What Happened To Wearing Veils to Mass?
Wearing veils to Mass is a calling, not a mandate. Still, it is a beautiful tradition. On Easter Sunday, my husband Robert and son Sullivan talked Bridgette, our 10-year-old, into wearing her mantilla. (That’s another word for a chapel veil.) She’s worn it a few times before, and I always think she looks so sweet and reverent.
For nearly 2,000 years, Catholic women covered their heads in church as a sign of devotion to Jesus. But, according to Catholic writer Matt Fradd, in the 1970s there was a judgment issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It stated that since chapel veils were not a matter of faith, and were no longer mandatory for women. Since that time, the tradition of wearing veils to Mass has fallen by the wayside. Here is an excerpt:
It must be noted that these ordinances, probably inspired by the customs of the period, concern scarcely more than disciplinary practices of minor importance, such as the obligation imposed upon women to wear a veil on their head (1 Cor. 11:2-16); such requirements no longer have a normative value.”
Why Do Women Wear Chapel Veils?
A few women at the Catholic church we attend wear mantillas. They are not fashion statements and the women who wear them are moved by humility and a strong desire for fellowship and friendship with their Lord. It’s truly a blessing to see these women in church, week after week, cover their heads as a radiant act of worship.
I think the chapel veils are a beautiful tradition for the current generation to embrace. The world, has become so dreadfully hurried, casual and secular. It’s hard for girls and young women to find the courage to pursue meekness and modesty. Like veils, these attributes are considered old-fashioned and out-of-style by modern society. Meanwhile, it’s nothing for girls to wear dresses to Mass that are so short, when they bow or genuflect, you can practically see their underwear. Ugh.
Sadly, simplicity, constraint and humbleness are in opposition to the prevailing Girl Power movement that some researchers believe has sexualized young girls. It has also encouraged females of all ages to put their hope in a warble of an uprising instead of in the Risen Lord.
I don’t know if wearing veils to Mass will ever again become commonplace. I cherish the memories of my daughter’s First Communion, when she wore a veil for the first time. She is still young enough to not be self-conscious about wearing it, but that window could close fast. The fact that her 12-year-old brother encouraged it on Easter warmed my heart.
It was completely unexpected, and made me quite curious about how values are instilled in adolescent boys. She is his beloved little sister. Most of the time anyway. He is a boy human and has been known to “accidentally” spit toothpaste on her when they stand at the small bathroom sink every morning and brush their teeth together! Nevertheless, he has already witnessed plenty of Girl Power and its prevailing sexual undertones that hold precious young girls hostage to the lies the world tells them. I think it’s hard for him to be two years ahead of her and know what she is eventually going to face. Ultimately, he just wants more for her. More for the little girl he helped teach how to walk and talk, climb and sing.
And, of course, her dad and I want more for her, too. We want more faith, more spiritual formation, more Scripture, more God for all three of our kids.
Many wonderful Catholic writers have addressed the subject of wearing veils to Mass. Here are a few links to those articles:
- Rules for Veiling at Mass
- 10 Reasons Some Women Are Wearing Veils in Church Again
- Why Women Wear Chapel Veils and You Should, Too
The Eyes of the Lord
Finally, again, as one of these writers so eloquently stated, wearing veils to Mass is a calling, not a mandate. It is not for everyone and nobody should be “guilted” into it. It is a personal choice. An outward sign of a heart turned toward God. There are many ways to visibly live out faith and show devotion to Jesus. Wearing a veil is just one. It blesses the wearer, and I have also seen it minister to older generations. To me, they are disillusioned when their beautiful traditions are eclipsed by a coarse society.
For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the entire earth, to strengthen those whose heart is true to him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9 NRSVCE)
How do you feel about girls and women wearing veils to Mass?