To Veil or Not to Veil: That is the Question


veilI’ve met some awesome Catholic families who wear veils during mass.

I’ve met some awesome Catholic families who don’t.  Mine doesn’t, but I swear, there’s an unmistakable draw about those veils.

I used to think that mass veils were silly and a sign of some sort of spiritual elitism.  But of course, I was just being a ‘un-covered head’ elitist adamant that I didn’t need no veil to be all holy-like and stuff.  It turns out, I was correct: you don’t need a veil to be holy and those who wear them don’t think so either.

Many choose to wear veils simply out of reverence and I have a deep respect for any family who wants to indicate in their dress that mass time is like no other hour in their schedule.  It’s set aside for Him, and veiling their heads is the indication of that.

Secretly, I think I’ve always found mass veils really pretty and attractive.

But, then, it could just be the Spaniard in me wanting to leap out in passionate, mantilla form.

Deep down, I realize that, if I don’t keep the Spanish Dona at bay, I’d probably show up to church looking something like the picture above.

Oh yeah.  Six inch comb and all.

The important thing when deciding whether or not to veil is understanding that if you don’t, you aren’t doing anything wrong.  No matter what some might claim, the requirement for chapel veils was already in decline when the mass rubrics of the 1962 Missal did not mention them. Similarly, and more recently, the 1983 Code for Canon Law is silent about the subject.  So, no, you are not obliged wear one, but at the same time, it’s equally fine to wear one.

We need to avoid the temptation to believe that some invisible veiled/veil-less rivalry exists somewhere six feet above the temporal plane. Although, that would be an, er, interesting ‘battle’ to witness (The Veils unleashing a hail storm of lacy netting and the Bald Caps deflecting with their copies of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) the truth is that the efficacious grace of the Eucharist is available to to all properly disposed Catholics regardless of headdress.

The important thing, of course, is what’s in your heart … unless it happens to be a flailing Spanish flamenco dancer.  Whatever you do, don’t let her out.  Appease her with chocolate and Gyspy Kings music, but do not, I repeat, do not flamenco in Church.  That might have been okay in the old translation (no it wasn’t) but the new translation, not so much.

Copyright 2013 Marissa Nichols


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  1. Nice article!

    I wish is was just as simple as “do what you want or what you feel comfortable with.” I myself would love to veil in church, but I would be alone in doing so. Though I would be veiling for Christ and His Church, I think in some churches veiling would definitely be looked on as “elitist,” and I am so not that!

    My mother in the older generation remembers having to wear those “lacy, doily things” and hating them, but the younger generation seems to not have any idea what they are! I think that because veils/mantillas haven’t been widely used (at least at the NO Masses) for over 40 years, reintroducing them (even if it’s for only yourself) may prove to be a bit tricky, unless some statement or declaration saying “It’s Okay! Don’t judge your fellow parishioners for veiling!” comes from higher in the church.

    Until that happens, I will most likely keep playing “veil dress-up” in the mirror until I get enough courage one day to actually wear it to Mass.

  2. Ok, thank you for this article. I have seen some families at my church where the mothers and daughters (as young as about 5 maybe) wearing white ones. Then I saw this random lady (haven’t seen her since) wearing a black one. And, I was all like, “Whhhaaaa???” I had NO clue about these veils. Nothing. Not why they were wearing them, why just them, what’s is for?? NOT. A CLUE. Even when I went to Catholic school – never saw it. So thank you for enlightening me. Now, I hopefully won’t be caught in that stare..

    And, btw – LOVE your writing! Flamenco. HA! Awesome.

  3. And let’s be honest: mantillas were never universally worn by Catholic women. They reflect certain cultures. I get tired of people who are pro-“veiling” (which is a new trend) saying all Catholic women wore mantillas to justify wearing long, beautiful, lacy veils. NOPE.

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