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Why I veil

October 22, 2010

Chapel veilSeveral times since coming into full communion with the Catholic Church I have been asked by friendly parishioners why I cover my head at Mass or at Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

My short answer is this: because Jesus is there.

My long answer is that it is an outward way in which I seek to humble myself as well as give supreme honor to the presence of the Almighty God, which in turn arouses my inner heart toward humility and reverence.

I don’t see veiling myself as a sign that I am somehow inferior to men. As I understand it, in the 1960s many women took hold of the feminist banner and rejected veiling as an outdated means in which women were “suppressed.” I see it as being just the opposite. In the Bible everything that is associated with veiling was done because of its unique sacredness. For instance, when Moses came down from Mt. Sinai after speaking with God, his face radiated such sacredness that it was veiled. Also consider that the Ark of the Old Covenant was kept in the veiled Holy of Holies because of its sacredness. In the Catholic Church today we continue to see uniquely sacred things veiled. The Chalice is kept veiled at Mass until the Offertory because it is the sacred vessel that holds the Precious Blood of Jesus, and the Ciborium in the Tabernacle is kept veiled because it is the sacred vessel which holds the Precious Body of Jesus.

If that weren’t enough, the Immaculate Conception, the Ark of the New Covenant, the Queen of Heaven herself — Mary, the Mother of God — was veiled. (And she continues to remain veiled in all of her apparitions.) God has not raised any earthly being higher than she, and still she is veiled. Why? Because of her sacred nature.

Because of all this, I view veiling as a truly great and privileged honor.

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From → Veiling

7 Comments
  1. This is a very simple, concise, and awesome explanation. πŸ™‚

  2. Christina permalink

    I remember when you explored the idea of Christian veiling during your Protestant days. If I recall, one main reason for wearing a veil was to show honor to your husband. As a Catholic now, is this still a reason for you as well?

    • Part of wearing the veil according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 is to signify or give witness/assent to the order of nature that God created, with man being the head of woman. I do still accept that as being part of what veiling signifies, even though it is not my primary reason for wearing it. My primary reason is to demonstrate humility and reverence towards God, with part of that reverence being the acceptance of my unique and sacred role in the order of nature as a woman. πŸ™‚

  3. I veiled while doing advent readings a couple years ago – I was really shocked at how my heart/mind was aware of my humanity/humility before God by that simple symbol.

    It’s something I’d at least like to begin to implement more regularly during my private time with God.

    I can see myself having some issues with not wanting to stand out by wearing it at a non-veiling church – both for reasons of pride/embarrassment and for really not wanting to draw attention to my attempts at being humble – – – how do you process/deal with that?

    • What a relevant question! Since such a large motivator for covering one’s head during worship is the desire to do so out of humility and to, let’s say, remain “hidden” in God, it can be difficult to reconcile that with the undeniable fact that by wearing a headcovering in a non-veiling church, one is inadvertently drawing attention to themselves. I struggled a lot with that when I wore a headcovering in my former (Protestant) church, and for awhile at my current parish where I happen to be the only one who veils. (At another parish in close proximity, many women and girls wear veils. Go figure!)

      While I realize that there is no getting around the fact I am going to be noticed on some level due to having a covering of some sort on my head, I have tried to be as discreet as possible. In the beginning I found that wearing a simple shawl around my shoulders as part of my outfit and then quickly pulling it up on my head before I entered the sanctuary and/or after I sat down worked quite well. There are also headscarves, snoods, or kerchiefs that can be worn to look like one isn’t necessarily wearing it for religious reasons, such as those at Garlands of Grace or Happy Homestead.

      This is just my experience (and of course it’s going to be a bit different than yours simply due to the fact that in the Catholic tradition wearing a covering is still common practice in the non-English speaking countries, as well as in U.S. parishes that still practice the Latin Mass)…but veiling has actually proven to be quite edifying to others. I have had several people approach me out of the blue and either eagerly inquire about it or outright tell me what a beautiful devotion it is. Not surprisingly I suppose, they have all been men. I had one young man once mouth the words, “Thank you!” while pointing to my veil as I passed his pew. I will never forget it because his expression was so profoundly joyful and excited. Why? I can only imagine it is because he loved seeing God honored in such a quiet and humble, yet profound, way. In that respect, I think covering one’s head is a good “attention-grabber,” for it doesn’t elevate the wearer as much as it points to and elevates God. It reminds people of why we’re gathered together and whom it is we humble ourselves before. It should remind them to turn their attention to Him and give Him the reverence He deserves.

      • I tried covering my head once. I felt so uncomfortable and it just felt wrong. I guess I’m not in a place where I’m ready for that, or meant to do that. However, reading this explanation of it and all of the responses/comments/follow up explanations makes me really appreciate the practice. I guess I’m just not there yet.

        A lot of girls veil at the Oratory and St. Paul’s in Oakland. They’re in the minority, but there are a lot. I think it’s lovely.

  4. Beautifully written and simply explained. While I may never wear one (unless I do indeed continue through my formation to vows), I support anyone who does!

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