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Veiling at Mass: What are the rules?

Jeffrey Bruno/Aleteia

Katrina Fernandez - published on 09/13/16

Are black mantillas just for funerals? Katrina Fernandez fixes it for you

Dear Katrina,

A few Sundays ago an elderly woman told me that the black veil I was wearing at Mass was what you were supposed to wear for a funeral and that white or ivory ones were what you were supposed to wear at Mass.  At least that was the tradition when she was a young woman, she said. I had always heard that single women wear white and married, widowed, or divorced women wear black. I only own two black mantillas and now I wonder if I should be wearing them to Mass if they’re supposed to be only worn at funerals. I would say less than a quarter of the women at my church wear veils, but I’ve seen all kinds of colors – brown, purple, beige, green, and even red.  I’m relatively new to the practice, about four months now, so I wasn’t entirely sure and didn’t want to be doing something wrong. Do the colors have a special meaning? I had never heard that black mantillas were reserved for funeral masses before but now I look at my veils and think of mourning.  What do you think?

Lynda F.


Dear Lynda,

I think you should continue to wear your black mantillas to Mass and not worry about one woman’s opinion. In all honesty, I have never heard that you weren’t supposed to wear a black mantilla to anything other than a funeral Mass. The more popular opinion is that white is for unmarried women and black is for married, as you stated, but even that’s not a rule, per seMy grandmother used to say that wearing a white veil helped the fellas spot the eligible women and the black veils warded off unwelcome flirtation.  

Different cultures have their own traditions about colors. In China white is worn at funerals and is the color of mourning and red is the “lucky” color. Some women in my own parish like to wear mantilla colors associated with a particular feast day or church celebration. An example would be blue for Marian days, white for Easter, green for Saints Joseph and Patrick, and red for Pentecost. Some women color coordinate their mantilla with their outfit, some wear white in the spring and darker colors in the fall and winter. Some women wear hats and others wear scarves.  

Here’s a fun fact: women wear black when having an audience with the pope – married or not. Only on rare occasions can a woman wear white when meeting privately with the pontiff. Called le privilége du blanc in French or il privilegio del bianco in Italian, the special tradition is extended solely to designated Catholic queens and princesses and is usually reserved for important events at the Vatican, such as private audiences, canonizations, beatifications and special Masses.

Queen Elena of Italy meets Pope Pius XII/Public Domain
Queen Elena of Italy meets Pope Pius XII/Public Domain

In other words, even when veiling was more of the norm, the “rules” still varied by a bit by location and situation. Traditionally, the colors were white for single women and black for married one, but now there is no real hard and fast rule.  

I encourage you to continue to wear your mantillas and not put another thought in your mind about what negativity you hear. Let her comment go. However, if it really makes you feel self-conscious and becomes a source of distraction from the Mass then consider purchasing another color. A brown or beige one might be a happy medium. There are many Catholic suppliers who sell all varieties of head covering in every cost, material, style, and color imaginable.    

Just remember the reason why you chose to veil to begin with when you feel yourself shrinking from unwanted attention. Your decision was probably based on honoring and pleasing God, not pleasing the congregation.

Read more….Dear Katrina, Will wearing a veil keep me better focused on the Mass?

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