Thursday, January 29, 2009

Chapel veils

So here's what's on my mind: chapel veils. We're still looking for a parish to settle at in Pittsburgh, although we're racking up hits to the TLM (Traditional Latin Mass). Most of women at the TLM veil, and every time I approach the church, I have a mini mental debate whether I should as well. I did borrow a veil once from the nice lady who has a box of them in the foyer every Sunday and spent the rest of Mass wondering if the lace doily on top of my head was going to fall off due to my lack of skill with bobby pins.

I haven't wanted to start wearing a veil in Mass without understanding the reasons to veil. Sure I've read 1 Corinthians 11 where St. Paul requires women to cover their heads, but no one else seems to be paying any attention to his words, so I've assumed there must be some scholarly interpretation of this passage that gets women out of following his instructions. According to my admittedly limited research, the answer to that seems to be...well, not so much.

I've come across a few interesting things that are compelling me to veil. One, veiling has nothing to do with men, but everything to do with God. Women are instructed to veil as a sign of respect to God when praying and when before the Eucharist. Two, veiling used to be required according to canon law, meaning that women could be reprimanded for refusing to veil. Canon law was rewritten in 1983 and did not mention veiling, but this did not negate the practice. It was probably not mentioned because it shouldn't have been in canon law in the first place, as wearing the veil is a voluntary act, one that you should want to do. Also, after Vatican II, the press mistakenly reported that women no longer 'had' to wear the veil and never corrected themselves; as a result, many women stopped wearing the veil under the influence of secular society.

For me the heart of the matter comes down to this- if I decide not to veil I think I would be doing so under the influence of misguided Catholics and secular culture, particularly feminists of the 60's-70's who had little respect or understanding for the Church, rather than under the influence of the Lord. I think I'd rather trust Saint Paul as being divinely inspired and take his instructions at face value. I'm Catholic largely because I decided to take Jesus' words 'this is my body, this is my blood' at face value. I don't feel at liberty to say 'oh that's not what Scripture really meant' if something is out of my comfort zone. I say this with the understanding that Scripture is not always easily understood, and some of it is not meant to be taken literally (some of the Bible is just poetry), but I don't think this applies here because the Church has a long standing, Biblically based tradition of encouraging women to cover their heads in worship.

I'm not entirely comfortable with veiling. It definitely goes against the grain of being a modern woman, or what I had thought it meant to be a Christian woman today. But at this point, I don't have a good reason not to veil. And now that I've written this post, I guess I have committed myself to joining the ranks of those women who cover their heads at Mass. Here goes!


Melanie B said...

Every time I read a post on veiling I have to pause and think it through again. My reactions are always so mixed. I've seen the arguments for and against and haven't been completely convinced by either. I find the practice beautiful and attractive and yet would be so terribly self conscious. I suspect if I were going to a mass where most women veiled, I might be tempted to join in. As it is I'd be the only one at our parish and I really don't feel a call to do so. I think the self consciousness I'd feel would be a major distraction for me as if I weren't distracted enough. At the same time, I'd rather welcome a more widespread return to veiling. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the subject.

jogger mom said...

I have the same reaction, I am second guessing myself constantly on this one. Logically it makes sense and seems like a tradition that should be honored, but when no one else is veiling, it all just seems a little silly. I wore a scarf on my head yesterday to a parish and I saw one older lady wearing a hat, that was it, and I was completely self conscious the whole time. I'm hoping that will diminish, it seems like it should. I got a little angry with myself -why should I care SO much what other people think?! And why should I do this if no one else is! I'm working on it...