To Veil or Not to Veil…

Chapel veil, that is.

For the past year and a half or so, I have been having an internal discussion with God. It revolves around the wearing of the mantilla, or chapel veil.

In a bout of pious-ness two summers ago, I bought one, very similar to the one pictured above. Since that time, I’ve struggled about whether or not to wear it. Some days I do, some days, I don’t.

I do not attend the Latin Mass, where it is most common for women to wear chapel veils. I do, however, attend a church where the Latin Mass is performed, and I receive the Eucharist on the tongue, kneeling at a communion rail. I often FEEL that I ought to be covering my head.

And yet…I hesitate. The main reason for this is, I think, the fact there are only a few women at my church who wear the chapel veil, and so I fear drawing attention to myself during Mass by wearing it. Of course, the point of the chapel veil, along with showing reverence for and submission to God, is to promote modesty while at Mass. So, if wearing a chapel veil draws attention to myself, because I am one of the only ones wearing one, then am I contradicting the purpose of wearing the mantilla in the first place?

The last week or two, God has really been putting this issue on my heart to consider. I keep remembering what I wrote in my post on modesty; namely that women should do what God asks them to do. This applies to me too.

In doing some research, I found an article that is really though-provoking about some of the reasons for wearing the chapel veil. The section of his article I liked the most was this:

“The authentic Catholic reason for wearing the chapel veil is the Biblical reason. It’s just something that all Christian women (regardless of denomination) are supposed to do, not because they have to, but because they’re supposed to want to. The Catholic Church has decided to no longer enforce this Biblical custom through Canon Law, and in doing so, the Church is saying it does not want to be our nanny. The chapel veil is a custom for women to do voluntarily, because they want to, not because they are being forced to. The idea is that women are to read what the Scriptures have to say, and be convicted according to what is contained therein. In order for a chapel veil to be an authentic sign of humility and holiness, it must be voluntary. Indeed, Christian women are supposed to wear one, but it is never to be forced.”

The whole thing is here.

I think this practice differs from say, the practice of women in Islam covering their heads. In Islam, a woman must cover her head whenever she is in the presence of a man. In this Christian practice, women cover their heads when they are in the presence of God (in the Eucharist at Church).

Has anyone else struggled with whether or not to wear the chapel veil? What are your thoughts about taking up the veil? I’d love to know what you think!

God Bless!


17 thoughts on “To Veil or Not to Veil…

  1. I went to a very orthodox Catholic college and a couple women wore mantillas during our very packed Mass. I understand the concern of being afraid at drawing attention to oneself, but the way I look at it is yes, during Mass it caught my attention, but just for a split second. My next thought was “Wow, what an honorable and respectful woman.” Then I went on to focus on the Mass. If you go to a parish with devout members, I wouldn’t worry about the drawing attention aspect.

    I unfortunately go to a parish whose members are a little less than devout. I would stick out like a sore thumb and probably be asked to not wear it.

    God bless you in your decision. He will let you know what to do. I’ll keep you in my prayers!

  2. I guess that’s something that I haven’t really thought about. I certainly haven’t been called to do that. And when I say that, what I mean is that I’m trying to sound all holy while I tell you that I’ve never taken the time to seriously consider it one way or the other.

  3. ooh oho oh! me! i have.
    i actually own one too, but i’ve never worn it.

    my hesitance relies mostly on the fact that i heard from a friend who heard from a priest once that you shouldn’t act in church a way that you wouldn’t act outside…i.e., don’t make a scene about wearing a veil in church if outside you’re wearing immodest clothing (which for me would basically be tank tops and shorts ) and i decided I wasn’t quite ready to give that up. after a few years of thinking about this though, i don’t know if that stands reasoning, since we act different in church anyway, because its church….

    also, i really like the idea of covering my head, but why does it need to be covered with a veil? why not a scarf? or a hood? the veil just seems a little showy, too ornate. do you know the reason for the veil in particular?

    also, i just want to say that i really, really, really liked the article you quoted. the idea of being forced vs. wanting too just really struck a cord with me! that might be what pushes me over the edge! thank you!
    sorry this was so rambly 🙂

  4. oooohh i just found this. along the lines of what you quoted:

    “While it is absolutely clear to me that there is no canonical or moral obligation for women to wear a head-covering in Church, women are certainly free to do so as a matter of personal devotion. They should, however, see it as a sign of subordination to God, as that better suits the liturgical context. Those who wear a covering or veil, and those who don’t, should not judge the motives of the other, but leave each woman free in a matter that is clearly not of obligation.”

  5. hmmm, I always learn so much about the Catholic Faith from you – one thing I do know, is God is calling me to learn and grow in my Faith walk and I feel certain He led me to you.

    Thank-you, friend!

  6. Wow! Not a single person in my church does this, so I’ve never really considered doing it.

    However, in my RCIA class last year, one girl did do it, and loved it. This was a hip Long Islander, and yet she loved the veil tradition. She also decided to keep her hair covered for Lent (with cloth or headbands usually), which I was impressed with. However, she made it seem cool somehow. I don’t think I could pull that off!

  7. I have never considered doing it, myself. I have seen others who do, though.

    I really like the quote you use for more than just the Mantilla, too. Oh, the many times I have had people imply that I am forced to do things that make me authentically Catholic…however, I choose to do these things! For example, I once wrote on why I attend Mass…because I want to, of course!

    Great post!

  8. “women should do what God asks them to do”
    Very right! And if you believe that God wants you to start wearing a chapel veil, then start doing it! Now! If I went to your parish and knew that you were hesitating to do this because you felt alone, I would wear one as well to help you feel better. But I am not there, so hopefully I can help just be sharing internet support. 😉

    Now, that said… while you are wearing your veil in obedience to what you believe God has called you, please, please, please look into this issue more. The one source that you cited sounds *very* Protestant. If you know of legitimate Catholic sources that say that “The authentic Catholic reason for wearing the chapel veil is the Biblical reason” then please share. As far as I know, that is the *Protestant* reason for wearing a head covering. If you are simply taking what St. Paul says, then a woman should keep her head covered *all* the time. This is not in keeping with Catholic tradition which had different reasons for having women cover *when in the presence of the Most Holy Sacrament*. Saying that Catholic women should wear chapel veils because of St. Paul is like saying that the Catholic Church does not ordain women as priests because of 1 Timothy. If you actually read what the Church says, that is not at all the reason that Catholics do not ordain women. It is the reason that Protestants do not ordain women. In the same way, the “Biblical reason” is the reason that some Protestant women wear head coverings. It is not what I have seen the Church to say.

    Please, please, please talk to your priest or spiritual director about this issue. It is so easy to be lead astray by passionate men who were shaped by Protestant theology and do not really study to understand how Catholic theology is different. Genuine Catholic theology and practice must first of all be in obedience to the Church which serves as the faithful interpreter of the Bible. Making up our own understanding of what the Bible means is what got us Protestantism in the first place!

    Now, after that passionate almost-rant… please let me know if you have more sources and can show me where I am wrong in my understanding. I would be happy to start wearing a chapel veil tomorrow if presented with Catholic evidence that it is what the Church desires of me.

  9. Firstly I don’t think it need be a mantilla, just a head covering.
    Having said that I prefer the mantilla. Our girls though sometimes wear a triangle head scarf tied under their hair at the back.
    We are recent Catholics of 3 years coming form a traditional Anglican background we have been wearing headcoverings for about 1 year now. We do not attend latin Mass and are the only ones in Church to wear them
    However we already stand out in the crowd as we sit in the very first pew, we have 11 children and we genuflect for the receiving of Communion( no one else does).
    I guess standing out wasn’t an issue.
    I suggest you research and pray and do what you believe you are called to do -even if you stand out in the crowd. And who know you may give someone else the stregth to follow suit.
    God Bless

  10. I’ve struggled with it too, but with a twist… I feel like I should full time (yes there are other Catholics who do that). I don’t… not full time anyway, but I still feel like I should. Its actually easier for me to cover in public than at Mass though… very few women cover at my Parish here…

  11. I hope you receive this comment, as I’m back-posting a few months here.

    I understand your inner dicussion with God, as I’ve been having the same one. I attend a protestant church in a denomination where I had never heard of head covering. I started reading about it online over a year ago now and have been “discussing” with God ever since. I feel like I ought to, but I’m just not sure I want to be that “weird.”

    So far I’ve compromised with God (I know… not the best idea). I cover during my personal devotions at home, trying to get comfortable with the idea. I pray for the courage to discern His answer and follow His guidance in the near future.

    Since you posted this, have you come to a decision? I’d love to read some follow-up on your ponderings.

  12. I searched and found this discussion. Recently I’ve felt a gnawing…something internally telling me to cover my head when at church. I’m nervous about it, and have been putting it off. I actually went and bought a nice scarf yesterday, but I chickened out wearing it this morning. Like others on here have spoken, I don’t want to draw attention to myself. Nobody else in my church wears a head covering. As a child, I never entered church with my head uncovered. To me, it’s a sign of great respect for Christ, and for his Mother.

  13. From the Atlanta Journal, Saturday, June 21, 1969, page 6-A:

    Women Required To Cover Head, Vatican Insists

    VATICAN CITY (UPI) – A Vatican official says there has been no change, as reported, in the Roman Catholic rule that women cover their head in church.

    The Rev. Annibale Bugnini, secretary of the New Congregation for Divine Worship, said the reports stemmed from a misunderstanding of a statement he made at a news conference in May.

    “The rule has not been changed,” he said. “It is a matter of general discipline. It began as a custom in the time of St. Paul and was later incorporated in canon law.”

    Ladies, my husband ( and I ( are currently writing a book on this very subject to be followed up by a DVD on Catholic Traditions & Customs. Feel free to sign up for our emails to be informed of the release dates. We only send emails when we have something new to offer. You won’t be relentlessly marketed to!

  14. Maybe this was already said but my thought having been throught this journey of the veil is very simple. If we wear one for First Holy Communion, Matrimony and the sisters taking their vows , why would we stop wearing it everytime we are in front of Our Lord in the Eucharist??

  15. I realize I am like. . .way behind on this thread. But I found your blog from Journal of a Nobody, read a line that briefly mentioned mantillas, and then quickly went on a hunt to find the post in question because this is something I’m intensely interested in.
    And when I say interested, I mean fighting God, Alamo style.
    It’s not so much that I think every Catholic woman is supposed to veil as much as it is something God has very, very clearly made it aware to me that I’m supposed to do (for a variety of personal reasons). Anyway, just wanted to leave a comment of solidarity.

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