Your thoughts on headcoverings? UPDATED

Head-covered woman, pretty in pink, shamelessly cribbed from this Evangelical site

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?

There is a lady who always covers her head at daily mass -I have referred to her here as “Babushka Lady” but I suspect she always has her head covered.

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.

I’m going to go with something similar to this – more netting, less lace and no sparklies.

No, that’s not a picture of me (my arms should be so thin). But this is in-line with what I’m thinking about; I can wear it more or less as a scarf and then just slip it over my head (but still scarf-y) before mass.

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?

If you don’t wish to leave a comment, take the poll:

Headcovering in Church, Your Thoughts?
No, It’s too fundamentalist
No, it’s not necessary
A personal choice; other opinions don’t matter
You’re gonna look dumb
Yes, Every woman should wear one free polls

Sometimes I wish I were Jewish because so many of these headcoverings are so nifty. I think some of those would actually be terrific, less-cumbersome headgear for our young sisters. Downright Marian, even.

This is gorgeous, but I’m way too much of a peasant to ever carry that off!


It seems a surprising number of women cover their heads while praying in the privacy of their homes or while reading scripture. Getting lots of emails from women who cover and the gorgeous shawls they use and make. Beautiful! Some are even…wait for it…RED!

How the experiment went

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Sarah

    To those ladies fearful of either standing out or receiving derision, fear not, take the plunge. I’ve been covering for the past eight years (cycling through a variety of styles until I’ve found something that works for me). The style I wear is very similar to the Victorian/vintage covering Jessica linked to on the Garlands of Grace website. Mine are small, edged lace bandanas that tie at the nape of the neck and stay put without the need for pins. Wearing something close to one’s own hair colouring will also soften the covering’s appearance. The first time is the hardest, and we are so often our own worst critics. For me, there is something very personal and special about this practice (I cover for church, prayer, personal and corporate, bible study and worship (likewise) plus when on campus at the Catholic university where I’m currently studying for a B.Theol..

    I also wear the ‘Catherine’ style wide headband coverings that are elasticized in the rear and don’t come off; these are also either in lace, or cotton knit in a variety of colours; bought from a ‘hippy stall’ that used to visit another campus I formerly studied at). The lady who shared the quote ‘its a tool, not a rule’ has hit the nail on the head. I am the only one in my church to do this (I’m Anglican) and do pray that others might also get the ‘nudge’, but wonder, if they did, whether I’d be charged with mutany!!!:-)

    More seriously, though, my Anglican congregation has been most charitable with only one lady asking questions (all the most commonly raised) which i was happily able to answer. As for ‘holier than thou’ syndrome, I’ve perceived none of this here, and, for me, it pulls me up, reminding me that apart from Christ, we’re all floundering, covered and uncovered alike.

    For me, there is something that inately draws me to the practice; I came to it long before having internet access or resources dealing with this question and finally let go of the cliff-face after some years of too’ing and fro’ing’.