Cleansing Fire

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The Chapel Veil – Why Women Wore It, Why More Should

February 24th, 2010, Promulgated by Gen

It seems that there is almost nothing as telling of orthodoxy in a parish than walking into the church and counting the number of covered heads. Walking into St. Stanislaus, I would guess that upwards of 50-60% of the women wear mantillas, or “chapel veils.” Walking into Our Lady of Victory, I would guess that maybe 10-15% of the women wear them. Walking into Good Shepherd, I would guess that 90-95% of the women haven’t even heard of them. Why did this custom die out? Where did it come from?

Let’s start with this newspaper clipping from 1969, the year of the implementation of the Second Vatican Council. Looking right, you will see that the Vatican did not wish to do away with this tradition, saying “It began as a custom in the time of St. Paul, and was later incorporated into Canon Law.” Of course, just like the majority of Canon Law, “experts” interpret and edit and tweak the various decrees to make them say things that they don’t really say. Now, granted, wearing a chapel veil is not a definitive sign of orthodoxy, nor is it absolutely mandatory by any stretch of the imagination. If it were, most Catholic women would be condemned to the flames of Hell. My own mother didn’t wear one, and she was by no means a lukewarm Catholic.

The chapel veil began to fall out of style throughout the 60’s and 70’s, finally dying (for the most part) after the new Code of Canon Law was published in 1983, in which the chapel veil was not mentioned by the writers. Naturally, this had a tremendous amount to do with the feminist movement which is dying almost as quickly (and with more finality) than the chapel veil did in the 70’s. Women were told that wearing the veil was “old fashioned,” “backward-facing,” “inappropriate for a liberated woman.” Well, that may be the “divine truth” of feminism, but the Divine Truth of the scriptures point in a very different direction. I quote:

1st Corinthians 11:2-16
I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you…

…Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head…

…For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. (For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.) That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head, because of the angels….

…Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.

Many feminists point to St. Paul, and other New Testament writers, and shriek “you’re a chauvinist pig.” Did he not say the following: Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.  St. Paul is affirming the wondrous reality that woman did, in truth, come from man, but now, for all ages to come, man comes from woman. What divine recompense for the feminazis in our midst.

St. Paul is also saying that a woman’s head covering gives honor. He goes so far as to relate wearing a veil to the dominion of “the angels.” It’s a special mark that sets women apart from men, not holding them down and subjugating them for the sake of the glory of men, but rather, holding them up as being something wholly unique and separate from man. Woman is a unique creature in the eyes of God, different from man. For this reason, St. Paul tells us that men should do certain things and that women should do certain things. Wearing a veil, at that time, was one of the things respectable women did.

Of course, the necessity has diminished somewhat – the people for whom St. Paul wrote were of a vastly different culture than our own. I’d love to hear what he’d think of some of our more flamboyant celebrities. However, wearing a veil is something which is very special. It’s not a sign of being dominated by an all-male society, nor is it a superstitious custom which hearkened back to the days when Catholics believed in alchemy and other insane chicanery. To wear the veil, and to wear it for the right reasons, is to say, “I’m a woman, and I’m proud to be one. I love God, and I am humble before him.” The whole premise behind a habit is similar – it sets religious women apart from the world, neither exalting or subjugating them, bearing witness to their love of God and their obedience to the Church.

So, although the Church does not officially mandate the mantilla/chapel veil, in my opinion, it’s a beautiful testimony to a woman’s love for her Creator. The Church has never denounced the veil, nor has it told the faithful to look elsewhere for sacramental signs. It just “fell out of style.” I would encourage you, if you are a woman and feel comfortable with the prospect, to try out the veil – wear it to Mass some Sunday. If anyone reading this already does this, please leave a comment. I’d like to hear your opinions on the matter. 

For more information on the matter, kindly go to the Catholic Knight.

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9 Responses to “The Chapel Veil – Why Women Wore It, Why More Should”

  1. avatar Scott/Mary says:

    A number of years ago, maybe6-7, the Homiletic and Pastoral Review had a wonderful story about the mantilla. It inspired me to start wearing it and I still do today. Things that are sacred are veiled. Our Lord in the tabernacle is veiled. I'm in good company.

  2. avatar Gen says:

    That's the quote of the month: "Things that are sacred are veiled. Our Lord in the tabernacle is veiled. I'm in good company."

    A perpetual nod of the miter to you!

  3. avatar Anonymous says:

    Beautiful post.

  4. avatar Sister Emily says:

    At St. Stan. I have noticed some wear black veils and some white. Is there a reason for that? Where in Rochester do they sell them?

  5. avatar Scott/Mary says:

    Sister Emily,
    There is a young women who attends Latin Mass who makes them, and you can also purchase them at St. John's Catholic shop in Spencerport. The color doesn't make a difference. (That was according to the article I referred to). Thanks for the nod Gen. Thank you and Dr. K and Choir for this beautiful site! When folks get down and discouraged about the abuse in our diocese, they have a place to go *music starts* where everybody knows your name and we're always glad we came!

  6. Sister Emily – I think they sell mantillas at the book table in the back. But if not, I can introduce you to the young woman who makes them, like Mary referenced above. Cheers!!!

  7. avatar Anonymous says:

    Online you can purchase chapel veils and mantillas from Halo Works:
    http://www.halo-works.com/

    Pilgrim

  8. avatar Lily says:

    Hi, I just stumbled upon this post, which I’m very grateful for! I’ll definitely be linking to it. I sell chapel veils as well, at Veils by Lily, and I’ve been reading up on the different explanations as to why women should veil. It seems to me that the only reason people nowadays claim that “Paul’s counsel on the veiling of women was inspired by the customs of the day” is that women simply stopped wearing it. But before women stopped veiling around 40 years ago, the veil had always been worn… correct? So how can some people say St. Paul’s call for women to veil was for that time and that culture if women had always veiled until 40 years ago, when the National Organization for Women saw to it that women stopped?

  9. avatar Sara says:

    I bought a mantilla this afternoon and am looking forward to wearing it to masses. I have been continually praying for humility and felt that the Lord was calling me to humble myself before Him by wearing the veil. In humbling ourselves we shall be exulted.


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