Thursday, March 3, 2011

Headcovering: If It's Not Required Why Cover?

Headcovering gets a bad rap. There’s a knee jerk reaction that it evokes in many people that is instantly negative. There’s a certain association with oppression that has tainted many people’s views of the practice and the result is a certain level of bitterness that may or may not come bubbling over when a chapel veil comes within a ten-foot radius of a person with this particular sentiment.

What’s sad is that these people don’t seem to realize that many of the Catholic women who cover (I won’t say all because I’m sure there are some who do so because they feel pressure from other people) do so because they feel called to. It’s as if that possibility is discarded instantly, if it even comes to mind, which I actually find doubtful.

And they miss an aspect of Catholic headcovering that sets it apart. A Christian woman covers for God and because she is in the presence of God.

In the beginning I’m not sure I could even articulate exactly why I felt called to cover. In truth, I’m not sure I can fully articulate it now. It was a strong, nagging feeling that kept on and on until I finally felt as if I were doing something wrong by ignoring the call (or at least not following where it lead, because ignoring it was pretty much impossible). As many of you know, I set a date. This internal struggle went on throughout my first pregnancy and I finally made a deal with myself: I would cover when my daughter was born. And that is exactly what I did.

Now for my attempt at explaining the key points that stand out when I think of covering.

I veil as a sign of humility before God. It reminds me to do all that I can to submit to Him and it reminds me that He is there in the Blessed Sacrament.

I veil because it helps me focus on the Mass (at least as much as I can focus with my two lovely little distractions) and because to helps remind me to reset my focus when I’m distracted. It also helps me mentally set apart the time when I am at Mass from the rest of my life.

Now for a few of my favorite quotes by people who were able to say very eloquently much of what I’ve been trying to express here:

“A veil or head covering, is both a symbol and a mystical sacrifice that invites the woman wearing it to ascend the ladder of sanctity. When a woman covers her head in the Catholic Church it symbolizes her dignity and humility before God.”
-The Catholic Knight
“We veil as an act of humility before Our Lord, truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. To veil in church is to make visible what we believe in our hearts--that Jesus, true God and true Man, is present in the Blessed Sacrament in Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity... and that we desire to humble ourselves before Him.”
-Lily, The Catholic Wife
“Finally, we veil that which is sacred to God. Now, each woman has the potential for receiving life within her body. This power must not be used outside of the ordinances of God. In other words, a woman’s fruitfulness is reserved to God: “My sister, my spouse, is a garden enclosed, a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up.”(Cant. 4:12) Furthermore, women are called to imitate Our Lady in a particular way and she was the living tabernacle of the Most High. Just as women bear life within their body, so the tabernacle on the altar holds He who is Life itself, “the bread which cometh down from heaven; that if any man eat of it, he may not die.”(John 6:50) Thus, the veil indicates woman’s unique role of motherhood and the call to imitate Our Lady. We recall this during Mass in order to better understand the presence of Christ in the tabernacle. [For this last facet of symbolism, I am indebted to Alice Von Hildebrand.]
In conclusion, I hope it is clear that the chapel veil betokens not abusive male domination but, rather, befittingly recalls a rich array of truths in order to illuminate the purpose of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”

-A Quote in this post by the Saint Louis Catholic


  1. There are many things that, while not mandatory, are powerful means of grace... daily mass, praying the rosary and voluntary penance come to mind...

    I finally worked up the courage to veil about a month ago and have not looked back. There is a great desire in our parish, particularly among the younger wives and mothers, to veil. The fear is always the same - that a mysterious "someone" will think them trying to be "holier than thou." The great irony, of course, is that their motivation (those desiring to veil) couldn't be more different!

    Does the daily communicant fear someone will think she is trying to be "holier than thou?" How about those who participate in adoration or daily public recitation of the rosary? I certainly hope not!

    I became a Christian (protestant) more than 20 years ago and always felt it appropriate to cover, particularly for those fundamentalists" who endeavor to a very literal application of sacred scripture.

    As my husband and I prepared to enter full communion with the Catholic Church three years ago, we had many discussions about veiling and agreed that - while not required - it was an edifying and worthy practice, certainly appropriate.

    Unfortunately, I fell into the fear trap and put it off until I decided to put my worries aside and DO it. As more and more women (in our parish) take this step, others are subtly encouraged to get over their fears and do the same.

    Thank you for your honest and thoughtful posts on veiling. I cannot see anyone viewing them as divisive and I do hope you don't experience any negative "kick back" from other commenters.

    BTW, if Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Bush can uphold custom (and beautifully, I might add) in veiling when meeting the Holy Father, I can think of no good reason not to veil when meeting our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the most Blessed Sacrament on the altar!

  2. I think that's what tipped me over the edge. I felt called, but couldn't come to terms with it for feeling out-of-place. Vanity and pride I suppose.

    But when I saw that the 1st ladies veiled before the Pope I thought "well, if they do so in front of the Pope why not God? Isn't God greater and more worthy of my respect? (no offense to the Pope of course)" And so that's why I started.

    I've tried to be more full time because I know God is everywhere and I want to be a testament to that, but I'm not that courageous. I try then stop, try then stop. Maybe one day.

  3. The last comment makes me smile because I feel called to do it full time too, but have a harder time doing it in Mass. I'm mixed up I suppose...

  4. So great to see another Catholic mama who covers fulltime!! :)

  5. I found your blog via Calah at Barefoot and Pregnant, and I found your post interesting. I'm actually Orthodox, and always wear a headcovering in church as I was taught when I lived in Russia and was learning about Orthodoxy. In America, there are many women who don't, but in the old countries, many more do. There are some who cover all the time, but most just in church. I've experimented with both. I've never not covered in church, but I had a two-year period of covering all the time, and frankly, it was hard for a lot of reasons. My husband loved it, and I did find it pretty easy, but the strange looks were hard to handle, and I found that people were put off by me, and maybe even a little afraid of me because I was given a wide berth in stores. (I wore mine babushka style, tied back under my the back of my head, so no relation to the hijab that many seemed to think it was). The tipping point came at the end of the two year period when I was walking down the street in the East Coast city where we live, and a woman passed me on the sidewalk, barely paused to look at me, and said "Are you Jewish? A thousand plagues upon your head." Alrighty then. I consider myself a fairly strong person, but I knew I did NOT want to subject my children to such comments on a daily basis (and I was starting to get similar things at other times).

    That said, I have a tremendous respect for women who do cover all the time, and wish I lived in a community where such a thing was more respected and the norm. It certainly does make things easier!!

    I also intend to continue covering at church because I think it is important, and a part of our Tradition.

  6. Well I'm not a Catholic.. but I can't agree to it more.. I'm a Muslim girl.. and though many people regard Muslim women to be oppressed..
    I believe it to be your own way to live your life, your way to express yourself and carry yourself... your closeness to God.
    It's wonderful to see the cultural and religious similarities between different cultures and traditions.. gives you a feeling of Oneness.. :)
    V.nice article btw.

  7. I realize this is an old post, but recently, I have felt a call to wear a head covering. To me it is a sign of humility and prayer. We are to always carry with us a prayer in our hearts and minds so to wear a covering throughout the day serves as a constant reminder of the life of prayer we are called to live. God Bless.


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