Saturday, June 4, 2011

From the Combox: Headcovering Crusade? Part 3

This is the third post in a series that I wrote in response to a comment about my most recent headcovering post that addressed the problem of husbands who forbid their wives from covering (or even dressing modestly). The first post can be found here and the second post can be seen here.

You say that husbands are hurt by their wives “incorrect attitudes” in being called by God to cover. Really? I think their wives are hurt by the fact that their husbands have embraced the norms of a world drenched in sin and moral relativism.

And really, I don’t see a lot of strong, Catholic men, of the variety you describe forbidding their wives from honoring the presence of God in the tabernacle by veiling. I see men who have strong Catholic wives who are themselves lukewarm in their faith forbidding their wives. I don’t think they’re the majority, as you state, Anonymous. But they are a large enough contingent to be notable (thus the post).

You say that covering is being “attached to a piece of cloth” but for many women it’s a powerful personal devotion that draws them nearer to God. Would a woman who’s husband was against the rosary be expected to give it up if her husband announced that he forbid her pray it?

You point out that certain saints have been called to suffer because of their superior’s inability to see the light of God in their lives. That does sometimes happen. And suffering can be a means to growth. But should those who are suppressing another’s growth thus be encouraged their practice?

Another point was of the “they just want to see their wives hair” variety. Most of the women I’ve talked to about this long for a chapel veil. That doesn’t exactly disguise a woman’s hair from view. And I think most men could handle not viewing their wives hair for, on average, an hour each week. If they can’t handle an hour a week then there most definitely is a problem. And it’s the husband’s problem.

You say that I’m “starting a crusade” against “anti-headcovering husbands.” That was never my intent (and frankly I don’t think I have the power on my little blog to “start a crusade” of any sort… thanks for the vote of confidence though…). In fact I’m very clear on what I would do if I were in this position (and I did say that I would submit and pray).

Maybe you understand my point a bit more at this point Anonymous. And maybe you would understand a bit more if you actually read the posts I linked too (or you could click here to see everything I have to say about headcovering). Please, if you decide to comment in the futre, don’t take my words out of context or twist what I’m saying. And please don’t accuse me of attacking strong, devout Catholic men when I’m doing nothing of the sort.


  1. I dress conservatively usually. But on occasion, will wear a bikini when playing with the kids in the backyard pool in our fenced in pool. In public places, I wear a swimdress. And sometimes, I will put on nice nighties on special occasions too. While I don't mind my husband seeing my body, I just don't feel like other people need to see me like that. I really try hard not to judge how others dress, although sometimes when people post pictures of themselves in bikinis on Facebook, it makes me uncomfortable...


  2. I am a first time visitor, clicking over from another blog that was part of a link up with Like Mother, Like Daughter. I clicked over because I saw the blog title and have been struggling with my call to cover. I cannot shake this calling even though it will set me apart from every other woman in my parish! I am so sorry that you received such a nasty comment on the matter, and I applaud how articulately you responded. Well done. Your original post actually made me appreciate my husband's supportive response to me, because he is a little bit behind me on our spiritual journey, and he could have been negative or dismissive. Maybe this is a calling to bring my entire family closer to God. Thanks and take care.

  3. The other day, I was running late for reconciliation and I realized that I'd forgotten a scarf. Usually, I always have a scarf in my bag - one never knows when one is going to need to pray. Well, by now, there's no way I'd ever set foot in a Catholic church, let alone meet Christ in a sacrament, with my hair uncovered. Luckily, I'd sewn a modest panel into the front of my dress with my own loosey-goosey stitching, and so I was able to rip it out (I had a cardigan to then make up for the loss of modesty on the dress).

    THAT is how serious it is to me. If there were an emergency, of course I would go straight to a church with my hair bare, but only an emergency. I was never reluctant to veil, but I was terrified. I shook like a leaf, thinking about how crazy everyone was going to think I was. Now I shake like a leaf to think of not wearing a veil in church.

    I'm about to get married this month, and I know who will be the head of me in my home: my husband. I also know that there's a limit to that, and Cam is right: a wife need not sin just because she's told to. I also believe that human dignity belongs to us each alone, given to us by God and restored and realized in the gift of our savior, and that we need not and should not give it up. I'm sure my husband is going to make choices for our family that aren't what I would make, and maybe I'll even dislike them, but that's not the same as eroding my human dignity. On the other hand, I think FORCING a woman to bare her body (which is what forbidding modest dress is) is a wholesale invasion of her dignity, and she need not obey.

  4. Cam: can I just say how much I love your blog? I am a younger reader, and unlike most women who visit your blog, I am still discerning my vocation. However, I believe that the Holy Spirit is guiding me to the vocation of marriage. You and your faith really inspire me and I have loved watching your little girls grow up and you develop in your commitment to the church. God bless.

  5. My husband would not want me to cover. Not because he's a controlling jerk (our marriage is very egalitarian), or because he doesn't care about my spiritual life - but simply because he's a private person and does not like unnecessary attention. In our parish - wearing a chapel veil would be a definite oddity, and being the object of stares, assumptions and puzzled looks would make my husband uncomfortable. He's also a very, very practical and concrete thinker. I'm not sure if he would understand how wearing a veil was anything other than a putting a piece of cloth over one's hair. He's not one to romanticize the past or be wistful of traditions of long ago (I am constantly pointing out cute "vintage" clothes/stuff and he's like "that just looks like some old thing from my grandma's house.")

    Still, if I REALLY felt a spiritual calling to veil, he wouldn't stop me. It's not THAT big of a deal, honestly, and certainly not one worth arguing over. I do not feel a need to veil, but if I did, I'm sure he would ultimately be okay with it. The idea of a husband not "allowing" his wife to wear something is bizarre to me. My husband and I are not each other's bosses, and while I might point out that his old sneakers don't look so hot anymore, or he might point out that a particular sweater I have is "frumpy" - neither of us feels like we have the authority to forbid the other anything.

  6. I would like to think that we live in a time and society where women can dress how they want to whether based on their style or religious preference. I believe that we should respect each other's decisions and way of living.

  7. The closer we grow to God, I think the more we understand the necessary integration of our speech, actions, and even physical appearance and their relationship to God's laws and teachings. No, veiling alone will not automatically make one holier, but it is an additional layer to our spiritual growth, once we begin to understand the importance of veiling in a Church. And this veiling in Church as we grow can carry on to our lives outside Church, through modest dress and covering our heads if one is inclined. Our physical appearance is often a reflection of our standards and convictions and we can't pretend that there isn't a connection. As I find myself growing spiritually, I do find that I am more aware of how I dress, how I speak, how I act, how I think... I hope that by the time I die, Christ has permeated every aspect of my life, transforming me in time to arrive at His kingdom.

    God bless you Cam, for sharing your inner journey with us and also how it has affected you on the outside as well.

  8. I don't so much have a comment as a question. I'm discerning how far a wife should go in submitting to her husband. If I remember correctly, Paul basically says that both spouses should submit to one another out of love of Christ, and specifically, this means wives should obey their husbands and that husbands should love their wives as Christ loves His Church.

    I'm not sure how far this goes. I respect that you would stop covering if your husband asked you to, and that you would not sin if your husband told you to, but what about things that could carry a lot more spiritual weight? You brought up the rhetorical question about the Rosary in your post, but what if a woman's husband asked her to stop going to daily Mass for no good reason? I'm not talking about an occasional-- "Honey, can you stay home from Mass to help me with something," but a long-term command to not go to daily Mass. In my case, being asked to do such a thing would be spiritually starve me, and would expose me to many more temptations than usual (which could lead to more sins). Certainly, this is not how Christ loves His church. Would a wife have to obey a command like this?

    Note: I'm asking this question for situations when there is no valid reason for the wife not to go to daily Mass. Obviously, life happens, and there may be times when daily Mass does not allow a one to fulfill the duties to their state in life, but that's not what I'm talking about.

  9. I really didn't think this person's comment was all that unreasonable, unkind, or implied all the things you say it did. Maybe if you are that emotionally invested you would be inclined to take such offense. I just feel like you are off the mark with this one. Sorry.

    "I just think we aught to be careful not to cling too tightly to our preferences when it is not a matter of sin. "

    I think this was their point and it is a good point, imo.

    sincerely, long-time reader

  10. Hi Anon @ 7:05pm-

    I think I have a pretty thick skin after two years of less than friendly comments for a variety of reasons. However, accusing someone of going on an crusade against Catholic men isn't exactly friendly nor is the implication that I'm making husbands out to be "monsters."

    Let's turn the quote you sited on its head: I think we aught be careful not to forbid each other our small offerings to God because we prefer the preferences of our morally relativistic fallen world.

    Any emotional investment I have in this is the sorrow I feel for the women I've heard from who have husband who insist on controlling their wives dress... funny, if the man were insisting his wife wear dresses and cover I have a feeling more people would be offended by it. Because these women long for modesty though it's just "personal preference."

  11. Hi Liz-

    I'm really not sure at all how I'd deal with that... I actually think that's probably one of the reasons its good to try to be on the same page on an issue like that starting out during a marriage... but I know that falls far short of answering the question because their could be a shift in either spouses faith, for better or worse... It would be such a difficult spot to be in!

    Any ideas from other readers?

  12. Andrea G- Thank you for the beautiful description of how covering and modesty can impact our lives (and be impacted by our spiritual growth).

    Kateri- The idea of a husband not allowing his wife to wear something is bizarre to me too! I could imagine an objection from my husband if I went of the deep end and left the house in a tube top and mini skirt... but as long as its reasonable it just strikes me as odd (and kind of insecure...).

  13. Felicity- Your comment is one of my all-time favorites! May God bless you as you discern what vocation He is calling you towards!

  14. Delphinium- Thank you for your insightful comment! And for sharing your story! I had a similar moment at confession yesterday when I realized that I didn't have a headcovering in my bag (that never happens!(. I panicked. I told Paul to go in first and actually tried to finish sewing the snood I'd been working on while I waited with the girls in the car.

    Finally I had to go in, and the covering was still unwearable... And I really needed to go because of my failure to complete a rather vague penance... but as I was waiting in line I saw my reflection in the glass door and realized that I'd had a scarf on the entire time... It was so light I hadn't felt it!

    So I'm still feeling a little silly about that..

  15. Hi Mama Bear- Welcome and I do hope some of the posts here will make your decision easier for you! I was really terrified when I began covering. I was the only one at my parish who did and as a convert I was afraid people would think that I was being "holier than thou" by covering.

    Thankfully 95% (my estimate at least) of the responses I've received over the last few years has been positive (okay 95% if I take out our most reason trip to San Francisco!).

    Hats can be a great way to cover as well, and usually feel less noticeable. I wore them quite a bit when I was starting out!

    God Bless!

  16. Hi J-

    I think you've made a good point of how modesty varies in different situations. Around the house at night I wear pajama pants and tank tops. They're great for at home... but I'd never post a picture on my blog of me wearing them!

  17. To Liz: I think this is a lot like "honor thy mother and father." Sometimes, we're faced with mothers and fathers who encourage or even demand that we do immoral things. It's a very fine line, and often Christianity is all about walking fine lines (...and it always cracks me up when people accuse me of converting to Catholicism so that I could "just have easy answers" - I've never had to think about everything so hard!) The thing that we must do with parents, husbands, and perhaps one day children is not to cut them out of our lives, disrespect them, or give up on them if they choose the wrong path or want us to choose the wrong path. That's not the same thing as acquiescing, though. I can imagine it's really tough to live with a spouse whom you've had to disobey because the matter at hand was grave (and I think that not being forced to show body parts in public is grave - a form of belittlement and emotional abuse), but that might be what's necessary. God's word and Catholic teachings can be expected to supersede a husband's command, I think, absolutely. It just wouldn't make sense otherwise.

  18. I would just like to express another opinion, if I may. In terms of headcovering, I believe it's up to the individual woman whether/when she wants to wear a cover as it is not mandatory so it is down to her to discern for herself. However, it is the comments regarding submission to husbands that bother me. Yes, I am familiar with the the part of the Bible to which you refer but I am also familiar with the varying interpetations of same. I don't want to incite a 'Reply to Anonymous Commenter' post :-) but just thought it might be interesting to illustrate the variety of reaction to your posts.

    - Gail

  19. Hi Gail-

    I'm actually pretty torn, on this particular subject, as well.

    In fact, Paul disagreed with me on this one and thought a wife shouldn't submit to her husband if he asked her not to cover. I would accept the covering aspect, but wouldn't wear something immodest in public even if it was demanded (thankfully I can't imagine that happening... but my heart breaks for women who do face such challenges).

    I don't read Ephesians in a "wife has to do everything her husband says" sort of way. After all, it says a wife submits to her husband but the flip side is that he loves her enough to die for her... and when we love someone that much we usually don't live to make them miserable.

    You see, I don't want to encourage discord, thus I won't encourage a woman to disobey her husband on this. Ultimately, if there was a disagreement in our house and we discussed it and discussed it and we couldn't reach a consensus I would (and it would be difficult) hope that I could defer to my husband.

    The thing is, Biblically submission and obedience aren't looked on in the same way as they are today. They're usually rather prized. It's not trendy. And I know I'm not well formed enough to even explain what I believe (a while back I wrote about it here: but it's not very in depth).

    I don't think God expects us to accept abuse. Or to be forced to sin. But on other, less crucial matters... I can only hope that I can place my own desires aside for the good of our family and trust that my husband loves our family and would never do anything to intentionally harm us.

    Any other thoughts on this. I guess I'm moderate on this one. I believe the husband is the spiritual head of the home. I don't think the wife should be expected to sin if asked. I believe it should work as a partnership of love. I know this isn't exactly eloquent, because the subject isn't easy...

  20. I haven't read all the comments on the other three posts, but I'm seeing a possibility that might not have occurred to you. You've mentioned before that Paul gets a lot of guff from other people because of the way you dress. They assume that he's forcing you to dress that way or that he is some kind of chauvinist. Isn't it a lot to ask of a husband who doesn't agree with headcovering or long-skirt-wearing that he deal with judgment and criticism because of the way YOU dress?

    I'm not saying that we should never dress in a way that is unusual for fear of judgment. But if a husband doesn't want to deal with all that criticism, I think it's a very fair request for him to ask. For example, he might say, "I'm all for your being modest, but could you please wear pants on the [hike, horseback riding trip, beach, etc.] so that people don't make assumptions about our family?" Or, "Could you not wear a snood to my work banquet so that the people I work with don't think I'm a patriarch of some cult?"

    As for headcovering in Mass, it IS optional so I DO think that situations like a disapproving husband or forgetting your scarf are just not a big deal. You just tell God your heart is covered for Him and let it go. When I used to wear a veil (which I no longer do), if I forgot it, I would just imagine my long hair as the veil. It just isn't that big of a deal to me, and despite all your posts on the topic, I'm still unclear why it is such a big deal to others.

    Ideally, though, I think husbands should let their wives cover their heads in church. But if they prefer their wives not to wear clothing that is far outside the norm, I think that's a very reasonable thing to ask. Compromise with some modest pants or a fashionable longer skirt. You seem to manage this fine most of the time, but many women like to wear ankle-length dresses and prairie boots all the time, and I think it's fair for a husband to ask his wife to dress in a way that is less ostentatiously modest and more subtle.

  21. Hi Sheila-

    We did talk about a husband (and wife's) discomfort because of modesty issues in one of the posts (I'm not sure, which one it was in at this point either, because there have been so many conversations going on at the same time at this point!).

    The thing is, we're not called to be OF this world. We're called to be in it. So, we're going to stand out, by our actions and in these days when less seems to be "more" in clothing, in how we dress. We can blend to a point, but with lines that we won't cross, people are still going to notice.

    As you've noticed, I dress pretty modernly, I don't cover full time, and my husband still hears about it. This world wants us to assimilate and be like them so they don't have to think that there's a possibility they should have to be living differently, and we can't do that while holding on to our Christian virtues.

    I've been thinking on the "why do I believe it is a sin for ME not to cover" issue a bit more (which raised a lot of disagreements and I know several here don't agree with) and here's MY answer:

    I feel called by God to cover. It's a constant pull on my heart towards this action. For me, not covering would be a sin, because it would be disobedient to God's direction in my life and disobedience to God is a sin. If I forgot my covering, your right, it wouldn't be that big a deal, but if I intentionally didn't cover, knowing that I feel that I am called by God to this, than I would be intentionally disobeying it, and that, I believe would be a sin.

    On the pants issue, some women really don't feel pants are modest (for themselves). I see modest pants on other women, but when I wear pants (pretty much every single time!) I get what we will call "negative" reactions from men. Well it may not be popular to hold ourselves accountable for other people's actions at all, I don't want to lead anyone else into sin. I don't get those reactions in a modest dress or skirt. So I can definitely understand wives not wanting to wear pants. However, Maxi dresses seem like they're "in" a great deal of the time these days, and if a woman concerned with modesty pairs them with a cute sweater (since they are usually pretty skimpy on top) she'll probably be covered and not give rise to "is she part of a cult" rumors... until people realize that she's never showing her navel or shoulders or rear end out of skirt... then they might (gasp!) realize she's concerned with modesty and the gig is up...

  22. As far as being in the world and not of it, it's true that we don't have to blend in per se. But I spent three years wearing nothing but skirts, and in the end I found it was not helpful. I was clinging to them because it made me *feel* like I was safe and doing the right thing, but instead I alienated people. No one wanted to listen to me or befriend me, and even my own dear (very holy) grandfather was very puzzled by it. I find that now, when I wear skirts to dressier events and pants to casual events, I am in a better position to witness to others. It also helps keep me from a tendency pto be holier-than-thou, which is a BIG danger when you're standing out from the crowd to such an extent.

    As far as the sin issue, you totally lost my sympathy there. I just can't believe that a feeling you have can be a proof of what's a sin and what's not. Reason tells us, based on the bible and church teaching, what's a sin and what isn't. When it comes to things that aren't sins, you can use your "feelings" and "personal callings" and such to decide what to do, but it's not a sin. Being a good Catholic is hard enough, no need to add a bunch of scruples to the mix. When I was discerning a vocation, I asked the priest, "If I am called, but choose to do something else, is that a sin?" The priest answered, "No, it is not a sin, but you would be missing out on a gift that God wanted to give you." No one would want to miss out on a gift from God -- one that would ultimately be for their good and make them happy -- but God doesn't damn you to Hell for not being a nun. Same goes for covering. It's not against any commandment or precept of the Church not to cover ... it is just (if your feeling of being called is to be trusted) for your spiritual good.

    I simply won't accept that it could be a sin not to cover, AFTER the Church removed the requirement!

  23. Hi Sheila- It's a good thing I wasn't looking for your sympathy then. :0)

    Disobedience is a sin. I'm not saying it would be a mortal sin. But I feel that I would be being disobedient to God and thus the action would be sinful. I KNOW you don't agree with me. Just as Anonymous #1 and Anonymous #2 don't agree with me. And just as many women who do have this same feeling likely understand what I'm saying.

    As I said in my other post I don't suffer from scrupulosity. I don't worry about this issue at all, because it doesn't come up because I am obedient to this calling.

    As for being observed as "holier than thou"... I certainly never feel holier-than-thou because it's pretty easy to keep in mind my own shortcomings. But if I have to decide between being perceived that way by others and leading others into sin... I'm going to err on the side of caution and use the perception given to me of what in my case is modest and what is not and dress modestly. Hence no pants for me (obviously not everyone falls into this category with pants. Some women can pull of modest pants. Others with certain figures, like mine, can't....).

    Again, I've never said it's a sin not to cover. I said the sin would be disobedience. Now obviously, you don't really believe anyone is called to this. You seem to stop short of saying that the many women who feel this way are over-scrupulous. You have the right to believe that.

    And we have the right to follow our consciouses and live our lives in this way, respecting the most blessed Sacrament as we feel called to and covering.

  24. Sheila- I wanted to clarify a bit on this one point (and I really hope I'm not sounding grumpy at the moment although I'm feeling awfully grumpy with the flu... so I'm sorry if I come across that way. I am trying to be clear). You said:

    "As far as the sin issue, you totally lost my sympathy there. I just can't believe that a feeling you have can be a proof of what's a sin and what's not. Reason tells us, based on the bible and church teaching, what's a sin and what isn't. "

    But not all issues are cut and dry. The Bible and Church teaching doesn't lay out what's right and wrong in every situation (and I've said that the sin would not be not covering). That's why priests sometimes do tell people to pray about something and examine their consciences to determine if an action is right or wrong. More than that the Church does have something to say on the matter of "a feeling you have can be a proof of what's a sin and what's not." And this is what it says:

    “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.” (Lumen Gentium, no. 16)

    Again, I hope I haven't been short with you... but I've done a lot of debating these last few days while feeling quite sick... and I'm kind of tired of defending myself from the same arguments over and over again.

  25. Well, you are kind of coming across as angry. I feel like you put yourself out there with your opinion, but don't really want anyone else's feedback. So I'm not going to keep going on about it -- obviously you're free to wear what you want. It just gave me the heebie-jeebies when I heard people on here saying they panicked and didn't want to go into church because of the lack of a headcovering. Isn't it better to approach the Lord at all, rather than to be afraid because of a notion that you're only "good enough" if you are dressed a certain way?

    I'm also afraid that you do probably alienate people. I guess that is your own cross to bear, that people who might otherwise be friends with you (and good friends), people who might have kids who are friends with your kids, end up assuming that you are Amish or Mennonite and "not their type." I don't think you can blame them for feeling that way when you wear things that are so far outside the norm. But if you choose to live your life that way, do so. It isn't my life to live.

  26. Here's your response:

  27. First time reader; I also cover during prayer. Just a quick note.. If I prayed the rosary and my husband wished me to stop, I would, because no where in Scripture is a command or even a suggestion to do this. Christ actually warns against "vain repetitions" in prayer in His Sermon on the Mount (in Matthew 6, I believe). On the other hand, head covering and modest dress ARE found as (what I believe to be) commands in the New Testament, so while I would try to respect my husband's wishes (wearing below-the-knee skirts rather than ankle-length ones, for example), I would be personally responsible for obeying God rather than man.

    Anyway, I appreciate your blog. Outside of Catholicism, we seem to have much in common!

  28. Hi Stephanie-

    Welcome! He does warn of vain repetitions, but thankfully the rosary is much more than just the vocal part of the prayers. It's a beautiful meditation on the life of our Lord. As we pray we meditate upon various parts of His life (there are different meditations for different days) which is one of the reasons that the rosary is definitely not vain, and draws so many closer to our Lord! I do understand how misunderstandings happen though, because if you just listen to the prayer, without understanding everything that goes on below the surface, it can be confusing!

    I'm glad you've enjoyed it! I find I have so much in common with many of my non-Catholic readers through our mutual love of God!

  29. My Husband use to have me cover, but since my hair is to the middle of my back, he asked me not to.


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