Taking a break from the writing, (which is not going well, because it’s the first stirrings of Autumn, here in NY and I want to be outside!) I figured I’ll talk about something that’s been in my head for a while, and that is the question of whether I should cover it, while at prayer, and especially at Mass.
Cover my head, I mean.
I started wondering about this last winter, when I would go to Adoration and find myself getting a bit chilled in the stillness, and so I would put my jacket hood (or my scarf) over my head for a bit of warmth.
Covering the head certainly helped with the chill, but it also helped with the prayer. The scarf or hood would cut off a bit of my peripheral vision, so my focus was more intent upon the monstrance and His Majesty, Present. I was less distracted by the comings and goings of others, and I found this to be a good thing. Also, the very act of placing the scarf/hood over my head with purposefulness seemed to, I don’t know, just put me into a more mindful state. “I am covering my head because I am going to pray. That is not the same as doing the dishes, and this act of lifting the scarf over my head signifies same.”
Okay, sometimes doing the dishes can be an act of prayer, too, but you know what I mean. There was a line of demarcation being drawn, interiorly and exteriorly, and I found that to be a good and helpful thing, too.
Because I did, I thought for Lent I might experiment with wearing some sort of headcovering while at mass, but I did so with a sense of fear and trepidation. I hate being conspicuous, and I know that frequently the women who wear headcoverings are looked at as a little suspect, i.e., that’s fine for the Tridentine Rite, dear, or if you’re attending mass on EWTN, but we put those lacy things away forty years ago and haven’t looked back. What are you a fanatical mystic wannabee?
Of course, one can wear a hat in church but who has hats anymore? I have one vintage thing from the 1930’s that I wear, but it’s a bit dressy, you know?
Nevertheless I found an old-fashioned lace headcovering and tried it. The experiment was not a success. My husband rolled his eyes and said, “oh, why?” The Indian and Nigerian priests seemed unfazed by it, but the American priests also rolled their eyes, looking very much like they were thinking, “oh, why?”
I felt very self-conscious, and hated that, but I also found the thing to be annoying. It slipped around and distracted me and in short order I was saying “enough,” of that. No headcoverings for Lizzie. “Ixnay on the ale-vays,” said I.
But during my retreat, in long hours alone before the Blessed Sacrament, I often wished I had a light scarf or shawl I could use to cover my head. It just seemed . . . appropriate, somehow. My clothes are all unimpressive; half of them are rags because I hate to shop, but the feeling would nag that if my clothes were less than glamorous, my head should at least be covered before the King.
I know all the scripture arguing for headcovering, and I’ve always snorted about it; another time, another place. And there is, as well-addressed here, no moral or canonical obligation to cover the head.
This has nothing to do with scripture and everything to do with interior nagging.
So, I’m going to try it again, but not with the classic black-lace-triangular covering that is the bane of so many in the church, (or with the kooky round “dinner plate” headcovering that I’d hated as a kid). Since a scarf felt natural to simply wear around my neck and bring up to my head while in church, I’m thinking that is the way to go. But I don’t want to look like a Babushka Lady, with a bright floral thing, and I also don’t want it to be heavy.
Your thoughts? Especially you, ladies? A non-issue, a stupid thing, a thing worth-trying again? You see what a writer will do to keep from writing?