Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Head Coverings at Catholic Mass

I'll begin by saying that women are not required to cover their heads at Catholic Mass. This was once required, but no longer after the Second Vatican Council, although there are web sites that will tell you differently. Read Jimmy Akin's post on the matter if you would like clarification. He has links and everything.

Woman with head scarf

I read a whole mess of comments about it on his Facebook (that link's his wall, not the discussion itself) and under the post itself and it got my mind chugging away.

Loads of commenters said many people look at women who cover their heads at Mass and think, "She thinks she's bet than everyone else." To clarify, the commenters didn't feel that way. They thought others felt that way.

I don't know how they knew that--maybe from the looks people give them. Of course a look can be misread. Maybe the onlooker was thinking, "How old fashioned and quaint," or "Weirdo," or "Where can I get one of those?" (b.t.w. you can buy lace mantillas, scarves, and chapel veils at your local Catholic shop and online.)

Clara Schumann

Okay, I'll go along with it and assume they were thinking, "She believes she's better than the rest of us." But I'm surprised by that reaction. I've covered my head since I returned to the Church, but it's because I've had a clipper ship sized load of things to be humble about. I led my life in a eh-hem** let's just say, less than holy manner... and God called me back to Him. Cover my head? Yeah. I felt... still feel like... I want to lay down on my face with my arms outstretched in front of the Tabernacle. I simply feel so gloriously honored to be invited back to Him.

We veil the Tabernacle itself, right? God gives a special honor to women- making them sharers in His life-giving ability. Look at Mary, God's chosen mother to his Son. Is she not a Tabernacle too? But for a long time I forgot all of that and He reached out to me anyway. What a little thing to veil my hair when I meet him as he humbles himself by giving himself to me in the flesh--the Eucharist.

I wish I were a poet and maybe I could get my meaning across.

woman in mantilla

No. The lady with her head covered in the next pew probably doesn't feel holier than you. Well, maybe she does (I can't say for sure), but maybe she doesn't. She might be grateful that while she was away from the Church all those people sitting around her kept the Church together. You won't know unless you talk to her.

I'm reminded of that Procol Harum song, "Quite Rightly So."
"For you whose eyes were opened wide, whilst mine refused to see..."

white mantilla

Oh, but we were talking about veiling at Mass. It's not required. I'm not even trying to convince anybody that they should do so. I wear unobtrusive regular looking scarves so nobody will notice I'm veiling for religious reasons and I don't want to distract the other parishioners. My daughters don't veil and I don't try to sway them.

It's something I feel deep within me to do for Jesus, so I do it. I think about the logic after the fact, which is odd for me because I'm by nature analytical. I'm just saying, you don't have to, but you can. And you need not be distracted by those who do because they're just muddling along like anybody else--maybe muddling more so. :)

Saint Veronica with Veil
*Links to images embedded in picture captions. Not all women pictured in the post are Catholic, but they were chosen for their lovely head coverings.


  1. When I went to a Christian Reformed school for 7th grade, my teacher put a lace handkerchief on her head whenever she led the class in prayer. She never said why she did it. We kids took turns saying grace at lunch, and she never encouraged the girls to cover, and none ever did.

    I cover my head with a black lace veil at Latin mass (even though that is NOT required) and generally prefer to cover at other Masses--- sometimes my cover is just a knit cap (never my blaze orange huntin' season cap--- so far).

    If people think I cover because I'm better than they are, that's OK. I'm also fine with them thinking I come from the planet Gallifrey, which is equally accurate.

    1. Lol--thanks for a little humor along with your humility :)

  2. But Nissa, I always thought you were from the planet Traken! ;)

    LOL What, no orange hunting cap at Mass? So, I shouldn't wear my kitty ears either, huh?

  3. Loved your post! How judgmental people can be. I don't think anyone can know what's in another's heart, at least just by looking at the person.

  4. I miss covering my head!! When I was little most of the women did it and I loved it! that was the only reason why i wanted to go to mass, and I wish my daughteres had that experience as well.

  5. I've never had that experience. Nobody at our parish covered their heads when I was a little girl, except maybe once in a great while I'd see an old woman with a mantilla and of course the nuns. I loved my First Communion veil. I wanted to wear it all the time.
    Now not even all the nuns wear habits or cover their heads. Too bad, because when we do see nuns in their habits, they're such beautiful witnesses for the girls.

    1. When I see a sister in her habit, I thank her for wearing it!

  6. I agree! In Latin America they still do it. Not as much, but it is normal to see a good handful of women wearing their mantillas.

  7. I wear an expandable headband all the time now, not just at Mass. I am certainly no better than others for doing it but it is my thank you to the Lord for answered prayer. I think so many women are missing out on a lovely blessing when they do not cover for prayer. And if we are to "pray without ceasing" does it not make sense to cover full time?