Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Friday 17 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Hildegard of Bingen

What’s the point of the humeral veil, anyway?

Jeffrey Bruno

WORLD YOUTH DAY, KRAKOW, POLAND - JULY 28, 2016: Over 30,000 young people gathered, July 27, 2016 for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, led by Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles. ***** "I tell you there is a power that goes forth from that Sacrament, a power of light and truth, even in to the hearts of those who have heard nothing of Him and seem to be incapable of belief." -- Thomas Merton, "The Seven Storey Mountain

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 07/28/16

The picture here from World Youth Day popped up elsewhere at Aleteia, with a little quiz.

Here’s another quiz for you: why does the priest (or deacon) use a big piece of cloth to carry the monstrance?

Therein lies the tale of the humeral veil.

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and my blog (and my diaconate) were both new, I reflected on the experience of presiding at my first Benediction, and explained:

One of the more exotic and misunderstood vestments is the humeral veil, the swath of fabric with which the priest is holding the monstrance. Most lay people, and even most priests, believe the minister uses it because he is unworthy to touch the monstrance or get that close to the Blessed Sacrament. Considering that the priest or deacon places the host in the monstrance, and later reposes it in the tabernacle, that’s not quite accurate. And neither is the notion that it’s just an additional sign of reverence. So why does he use it? It is to separate himself from the act of blessing. The priest or deacon blesses the faithful with the Blessed Sacrament — but by wrapping his hands in the humeral veil, he signifies his own removal from the action. He doesn’t bless the people. Christ does. And so, we pray: Lord Jesus Christ, you gave us the Eucharist as the memorial of your suffering and death.
May our worship of this sacrament of your body and blood
help us to experience the salvation you won for us
and the peace of the kingdom
where you live with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

It’s worth noting that the veil is not just a strip of fabric; it actually has pockets, into which you insert your hands, to help you get a good grip on the monstrance, which is often quite heavy. Years ago, after one of my first Benedictions, a woman stopped by the sacristy to offer some constructive criticism. “You do it too fast,” she said. “Slow down.” I thanked her for the feedback and gestured to the empty monstrance. “Do me a favor,” I said. “Pick that up.” She did.  “Oh dear,” she said. “I had no idea.”

“When Arnold Schwarzenegger does Benediction,” I said, “he can go as slow as he wants. But me? I need to hit the gym first.”

Liturgy: it’s not for wimps.

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Pope considers what to do with pro-abortion Catholic politicians
Philip Kosloski
How receiving Holy Communion can drive away demons
Berthe and Marcel
Lauriane Vofo Kana
This couple has the longest marriage in France
Philip Kosloski
Why is the feast of the Holy Cross celebrated on September 14?
Mathilde De Robien
How a lost masterpiece of sacred art was discovered thanks to chi...
Kathleen N. Hattrup
On same-sex unions, Pope says Church doesn’t have power to change...
Philip Kosloski
This prayer to St. Anthony is said to have “never been known to f...
See More