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Epic VEIL: why more young women are wearing chapel veils

Jeffrey Bruno
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From the web site Fashionista:

Samantha Skinner, a high school science teacher in North Dakota, is one Catholic millennial interested in a return to tradition. Raised loosely Protestant but not a regular church attendee until she converted to Catholicism in college, Skinner began wearing a veil to mass every week before she’d even completed the classes necessary to formalize her conversion. A conversation with a friend who worked in a “holy bookstore” convinced Skinner to try the practice for herself.

Related: My Wife Started Wearing a Veil to Mass

“It just kind of resonated with me,” she says on the phone. For Skinner, the appeal of veiling was initially an emotional one: It made her feel humbled and reverent, like removing a hat during the national anthem or at a funeral might, and made her more able to focus on prayer…

…Some Catholics in big coastal cities like New York, where churches tend to be more liberal in both their theology and politics, may never even see the veiling that is becoming more and more commonplace in the Midwest. Grace Carney, a womenswear designer for Public School who grew up in the Catholic church in Minnesota and now attends Queen of All Saints in Fort Greene, confirms the idea that the practice varies by region.

Related: Will Wearing a Veil Keep Me Better Focused on Mass?

“I haven’t seen any [veils] here in NYC, really,” she says via text message. But in the church she grew up in, Carney notes, “there were always a bunch of homeschooled kids and they would wear them.”

For proof that the veiling community is indeed growing and active outside of cities like New York, one need look no further than Veils by Lily. The mom-and-pop retailer started by Lily Wilson in 2010 has over 17,000 likes on Facebook and an engaged customer base that not only buys product, but also regularly shares the retailer’s posts and sends in pictures and letters of thanks. Since its founding, Veils by Lily has grown from one homeschooling mother’s side project into a full-time job for the founder and 11 employees. Soon, Wilson will open a brick-and-mortar retail space, which she believes will be the first store in America to focus on chapel veils.

Read on.

Footnote: I wonder how much this is an American phenomenon—and one that appeals to a certain (relatively small) tradition-minded segment of the Catholic population. When we visited Rome for the Jubilee for Deacons last year, my wife packed a veil and wore it for the big papal Mass in St. Peter’s Square. I didn’t keep a tally, but the number of women with veils seemed few and far between at the different liturgies we attended.  I’d be curious to hear how this is going over in other parts of the world. (On a hunch, I suspect it’s very big in the Philippines. Elsewhere, I’m not so sure.)

UPDATE: A great observation from one of my Facebook readers…

Awesome, good, healthy: People who choose to wear it, because it helps them enter into a deeper encounter with Christ in the Mass.

Not awesome, not good, not healthy, Part 1: People who believe that it is the only proper way to express humility, and who begin to judge those who don’t wear a chapel veil. I’ve heard teens talk about moms who will stand around and critique all of the “immodest” attire of the young women. This can be especially poisonous in a youth group, particularly given adolescents and their inherent insecurities around body image, self-worth, and moral purity.

Not awesome, not good, not healthy, Part 2: Self-identified “Vatican II Catholics” who reciprocate (sometimes with even more self-righteousness) the judgment and cast aspersions on the families or young women who do choose to wear the veil.

Honest to God, if parish staff and pious pewsitters spent HALF as much collective energy asking, “How can we go out to the local farmers market and invite young adults to get re-connected with their faith?” as they do sitting around passing judgment on the number of young adults who ARE in the pews, but wearing jeans, sweatshirts, or flip flops… I think we’d be an awful lot closer to the missionary mandate of Matthew 28 and the pastoral priorities of Pope Francis.

Deacon Greg Kandra
The Deacon's Bench
Deacon Greg Kandra is a Roman Catholic deacon in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York. For nearly three decades, he was a writer and producer for CBS News, where he contributed to a variety of programs and was honored with every major award in broadcasting. Deacon Greg now serves as Multimedia Editor for Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA.) He and his wife live in Forest Hills, New York.
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