Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Headcovering Post

I haven't written about headcovering in a while. The reason, when I think about it, is that I don't worry about it nearly as much as I did when I first began covering. It's simply become a part of life. The stress of "what will people think" that was a worry when I first began covering doesn't come to mind these days (maybe I'm too busy fending off Maggie's grabby little hands, which seem to be in love with lace!).

I feel called to cover my head during Mass and so I do. It's as simple as that.

And yet, once in a while, I read something that reminds me that the act of sliding a comb into my hair with a piece of lace attached is, apparently, seen as controversial to some.

The conversation takes place on this post. The blogger says that she's been veiling for two years and that she feels like it's an excellent reminder to pray without ceasing. And then the responses start. You wouldn't think that a woman saying that she chooses to cover (without making any sort of comment about what anyone else should do) would cause such outrage. And yet it does. Here's one of the comments:
"You’d fit in well in Saudi Arabia.
Covering women is a manifestation of gender politics. Women are covered to symbolize concealment of shame. This makes men feel better about themselves, because a quick glance at a covered woman lets him think “harlot!” and feel off the hook for abusing her in other situations.
Honestly, that’s rediculous. Why do you want to wear symbols of shame before your God? Don’t you consider his creation to be good?"
Sigh. Where to begin?

The first thing that comes to mind is that it's rather sad that there are people who've actually bought into this way of thinking.

And while people may think many things when they see a woman wearing a chapel veil, I would truly be shocked if "harlot" was even in the top hundred on the list of thoughts that come to mind.

Veil are not "symbols of shame."

Alice Von Hildrebrand gives the best response I've heard to the fictional claim that the Catholic Church oppresses women (because that claim usually goes along with this particular view of veils) in the Privilege of Being a Woman. Here she dispels the myth:
"In order to understand the greatness of a woman's mission, we must open our minds and hearts to the message of the supernatural. It is the key that will reveal to us the greatness of femininity. It is one thing to read a text; it is another to interpret it correctly. All the arguments which seem to favor the thesis that the Bible has been discriminating against women from the very beginning can easily be reversed by interpreting the sacred text with the eyes of faith.

That men and women are perfectly equal in dignity- both being made to God's image and likeness- cannot be contested. But to be created last does not indicate inferiority. As a matter of fact, it could be argued that there is an ascending line in creation: from inanimate matter, to plants, lower animals, mammals, man, and finally, woman. Obviously we are not inferring that woman, being created last, is superior to man. We only wish to show that the argument used to prove her "inferiority" is not valid and can be turned on its head.

The fact that Eve's body was fashioned from Adam's rib can also easily be interpreted as a sign of special dignity and preciousness: for to be made from the body of a human person (made in God's image and likeness) is definitely nobler than being fashioned from the dust of the earth.

Indeed the punishment meted out to Eve, as de Beauvoir points out, was particularly severe. As mentioned above, when referring to excruciating pains, the Old Testament mentions the pangs of childbirth. But, in light of redemption (which has given a sublime meaning to suffering), to suffer agony to bring another human being into the world is a premonition of the sufferings of Christ whose blood has redeemed us. It imitates that if Eve carries a heavy responsibility for the tragedy of original sin, the new Eve will play a cardinal role in the work of redemption. Saint Andrew of Crete writes: "The women applaud, for if at another time it was a woman who was the imprudent occasion of sin, now too it is a woman who brings in the first fruits of salvation." Kierkegaard writes: "it is my conviction that if it was a woman that ruined man, it was a woman also that has fairly and honestly made reparation and still does so..." More will be said about this later.


If we are to speak of Church practices, it is not by accident that seven of the fifteen decades of the rosary are dedicated to Mary, once again putting the limelight on her unique role in the economy of redemption. Moreover, the Stations of the Cross honor women.


As soon as we abandon a secularistic interpretation of the Bible, we can perceive that, from a supernatural point of view, women are actually granted a privileged position in the economy of redemption. Those who persist in wearing secularistic lenses have eyes and do not see, have ears and do not hear. For the Bible cannot be understood except in an attitude of humble receptivity, that is, "on one's knees," (as Kierkegaard puts it). So called "biblical" scholars may know Aramaic and Greek, but nevertheless radically misunderstand the divine message, because their "scholarship" has warped their faith. A tacit refusal to receive God's message-- because of intellectual pride-- is punished by blindness. "
And for a good explanation of headcovering I suggest this post from the Catholic Knight.


  1. I really wish the "headcoverings are oppression!" attitude would go away. I can't stand when so called "liberals" go off on Muslim women who wear headscarves and dress modestly.

    If you want to cover, great. If you don't want to, great. People need to mind their own business and let others dress in what feels right to them.

  2. I totally agree with all that you say! Unfortunately, I have become lax recently in wearing my mantilla, trying to convince myself that it's not *necessary*. In one way, I do believe that God does not look upon us unfavourably should we fail to cover, as long as we approach Him humbly and from the heart. But I also believe that He is delighted if we make this extra effort to humble ourselves, and the mantilla is a symbol of humility and submission to Him. So I shall take mine up again, thanks to your post.
    The one I have is an antique one, and is fast falling apart sadly, but I have just ordered a new one on-ine, and hope it arrives before Sunday!
    Thank you for this post, Autumn xx

  3. Thank you for this post! :) I love covering my head while in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament!

  4. I'm one of those women loves the idea of the veil covering and would love to have a personal reason to wear one, but until I do, I won't do it. I have even taken the trouble to finding one I really like and buying it. But when I begin wearing it, I want it to be for good reasons that are personal to me. I just haven't found them yet.

    Yes, I know what Paul says. He also lived 2000 years ago in a very different time and place. And I have a very hard time understanding how man = Jesus and woman = Church when every man and woman is a member of His Church and just as equally dependent on Christ for salvation as a member of that Church. I guess I don't quite get how the fact Jesus was a man and not a woman excepts men from representing God's Church and makes them represents Christ instead. I'm not sure if I said that clearly.

    Anyway, again, I'm not against them, I'm rather for them, I just haven't reached the point where I have a good reason to wear it yet. You can say a prayer I do. :)

  5. I agree! My problem? Covering one's head isn't a Byzantine tradition until the woman is a widow- at least for the last 100 years- so while I have twinges of wanting to cover, it would be considered (I suppose would be) a latinization and rejection of our tradition...I'll figure this out.

    Will the girls veil after their first Holy Communion?

  6. Thanks for the great post!

    It's a similar argument to women wearing exclusively skirts/dresses. So many people see it as oppressive or whatever, but if feminism has done anything, it's given me THE CHOICE to be the woman I want to be. (Or rather, the woman God wants me to be.) And I just so happen to like being compared to a '50s housewife, thank you very much!

  7. I don't wear a headcovering at Mass, but I can't imagine ever caring one way or the other about what other women are doing. Funny how so many people who wave a "pro choice" flag are so selective of which "choices" they are "pro". :)
    (I think long mantillas are very pretty.)

  8. I love my veil from For Christmas I got, as well as my three girls got, new veils from her. They are wonderful. Never again will I have to tie my veil around my neck, the comb is great! Just had to give a shout out to my friend Lily, who does wonderful work!

    As to your post, it's very good, thank you. I agree with everything you said and I simply LOVED The Privilege of Being a Woman. It's a very good book. Thank you for the post! I love being veiled in Church for so many reasons. Hmmm... me thinks I'll have to make a list and post it soon.

  9. I won't leave the house without something to cover my hair with if the need should arise. For Mass, it's my lace mantilla, but I never know when I might want or need to block the world out and prophesy or pray. There's always a scarf somewhere on my body or in my bag.

    I've done a lot of research on the hijab, burqua, etc. in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe, and while sometimes these coverings are the objects involved in oppression and hatred, one would have to be a fool to think that they are the cause. To ignore the real cause is willful ignorance - the real cause is the vile side of human nature, the reality of people and governments who hate and oppress women and will do so with whatever is available. Take away headscarves and they'll just move on to something else. I can't believe that some people who claim to be so invested in the lives and freedoms of women are bent on taking them away and ignoring the deep reality of the danger they face.

    I had a really nice talk with a Muslim woman about how important it is to be free to cover the other day, in fact. Women can choose for themselves what on their bodies to show in whatever situations they encounter in their days. I feel as if the people who constantly bring up the Islam-Mantilla connection are ignorant in so many ways, and though they love to pretend they're tolerant and broadminded, they are quite hardly that at all.

    By the way, I love the way you wear your hair up in the back with the mantilla cascading over it. I will have to try that!

  10. When I see a woman with her hair covered-I look at it with great admiration. To publicly cover her hair and "save" her beauty for her husband. How beautiful! What a self sacraficing act!

  11. I have a question. Are you supposed to veil when going to Confession as well? I just started veiling last Sunday, and I am going to go to Confession today (in half and hour!!!) and I have no idea if I should veil or not. Do you guys know the answer? I don't know if I should or not. Thank you!

  12. Hi
    I have been reading your blog for about a year now, which is about the same amount of time that I have been covering my head at church. In fact that's how I found your blog when I googled "catholic women who cover their heads". When I first started, I covered my head all the time. But I soon stopped, and only cover my head for church. I find it appropriate-and really wish we never lost the tradition to begin with.
    Thank you for your post. I am happy that it is natural for you now. As it is for me. I feel naked if I go to church without covering my head in some way.

  13. Hi Liz-

    Thank you for your comment!

    I made the same progression over the last couple of years from thinking about covering all the time (I was never totally consistent) to just for church at the moment. I wish we'd never lost the tradition too.

    In fact, Fr. Z has a poll going right now on his blog about how people feel about head covering and it seems that most of the people there (both men and women) wish that it was still done. That was so encouraging to read!

  14. Hi, I was wondering if you cover full time?
    I have been thinking about doing it for Lent, but I just don't know. I am a student and I also wear a scarf or mantilla to mass. I feel that God might be calling me to cover full time during Lent, but I just don't know, maybe it is because I might be scared. Do you have any advice for me?

    God Bless you

    In Christ,

  15. Hi Victoria-
    At the moment I only cover during Mass. I did consider covering full time around a year and a half ago, but I didn't last very long. I did meet quite a bit of hostility from other women and it was making like so difficult that I kind of wimped out! A lot of the time I do a sort of half cover now where the back part of my bun is covered, because it draws less negative attention.

    I so admire women who do make this decision though! And Lent would be a good time to try it out!

    Prayers and God Bless You!


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