Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I must admit - this is not a custom to which I gave a great deal of thought. That is, until I went to Mass at the Carmelite Monastery and saw many women wearing mantillas. At first, they did appear as anachronisms to me, but then I started thinking more and more about it. I'm old enough to remember when a woman wouldn't dare be seen in church without a covering on her head, whether with a hat, a mantilla or a chapel veil. I'm also old enough to remember what happened to girls who forgot their "doilies" at home. We wouldn't think of going into church without something on our heads, so the sisters improvised and bobby-pinned tissue to our heads. I won't say I was necessarily disappointed when it was no longer required for us to cover our heads and in hindsight, I can see why maybe I should have been.

When I was first introduced to the Traditional Latin Mass, I again saw many women wearing mantillas. I also started reading more about this custom, that some women never lost, along with refraining from eating meat on Fridays or receiving Holy Communion on the tongue. I also realized I had sitting in a closet upstairs a beautiful black lace mantilla from Andulusia. My husband had gotten it for his late mother, and one Christmas, not long before she passed away, she wrapped it up and gave it to me. I didn't know what to make of it at the time and said a polite thanks and then tucked it away. Now that I was thinking of making it to the TLM on a regular basis, I felt it was time to dig it out.

So, why veil? Some women do it to bear public witness to their Catholic faith. Others do it out of deference to St. Paul, and still others do it as an act of piety and respect to Jesus in the Eucharist. At first, I considered doing it so I wouldn't look out of place, and then I decided that wasn't a very good reason. So I went back and forth. Did it make sense to wear it to the TLM but not to the Novus Ordo? And as I suffer from extreme self-consciousness, could I pull it off without becoming distracted about it falling off, not sitting right, etc?

I decided to try a chapel veil first. I settled on a simple little black doily with a comb sewn into it so it stays on. The first time I wore it, it wasn't to the TLM but to Adoration. I forgot I had it on my head. Then I wore it to the TLM, but it seemed inadequate, and I felt more comfortable with a hat than a veil. A few weeks ago, I took the plunge and decided to give the mantilla a try, tho not the Andulusian lace because it is very fancy and could cause someone sitting behind me to become distracted. I chose a simple brown lace veil that I ordered from a woman who homeschools and sews veils to help her family. It was a bit of a challenge putting it on in the vestibule with no mirror but I was resolved to put it on my head and forget about it, extreme self-consciousness or not! I thought it might be a nice added practice for Lent.

Now, I'm thinking that I should make a habit of doing this all the time, maybe not always with a mantilla but with a hat or even the little chapel veil. It's a small sacrifice to make, it gives me an opportunity to squelch my vanity, and practically speaking, it helps minimize distractions.

So, if you think you might want to give this a try, let me know. Can we ever have too much reverence around Jesus in the Eucharist? When so many people are intent on tearing our faith down, this small symbolic gesture just might go a long way in reversing that.


  1. I have also gone back and forth with this-I felt sometimes that I was calling too much attention to myself-as nobody ever wears one (as far as I have seen) at my parish. One winter I would just pull my scarf up over my head! :) I let the matter go completely until I read your you have me thinking a good way! thanks.

  2. yes, I know what you mean and as I said, because I suffer from severe self-consciousness, this was REALLY difficult for me. But, the more you do it, the less you think about it. If it was such a distraction that I worried about "sticking out" then it would defeat the purpose. I also didn't want to appear "holier-than-thou". But, I'm in a place now where I can handle it, but in increments. I still don't have it down yet for the Novus Ordo, where I definitely do stand out, but at least I'm not alone. One of my fellow parishioners, who is in her 70's, ALWAYS wears a hat or a veil. Something to think about, right?


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