I recently read an article about the comeback of chapel veils entitled, “Head covering is thinly veiled patriarchy.” The author wrote to call out what us veil-wearers don’t seem to see – that “Catholics are not the Amish,” that this trend is anti-feminist, and that wearing a veil is “downright repressive.”
What I’d like to share is that I’m not a barefoot kitchen slave because I wear a veil, nor do I feel repressed as a woman. I want to share why I choose to wear a veil… and why I love it.
My first encounter with veiling happened when my husband and I were visiting my out-of-town sister-in-law about a year ago. We joined her family for Tridentine Mass one Sunday and it was only my first or second time ever attending the traditional Mass. My 12-year-old niece offered me a veil to borrow on our way there, noticeably excited to be able to share something precious of hers with her super cool soon-to-be aunt. I declined her offer. I’d never worn a veil before and really my only thought was, “This is weird.”
Shortly after, we began attending the traditional Mass regularly. Most of the women at our parish wore chapel veils and my husband soon purchased one for me as a gift. At this point, I’d become familiar with how commonplace they were among women at our church and it seemed no bother to start wearing one myself. It was delicate and pretty & gave me an excuse not to worry about what my hair looked like on Sunday morning.
Then, at Christmastime, we went to visit and stay with my family for the holidays. We joined everyone for the Novus Ordo midnight Mass at my home parish… and I wore my veil. My brother laughed, saying “Take that off!” as we were heading inside, not realizing I was seriously going to wear it for Mass. As we sat down in the crowded pews, my dad came to me and asked if I could help out as a Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. This was strange to me now, having attended the Traditional Mass for many months, where on Sundays I received Holy Eucharist kneeling… on the tongue… from a priest. I asked if he could please try to find someone else, but to come back to me if it became a desperate need. I anxiously wondered whether I could really serve if he did come back to ask.
A short while later, he did and I had to stand by my decision. At first I couldn’t quite justify my choice, but suddenly I realized what was keeping me seated in the pew: my chapel veil.
In that moment, unlike any time before, I recognized the sanctity of my chapel veil in its ability to demonstrate my utter unworthiness to receive Christ in the Holy Eucharist and my humility before God. I could not as I had before, stand in the sanctuary with Christ in my unblessed hands and with proper dignity be the one to offer His Body and Blood to the faithful.
I cannot discredit those who serve honorably as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, but my heart was transformed by recognizing the powerful sentiment a simple piece of lace demonstrates – a tangible expression of faith, gifted to us as women from the instruction of St. Paul.
In this letters to the Corinthians, he explained the relationship between man, woman and Christ; that the head of every man is Christ, in that Jesus came to earth in human form and man is a physical representation of Him; and that the head of every woman is her husband, in that woman is a physical representation of the bride of Christ, which is the Church.
St. Paul goes on to explain that if a man covers his head during Mass, he dishonors his spiritual head which is Christ, because veiling himself would represent a rejection of Christ incarnate. However, a woman veiling herself represents a recognition of Christ incarnate as she demonstrates a sign that the Church is covered under Christ’s protection.
So why all the anti-patriarchal hullabaloo? It’s clear that many people are inclined to reject St. Paul’s teaching: “For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.”
Women must be reminded that this is a good thing!
St. Paul is saying that woman are glorious in their own right, complementary to men as Eve was created out of Adam. God blesses women in a way he does no man – with the gift of motherhood, making her a sacred vessel of life, by which we are truly glorious. Veiling is not only reserved for women in recognition of our glory, it also provides a way to demonstrate humility in veiling that glory before God during Mass.
Traditions like this certainly don’t have cause to die simply because women have a right to work or to vote. And in many ways, they haven’t – considering most women today still wear wedding veils! More significantly, the Church has always veiled holy things – like the tabernacle – and she continues to do so in modern times. As women, we are also vessels of life; we are living tabernacles. It is a timeless trait that cannot be abandoned for the sake of feminism.
My veil reveres what is precious about my womanhood and about my marriage; it reminds me about my relationship to Christ; it humbles me before the Holy Eucharist; and it serves as a symbol of modesty, of my inherent dignity as a woman. As a Catholic who loves the rich history of our faith, I am joyful to have this tradition to practice as one more that is unique to me as a woman of God.
I love my chapel veil.