Monday, June 6, 2011

Headcovering: Preference or Calling? Part 1 (of 2)

In my last post I received a number of comments (many of you made me smile and all of you made me pause and think!) about my most recent series of posts (here's post three, which at the moment has the most comments) that were a result of a combox comment on this headcovering post.

The last comment I received was from a "long-time reader" who withheld their name. Okay you guys, am I really so bad that you're afraid to leave your name if you disagree with me? I would hope that a long time reader would know me well enough to know that we can disagree and discuss without... One of you, who did use a name, actually showed me that I was totally off the mark on something I said last week and I freely admitted it. Back to the post. Here is the comment (I don't want to be misquote anyone and this comment did get me thinking):
Anonymous said...
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

JUNE 5, 2011 7:05 PM
My initial response is below:
Cam said...
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."

JUNE 5, 2011 8:15 PM
But as I waited for Sadie to fall asleep tonight, I had ample time to think. I still don't agree that the initial comment was friendly or particularly kind. The language didn't really leave much room for that (and I'll admit, my response wasn't particularly friendly either!). But I think both of the anonymous commenters and I will have a hard time agreeing because I don't think we agree on how we view covering. And here's what I think a part of the problem is:

Is covering a "calling" or a "personal preference?"

And because I'm afraid this post is already getting rather lengthy, I'm going to write my opinion on the answer to this question in the next post!


  1. I think you unequivocally had the right response. I really believe that the display of our bodies is a matter of human dignity, which nobody - not even a spouse - has the right to violate. I think that those who desperately need for women to bare their hair, arms, decolletage, legs, etc. are walking a dangerous line with lust; by that I mean the sin at the heart of lust, which uses the bodies of others as objects for gratification. To use one's wife's body as an object to display (mind you, I think it's only usury if it's against her wishes) and ignore her as a whole person who belongs to God is, without a doubt in my mind, lust.

    That doesn't make anyone who wishes his wife wore tank tops into a raging monster. Who among us has never ignored the full humanity of someone in order to use him or her for some aspect we liked or wanted? We're all sinners. But we try to not sin, and rid our neighbors of sin, by talking about it, by finding the little crevices it hides in. I think you did a good job, here, bringing up an issue, and were not off the mark.

  2. same anonymous as quoted above here-
    I feel the same 'call' to cover in prayer and the Real Presence. But the fact is, objectively, it is not requirement for modesty. (We can all agree that a woman walking down the street in hot pants and spaghetti straps is immodest. I doubt you would see a woman as immodest simply because her head is uncovered.) My first 'calling' is to my husband and my marriage and while I truly feel very much for those who are forbidden to cover by their husbands, it would be better for the woman to refrain from covering her head if it is that big an issue for him, until she is able to persuade him otherwise.

  3. I disagree with Long Time Reader. I was fuming with original Anonymous.

  4. Hey there!
    Just passing through and have read your blog a bit.
    I am curious,where you have quoted the words "A calling from God" and "God tugging on my heart",
    what exactly is meant by this?
    Are you referring to a literal feeling state that you received or is it metaphorically speaking and not literal?
    Also,how do you know it was "real" God?


  5. Hi Anonymous- I don't think we really disagree on this. :)

    As I mentioned I would refrain from covering if my husband asked me too (when my husband read this his take from a theologian point of view was that I would be wrong to do so... which was kind of funny...).

    I do wonder how you feel about the other half of it, that I did mention in the first post. In one particular case that was brought to my attention a husband not only said his wife could not cover, but forbid her wearing dresses that reached beyond a certain "modern" length that she didn't feel was modest. How would you respond to that sort of request from your husband?

    For me I would be torn, but I wouldn't feel comfortable going to Mass with a dress above my knees. I don't think I'd be able to "submit" doing something that I felt was fundamentally wrong in that way.

    What do you guys think?

  6. Hi Curious-

    No actual words on this one. Think of it as just this strong, inexorable pull towards the realization that I needed to have my head covered in Mass out of respect for the most Holy Sacrament.

    I don't think Satan often tempts us to show respect and reverence for the Eucharist and in my experience the proof is in the pudding. Covering has helped me grow (even when the growth wasn't inside of my comfort zone).

    It is hard to explain! But I hope this helps! Any other ladies that want to explain what they feel, feel free to add to this!

  7. Hi Cam, I do understand some think it's immodest to wear skirts above the knee, but I believe mine are modest when they fall at the knee or right above. I wouldn't be comfortable in miniskirts or short shorts however. Mine probably has more to do with height or lack of... I probably have the shortest legs ever so when I wear skirts below the knee it looks pretty funny.

    I also feel called to covet but have started out with hats and I do have one kerchief. I find myself getting funny looks often, but am only embarassed when the priest looks at me funny!

    - J

  8. Hi J-

    I don't think all skirts that fall right above the knee are immodest (many are!), but I was asking specifically how people would ask a woman who did feel that way to respond to a husband who demanded that she wear dresses or skirts only that length.

    These days with skirts so short a dress that falls an inch or two above the knee can definitely seem tame when compared with the alternative.

    The knee is my own personal rule for me. I know other people have longer rules and probably think my knee length rule doesn't cut it!


  9. same anonymous as above again-
    Yes, we should not submit when it is a matter of sin! I definitely wouldn't wear a skirt above the knee, especially since I'm short, so that would be a tiny skirt! I don't feel that head covering is matter for sin, unless one took a vow to do it, with permission from their confessor or spiritual director.

  10. But how do you know it's a calling from God and not just scrupulosity? Scrupulosity can tug at your heart and make you feel ill at ease until you do what it wants. But that isn't God.

    I've had a "tug" at my heart for various devotions, but every time I made them a habit, it became one more scrupulous thing I had to keep on top of. I had to drop many of them to keep up with my actual spiritual life at all!

    Now, you say it's been helpful for you, and that's good. But I still don't think "a tug at your heart" is proof that God is calling you to do something or that your spouse is wrong to prudently ask you to refrain from doing it.

  11. Maybe as someone who, from your own admission, seems to be prone to scrupulosity, you tend to see if more in others when it doesn't exist and you hardly know them?

    Not everyone does suffer from it though... I haven't.

    Sometimes a person hears God speaking to their heart on an issue. It may be hard for someone who hasn't experienced that to understand. It doesn't mean that it doesn't happen.

    If we speak to God and listen amazing things can happen. You've probably experienced this. This is one of those things. You don't have to believe me, but you certainly aren't going to convince me otherwise, and it would be a waste of time to try. I have a good confessor, I pray frequently, I receive the Eucharist as often as possible and I trust in God. Their are hurdles in life, but this isn't one of them. But thank you for your concern.

  12. The spiritual life has stages. When I was a "new" Catholic -- just beginning to get into my faith -- I tended to see "messages from God" everywhere. Those ended up leading pretty far astray. And yes, I tended to get scrupulous about them, because now that I was "real" Catholic, I wanted to be the BEST and do EVERYTHING because if I loved God I should do EVERYTHING.

    A few years down the road, and I realized it wasn't possible to do all this. I also realized the times when I had the most dramatic "voices from God" were really just my own projection because I wanted so badly to be spoken to by God. Nowadays, scrupulosity is the least of my worries. ;)

    I'm glad you have a good confessor (not the one who gave you that lengthy penance that made you scrupulous a couple weeks ago, right?), because the very first thing I was going to say is to subject yourself to a wise priest, because the discernment of spirits is a pretty darn difficult matter. I've always flattered myself I was good at it, and I ended up in a cult. So now I try to be a bit more humble and a little more doubtful, and ask a wise person before assuming I am being given some special call.

    I'm not saying you don't have a call to wear a snood. But I do think it's possible that it's something else, too. As long as you are doing something -- like putting something extra on your head -- that isn't harmful in any way, there's nothing wrong with following a prompting that you get. But if it's causing problems of any kind -- scrupulosity or worries or fear to enter the house of God -- I guess all I can say is you'd better be really sure that this is what God wants. Otherwise it's not worth the risk.

  13. I don't just wear a snood (or feel called to wear a snood). I feel called to cover. There is a subtle difference.

    And no, while I have been fortunate to be able to see different priests because, with little ones it can be hard to find a convenient time to go to confession, the one that married me, confirmed me and baptized Sadie lives a few doors down and isn't the one who gave me the penance.

    Thankfully I have yet to have bad experiences listening to my conscience and praying and listening to God. That is what we're supposed to do as part of an active prayer life. If we do pray constantly I just don't think we should be all that surprised when we receive responses in the form of guidance. That is what's supposed to happen.


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