It's official. The Catholic Knight is retired.  I'm hanging up the helmet and passing the torch. There will be no more articles, no more commentaries, no more calls to action. THIS BLOG IS CLOSED. I've spent a very long time thinking about this, I believe the time has come, and is a bit overdue.  I want to thank my readers for everything, but most especially for your encouragement and your willingness to go out there and fight the good fight. So, that being the case, I've spend the last several weeks looking for bloggers who are fairly active, and best represent something akin to the way I think and what I believe.  I recommend the following blogs for my readers to bookmark and check on regularly. Pick one as your favourite, or pick them all. They are all great..... In His Majesty's Service, THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT

Monday, January 12, 2009

Are You Shy About Wearing the Chapel Veil?

THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: Since first posting on the subject of the chapel veil, 'The Catholic Knight' has received many emails from modest women who have expressed their desire to keep the Biblical custom, but simultaneously feel apprehension, embarrassment, or worry about the potentially negative reaction they may get from fellow parishioners. The common thread in all of these emails seems to center around not wanting to draw attention to one's self.

This is very commendable, because by not wanting to draw attention to one's self, the woman who veils demonstrates that she fully understands the purpose of what the veil is all about. A more recent email inspired me to post on this topic directly.

First and foremost, if you're a woman who fits the description above, know that you're not alone. Your desire to "not cause a scene" is commendable and demonstrates that you fully understand the purpose of the veil to begin with. That means of all people, you are probably the most ready to keep the custom.

Second, we often tend to associate the chapel veil with the pretty lace mantillas made popular in recent times by Traditional Catholics in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Many of the beautiful veils are white, or some other stunning color, which do grab attention, especially if nobody else is veiled. Certainly there is nothing wrong with wearing such a lovely prayer cloth, but at the same time, it is not necessary either.

Third, to properly veil, women must understand the reason behind the chapel veil, and this can be found in 1st Corinthians 11. To review let me just outline some highlights of this custom...
  • The chapel veil (head covering for women) is a Christian custom that comes to us from the Scriptures (1st Corinthians 11).  Saint Paul outlined a deep theological purpose for keeping the custom that transcends all local and cultural reasons.  Therefore all Christian women are Scripturally encouraged, by Saint Paul himself, to keep the custom. 
  • The chapel veil was part of the code of canon law for centuries within the Catholic Church.  Under this canon, women were compelled to wear a head covering whether they wanted to or not.  The Church eventually decided that this custom had no place in canon law, and so it simply deleted that particular canon.  The Church DID NOT remove or reverse the custom itself.  It simply deleted the canon.  This made it so women could not be disciplined for refusing to wear the veil.  There is much debate as to whether this canon should have ever been part of the code to begin with.  As the Biblical instruction should be enough.
  • The chapel veil is a voluntary custom, but that doesn't mean it's optional.  By this I mean Christian women cannot ever be compelled to keep the custom against their will, but at the same time this does not mean it's okay for women (or anyone for that matter) to "pick and choose" which apostolic customs to keep and which to ignore.  The word "Catholic" means universal, complete and whole.  To be Catholic is to accept ALL of the customs of Christianity, not picking and choosing customs, as if Christianity where a salad bar.  The term "Cafeteria Catholic" is an oxymoron.  If one approaches Christianity with a "cafeteria" (pick and choose) mentality, one cannot be "Catholic" by the very definition of the word.  Catholic women should keep this in mind.  Refusing to wear a veil (head covering) in no way harms one's status in the Church, because women can no longer be disciplined for refusing to veil, now that the code of canon law no longer requires it.  However, it does reflect a mentality which "might" become potentially harmful to one's Catholic faith eventually. If one chooses to "pick and choose" on such a little thing as the chapel veil, it's not a far step from "picking and choosing" on other more important issues, such as artificial birth control, modest dress, gossip, complaining, mass attendance, regular confession, etc. etc. etc...  Please don't misunderstand, the chapel veil in no way "protects" women from these other issues, it's just that refusing to keep one apostolic custom, "could perhaps" lead to ignoring other more important customs.  Both men and women should consider this carefully.
  • The exact same Biblical regulation that commands women to cover their heads during prayer, is equally compelling upon men as well.  Don't think for one second that men are getting out of anything.  The same Scripture that commands the chapel veil for women also commands that men keep their heads uncovered during prayer.  That can sometimes be a burden to some men accustomed to wearing ball caps and hats all of the time.  The custom remains in place for men, even when prayer is done outdoors in the hot sun.  Men must remove their hats for prayer, even when the sun beats down on them, and even if their self conscience about their hair -- or lack thereof.  The clergy teach us by example.  A bishop always removes his mitre during various points of prayer in the mass.  A priest always removes his biretta before mass, (if he has one), and always puts it back on at the end of mass, just before leaving.
  • Christian veiling (head covering) is not the same as Muslim veiling (head covering) by any stretch of the imagination.  Those who make such accusations are ignorant of both faiths.  In Islam women are commanded to veil in the presence of men.  In Christianity women are only commanded to veil in the presence of the Lord.  Nowhere in the Bible can any command be found instructing women to veil in the presence of men.  It's just not in there.  Nor is there anything in the 2,000 years of Christian history and tradition in which women are instructed to veil in the presence of men.  That's because the presence of men has absolutely NOTHING to do with a Christian woman's veil.  The whole thing centers around God and God alone.  Men have nothing to do with it.  So Christian veiling and Muslim veiling have virtually nothing in common.
  • Nothing about the Biblical instruction to veil commands women to call attention to themselves either.  In today's western world, especially in English-speaking countries, the practice of the chapel veil has virtually disappeared from everyday Catholic life.  Only in the traditionalist communities does one still see the practice alive and well.  However, it doesn't have to be that way, and it shouldn't.  Many modest women, who want to keep the custom, are self conscious about what might happen if they attempt it.  This is truly a sad situation, but understandable.
There is more than one way to veil.  Keeping the custom doesn't have to mean drawing attention to one's self, and there are so many ways a woman can do it inconspicuously. Here are some suggestions...

Sit in the back of the Church, instead of the middle or front. Almost nobody will notice you there, and the only way you can draw attention is if people actually turn around to look at you. That is not likely to happen. So the back of the church is a good place to start.

The most simple way to keep the custom is with a hat.  Below we have an example of a simple beret.  It's cute and fashionable, but at the same time doesn't stand out much.  In this case below, the beret actually matches this woman's outfit quite nicely.  Many people would probably be unaware she is even keeping the apostolic custom of 1st Corinthians 11....

Another way to keep this custom is with a simple scarf or shawl. It doesn't have to be brightly colored or ornate.  In fact, it's probably better if it's not.  This can be worn around the neck or over the shoulders when entering the church, inconspicuously, as you seat yourself in the back of the church quietly, outside of most people's view.  This young woman below gives us an example with a warm shawl she wore on a cold day.  Thin light weight shawls could similarly be used on warm days...

Then, when upon kneeling for prayer, or when mass begins, the scarf or shawl can simply be lifted up over the head without anyone noticing...

After mass is over, while the priest is recessing back down the isle, the scarf or shawl can be dropped back down over the shoulders before everybody leaves. Thus the woman who does it this way can exit the chapel the same way she came in, with most people being completely unaware of her keeping the Biblical custom.

There is only one time when there would be an exception, and that is during communion. When for a brief time you would be at the front of the church instead of the back. However, when this happens, everyone's eyes are supposed to be downcast and contemplating the real presence of the Lord. If there are people in the pew staring at you, than SHAME ON THEM, not you. You didn't do anything to attract their attention, they are supposed to be contemplating the Lord. The only person who is supposed to look at you is the priest, or the Eucharistic minister, and those people are supposed to be knowledgeable of the veiling custom and not judgemental about it.  Again, you've done nothing to attract attention to yourself.

In almost every case where woman have actually kept the custom, they report to me that they were surprised how little reaction they got all together. They were expecting more, either positive or negative, and what they got was nothing -- literally nothing. It's as if the vast majority of people there didn't care, and most of them didn't even notice. If you're shy, or self conscious about keeping the Biblical custom of veiling, you may want to keep this in mind. Chances are you're far more conscious of it than those around you.

There have been rare cases (very rare) when veiled women have been confronted by other women who disapprove of this practice. If by rare happenstance this happens to you, know that you've done absolutely nothing wrong, and the woman confronting you is acting in an uncharitable, and dare I say unchristian, sort of way. There are people like this. They're called feminists, and they've embraced a philosophy and mindset that opposes the church on so many levels. Often these very same women advocate artificial birth control, believe women should become priests, and think of the male Catholic hierarchy in a negative way. They'll sight all sorts of erroneous reasons why women should no longer veil. If you should find yourself in this rare and unlikely circumstance, here is the proper response...
  1. Smile
  2. Then say: "You know, I would never try to force my own personal views on another parishioner."
  3. Then tell her: "And it's really none of your business how I choose to reverence the Lord."
  4. End with; "God bless you."
  5. Then walk away.
If you handle it this way, you can be assured that your reward in heaven will be great.  You've just received a bit of persecution for reverencing the Lord, and you handled it with charity and civility.  Meanwhile, the feminist woman who harassed you will be looking very foolish at this point.

If on the EXTREMELY RARE chance that a man actually confronts you over wearing the veil, and I've never heard of this happening, the way to deal with it is virtually identical....
  1. Smile.
  2. Tell him: "You know, I would never try to force you to wear a hat during mass."
  3. Then say: "And it's really none of your business how I choose to reverence the Lord."
  4. End with: "God bless you."
  5. Then walk away.
I only outline these responses to be thorough. In all reality you will probably never be confronted with ANY of these situations. Of course there are always those who might have honest and sincere questions about the chapel veil, simply because they don't know anything about it.  You are far more likely to run across someone like this. If anyone asks you for a reason why you wear the chapel veil, simply cite 1st Corinthians 11 and leave it at that.  If someone sincerely wants more details, direct them to this website.

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Charlotte said...

I just went to my first Latin mass yesterday. I talk here, amongst other things, about the chapel veil:

CarmenDahling said...

The Holy Spirit was nudging me several years ago do veil. I so didn't want to bring attention to myself by veiling and the urges continued. In researching veiling I became certain that it was God's will. While struggling with the issue I saw a beautiful young mother wearing a Mantilla at daily Mass. I was so filled with admiration for her because I knew what courage it took her to be so obedient. She was my confimation and so I took the leap of faith. The first morning Mass I wore my veil and knelt to pray the Graces were overwhelming. My prayers felt magnified beyond anything imaginable. The veil focuses a woman on our Lord and hinders distractions. Also my social boundaries were greatly strengthened and if anything the parishoners were more respectful especially men. The veil is a powerful and mystical tradtion. It seems our world is attacking all boundaries and borders. Satan very cleverly seduced women to remove their covering and thus caused the Church to loose much of her feminine power and mysticism.

God Bless you for encouraging women to veil.
Gratefully, Carmen

Sarah said...

I appreciate your blog and comments on the veil--it is one of the most encouraging things I've seen on the internet and I've been researching veiling for about a week and a half for a presentation. However, I take issue with your statement about being a "cafeteria" Christian and picking and choosing from the customs of the Faith. I think that it is erroneous to claim that a person cannot be fully Christian or Catholic without adopting all the *customs* of the Faith. In my mind, that's a preposterous statement since (at least) the Catholic Faith spans over 20 different rites with hundreds of thousands of practices and customs. Even within the Roman rite there are hundreds of customs which may or may not be followed. Not everyone has to wear a scapular, pray the rosary, beat his chest while praying the last bit of the Salve Regina (or Hail Holy Queen), carry a Pieta prayer book, recite the Guardian Angel prayer, or any of the other pious customs adopted by the faithful of our Church. The essentials of the Catholic Faith which cannot be discarded or chosen on whim are our doctrines and dogmas--these are necessary for authentic Catholicity. The doctrines and dogmas of the Faith are what make us Christians and Catholics (in addition of course to the Sacraments). One cannot pick and choose as in a cafeteria from these articles of faith. They are of a higher authoritative level than customs which are changeable and often adapted throughout the Church's history.

Anonymous said...

I found your site while searching for my first veil. I had felt called to wear a veil for over a year, but hesitated like so many women because I didn't want to draw attention to myself. There are a couple other young women at my parish who cover their heads though, so I wouldn't be alone, but I would be in the huge minority. So I kept this to myself for a long long time and then 2 Sundays ago during the consecration I knew I had to be obedient in this area. I talked to my husband and told him my concerns and he said, "Are you supposed to be obedient to God or worry about what other people think?" That along with a surprise email/comment from a friend confirmed to me what I already knew.

Last Sunday was my first Sunday wearing a veil and it was amazing. Even with my 5 kids under the age of 11 with me (including a 2yr old and 4mo old) I felt more focused than I have in years. I was so happy and the joy that came from finally being obedient was overwhelming. It was the perfect way to enter Holy Week.

Anonymous said...

Please don't say such negative things about feminists and the feminist philosophy. The description you gave shows an ignorance of feminism. Any woman who would insult another woman's choices is NOT a feminist.
The philosophy of feminism supports a woman acting according to her own beliefs, morals and values... that includes veiling if modesty is what she values and she believes veiling is a way of being modest.
I AM A CATHOLIC FEMINIST and I would absolutely support and defend any Catholic woman who chose to wear a veil to mass as well as any Muslim woman who chose to wear hijab in the presence of men.
FEMINISM is about respecting the DIGNITY of all women and trusting them to follow their own moral compass.

The Catholic Knight said...

Anonymous Catholic Feminist, my apologies for the stereotype. Of course not all feminists fit the typical mold we usually see in our parishes across the United States. You seem to be the exception to the norm. That being said however, it has been the norm for most veiled women in the United States to receive the scorn of many women calling themselves feminists in our Catholic parishes. Sorry, that's just been their experience. Perhaps if more feminists followed the example you set, they would not earn such a bad reputation.

deltaflute said...

I've been recently researching about veiling since in my community we have embraced several Iraq refugees. I was stunned to read in several of your blogs that you feel such negativity towards what you deem "feminism."

I find it ignorance on many people's parts to view feminism as male bashing or the bashing of more conservative women. Although there are some feminists who take it to the extreme, a majority of us do not. We're not as vocal.

A dictionary definition of the term "feminism" will tell you that it is a doctrine promoting the equal rights of women. This includes the ability to receive the same wage as a man, to be able to vote as a man, to hold property as a man, and have the same parental rights as a man. These very basic rights are not univeral in all countries.

Furthermore, feminism advocates the rights of women to celebrate their own religion how they seem fit. From my research, I have seen that many women choose to or choose not wear the veil based on what they feel is their interpretation of canon law as well as biblical mandate. Just as it is your right to interpret the subject of veiling so it is also the right of every Catholic woman. Unless the Pope specifically issues a mandate or epistle or even discusses it, it is a difficult subject to interpret.

It is my belief that covering one's head is up to that individual believer's interpetation. That in itself is the true meaning of feminism.

In the future, if you are particularly angry about an incident, please state as such. Specific examples are prefered. To make blanket remarks against feminists (who can also be men) is cruel and unchristian.

joanna said...

Thank you so much for your insight. As a matter of fact, the daily mass on EWTN shows numerous women keeping this tradition. It gives me enlightenment, perhaps by the Holy Spirit, that he wants me to observe modesty in his presence. I am also exploring modest dress. I had been away from my faith for a long time and recently come back. I have never been more happy to be a Catholic. In my church there are a couple of ladies who wear veils. Just the other day, another mother whom I know just started wearing one too. You just never know the precedence you might set. I think I might try wearing one from now on, perhaps my 5 yo might want to as well. You never know, you might encourage another lady too. Thank you also for your thorough explanation. I was ignorant about the custom and if a lace mantilla was required vs. just a shall like quite a few do on the mass on EWTN. May God bless you.

txgoodgrl said...

Thank you so much for this posting! I have been struggling with the decision to veil. Now, I have the correct information and I'm armed with real world solutions. THANK YOU!

PlainCatholic said...

Grand topic: As a Plain Catholic woman, we wear modest clothing and a head covering full time. We take seriously Matthew 5:13-16. That said, everyone is responsible for their own distractions: we cannot worry about distracting another as it is not our responsibility if we are setting a Godly example. Only if we are setting a sinful example should we be concerned about how others react. God bless all who seek to please Jesus!

Tabitha said...

I am actially thinking about wearing a mantilla to mass even though it is very rare i only saw one woman wear one at mass on holy thursday following the christian seder dinner we had and on EWTN i saw two little girls wearing mantillas one was white and the other was pink I think they are very interesting.

tygirwulf said...

I have worn a veil when I went to Mass at the Institute of Christ the King (about every 2 months), but have started wearing it regularly since Easter Vigil, when I was received into the Church. My boyfriend and his mother supports it, in fact she now has started wearing a hat for Mass. My priest has pretty much ignored it, and for the most part, I get only curious looks. A couple of weeks ago, a young man of about 14 approached my boyfriend and me and thanked us for being good examples to him.

Last week, I was traveling, and arrived at the parish I was visiting while the previous Mass was still being celebrated. I waited outside with the veil on, and soon parishioners came streaming out. A couple of older women saw me and scowled, but mostly people looked at me curiously, like they never heard of such a thing as wearing a veil to Mass.

None of this has any bearing on my decision to wear a veil in the presence of Our Lord. I took it up of my own accord and wish to be obedient and reverent to Him and to follow the example of His holy mother. Have you ever seen a representation of Mary without a veil? I am an extremely shy and introverted person and I know people look at me wearing the veil at my home parish, but I am not at Mass for them, or even for myself. The veil reminds me why I am there and helps keeps my attention on Our Lord. If someone ever says anything negative to me about it, so what? I know this is the right thing to do; end of story.

~~OCrazyS said...

I became Catholic in 2000 and am still learning my faith. A friend directed me to a sermon online that spoke of why women should cover their heads in church. Since hearing this a couple of years ago, the subject keeps coming up at random In my thoughts and even from outside sources. Again today while doing a Google search I came across this blog. I feel pulled to wear a veil, but don't want to distract from the mass. My problem is that I am in the choir (anywhere from 2-8 people) and we are situated at the front of the church off to the side of the altar (which being so close makes the veil seem even more important). I am by no means worried what people will think, but I don't want to pull people's attention away from the mass. I don't know if there is an easy answer, but any counsel received would be most appreciated.

tygirwulf said...

To ~~OCrazyS:

No doubt that people would look at you when you start wearing a veil in the choir. That's unavoidable. But after a couple of weeks, they'll get used to it and stop noticing it as much.

It's similar to when someone you know gets a dramatic haircut, and it stands out in your mind at first, but after a day or two, it's just the way they look and isn't noticed as much.

The real key is to make sure your heart is in the right place, and that your actions reflect the devotion. People can usually tell when you do something to get attention, and when you do it because you genuinely feel devotion and are expressing it. I don't wear my veil to make a point, or to be different, or to think myself better than other women. I have found that the veil focuses my attention, partly because it helps hide what people next to me are doing. I am somewhat easily distracted by the little fidgety motions people make, and the veil hiding this overcomes my natural shyness and desire not to call attention to myself.

Also, in seeing the veil out of the corner of my eye, I am reminded that I am not the ultimate authority in my own life; Christ is. In the coming years of my life, I will likely be asked by Him to do things for Him that are much harder than wearing a veil, so I may as well practice obedience in the little things now while things are relatively easy.

May Our Lord bless you, and may our mother inspire you.

Susan C Tikalsky said...

How about different lengths of veils? Is there a beautiful tradition here as well?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I have thought about veiling off and on over the last few years and this is very helpful. I would like to bring up something related, but with trepidation because it is even more controversial. There are a couple of youngish women in my parish who have started to veil, but they wear skin-tight pants. Somehow, the two just don't seem to go together. I have learned in my research on modest clothing that pants were originally worn by men as a kind of underwear. They were like knickers and worn under their tunic. Later they became outerwear in western countries. Women rarely or never wore pants until the same feminist revolution that saw the demise of the veil. Despite Deut.22:5 prohibiting men and women from dressing alike, I think pants are here to stay on women. But it would be nice to see more modest skirts and dresses on women at Holy Mass, along with those veils.

Imrahil said...

We should remember that what you wrote about avoiding attention is all fine for the purpose of avoiding attention, I think we might add (be it only to avoid scrupolosity) that positively attracting attention may be problematic. A point I also have quite laxist views about, in the general assumption that people don't go to Mass for the explicit and direct purpose of self-promotion, and making a conscience out of potential effects is not generally helpful.

But whatever to be said about attracting attention, getting attention isn't problematic. That's it.

And if a woman in veil looks better than without, as I daresay she would, then so much the better.

Some little criticism: You had the tone of supposing that not-veiling is sinful. Whether the present situation is good or bad, I think that that can't be hold.

@deltaflute: Is having - without confusing them with the contents of faith, scientific truth and the like - the stereotypes the populace has, unchristian? I think Mr G. K. Chesterton would give you a quite furious answer in the negative. Let alone "cruel". It isn't cruel by any definition of what cruelty is.

@~~OCrazyS: If you want to veil yourself and you don't care what the people say and the director ouf your choir doesn't oppose, then you should, in my opinion, veil.

Anonymous said...

I 'veil' for all masses. But I don't use chapel veils anymore. I use discreet different fashionable ways to cover my head since I been convicted by the Holy Spirit to cover full time as possible.I have found this opened me up spiritually and I don't have to worry about entering a church to visit Jesus without a 'veil' on and I can pray more openly as well. The headcovering has created a since of God's protection over me and Mama's Mary Mantel surrounding me. When I was encouraged to keep looking to mama Mary as an example of womanhood and modesty...this naturally followed as well.

Ripsimeh said...

I wear a veil at Mass and whenever I pray or do Rosary. I also wear modest dresses. I felt called by God to do so and I don't care what other people think. I've had ladies make negative comments to me and I have a nun I talk to and she simply said, "They tend to their own garden and you dress as you see fit as according to how you think God wants you to. No one says anything now. They got used to me wearing the veil etc. And you have to understand. I don't judge anyone. I am not God.

Selvin Nehemiah said...