How many of you girls and ladies wear a veil to Mass? I’m sure you know what I mean by a veil in this context – some of us use lace mantillas, some wear hats, others prefer dainty bandanas or infinity scarves, but the theme is the same; the veil I’m talking about is a head covering.
Many Catholic women choose to wear a veil during Mass (or even in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in general), and the practice seems to be becoming more and more popular. With the growing trend, questions arise asking why only women wear veils and why they are usually worn at Mass, as well as strong objections, especially the common argument that the veil “oppresses” women and somehow robs them of womanly dignity. So, what is veiling really for, and is it an oppressive practice, or a sign of Godly womanhood?
The Mass is our highest form of worship. It is really and truly the Sacrifice of Christ on the cross re-presented to God in an unbloody manner on our altars every day. For this reason, the Mass surely deserves the utmost respect and reverence from those participating, don’t you agree? Of course! In fact, that is why men never wear a hat in church. In the Scriptures, it is written that for a man to veil his head is a shame to his God-given role as a man. In the same passage, women are told it is shameful for them to pray without a veil because of the role God has given them as women (1 Corinthians 11:3-15). In other words, women veil and men go bare-headed each out of respect for God. This tradition has survived from then even until now, and many today agree that since the Mass is such a high form of prayer it is fitting that women wear a veil, though it is not required. The practice of veiling, which is supported by Sacred Scripture and years of tradition brings glory to God by embracing both His order and our femininity. must surely be pleasing to Him and of great spiritual benefit to us.
Somehow though, this traditional practice of respectful veiling has been mistaken for oppression. For a girl or woman to cover her head is supposed to be hiding oneself and thus lowering her dignity as a woman. I guess you could say a veil hides us, but it does not lower our dignity by doing so! Covering our heads hides our hair, which is in many cases our most valuable, God-given ornament. However, while it is a gift from God, it is not necessary to our salvation to have beautiful hair, so hiding it doesn’t in any way lower our feminine dignity. If my dignity is based on how I look, I am in for serious disappointment should my beauty someday fail me! A simple veil, by hiding external distractions, directs both our own and other’s attention where it belongs during Mass or in any sacred space – to God. It increases our dignity by emphasizing the most beautiful, most honorable qualities of any person, which is her soul and that soul’s love for God.
Now we have seen the veil for what it really is. It is a tool God has given women to show Him respect and honor and to bring ourselves and others closer to Him. It is a sign of a woman’s submission to God’s order and of her dignity in that order. The veil is a valuable gift from God to help all to become saints.
St. Philomena, pray for us!
This article was re-published by Oremus Press (April 2021) with the permission of the author.