When I converted to Catholicism in 2005, I was thrilled. I loved knowing that I had found THE Church, and I loved everything about being Catholic. I attended Mass at the Neuman Center on campus, listened to a guy rock out some songs on the guitar, and happily received Holy Communion in the palm of my hand.
A few months later, my husband asked if we could try attending a Latin Mass. Having absolutely no idea what that meant, I was all for it. On the way to the church, he asked if I would wear a veil while we attended the Mass.
Newly married, all I could think of was, “Um, who are you, and what happened to that nice guy I married who would NEVER suggest what I wear?!”
Blinking back tears of frustration, hurt, and confusion, I agreed to wear the veil.
I quickly realized I was not the only woman there with a veil on. There weren’t many people in that small church that day, but the women that were there were all wearing a mantilla. I was still irritated about wearing the veil, yet I had no idea why.
It was after reading Colleen Hammond’s book, Dressing with Dignity, that I started thinking about femininity and modesty more seriously. Those thoughts led me to thinking about veiling at Mass.
WHY did women cover their heads for centuries in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament?
WHEN did this custom die out? And why?
After doing some research, I found the answers to my questions.
St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 11:4-10.
“Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered disgraceth his head. But every woman praying or prophesying with her head not covered, disgraceth her head: for it is all one as if she were shaven. For if a woman be not covered, let her be shorn. But if it be a shame to a woman to be shorn or made bald, let her cover her head. The man indeed ought not to cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man. For the man was not created for the woman, but the woman for the man. Therefore ought the woman to have a power over her head, because of the angels.”
I then started looking toward the best role model available: Mary. I have yet to see a picture or statue of her that does not show her covering her head. And what a great model for modesty, humility, and femininity!
And as my husband tried explaining to me: “If you saw a man walk into a church with a hat on, would you be shocked if he did not take his hat off?”
“Yes!” I said.
“Men take their hats off when they enter a church for the same reason that a woman COVERS her head when she enters a church–out of respect for the Blessed Sacrament.”
Why did the custom die out? Because modernism took a front seat in our society, and women suddenly decided that they just didn’t want/need to veil anymore at Mass.
That’s it. It wasn’t anything the Pope ever said. It was just because they didn’t want to. And it caught on. Forty to fifty years later, here we are. Most women don’t even know the history behind covering their heads in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. They don’t realize that women covering their heads was the norm for CENTURIES…until forty years ago.
I often think back to that day in the car when my husband asked me to wear a veil. I think about how irritated and offended I felt. I can’t help but wonder why. I didn’t even know why at the time!
But after much thought, research, and prayer, I finally realized why I wanted to veil: it was the custom for centuries within the Church, St. Paul talks of the importance of veiling in the new testament,and the main reason is out of respect for the Blessed Sacrament.
If Christ could allow Himself to be scourged, mocked, ridiculed, beaten, and crucified for ME, surely I can find the humility to cover my head in the presence of Him for love of Him.
When Delena isn’t reading up on veiling at Mass, she keeps busy making headcoverings for women in her ETSY shop, Regina Coeli Creations. She is the mother of three energetic children with another one due in June. She blogs about her adventures in motherhood at It’s On My To Do List.