A resurgence in the optional devotion of wearing a mantilla, or chapel veil, has many people in the pew scratching their heads. Why would women, especially younger women, return to a practice that is described as submissive and subordinate? The answer to this question lies in the motivation leading to the devotion. It may be simpler to address the mistaken intentions often directed at the ladies who make the leap.
Many people these days look at women who choose to practice the devotion of veiling as ‘holier than thou’ – most characteristically in Novus Ordo parishes. Nothing could be further from the truth. In my personal experience, the reasons women veil are numerous. Their motivation includes emulating the Blessed Mother because she is the consummate female role model. Another reason is that, often times, sacred things are veiled – the tabernacle, for example. As life-bearers, we women, have a sacred collaboration with our spouses and God. We carry the treasure of little souls within our bodies for nine months before introducing them to this world.
Is The Veil A Fashion Statement?
There are so many ways to embellish our appearance. We wear flattering clothing, jewelry, and perhaps a bit of makeup. Yet a chapel veil is not a fashion accessory. If the temptation to look on the veil in this way, it may be wise to reconsider this pious practice. Conversely, wearing a veil is often a hindrance to fashion. That carefully coiffed head, adorned with a beautiful hairstyle may very well be flat and unflattering by the time the final blessing of Mass is given. Wearing a chapel veil can, however, affirm the recognition of our God-given femininity as complementary to the masculinity of our spouses.
Are We Stuck In The Past?
Some Catholics of good faith believe that the obligation for women to cover their heads continues to be binding to this day. Others recognize that the law surrounding veiling was abrogated, and therefore believe the practice to be passé. A quick study of Canon Law, however, confirms that, while the devotion is no longer binding, it is acceptable, and even desirable, as a voluntary practice.
In a world where the characteristics of the two genders are at odds, wearing a veil compliments the beauty of our differences. Men and women are equal, different, and complimentary. The Lord Our God created us as male and female. The secular agenda must not be allowed to deny the beauty of our femininity as a compliment to the masculinity that is man.
But Isn’t Wearing A Veil Distracting?
Speaking for myself, wearing a chapel veil is a tangible way of removing myself from this world and entering into Heaven on Earth — the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Entering the church, I clip my veil to my hair. With this small act my demeanor changes, and my soul stills. Yes, I am in communion with the others in surrounding pews but my soul is in still deeper communion with God. The distractions of life as usual fade away and my soul is transported to the Cross. There, Mary stands at my side and we ponder together this Son she bore and the Salvation He brought.
Realistically my sixty-one years have left their mark. Short-cropped salt-and-pepper hair that is left undyed, a body not nearly as svelte as my younger self, and creases etched into laugh lines at mouth and eyes – that is the reality of my present self. Wearing a chapel veil of the finest imported lace would do nothing to change these realities. If anything, donning a veil when few or no others do is the opposite of vanity. It speaks of a desire for humility and a comfort with the God-given self.
How easy it is to seek acceptance – to be one of the crowd. When we blend in we are almost anonymous. That bit of extra weight, the charcoal hair, and unexceptional face can make for a monolithic scene. It is exactly when we step out of our comfort zone, for the sake of the spiritual, that we become different. Although this is never the intent, especially for an introvert, it speaks of a devotion that overcomes. It overcomes the trepidation of being judged and presents a vulnerability not usually sought. It could be called a childlike gift to Father God, one of the ways to show Him love.
Seeking Praise From Others
“She’s such a good Catholic; look at how modestly she dresses and wears a chapel veil!” No, that is not at all what wearing a veil is about. If anything, those of us who practice this optional devotion would rather not be called out as holy women. Speaking for myself and those friends who also veil, we are a sorry lot. Our lives have taken us on many crooked paths and self-inflicted detours. We have not always listened when the Holy Ghost whispered, much less when He hit us in the head while shouting at us, like the sinful children we are, to please pay attention.
What Type of Women Veil?
Women who veil vary as much as our chapel veils do. We come from all walks of life – cradle Catholics, converts, young, old, Latin Mass devotees, Novus Ordo attendees, married, single, and myriad other characteristics. Even our reasons for covering our heads are numerous. The common ground is our devotion to our beautiful Catholic faith, handed down to us directly from Jesus to his disciples in an unbroken piece of Heaven on Earth.
We seek forgiveness, sin and confess, resolve and fall – but we pick ourselves back up again, keeping our eyes on the Prize. Whether you join us in the devotion of wearing a chapel veil or not, we are your sisters. We are simply seeking to restore one ancient aspect of the beauty of our common faith.
Let us truly be in communion. Let us pray for one another.
Copyright 2018 Birgit Jones