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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Hat Today, Hair Tomorrow

I have been trying to piece together how we lost our hats.

First, there was the Vatican II press debacle. I distinctly remember that before Vatican II every woman wore a hat in church. That's because the Church made women wearing hats a rule in 1917. Before that they didn't have to have a rule because no self respecting woman would even leave the house without her hat and gloves. Now we're lucky if the girl has anything we could clothing on at all.

Then, I remember that everyone seemed to think that Vatican II took away the hat rule. But I have to wonder if people weren't entirely sure about the hat rule or that mantillas had become the Mass going fashion rage or what.

I have a theory about the mantilla rage. Women didn't have a fancy hat to wear in those days except at Easter. What most women wore to Mass back then was a bandanna. Everyone showed up at Mass looking like Polish peasants. We're talking about 60's hair now. Bandannas flatten out your hair...mantillas do not...problem solved. Which is very ironic considering why women had to wear a hat in church in the first place.

Because what I DO remember is that we went from hats, to bandannas and scarves, to mantillas, to the chapel veil.

I should say the mis-named chapel veil. There is no veil involved. The chapel doily, let's call it. Grandma's across the globe wondered what happened to all their decorative end table lace for at least ten years.Going from the mantilla to the chapel doily caused all hell to break loose in the head covering choices. It seems the chapel doily gave women free reign to slap whatever they could find in their purses on their heads as long as a bobby pin would hold it on there: Kleenex, placemats, the church bulletin, whatever they could grab.

And then suddenly ...no hats.

I'm not 100% sure here, but I think the hats flew out the window because the church stopped the hat rule in 1983. I 'm not sure if the church actually said women don't have to wear hats anymore or they simply didn't put the hat rule on the list. But since 1983 there has been no rule about hats in church.

I think that was a good way to leave things, considering there were women sitting in church with night table decor on their heads and Grandma at home wringing her hands. The whole thing had gotten out of hand.

Why did women cover their heads in the first place? Because a woman's hair was her crowning glory so she covered her head in church to show humility to God. That's why nuns cut off their hair more or less permanently.

How we got from that to your Easter bonnet is not hard to figure out, given the opportunity to have to go shopping for something suitable to wear to Mass. But by the time we get to women in church looking like Geronimo, it's time to cut bait, as they say. Let it go.

If you want to wear something to show humility, go for it. Just don't show up looking like Cochise. And don't go leaving Grandma's furniture naked.


Anonymous said...

Could it have something to do with the fact that people no longer consider a womans hair her crowning glory? I think the 'crowning glory' thing has been transfered to, er... the chest area. OK, so it's not a crown or anything, but in our culture it seems like that's where it's at. I wouldn't mind wearing a hat but I do object to the doilies too.

eve said...

My mom told me that when she was a girl and arrived at Church without her hat her mother would literally make her wear a kleenex/tissue on her head. If nothing else I suppose it was incentive NEVER to forget your hat for Church.

cattiekit said...

*Doily*! *That's* the word I was searching for when I recounted my chapel veil story! :>D

We always wore hats. My mom usually had some flower-bedecked bucket and my sister and I had fetching little doodahs perched rakishly to one side of our respective heads.

Why *wouldn't* hair still be a crowning glory?

Let's not go to the, er...chest area when speaking of Church.

Perhaps there is more than one use for a mantilla of a particular length. ;>D

Anonymous said...

I've heard the kleenex story numerous times. A seriously good reason to bail on the whole headgear thing! Publicly humiliating your children is a bad idea in general; I think really inappropriate at Mass.

BeadJewelryShopGirl said...

You said it with "Now we're lucky if the girl has anything we could [call] clothing on at all." I'm no prude but I can't believe what some parents let their daughters wear to church these days.....Polish peasant look wouldn't be a bad idea for them!

Rosemary said...

You crack me up!! And just when I needed a good laugh, too. I'm not Catholic, but I always went to the equivalent of Vacation Bible School with my Catholic friends as a child. We covered our heads with a cloth hanky when we went in the church. At least it wasn't Kleenex!

We go Estate Sale hunting on Fridays and sell the vintage items we find online, mostly on eBay. We have found some really exquisite mantillas the last few years, and they always sell for a very good price. That beautiful lace outdid any hat a woman could buy, IMVHO. I do remember the little doily looking "coverings". They screamed, "I'm meeting the letter of the law without caring one bit about the purpose of the law."

DCMS said...


Wow. Is EVERYONE posting about this topic this week??

I never liked the doilies, either. I have a very lovely mantilla that I wear on the rare occasion that I go to Mass at a place where I don't get funny looks (I don't like being a distraction).
My friend's mom has told the Kleenex story, too. :)

bizyhands said...

Wow, I had almost forgotten the kleenex-pinned-to-the-head incidents. Oooh! Bad flashback. From that time on, doilies were MY friend. My sis was more the mantilla type. Luckily, there is the mental picture of a forgetful parochial school boy sporting a colorful construction paper tie that brings a grin back to my face.

Eat, Drink and be like Mary said...

so, if we covered our heads in the presence of the Lord and he is always present, shouldn't you have worn hats all the time?. I'm just saying

Kasia said...

Well, but He is particularly present in the Eucharist, which is (I think) why women were especially supposed to wear hats to church. But like SMM said, before about 1900, most women didn't leave the house bareheaded.

There are women (other than Amish and Mennonites) who cover their heads at all times (following St. Paul's admonition in Corinthians), but I've not done that myself for various reasons. If nothing else, I think it defeats the purpose of covering one's head out of modesty to cover one's head in a culture where that sort of thing is not done; everyone notices you. For another thing, I have a really big head and can't afford custom hats! :-p

I suppose I could go to a Muslim supply store and buy a hijab... ;-)

cattiekit said...

ROFLOL, kasia!

Must be all those brains. :>D

A *hijab*? Is that what they call those?

Another case of 'you learn something new every day'!

Yeah, I guess if everybody is going to *stare* at a mantilla it's counterproductive to wear one, sadly enough. :>{

cattiekit said...

beadjewelryshopgirl, it isn't just Mass.

Funerals, weddings...any church (or other) function you care to name.

Brings back to mind one of SMM's commentaries on the mom who was dressing her (tiny) child as The Little Mermaid.

Those new to the blog should really, really go check that entry out. :>D

PraiseDivineMercy said...

I'm currently looking for a nice hat that will fold up and fit in my purse. I looked for it in three stores today but no luck yet.

cattiekit said...

Like a beret? Know anybody who can knit or crochet? (oooh, that rhymes.)

One of those *could* fold up for purse concealment, but would be enough under the radar to *not* alert hat starers.

You could just *wear* it. :>)

PraiseDivineMercy said...

It has to fit in my purse so I can leave it there. Otherwise I will forget it half the time.

la bolilla said...

The Sunday before lent as I received Holy Communion I felt the desire to wear a veil. I cannot explain this. I had a sudden memory of my Jewish mother lighting the candles at the Passover seder wearing a black veil, and I too wanted to go before
God with respect and humility. I don't know, however, if I will ever have the nerve to wear it.

cattiekit said...

praisedivinemercy, maybe you need a bigger purse. ;>D

la bolilla? I hope you *do* get the nerve to wear it.

Maybe you'll start a craze!

Others will catch on and do it too, if only out of a desire to be *fashionable*.

Unknown said...

This is all very interesting! I just posted in my blog about how my wife and daughter cover their heads, and I planned to write more about the historical background of the practice... but I seem to have played the "ignorant Protestant" and overlooked the Catholic side of the issue!

Thanks for your "coverage" of the topic! ;)

Anonymous said...

Praise the Lord, Sister Mary Martha! My late mother used to wear one of those lace handkerchiefs. The first time she wore it I said the same thing you did: why are you wearing a doily on your head? It was very popular in that very small, rural, southern church -- and Sunday mass looked like a furniture store having a sale on lamp tables.

I didn't see a mantilla until I accompanied my former husband's family to mass in El Paso, his grandmother wore one. I think mantillas are lovely, I just don't understand why a woman would wear the cake topper instead of the mantilla?

"Chapel veil" indeed.

I love your blog, sister, it's daily reading for me.

Anonymous said...

What really bugs me about mantillas (I mean besides cheap lace) is that American women can't seem to figure out that they're wearing them BACKWARDS! The straight line is supposed to touch the shoulder, and the "points" are supposed to create a lovely frame around the face, all while covering the crowning glory. There's a great portrait (Goya) of a mantilla worn properly, and with style, at Wikipedia. Check it out.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely loved this. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

"What really bugs me about mantillas (I mean besides cheap lace) is that American women can't seem to figure out that they're wearing them BACKWARDS!"

Now *that's* funny. I don't know if I have the nerve to start wearing mine "frontwards" though.


Anonymous said...

The Church did not abandon 2,000 years of Sacred Tradition and History.

There is even an article in the Atlanta Constitution Journal relevant to this. THE CHURCH SPOKE OUT ABOUT THE ABANDONMENT OF COVERING ONE'S HEAD. YES, THERE IS AN ARTICLE FROM THE VATICAN.

Read about Rev. Bugini and how he was terribly misquoted.

We are to cover our heads especially when we approach the Holy Table.

If Christ is made present in the Tridentine Mass and the Novus Ordo, is it not Our Same Lord?

I love him so much and would not want to offend Him. After all, St. Paul spoke to the women of Corinth about their abandonment of their veils due to fashion.

Read through the Bible, including the O.T. and see how important the veil actually is in our 2,000 history of tradition.

We are honored to cover our heads and be humble, modest and reverent in the Presence.

You must veil your heart before you veil your head.

Ask Our Blessed Virgin Mother to show you the way. She will.

"Be not afraid." Jesus

Anonymous said...

I cover my head all the time. The Lord convicted me that I should cover my head when when I pray and when I am in his presences. And I honor God by doing so.
I was raised in the Catholic Church and I could never understand
why the "RULE" was changed. It wasn't a man made rule ( command)
it was a God given command. (1Cor. 11)
When people give me a strange look,
I say a silent prayer for them that
they will come to know Jesus the
way I have come to know him by
honoring Him by covering my
head. And we should pray without ceasing.


Anonymous said...

The Church distinguishes between "big T" Tradition and "little T" tradition.

It was mandated in the 1917 Code of Canon Law that women should have their heads covered when attending Mass. It did not specify whether this covering/veiling should be by use of veil, hat, or whatnot.

Now, nothing about women veiling for church is mentioned in the 1983 Code of Canon Law. The convention was that if something is not mentioned in a new Code that was mentioned in the previous Code, the previous instructions still stood. However, the 1983 Code of Canon Law *specifically abrogated* the ENTIRE previous code. (See canon 6.)

So, there is no "rule" about women veiling in church. I trust that the Church, if she considered St Paul's advice regarding the covering of women's hair, to be eternally and universally applied, would not have neglected this. I can only assume that the Church, while it has obviously considered the practice in a positive light, may consider the advice specific to the time, place and circumstances in which St Paul was writing, albeit an approach that can be pertinent in other contexts.
The Magisterium interprets Scripture and decides what is a God-given command and what they will take on as good advice (man-made rules.) Regardless of the opinions of individual priests and faithful on this matter, not everything Paul wrote is taken literally as being the dictated Word of God. This appears to be one of those things.

Yes, there is a long Church history of veiling, but it is not big T tradition. However, if women consider it a sign of humility or modesty, or wish to follow this tradition, or feel St Paul's words speak specially to them, etc., are free to veil, either just during Mass or whenever they leave the house.

I wear a mantilla (yes, perhaps backwards?) at Mass, and I do not attend the Extraordinary Form or any kind of "trad" community. I just wear it to any Ordinary Form parish I happen to find myself at. Nobody's cast disparaging glances in my direction (that I've noticed) and nobody's demanded that I remove the thing from my head.

I chose the mantilla because my grandmother had one that her mother had given her, it's easy to transports (folds up and fits in my handbag) and I don't own any non-winter hats.

I would never attempt to dissuade somebody from veiling if they wished to do so, however, it bothers me when people attempt to tell others there is still a Church rule that they should veil, or that it is big T type of tradition (if it were, it would not have been let go), or indulge in their preferred interpretation of Scripture and allege that the new Code of Canon Law (and by extension, the Magisterium of the Catholic Church) has erred on the matter. It smacks of a "more Catholic than the Pope" stance. I'm all for this expression of piety, but not for people telling others it is mandatory!