (1 Cor. 11:3)

And, in the institution of marriage, God gave the husband authority over the wife, but responsibility to her as well. Not only is he The family's decision maker, but he is also responsible for The material and the spiritual welfare of his wife and children. Man Is not in This position to enslave or belittle the wife. As the Bride (the Church) is subject to Jesus, women must wear the veil as a sign that they are subjected to men.

"Let wives be subject to their husbands as to the Lord; because a husband is head of the wife, just as Christ is head of the Church" (Eph. 5:22-23). The man represents Jesus. Therefore he should not cover his head. However, this subjection is not derogatory to women, because in God's kingdom everyone is subjected to a higher authority:

"For as the woman is from the man, so also is the man through the woman, but all Things are from God." (1 Cor. 11:12)

Furthermore, the symbolism of the veil takes that which is invisible, the order established by God, and makes it visible. In the history of the Church, priestly vestments have played a similar symbolic role.

It is an honor to wear the veil. But by publicly repudiating it, a woman dishonors her feminine dignity, her sign of female subjection, just as the military officer is dishonored when he is stripped of his decorations, The Roman Pontifical contains the imposing ceremonial of the consecration of the veils: "Receive the sacred veil, that thou mayst be known to have despised the world, and to be truly, humbly and with all thy heart subject to Christ as His Bride; and may he defend thee from all evil, and bring thee to life eternal" (Pontificale Romanum, de benedictione).

St. Paul says an unveiled woman is a dishonor: "But every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered disgraces here head, for it is the same as if she were shaven."(1 Cor. 11:5)

That is why women ought to have a veil on her head, because of the angels," wrote St. Paul (1 Cor. 11:10). The invisible hierarchy should be respected because the angels are present at Christian liturgical assembles, offering with us the Holy Sacrifice with the honor due to Almighty God. St. John the Apostle wrote: "And another angel came and stood before the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense that he might offer it with the prayers of all before the throne." (Apoc. 8:3, see also Matt 18:10). They are offended by a lack of reverence at Mass, just as they abhorred King Herod's acceptance of adoration from the people of Jerusalem: "But immediately an angel of the Lord struck [Herod] down, because he had not given honor to God, and he was eaten by worms, and died." (Acts 12:23).

Many of today's people may be inclined to say "well that's just Saint Paul and he's being a bit to harsh" or " he need's to get in touch with the times". However such ideas are a serious offence against God as what was true for the early Christians is also true for us in regards to things that have a spiritual advantage. This is because God is eternal; thus the truth of any matter applies always no matter what age we live in. It can be said that the veil although seen to be by many of little importance is something that the apostles, saints and Church fathers held should be maintained.

St Paul reminds us, "for I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it but I received it by revelation of Jesus Christ" (Gal. 1:12), referring to the authority of his ministry, and veracity of his words.

In order to further confirm this we note that the Holy Pope Linus used to insist on the Apostle's words on this matter be observed, which required every woman to wear a veil when she entered into the church. St. Charles Borromeo was accustomed to say, "women who were not thus veiled should be refused admittance into the church". We read that according to St Clement and others such as St Alphonsus that the reason of this is because, lest the beauty of the other sex, distract the attention of the men.

The practice of women wearing head covering in church is based on Scripture and included in the traditional Code of Canon Law (It is not included in the New Code). Thus, Catholics should continue this custom according to the teaching of St Paul (I Cor. 11:4-5).

Canon 1262.2 of the 1917 Canon Law of the Church states:

"Men should be with head uncovered in church or outside of church, when they assist at the sacred rites, unless the approved customs of the people or additional particulars of the circumstances call for something else; women, however, should be with head covered and modestly dressed, particularly when they approach the Lord's table." The 1983 code did not expressly revoke head coverings, which means the head covering requirement is still in force despite the laxity of many contemporary Catholics.

The Bl. Virgin Mary, always humble, should be the example of all women. She did not wish to attract attention to herself and we can be certain that she dressed in a modest manner.

Women would do well to not only have their hair covered in church, but to approach the altar with the same inward humility, which the veils signify.


To Veil or Not to Veil
I have intended to blog about this topic prior to this, but just never got around to it. I've found that the timing with everything has to be right, and often, my timing is not. But tonight, it's time. I happened over to WardWideWeb and there I found a GREAT explanation as to the correct reason for choosing to wear a mantilla.

Somewhere around a year or so ago, I noticed several people in my parish veiling. The headcoverings varied from hats to scarves to lace mantillas, the latter of which were sold in the church gift shop. (Yes, my parish has a gift shop. It's a Catholic mega-church and in spite of myself, I love it). Anyway, as could be predicted, the mantillas and other headcoverings were more prolific in the three daily Masses than in the Sunday liturgies, but just the same, I began to sense a call to cover my head.

I purchased a black lace mantilla and I'll admit the first time I wore it I was a bit self-conscious, but in time, that feeling went away. I still wear my veil at Mass and in the Adoration Chapel to remind me that I am in a holy place and the lace on my peripheral reminds me to direct my worship to the Lord and away from the random thoughts which plague me at the worst possible time.

I also have a white lace mantilla which is worn on the more special occasions.

Of late, though, as I've gone though a rather intense period of dryness, I have questioned my wearing the veil. Am I doing so for the right reasons? Am I trying to appear to be more holy?

I will tell you the reasons I began to veil, but in order for you to really understand, you need a summary of my history. While I was in high school,I began to cultivate a feminist attitude. This attitude became a chip on my shoulder during college as I studied for Law Enforcement. I later became a firefighter, and I fear some of the feminity I held was in danger of being lost among the androgynous culture perpetuated by the lesbian lobby. (that's a whole different story).

I still joke around that my friends in college thought I was just another guy. I actually was dismayed to learn only a couple of years ago that some of the guys took bets that I might actually be a lesbian!

Anyway, I had fallen away from my faith and continued to be away for many years. It took a long time to come back, and this is something I did with a HUGE dose of God's grace and a lot of study.

Finally, I reverted to the faith of my childhood, and it seems it was permanent, and maybe something in me was seeking an outward sign. And outward committment to somthing I had internally realized. When I saw others wearing the veil, I understood, finally, what was missing. I had not realized my modesty, nor had I ever really accepted my feminity in the way other woman had. Now, I am not a "girly-girl", and truth be told, I never have been. That tomboyishness remains around and within me, but believe you me, I am feminine through and through. But something happens when I enter God's house; I understand that I am a woman; and perhaps someday I will be the woman He created me to be. I am a woman in His image and everywhere, I see His mother upheld as an example of femininity. She is veiled. She always points the way to Jesus and in doing so, she is a leader among all women, as well as men.

I heard the call to imitate Our Lady and I have found, through wearing the veil, that no matter what I am outside of Mass, when I arrive to worship, I am a woman of God, and nothing else matters. The veil is a sign of modesty and submission to God. It is a reminder of the holiness of our location, and I do need this reminder at times.

Allow me to explain.

I may not be a girly-girl, but I am ALL ABOUT my hair. Yup. God blessed me with good hair and I've heard about it all my life. And even though I am in my 30's, I'm still playing with it. I love to color it and go from one color to another drastically. For example...red to jet black. And the cool thing is that these colors look GOOD on me. Last fall I actually had my hair colored professionally for the first time in my life, and I got hilights. What did I do? I had her color my hair jet black with unnaturally red streaks. It was not neon, but close. Now, I am a sensible woman, and so we went conservative so the look was appealing. The red faded to a nice auburn for which I recieved many compliments.

Just this week I had it colored again, and cut, and guess what? More red this time. Less conservative. And when the sun hits my hair, I KNOW that it glows. I love this.

You may be asking what my point is, and some of you may already undestand. I am vain of my hair. Yup. My hair is my best feature and I like to show it off. But a line has to be drawn, and I do so at Mass. I don't go to Mass to look good or recieve compliments. I go to worship God. He already knows all about my hair, and my veiling it for Him is a form of modesty. It's a small way of my saying to Him, "Ok, this is not about me, but all about YOU, and so I will cover myself so that I become smaller and YOU absorb all the attention which is so rightfully due to you."

I was thinking recently of not veiling anymore. The "craze" seems to have died down and some who used to veil do not anymore. I have gone to Mass a couple times without it, and although I felt somewhat naked, it was OK.

Then a point was brought home to me. I went to my regular adoration hour a few weeks ago, and did not wear my veil. Now, during my hour, I like to sit up close to Jesus, so I am in front of other people. That's not usually an issue, for everyone has their favored places in the chapel, and those places rarely overlap.

Well, one day, a gentleman who has the hour before me stayed late. I remember that he left after I arrived, but for some reason returned and apparently stayed awhile. As he was leaving the second time he came forward and knelt near the front pew, directly in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I was not distracted and paid him little mind.

Then he leaned over as he stood, and said to me, "Boy, kid, you sure do have pretty hair!"

He finished his goodbyes to Jesus and went on his way.

There I sat, veil-less, wearing a pony-tail, realizing that had I worn my veil as usual, this man would not have felt the need to compliment me. I was not there to be complimented. And what's worse, I feel that my hair actually distracted this man enough to divert him from his own prayer. Now, is that my problem? No, it is not. We all have distractions but the reality is that I have taken pains for my hair to be noticed in certain times, and this incident reminded me that thus, I have a certain obligation to NOT be a distraction to others.

Y'all, I'm no beauty queen. I'm not Rapunzel, but I am a woman with bright red streaks and let's face it...that does tend to garner attention. And during Mass or Adoration, that is NOT the time to garner anyone's attention. So I veil.

Some may argue that's the wrong reason, but in my heart, I have come to understand that it's the right thing to do. I will not lobby for all to wear the veil, for I don't think that's necessary. It would just be seen as another law, and some would resent it.

I would like to see more formal education on the topic. Last summer I was accused of being disobedient to the Magesterium for wearing the mantilla, and my explanations (Including history of it) fell upon deaf ears. She referred to my mantialla as a "doily". I had to remimnd her that it is blessed and is therefore, a sacramental. She accused me of being disobdient because the American Bishops have not spoken on the subject, either yay or nay.

(As an aside; I found her argument preposterous, and it was only with great restraint that I prohibited myself from pointing out the fact that the American Bishops also have not spoken out on her personal devotion to praying in the ORANS position during Mass and singing in tongues at charismatic Masses and otherwise in public....but that's another story).

The reality is this; wearing the veil is a personal devotion. God may speak to us all in different ways, and maybe some of us need the equivalent of blinders used on horses to keep our attention forward. I do not want anyone to see me as other than a sinner in need of correction, for ultimately, that is why I veil. There are many acceptable reasons to veil, and they may vary from person to person. For myself, it's my vanity and a certain reminder that I am a woman after Mary's own heart, and God has willed it this way. He has willed that I be a Catholic woman, to follow in her footsteps and point the way to Jesus for others. I don't have to be a religious sister for this; I need only recognize that as a woman, I have a duty in God's service, as do we all.

We do not cover our heads out of submission to men. I abhor the thought! We do not cover our heads to stand out or seem more holy than others. We cover our heads out of respect for the Lord who is present.

If we as women go to visit the Pope, we are to veil ourselves. How much greater is Jesus than his Vicar? Isn't the decision to veil, then, in the presence of Christ obvious?

Is there any more to be said?

THE VEIL

Taken from "The Unveiled Woman"
by Jackie Freppon.

During the second Vatican Council, a mob of reporters waited for news after a council meeting. One of them asked Msgr. Annibale Bugnini, then secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship, if women still had to wear a headcover in the churches. His response was that the Bishops were considering other issues, and that women’s veils were not on the agenda.

The next day, the international press announced throughout the world that women did not have to wear the veil anymore. A few days later, Msgr. Bugnini told the press he was misquoted and women must still had to wear the veil. But the Press did not retract the error, and many women stopped wearing the veil as out of confusion and because of pressure from feminist groups.

Before the revision in 1983, Canon law had stated that women must cover their heads "...especially when they approach the holy table" (can.1262.2). But in order to reduce such a growing collection of books, the new version of Canon law was subjected to concise changes. In the process, mention of head coverings was omitted.

In 1970, Pope Paul VI promulgated the Roman Missal, ignoring mention of women’s veils. But at the time the missal was published, it didn’t seem necessary to keep mandatory such an obvious and universal practice, even if it no longer had a "normative" value (Inter insigniores, # 4).

And mention in Canon law or the Roman Missal is not necessary to the continuation of the tradition, for it is rooted in Scripture and has been practiced ever since the early Church. Indeed, Pope John Paul II affirmed that the real sources of Canon law are the Sacred Tradition, especially as reflected in the ecumenical councils, and Sacred Scripture (O.S.V. Catholic Encyclopedia, p. 169).

SCRIPTURE           

Sacred Scripture presents several reasons for wearing the veil. St. Paul tells us in his first letter to the Corinthians (11: 1-16) that we must cover our heads because it is a Sacred Tradition commanded by our Lord Himself and entrusted to Paul: "The things I am writing to you are the Lord’s commandments" (1Cor. 14:37).

DIVINE HIERARCHY           

God has established a hierarchy, in both the natural and the religious spheres, in which the female is subject to the male. St. Paul writes in 1st. Corinthians: "But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God (1 Cor. 11-3).

And, in the institution of marriage, God gave the husband authority over the wife, but responsibility to her as well. Not only is he the family’s decision-maker, but he is also responsible for the material and spiritual welfare of his wife and children. Man is not in this position to enslave or belittle the wife.

As the Bride (the Church) is subject to Jesus, women must wear the veil as a sign that they are subjected to men: "Let wives be subject to their husbands as to the Lord; because a husband is head of the wife, just as Christ is head of the Church." (Eph. 5, 22-23) The man represents Jesus, therefore he should not cover his head.

However, this subjection is not derogatory to women, because in God’s kingdom everyone is subjected to a higher authority:

"For as the woman is from the man, so also is the man through the woman, but all things are from God." (1 Cor.11,12).
Furthermore, the symbolism of the veil takes that which is invisible, the order established by God, and makes it visible. In the history of the Church, priestly vestments have played a similar symbolic role.

WOMEN’S HONOR  

It is an honor to wear the veil. But by publicly repudiating it, a woman dishonors her feminine dignity, her sign of female subjection, just as the military officer is dishonored when he is stripped of his decorations.

The Roman Pontifical contains the imposing ceremonial of the consecration of the veils:

"Receive the sacred veil, that thou mayst be known to have despised the world, and to be truly, humbly, and with all thy heart subject to Christ as his bride; and may he defend thee from all evil, and bring thee to life eternal" (Pontificale Romanum; de benedictione)
St. Paul says an unveiled woman is a dishonor: "But every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered disgraces her head, for it is the same as if she were shaven" (1Cor.11,5).

BECAUSE OF THE ANGELS           

"That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head, because of the angels" wrote St. Paul in 1 Cor. 11,10. The invisible hierarchy should be respected because the Angels are present at Christian liturgical assemblies, offering with us the Holy Sacrifice with the honor due to God. St. John the Apostle wrote:

"And another Angel came and stood before the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense that he might offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which is before the throne." ( Rev. 8:3, see also Matt. 18:10.)
They are offended by a lack of reverence at mass, just as they abhorred King Herod’s acceptance of adoration from the people of Jerusalem:
"But immediately an angel of the Lord struck (Herod) down, because he had not given honor to God, and he was eaten by worms, and died." (Acts, 12:23).

ANCIENT TRADITION           

The custom of wearing the veil was maintained in the primitive Churches of God. (1Cor.11:16). We see this in the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians. The women of Corinth beset by modern sensibilities, started coming to church without their heads covered. When St. Paul heard of their neglect, he wrote and urged them to keep the veil. According to St. Jerome’s commentary Bible, he finally settled the matter by saying head covering was a custom of the primitive communities of Judea, "the Churches of God" (1 Thess.2-14, 2Thess.1-4), which had received this Tradition from early times (2 Thess.2:15. 3:6).

GOD’S COMMAND          

Even today some people erroneously believe that St. Paul based the tradition on his personal opinion. They think he did not intend it to be continued in the Universal church, but only as a local custom. This argument, however, does not conform to the Pauline spirit. After all, it was Paul who stood before Peter to change Jewish traditions in Christian Churches (Gal.2:11-21).

St. Paul reminds them: "for I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it; but I received it by a revelation of Jesus Christ" (Gal.1:12), referring to the authority of his ministry, and veracity of his words. Pope Linus who succeeded St. Peter, enforced also the same tradition of women covering their heads in the church (The primitive church, TAN.) Our Lord warns us to obey his commandments: "He therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and shall so teach men, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt.5:19).

CONCLUSION           

In summary, the reasons that St. Paul advises women to cover their heads in the church are:

Our Lord commanded it;
It is a visible sign of an invisible order established by God;
The Angels at mass are offended if women don’t use it;
It is a ceremonial vestment;
It is our heritage.
Christian women around the world have other reasons to wear a hat, mantilla, rebozo, gele, scarf, shawl, or veil. Some wear it out of respect to God; others, to obey the Pope’s request, or continue family traditions.But the most important reason of all is because Our Lord said: "If you love me keep my commandments" (John 14:15).
We should always be ready with our bridal veils, waiting for him and the promised wedding (Apoc.22:17), following the example of our Blessed Mother Mary, who never appeared before the eyes of men but properly veiled.

To those who still think that the veil is an obsolete custom, remember that: "Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday and today, yes, and forever" (Heb.13:8).

Should Women Cover Their Heads in Church?
By: Msgr. Charles Pope.

Now be of good cheer. This blog post is meant to be a light-hearted discussion of this matter. The bottom line is that the Church currently has NO rule on this matter and women are entirely free to wear a veil or a hat in Church or not.

I thought I’d blog on this since it came up in the comments yesterday and it occurred to me that it might provoke an interesting discussion. But again this is not meant to be a directive discussion about what should be done. Rather an informative discussion about the meaning of head coverings for women in the past and how such customs might be interpreted now. We are not in the realm of liturgical law here just preference and custom.

What I’d like to do is to try and understand the meaning and purpose of a custom that, up until rather recently was quite widespread in the Western Church. The picture at the right was taken by LIFE Magazine in the early 1960s.

With the more frequent celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass, the use of the veil is also becoming more common. But even at the Latin Masses I celebrate, women exhibit diversity in this matter. Some wear the longer veil (mantilla) others a short veil. Others  wear hats. Still others wear no head covering at all.

History – the wearing of a veil or hat for women seems to have been a fairly consistent practice in the Church in the West until fairly recently. Practices in the Eastern and Orthodox Churches have varied. Protestant denominations also show a wide diversity in this matter. The 1917 Code of Canon Law in  the Catholic Church mandated that women wear a veil or head covering. Prior to 1917 there was no universal Law but it was customary in most places for women to wear some sort of head covering. The 1983 Code of Canon Law made no mention of this requirement and by the 1980s most women, at least here in America, had ceased to wear veils or hats anyway. Currently there is no binding rule and the custom in most places is no head covering at all.   

Scripture – In Biblical Times women generally wore veils in any public setting and this would include the Synagogue. The clearest New Testament reference to women veiling or covering their head is from St. Paul:

But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and a husband the head of his wife, and God the head of Christ. Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered brings shame upon his head.  But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled brings shame upon her head, for it is one and the same thing as if she had had her head shaved.  For if a woman does not have her head veiled, she may as well have her hair cut off. But if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should wear a veil.  A man, on the other hand, should not cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; nor was man created for woman, but woman for man;  for this reason a woman should have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels. Woman is not independent of man or man of woman in the Lord. For just as woman came from man, so man is born of woman; but all things are from God.  Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head unveiled? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears his hair long it is a disgrace to him, whereas if a woman has long hair it is her glory, because long hair has been given (her) for a covering? But if anyone is inclined to be argumentative, we do not have such a custom, nor do the churches of God. (1 Cor 11:1-11)

This is clearly a complicated passage and has some unusual references. Paul seems to set forth four arguments as to why a woman should wear a veil.

1. Argument 1 – Paul clearly sees the veil a woman wears as a sign of her submission to her husband. He also seems to link it to modesty since his references to a woman’s  hair cut short were references to the way prostitutes wore their hair and his reference to a shaved head was the punishment due an adultress. No matter how you look at it such arguments aren’t going to encourage a lot of women to wear a veil today. It is a true fact that the Scriptures consistently teach that a wife is to be submitted to her husband. I cannot and will not deny what God’s word says even though it is unpopular. However I will say that the same texts that tell a woman to be submitted tell the husband to have a great and abiding love for his wife. I have blogged on this “difficult” teaching on marriage elsewhere and would encourage you to read that blog post if you’re troubled or bothered by the submission texts. It is here: An Unpopular Teaching on Marriage. That said, it hardly seems that women would rush today to wear veils to emphasize their submission to their husband.

2. Argument 2 – Regarding the Angels- Paul also sees a reason for women to wear veils “because of the angels.” This is a difficult reference  to understand. There are numerous explanations I have read over the years. One of the less convincing ones is that the angels are somehow distracted by a woman’s beauty. Now the clergy might be  but it just doesn’t seem likely to me that the angels would have this problem. I think the more convincing argument is that St. Paul has Isaiah in mind who wrote: I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they veiled their faces, with two they veiled their feet, and with two they hovered aloft.(Is 6:2-3). Hence the idea seems to be that since the angels veil their faces (heads) it is fitting for women to do the same. But then the question, why not a man too? And here also Paul supplies an aswer that is “difficult” for modern ears: A man, on the other hand, should not cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man. In other words a man shares God’s glory immediately whereas a woman does as well but derivatively for she was formed from Adam’s wounded side. Alas this argument too will not likely cause a run on veil sales.

3. Argument 3 – The argument from “nature” – In effect Paul argues that since nature itself veils a woman with long hair and this is her glory that this also argues for her covering her head in Church. What is not clear is that, if nature has already provided this covering, why then should she cover her covering? I want to take up this notion of glory in my conclusion.

4. Argument 4-  The Argument from Custom-  This argument is pretty straight-forward: Paul says it is customary for a woman to cover her head when praying and, other things being equal, this custom should be followed. Paul goes on to assert that those who insist on doing differently are being “argumentative.” In effect he argues that for the sake of good order and to avoid controversy the custom should be followed. However, in calling it a custom, the text also seems to allow for a time like ours where the custom is different. Customs have stability but are not usually forever fixed. Hence, though some argue that wearing veils is a scriptural norm that women “must” follow today, the use of the word custom seems to permit of the possibility that it is not an unvarying norm we are dealing with here. Rather, it is a custom from that time that does not necessarily bind us today. This of course seems to be how the Church understands this text for she does not require head coverings for her daughters.

Conclusions -

1. That women are not required to wear veils today is clear in terms of Church Law. The argument that the Church is remiss in not requiring this of her daughters is hard to sustain when scriptures attach the word “custom” to the practice.

2. I will say however that I like veils and miss women wearing them. When I was a boy in the 1960s my mother and sister always wore their veils and so did all women in those days and I remember how modestly beautiful I found them to be. When I see women wear them today I have the same impression.

3. That said, a woman does not go to Church to please or impress me.

4. It is worth noting that a man is still forbidden to wear a hat in Church. If I see it I go to him and ask him to remove it. There  a partial exception to the clergy who are permitted to wear birettas and to bishops who are to wear the miter. However, there are strict rules in this regard that any head cover is to be removed when they go to the altar. Hence,  for men,  the rule, or shall we say the custom, has not changed.

5. Argument 5 – The Argument from Humility – This leads me then to a possible understanding of the wearing of the veil for women and the uncovered head for the men that may be more useful to our times. Let’s call it The Argument from Humility.

For both men and women, humility before God is the real point of these customs. In the ancient world as now, women gloried in their hair and often gave great attention to it. St. Paul above,  speaks of a woman’s hair as her glory. As a man I am not unappreciative of this glory. Women do wonderful things with their hair. As such their hair is part of their glory and, as St. Paul says it seems to suggest above  it is appropriate to cover our glory before the presence of God.

As for men, in the ancient world and to some lesser extent now, hats often signified rank and membership. As such men displayed their rank and membership in organizations with pride in the hats they wore. Hence Paul tells them to uncover their heads and leave their worldly glories aside when coming before God. Today men still do  some of this (esp. in the military) but men wear less hats in general. But when they do they are often boasting of allegiances to sports teams and the like. Likewise, some men who belong to fraternal organizations such as the various Catholic Knights groups often  display ranks on their hats. We clergy do this as well to some extent with different color poms on birettas etc. Paul encourages all this to be left aside in Church. As for the clergy, though we may enter the Church with these ranked hats and insignia, we are to cast them aside when we go to the altar. Knights organizations are also directed  to set down their hats when the Eucharistic prayer begins.

I do not advance this argument from humility to say women ought to cover their heads, for I would not require what the Church does not. But I offer the line of reasoning as a way to understand veiling in a way that is respectful of the modern setting, IF  a woman chooses to use the veil. Since this is just a matter of custom then we are not necessarily required to understand its meaning in exactly the way St. Paul describes. Submission is biblical but it need not be the reason for the veil. Humility before God seems a more workable understanding especially since it can be seen to apply to both men and women in the way I have tried to set it forth.

Veiling 
    
 For 2,000 years, Catholic women have veiled themselves before entering a church or any time they are in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament (e.g., during sick calls). It was written into the 1917 Code of Canon Law, Canon 1262, that women must cover their heads -- "especially when they approach the holy table" ("mulieres autem, capite cooperto et modeste vestitae, maxime cum ad mensam Dominicam accedunt")  -- but during the Second Vatican Council, Bugnini (the same Freemason who designed the Novus Ordo Mass) was asked by journalists if women would still have to cover their heads. His reply, perhaps innocently enough, was that the issue was not being discussed. The journalists (as journalists are wont to do with Church teaching) took his answer as a "no," and printed their misinformation in newspapers all over the world. 1 Since then, many, if not most, Catholic women have lost the tradition.

After so many years of many women forgetting or positively repudiating the veil, clerics, not wanting to be confrontational or upset radical feminists, pretended the issue didn't exist. When the 1983 Code of Canon Law was produced, veiling was simply not mentioned (not abrogated, mind you, but simply not mentioned). However, Canons 20-21 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law make clear that later Canon Law abrogates earlier Canon Law only when this is made explicit and that, in cases of doubt, the revocation of earlier law is not to be presumed; quite the opposite:
Canon 20 A later law abrogates or derogates from an earlier law, if it expressly so states, or if it is directly contrary to that law, or if it integrally reorders the whole subject matter of the earlier law. A universal law, however, does not derogate from a particular or from a special law, unless the law expressly provides otherwise.

Canon 21 In doubt, the revocation of a previous law is not presumed; rather, later laws are to be related to earlier ones and, as far as possible, harmonized with them.
Canons 27 and 28 add to the argument:

Canon 27 Custom is the best interpreter of laws.

Canon 28 Without prejudice to the provisions of can. 5, a custom, whether contrary to or apart from the law, is revoked by a contrary custom or law. But unless the law makes express mention of them, it does not revoke centennial or immemorial customs, nor does a universal law revoke particular customs. 2
Christian veiling is a very serious matter, one that concerns two millennia of Church Tradition -- which extends back to Old Testament tradition and to New Testament admonitions. St. Paul wrote.

1 Corinthians 11:1-17:
Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that in all things you are mindful of me and keep my ordinances as I have delivered them to you. But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ: and the head of the woman is the man: and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered disgraceth his head. But every woman praying or prophesying with her head not covered disgraceth her head: for it is all one as if she were shaven. For if a woman be not covered, let her be shorn. But if it be a shame to a woman to be shorn or made bald, let her cover her head. The man indeed ought not to cover his head: because he is the image and glory of God. But the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man [c.f. Genesis 2-3]. For the man was not created for the woman: but the woman for the man. Therefore ought the woman to have a power over her head, because of the angels. But yet neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, so also is the man by the woman: but all things of God. You yourselves judge. Doth it become a woman to pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you that a man indeed, if he nourish his hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman nourish her hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor the Church of God [i.e., if anyone want to complain about this, we have no other way of doing things, this is our practice; all the churches believe the same way]. Now this I ordain: not praising you, that you come together, not for the better, but for the worse.
According to St. Paul, we women veil ourselves as a sign that His glory, not ours, should be the focus at worship, and as a sign of our submission to authority. It is an outward sign of our recognizing headship, both of God and our husbands (or fathers, as the case may be), and a sign of our respecting the presence of the Holy Angels at the Divine Liturgy. In veiling, we reflect the divine invisible order and make it visible. This St. Paul presents clearly as an ordinance, one that is the practice of all the churches.

Some women, influenced by the thoughts of "Christian" feminists, believe that St. Paul was speaking as a man of his time, and that this ordinance no longer applies. They use the same arguments that homosexualists make in trying to prove their case. In this quote, homosexualist Rollan McCleary, who believes that Jesus was "gay," tries to show that Paul's admonitions against homosexuality were culturally conditioned:

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul writes about "men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due" (Romans 1:27).

Asked about these texts, McCleary said references in the Scriptures to homosexuality were misunderstood or taken out of context.

"In those days they didn't have kind of concept of homosexuality as an identity such as we have it," he argued. "It has much more to do with other factors in society ... homosexuality was associated with idolatrous practices."

In the case of Paul's writings, he continued, "does everybody agree with St. Paul on slavery [or] on women wearing hats? There is such a thing as historical context."
Of course we Catholics agree with St. Paul on slavery (St. Paul wasn't talking about chattel slavery, by the way), and on veiling, and on everything else! Please! But the liberal above makes a point: if Christians want to reject veiling, why not reject the other things St. Paul has to say? The traditional Catholic woman has the snappy comeback to the defiant homosexualist: "we do veil ourselves and don't disagree with St. Paul!" But what leg do the uncovered women have to stand on? And what other Scriptural admonitions can they disregard on a whim -- or because of following the bad example of a generation of foolish or misled Catholic women who disregarded them?

Now, I ask my readers to re-read the Biblical passage about veiling and note well that St. Paul was never intimidated about breaking unnecessary taboos. It was he who emphasized over and over again that circumcision and the entire Mosaic Law were not necessary -- and this as he was speaking to Hebrew Christians! No, the tradition and ordinance of veiling is not a matter of Paul being influenced by his culture; it is a symbol that is as relevant as the priest's cassock and the nun's habit.

Note, too, that Paul is in no way being "misogynist" here. He assures us that, while woman is made for the glory of the man even as man is made for the glory of God, "yet neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, so also is the man by the woman: but all things of God." Men need women, women need men. But we have different roles, each equal in dignity -- and all for the glory of God (and, of course, we are to treat each other absolutely equally in the order of charity!).The veil is a sign of our recognizing these differences in roles.

The veil, too, is a sign of modesty and chastity. In Old Testament times, uncovering a woman's head was seen as a way to humiliate a woman or to punish adultresses and those women who transgressed the Law (e.g.., Numbers 5:12-18, Isaias 3:16-17, Song of Solomon 5:7). A Hebrew woman wouldn't have dreamed of entering the Temple (or later, the synagogue) without covering her head. This practice is simply carried on by the Church (as it is also by Orthodox Christians and even by "Orthodox" women of the post-Temple Jewish religion today).

 That which is Veiled is a Holy Vessel

Note what Paul says, "But if a woman nourish her hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering." We don't veil ourselves because of some "primordial" sense of femine shame; we are covering our glory so that He may be glorified instead. We cover ourselves because we are holy -- and because feminine beauty is incredibly powerful. If you don't believe me, consider how the image of "woman" is used to sell everything from shampoo to used cars. We women need to understand the power of the feminine and act accordingly by following the rules of modest attire, including the use of the veil.

By surrendering our glory to the headship of our husbands and to God, we surrender to them in the same way that the Blessed Virgin surrendered herself to the Holy Ghost ("Be it done to me according to Thy will!"); the veil is a sign as powerful -- and beautiful -- as when a man bends on one knee to ask his girl to marry him.

Now, think of what else was veiled in the Old Testament -- the Holy of Holies!

Hebrews 9:1-8
The former [Old Covenant] indeed had also justifications of divine service and a sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made the first, wherein were the candlesticks and the table and the setting forth of loaves, which is called the Holy. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies: Having a golden censer and the ark of the testament covered about on every part with gold, in which was a golden pot that had manna and the rod of Aaron that had blossomed and the tables of the testament. And over it were the cherubims of glory overshadowing the propitiatory: of which it is not needful to speak now particularly. Now these things being thus ordered, into the first tabernacle, the priests indeed always entered, accomplishing the offices of sacrifices. But into the second, the high priest alone, once a year: not without blood, which he offereth for his own and the people's ignorance: The Holy Ghost signifying this: That the way into the Holies was not yet made manifest, whilst the former tabernacle was yet standing.
 ...The Ark of the Old Covenant was kept in the veiled Holy of Holies. And at Mass, what is kept veiled until the Offertory? The Chalice -- the vessel that holds the Precious Blood! And, between Masses, what is veiled? The Ciborium in the Tabernacle, the vessel which holds the very Body of Christ. These vessels of life are veiled because they are holy!

And who is veiled? Who is the All Holy, the Ark of the New Covenant, the Vessel of the True Life? Our Lady -- and by wearing the veil, we imitate her and affirm ourselves as women, as vessels of life.

This one superficially small act is:  

So rich with symbolism: of submission to authority; of surrender to God; of the imitation of Our Lady as a woman who uttered her "fiat!"; of covering our glory for His glory; of modesty; of chastity, of our being vessels of life like the Chalice, the Ciborium and, most especially, Our Lady;
an Apostolic ordinance -- with roots deep in the Old Testament -- and, therefore, a matter of intrinsic Tradition;
the way Catholic women have worshipped for two millennia (i.e., even if it weren't a matter of Sacred Tradition in the intrinsic sense, it is, at the least, a matter of ecclesiastical tradition, which also must be upheld). It is our heritage, a part of Catholic culture;
pragmatic: it leaves one free to worry less about "bad hair days";
and for the rebels out there, it is counter-cultural nowadays, you must admit!
The question I'd like answered is, "Why would any Catholic woman not want to veil herself?"


Veiling Options for Women and Girls
There are various options here for women:  

the classic Catholic lace mantillas
lace chapel caps (this is for young girls)
oblong gauzy or cotton scarves worn over the head and over one or both shoulders, or tied in various ways (see this page for information on various ways of tying scarf-type headcoverings (offsite, will open in new browser window)
standard-sized square chiffon or cotton scarves folded into a triangle and worn tied under the chin in the Jackie-O style or tied behind the head in the peasant style, etc.
large square scarves worn "babushka" style (fold large 36" square scarf into a triangle and place over head with the "tail" side hanging down in back. Then turn back the pointy ends behind the head and tie into a bow or make a knot over the "tail")
shawls worn over the head
elegant but simple hats (cloches, toques, berets, "Lady Diana" hats, etc.)
Traditionally, single women wear white or ivory headcoverings, and married or widowed women wear black, but this isn't a hard and fast rule, and is often ignored.   

It might be a good idea to have an extra head covering or two for women guests who might accompany you to the "Tridentine" Mass but who are new to Tradition (men should remember this, too, if they invite a woman to Mass. It could be embarrassing for her if she is the only one who is not veiled, and there is the chance that at some chapels or parishes, she could be refused the Eucharist. The safest bets, I am guessing, are the longer lacy veils or oblong scarves; a lot of women I know believe they look silly in the shorter veils or caps. And, hey, don't forget to tell her how beautiful she looks <wink>!).

It's always a good idea, too, to keep a veil or scarf in your purse and/or glovebox so that you can run into a church any time for prayer.

Sisters, veil yourselves, even if you are visiting a Novus Ordo parish and are the only woman to do so. Be true to Tradition, to Scripture, to your own desire to submit to God. Be not afraid... And lovingly encourage other women to do the same, teaching them what veiling means.

I've asked Catholics, both male and female, from various Catholic e-mail lists I am on what they think of veiling. Want to read their thoughts?


How do you feel about wearing a chapel veil?

About 10 years ago I wondered what change it would make to my prayer times if I wore a veil, so for a few months I would wrap a scarf around my head and neck before I began my pre-dawn ritual of Bible reading and prayer, never telling a soul. The change was felt that first morning. I cannot explain it but I felt very small...tiny in fact. It was as though the magnitude of God and who He is and what He can do was opened up to me as never before. It was exquisite. Months later I shared with some people from my church (I was Protestant pentecostal at the time) and they converged on me with every argument for stopping this 'nonsense'. I caved and stowed that scarf away never to be worn again.

When I first began my journey of conversion to the Catholic Church I was moved by a small group of women who stood in Mass wearing what I thought were black mantillas - at the time I had never heard the term 'chapel veil'. As I spread my gaze across the many heads in that hot and steamy church in Alice Springs I truly felt a sense of awe and reverence to the presence of Christ when my eyes stopped to rest on that row of women.

They were all members of one family, and a year later the mother of that family became godmother to two of my children when they made their first steps into communion with Catholicism. Getting to know Pam over the period of that year I was always impressed with how she balanced diligent homeschooling, caring for a large family, raising a new baby, serious commitment to the Scouts, and her adoration of Christ and His Church. Her faith oozed and seeped from and into every area of her life, she wore it over her life with calm vigour and yet it was not with contrived publicity, it was such a part of her that Christ was seamlessly carried into every moment of each day...she humbled me without ever knowing it.

And she wore the veil.

She received Christ on her tongue, kneeling in the knowledge of His greatness before her, and to my shame I was not 'brave' enough to follow her example, instead, when I was finally received into the church, I accepted the Host into my cupped hands as I had seen the rest of the congregation doing. I followed the crowd, those who had chosen to cast off the traditions and acts of worship that the Church had followed for almost 2,000 years, those who enjoyed 'modernised' worship.

But things happen as you gain confidence in your faith. The last three years have been a long and wide road of learning for me, a Protestant turned Catholic. The last 18 months I have been in a new Church, in a new town, and it is here that I have begun to wonder about the veil, though no woman here wears one, and it is here I have begun to desire with earnest to receive Christ on the tongue, though I have seen only a handful of others do so.

I also read in a children's book of the Mass that when the Host is raised it was for the congregation to say, "My Lord and my God", yet I have never heard it said. Now I say it, softly so only those close by can hear me, but I say it because it fills me with such love for my Lord to recognise His True Presence...most times I shed tears as I realise how close I am to His physical presence, how I am only minutes away from receiving Him into my body.

Why did we, as Christians, start to look to the world around us for our benchmarks, our models of what is 'normal'? Why did we cast off the old and beautiful acts of devotion and worship the Church has followed for two thousand years?

I no longer see a pew of women in chapel veils, and that saddens me. May God help me to be the first in our little church to do so, and to bring with me many more.

I may seem naive and simple to you, and I thank you for that. May I, following the example of my patron St Therese the Little Flower, always be simple as Christ's church is simple, remembering it is man who tends to make it hard when he tries to manipulate things to suit his own desires.


Director's Note:

I have always thought that a woman wearing a veil while in Prayer is a beautiful sight. Women are special to God and I bemoan the loss of that knowing amongst women. I just wish they would realize that a veil brings out their true beauty and that of the soul.

The Wearing of Veils
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