08 April 2009

‘To veil or not to veil, that is the question…’



It’s controversial and an often emotive subject, and one that’s quite close to my heart, so I thought I’d write some very brief thoughts down on the subject.

Nailing my courage and my least favourite mantilla to the sticking place, I’ll at once admit that I think veiling is a lovely thing to do, and wouldn’t dream of not wearing one when I’m at an EF Mass. I’ll also admit that I’m inconsistent, and I don’t wear one when I’m at an OF Mass, but I wish I did. So why do I, and why don’t I?

There are many great articles about why a woman should cover her head, and about why it’s no longer required and I read these articles many times over, one in particular from Fish Eaters. Being a bolshie sort it takes a lot to convince me of anything, but I came to the conclusion that far from being demeaning, or implying women to be second class Catholics, the very opposite was true.

So why do I? Most unspiritually, because it’s always been the Catholic thing to do and what’s so wrong with a two thousand year old tradition? It’s part of our Catholic heritage which I believe we ought to claw back, along with other Catholic traditions that I wasn’t brought up with. More spiritually speaking, putting on a mantilla in the narthex makes me reflect on where I am, and Our Lord, who I am about to meet. It’s something I can physically do to show respect, it’s something I do nowhere else and for no-one else, it’s just for God.

Why don’t I then at the OF, if I feel it’s so important and meaningful? Number one, I suppose I’m a coward who doesn’t want to stand out from the crowd. I’m very conscious that wearing distinctive headgear (however flat and lacy) can be considered to be distracting to others when it’s perceived to be ‘out of context’, or even anachronistic. It can smack of the holier than thou, although it really isn’t and isn’t meant to be. I’m still grappling with this one, one day hopefully I’ll be brave enough, although I do sometimes wear a hat, but usually only when it’s raining!

So, ladies and gentlemen, what do you think?

Update: I started veiling at NO Masses shortly after writing this post, no longer able to cope with my own double standard!

10 comments:

Clare A said...

Good post! Being a bit of a sheep, I never consider covering my head at an OF. People would look at me!

At the same time, at an EF I always do, because that's the form. For me the scriptural exhortation has less weight - women with uncovered heads were not considered respectable back then and the culture has changed.

Yet... mantillas are so elegant. Being a jeans and jumper kind of girl, I find a mantilla adds something less commonplace, in acknowledgement that what we do at Mass is unique and special. For me this is at the heart of things - the lacy head covering is worn nowhere else. It is a sign that we are on holy ground. There's also that Old Testament idea that to cover the head 'with sackcloth' meant to repent of one's sins. NOT of course that women sin more than men (ha!) but the 'clothing' of the head is to represent the mindfulness that we are in a holy place, that our thoughts (symbolised by the head) are turned to God.

Interestingly, my 22-year old daughter has asked for a mantilla for her birthday! AFAIK she attends the OF, but likes the High Sung Mass at Farnborough Abbey where about half the women cover their heads. She feels an attraction to the mantilla - who knows? maybe it will return. I hope it does. An interest in veils may be atavistic - women wore veils for centuries, and in the 19th century the mob cap was a vestige of this. Perhaps there's something in our genes that harks back for this? Not to mention that Our Lady is usually shown veiled...

Annie said...

Yes, people would look and I don't like to stand out, but at the same time I dislike my inconsistency more :( . Hats really make you stand out though, as virtually no-one wears them and they tend to annoy me anyway. I like the privacy of a veil as well.

Anonymous said...

Great post and site! I wear one always at the traditional Mass and at the novus ordo at my little chapel where I work, but they're mostly my co-workers so they're used to me! One time I wore it at a regular neighborhood novus ordo Mass and was very self-conscious. Nobody was rude to me, but it was too much out-of-place. My sheepishness kicked in!

Annie said...

Hello Anon! I think if I ever moved parish I'd start again and wear one regardless, I'm slowly working up the nerve to do it where I am, but it's really hard.

Shepherd said...

As a male I often give the reverse side of the argument, that is, how would you feel if a man entered the Church wearing a hat.
The custom, is that men go bare headed whilst women wear a head covering.
This seems fine to me.

Annie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Annie said...

OOOPS! What I said before I managed to delete it was, yes, there seems to be a bit of a weird double standard going on.

Elizabeth said...

Annie - thank you for this blog. 'Tag' - sort of! I will read it regularly. God bless. PS Please have a look at my last post if you have time.

http://prayersforthebishop.blogspot.com/2009/04/end-of-road-and-last-post.html

Annie said...

Elizabeth, I've followed your blog since you put it up :) I shall miss it!

Annie said...

Oh, and I've left a comment on your blog Elizabeth.