The veiling experiment ends well for some women, badly for others ...
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Do you wear a veil to Mass? I see other women at Mass wearing chapel veils and I think they look lovely, so I’d like to try wearing one. If you wear one, what do you recommend for a beginner?
My main concern is that not many other women at my church wear them, and I wonder if I might feel self-conscious. I’ve also heard veils are good at keeping you focused on the Mass. I’d just love to hear your thoughts on the subject.
The topic of chapel veils can be a volatile one. It’s the Catholic equivalent to the breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding debate. People assume a lot about the little square of fabric. They may assume you’re a radical traditionalist, that you think you’re holier-than-thou, or that you’re a down-trodden woman being subjugated by her oppressive husband. In any case, assumptions are their problem, not yours.
There are many reasons women wear chapel veils, but I wouldn’t suggest “looking lovely” be the main motivator. I think saris are lovely, but I’m not about to wear one to Mass. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look your best at Mass. I encourage it. Wear heels, a nice dress, and fix yourself up. Put a little effort into it, I always say. Just know if you’re wearing yoga pants and a tank top, a veil isn’t going to make you look more church-y.
But to answer your questions, no, I don’t wear a chapel veil or mantilla. I have in the past, but I found them distracting and bothersome — tickling my neck, messing up my hair, and getting in the way. For me, veiling had the exact opposite effect on maintaining my focus during Mass. Also, if you’re worried you’re going to feel self-conscious because not many other women at your church wear veils, that too can present a distraction.
I just want to be honest. Wearing a veil isn’t going to magically transform you into a saint. It’s not going to make you more pious, more beautiful, or more holy. The Holy Spirit does that, not a scrap of cloth. Humility also makes you more pious, holy, and beautiful. Now can a veil be a means to practice and grow in humility? Sure. Absolutely. But so can a lot of other things — daily Mass, Adoration, prayer, being kind, caring for the sick and homeless … the list is endless.
I guess my point is that if you’re relying solely on wearing a veil to help you become more tuned in to, and to get more out of, the Mass, then I’m afraid you will be disappointed. As a leading producer of veils for Catholic women writes on her website:
“The veil is meant to be an external sign of a woman’s interior desire to humble herself before God, truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. As women, we are symbols of the Church — the Bride of Christ — and ‘the veil is meant to be a visible reminder of the perfect submission of the Church to the loving rule of Christ.’” (Veils by Lily)
Without that interior desire for humility, it’s just a scrap of lace.
I assure you, I’m not trying to discourage you. In fact I wholeheartedly encourage you to give the practice a try. If you’re worried about feeling out of place at first, start by wearing a veil to a Latin Mass or to Adoration until you get more comfortable. Most women attending Mass in the Extraordinary Form wear some type of head covering. I think there would be a great place to start. From there you can ease into wearing one every Sunday at Mass.
But beyond getting over awkwardness, staying focused, or looking lovely, the best way to wear a veil is prayerfully. When you begin to understand the theological reasons for wearing a veil it becomes more than just a change in outward appearances. I will always encourage any woman to give the practice serious consideration.
And just for funsies, here are 10 Reasons Why Some Women Are Wearing Veils Again by Church Pop.