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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Return of the Chapel Veil

Since we are on the topic of Mass etiquette, what about Chapel Veils? I see them becoming more common at my church and I am curious if anyone else has considered wearing them.

Whether we're talking about Mass etiquette or mass etiquette, things have certainly gone downhill.  Seen anyone texting at Mass yet?  I'll bet you have.

I haven't.  But that's only because I'm sure I haven't been sneaky enough. I've lost my nun "suddenly appear behind you with no warning" powers in my old age.  Guess my bones creak too loudly. They always know I'm coming these days and behave accordingly. No one has had the nerve to text right in my face at Mass.  That day will come, I am certain.

What were we talking about?  Oh, yes!  Chapel Veils!  To answer your question, yes, they do seem to be making a comeback. I used to care.  Now I can't get up any steam on the issue. For one thing, the Chapel "Veil" has a curious history.  And for another, the lone person wearing a chapel veil has a tendency to look "holier than thou", which is unfortunate, since it's really no one's beeswax.

Women didn't used to have to be told to wear a hat in church, because women always had their heads covered when they left the house.  Have you ever seen a picture of little St. Bernadette without that thing on her head?  No, you haven't, because she wouldn't have left the house without it. There was never a rule in the church that women had to wear a hat, because women were already wearing  hats.  You won't find a rule that says you have to wear clothing to church, because everyone already does that.

What clothing is worn is entirely another matter.  A rulebook would be handy.  I digress.

And then hats slowly went away.  The Catholic Church did actually make a rule that women have their heads covered. That was 1917.  After Vatican II, the rule disappeared, but wasn't officially announced.  There is no rule now.

Vatican II was in the 1960's, the era of big hair.  I contend that the Chapel Veil was born to save big hair from being squashed. I can only back that up with empirical evidence: before the Chapel Veil, we all either wore a hat or a bandanna, St. Bernadette scarf to Mass.  So we all looked like Polish cleaning ladies, except around Easter, when we all had our new hats.  When 60's big hair arrived, so did the Chapel Veil.

I don't know how we ended up with Grandma's doilies on our heads. How many times did you get to Mass, realize you didn't have your doily had have to grab a Kleenex, or a place mat, or the church bulletin and stick it up there? At that point, we can all agree that the whole hat issue has turned to mush.

I am not anxious for the return of hats in church.  Are you surprised?  I am.  I am very old fashioned and was very sad to see the hats go.  But they did go, so to have them come back now seems to me just to be one more pointlessly divisive thing to use to sit around and judge each other at Mass. Either way, hat or no hat, once people start in on them again, along with the hand holders against the non-hand holders, the opinions will begin, the teeth will grind, the blood pressure will rise.

We'll have great reason to put on our judges robes, too, as hat wearers cover their heads and nothing else and non hat wearers don their Little House on the Prairie garb.  It won't be pretty.

You know what secretly tickles me about that cell phone picture at the top of the page?  Someone had to take out their phone to take it.

Maybe I'll write a rule book.  Would that help?


slimsdotter said...

Oh, Yes, please! We would love to read a rule book written by Sr Mary Martha!

abishag said...

I haven't seen texting during mass yet, but once the priest's own cell phone rang in the middle of the service (thankfully not the canon of the mass!). I can't imagine why he was carrying the phone under his vestments anyway. I mean, it's not like anyone more important was going to call!

dre said...

Well, it hasn't been much of an issue at Mass (the worst offender is the priest at our parish), but we have had to confiscate cell phones at religious ed class so that we can actually have an uninterrupted class.

One day at Confirmation class, we were discussing vocations. A student asked how we could "hear" God's call. So, I launched into the talk: You won't hear a voice from the sky, but if you pray about it and ask God to make His will clear to you, you just might hear him call you....

Yep! Right then, Joe's cell phone went off! Ring! Ring! Right on cue! (But it turned out to just be his Dad, not God.....)

A Catholic Wife said...

Sister, thank you for bringing this up! I recently had a table at the St. Louis Marian conference (I make chapel veils, although I don't remember the time when women wore something on their heads at Mass because I wasn't born yet--I'm only 27!) and I had so many women come up to me and tell me that they love the meaning of the chapel veil, that they would love it if we would get back to that tradition, and that they would do it themselves if only they weren't the only one! I do believe the Holy Spirit is moving women to take it back up, even if--and perhaps, especially if--they didn't grow up with it. Women are longing for the sense of reverence it brings to themselves and to the Holy Mass.

Anonymous said...

This is hilarious to me, because I just returned to the Catholic faith after spending 10 years as a protestant - 6.5 years of which was among the Mennonites.

Conservative Conference Mennonites do make sure the women wear coverings at all times. Little doilies just like you talk about. Mainstream or Mennonite Church USA Mennonites don't cover at all.

When I started off as a Mennonite (in the mainstream section), I did wear a covering, and then later did not (God's leading both times).

I had no idea this was ever an issue for Catholics. How funny!

Maggie said...

I go back and forth on veiling. I'm inclined to agree, Sister, that we do NOT want to foster a "holier than thou" contest at the Holy Mass. However, a few months ago I felt called to cover my head when I'm in Adoration- usually with a scarf or hat, not a scrap of lace- and it did really help me concentrate better and feel more reverent in the Lord's presence. Recently I've been keeping my winter hat and scarf on during Mass, which doesn't seem weird to anyone because it's average 5 degrees lately. I do like having my head covered, but if the point of a veil is modesty, being the only woman in church with lace on her head is the opposite- it's too conspicuous, and defeats the purpose. I am going to try and wear hats, or sneaky snoods or other subtle head coverings, and see how that goes.

cathmom5 said...

I, too, felt called to wear a veil in Church. However, I wear the longer scarf style, not the doily type. Unlike some of "Catholic wife"'s customers, I just started at advent 3 years ago and have been wearing it ever since. I have been the only one wearing one on many occasions, but I am seeing more and more of them appear at Mass as time goes on.

My intention is never to be holier-than-thou but a personal devotion to reverencing the Lord. Some people given me funny looks but I've also had very nice comments. I pray that it is not a point of contention in Mass, but I am afraid you may be right on that score. Personally, I do not intend to say anything to any woman who does not wear one. It is a very personal thing.

God Bless, Sister.

Anonymous said...

Please write the rule book, Sister. I will buy it for sure.

I have my grandmother's "doilies" and would welcome a return to wearing these at church. They remind me of Spanish mantillas, and of my grandmother, who while not Spanish, was an exemplary woman of faith.

I really miss her. She's one of the reasons I keep up with your blog. ;) I think the doilies are really pretty, and evidence of respect for the Church.

Thanks as always for thought-provoking entries.

Anonymous said...

Love the post about the cell phone. Years ago, back during the CB radio craze, a Protestant minister was doing his sermon when all of a sudden a CB cut in to his mic: "YOU'RE COMING ON TOO STRONG" it said. Voice from God? (He was a Penticostal)

Anonymous said...

Sister, I enjoy your posts so much. You are one balanced nun! Your sense of humor reminds me of so many Sisters in my community...Keep on keeping on...

Monica said...

our pastor says it's OK to have your cell phone ring at mass so long as the ring tone is set to liturgical music. :-) I see teens texting in the back of church, but usually when I see folks with their phones out like that it's at the beginning of Mass to check that they're off or on 'silent' mode.

Anonymous said...

I will buy the rule book, let us know when it is ready!

Even though before every Mass at our church an anouncement is made to silence all cell phones and electronics, we still have a "ringer" every once in a while.

I have chapel veils and mantillas, just don't wear them, think I will try one next week. I have a good friend that always wears a hat. I grew up Catholic (63 years) and when I was young we always wore hats or some hair covering. I was amazed to learn that it was only since1917 that the Curch required us to cover our hair. Learn something new everyday.
Every day ends and brings a new tomorrow.

Miss Havisham said...

Please forgive me if I have misunderstood, but I was under the impression that the purpose of covering your head in church was to show reverence meant to signify the reverence and dignity of a woman. In other words, it was used to demonstrate one’s humility. There is also something in there about the angels being present in church, which is yet another reason to cover one’s head.

With that said, I agree that some would wear the veils to pass judgment over others who are not wearing them; or critique the design(er) of the veil.

A Catholic Wife said...

"With that said, I agree that some would wear the veils to pass judgment over others who are not wearing them;"

I've never met anyone who wears their veil to pass judgment on others. Have you?

A Catholic Wife said...

Anon said: "I grew up Catholic (63 years) and when I was young we always wore hats or some hair covering. I was amazed to learn that it was only since1917 that the Curch required us to cover our hair."

It is my understanding that it had always a custom (you know, like wearing clothes), and that it was not incorporated in Canon Law until 1917. Perhaps someone foresaw the need to warn women that they shouldn't think NOT to wear a veil? For what it's worth, women stopped wearing a veil while head coverings in church were *still* required by Canon Law. It was only in 1983 that the head covering requirement was omitted from Canon Law.

D said...

When I was growing up, the chapel veils were about the same as now, only a very few ladies wore them. I thought & still think it is respectable to wear one considering that the Bible says, a woman's head should be covered. I read a GREAT article about the veil in the "Immaculate Heart Messenger Magazine" (January-March 2011 page 16) which I strongly recommend, it is very informative on the matter and gives good references. The Vatican did indeed have a Canon Law to wear the veil, but they never abolished it. It seems that the church has allowed women to break Canon Law, Scripture and Tradition in the matter of the veil, probably because they felt it was reverence, perhaps inventions of feminists at the time. The veil does no such thing, it is simply respect. There is no document/ Canon Law from the Vatican abolishing the veil. The women that "I" have come across wearing the veil, do not judge others for not wearing them. These have been very humble women and wear it out of respect for the presence of our Lord. So I think the judging is the other way around, at least it seems that way to me listening to both sides. The only people who complain are those of us who don't wear it. The women again, that I have encountered, are there only for prayer. I'm not defending them, but merely stating my own experience from both sides. I think it would be nice to see the veil back in the church, it shows respect and honor for the Lord and not a mere gathering of socialization in a place of prayer. I don't wear a veil, but I wouldn't mind wearing one.

Sharon said...

Like Maggie when I was first moved to begin covering my head, I tried very hard to be subtle about it, not wanted anyone to think I was being "holier than thou" or that I think THEY should wear a head covering. I was moved to begin on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is in Dec. so the beginning was easy-I just left my winter hat on through Mass! And Easter was early-ish that year, so it worked for Lent too. (I switched to a purple winter hat!) Then Easter-well Easter Bonnets, yanno....Spring and summer were trickier, but by then I hoped everyone was just used to seeing me with something on my head, so the bandana's and WIDE headbands (which the young girls are wearing anyway) didn't seem to be anything remarkable. But then a fellow parishioner presented me with a beautiful hand knit chapel cap she made for me, in part because she "noticed I cover my head for Mass." Um...I guess she saw right through me! lol!

Anonymous said...

Today's saint is Sts. Soter and Caius, popes and martyrs.

I do wear a chapel veil, and attend a tridentine parish. I was a member of a modern parish, but there was too much talk before Mass. I came back to the Church in 2003 and always thought, a head covering had to be worn. (I was 9 when my family left. I was 41 when I returned.) I love the traditional way of going to Mass, but would not look down on others for wearing a veil. I wish reverence would return, though, in respect to the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle. I hope to enter religious life someday. Please pray for me. Thank you.

Kell Brigan said...

Yes, please, on the Rule Book.

Today's Saint (one of 'em) is Saint Camillus (sp). Ex-compulsive gambler who became a priest and ministered to the sick. Infinity feet, 'cuz he's a Saint now and therefore transcends boundaries.

I love chapel caps. They're perfect for tomboys who like to switch gears fast. (Leave Mass. Chapel Cap off. Hiking boots on...) And, I kinda like that they're more subtle than "proper" veils. Still, I've never seen anyone be concerned one way or another, except at the one Extraordinary Form Mass in town, where a covered head is de rigueur, regardless of what the rule book actually says. Elsewhere, covering's not a big deal. (For one thing, in California, a fair number of Hispanic women wear mantillas, have always worn mantillas, will always wear mantillas, and will probably be buried in a mantilla, thank you very much.) I much prefer the current situation, i.e. where a head covering is voluntary. Covering, then, takes on the nature of a devotional, instead of being just a pain-in-the-neck rule. And, even though it wasn't necessarily intended, I do know some people who used the head-covering rule as an excuse for thinking the Church approved of misogyny. Hm. Maybe one reason I wear a chapel cap fairly often to Mass now is because the practice doesn't have the shame now that some so&so's tried to force upon it back in the 40-60s?

Kell Again said...

Another note: I found a great discussion on St. Paul and the Whole Veil Deal (WVD) at http://godswordtowomen.org/badge.htm. They're not Catholic, but some of their guest writers are. They dive pretty deep into the Greek to sort out what Paul originally said, and make a pretty darn good case for his actually having said it WASN'T necessary for Christian women to veil for spiritual reasons (culturally, yeah, since not doing so could get you arrested or worse.)

And, in thinking about the subject a bit more, I'm wondering if veiling now, for some of us, anyway, is not, in fact, entirely different from even a few decades ago. Assuming St. Paul said veiling wasn't necessary, then why veil? Well, as a morification or devotional specifically about expressing one's humility, or shame for sins, or willingness to do God's will. In the same way the Crucifix is NOT about worshipping torture, Novus Veiling would NOT be about any sort of "essential" female shame, but about our embrace of the transformative humility that allows us to rise up as Daughters of God.

Yeah, I hope veiling stays personal, and voluntary; because this is my view of it, but certainly not everybody's...

Anonymous said...

I started going to the Traditional (Extraordinary) Latin Mass at times, so I wear a veil, scarf, hood or hat there as most of the women do cover their heads. When I go to the post Vatican II Mass, I either go bareheaded or wear a hat or headband. I have always liked hats. I also like to wear a veil at Adoration, as another of your posters does, because it makes me concentrate and meditate better, and it seems more reverent.

paulus said...

Scripture and Tradition clearly indicate that women should cover their heads in the Sacred Liturgy.

There is a rulebook on this matter. See 1 Corinthians 11.

Unknown said...

I received a chapel veil as a birthday gift from a dear friend. My daughter recently started wearing one..she's 20. I'm 60. She does it for the reverance to God. I am going to begin wearing one for the same reason..also to help me concentrate on Mass more
.a respect towards God. I have seen no one else wearing one
Will see how it goes

But it is a personal choice.