Chapel Veils and the End of Choice

Chapel Veils and the End of Choice January 22, 2016

It’s the day of prayer and penance for the unborn, and not only am I not marching, I’m not even out teaching — home with a cold and watching a child with a cold, while other people carry on doing responsible things.  As a result, I’ve tweeted a fair number of abortion-themed posts from this morning’s reading, but this bit from a Fr. Z. reader about chapel veils sums it all up better than anything.

The reader, a Catholic high school student (female), writes to Fr. Z. asking advice about whether it’s prudent to wear her recently-acquired chapel veil to school Masses.  She worries:

Also, my friend recently started wearing a veil, a small black one that isn’t very noticeable, and one of the teachers of whom I have a deathly fear was glaring at her! I’m terrified to wear my veil, which is long and white and very noticeable, because of what both my classmates and my teachers will say and think of me.

Father Z. writes back with several observations, including:

You should discuss this with your parents and make sure that they will back your choice.

. . . I don’t know enough about your exact circumstances to make a call on this, but, if your veil is “very noticeable” I’d think three times about it.  You might be accused of only wanting to draw attention to yourself.  You might find several more girls who would like to use the veil and then you can all give support to your friend together.  Also, perhaps you (and they) might find veils similar to your friend’s veil, a bit more discreet.

This is important: you must be very well versed in explaining why you want to use the chapel veil.  It isn’t a fashion accessory.  Be sure that it isn’t “about you”.

This is a real conversation that is actually happening.

Note that the topic isn’t the school dress code.

The topic is that we have come to a place as a Church where people are totally, completely, off-the-wall foaming at the mouth over the question of hats.   Yes, friends: Hats.  Women have been wearing stuff on their heads since time immemorial, and we the Catholic Church of the 21st century just can’t cope.

As Christians we might be probing our hearts about the deeper meaning of the way we spend our money, our choice of hobbies, or how well we serve the poor.  But what everyone really wants to know is: What does her hat mean?!!

Heaven forbid your hat mean something other than one of the Approved Meanings of Hats.

(I wore a hat this morning when I dropped off the kids — black wool, vaguely cowboy-esque.  Someone thought it meant I supported Ted Cruz.  What it actually meant is: It’s raining outside, I have a cold, and I’d like my head to stay warm and dry, but if I pull up the hood on my raincoat, I can’t hear as well.  Plus I like the hat better.)

So this is our world.  It’s a world where your physician might drop you from his practice if you dare carry your baby to term without his approval.   It’s the world where my own parents’ “friends” expressed shock and dismay that my parents weren’t planning to arrange for their grandson, my beautiful, creative, smart, bold, kind, fascinating and all-around wonderful nephew, to be conveniently dead before anyone noticed he’d been conceived.*

And in this death-infatuated world, we Catholic pro-lifers talk all about courage and freedom and doing the right thing, and then we go home and get our pants in a wad over a teenage girl’s choice of hat?

No wonder the girl in the crisis pregnancy has no courage.  No wonder she feels she has to do what her parents and boyfriend are pressuring her to do.  Catholics talk about bravery, but what we really value at home is shut up and don’t make waves.

Reader, wear the hat.  The veil.  The fun shoes.   The frumpy jumper.  The colorful pantsuit. Wear it all.  Offer up the disapproving shudder of Sister Getalong and the sneers of Father Micromanager for those who have to endure disapproval on much greater grounds.

When people question why you would dare be so shockingly “immodest” as to draw attention to yourself in some manner entirely chaste and decent, but not yet approved by the fashion wardens, you can explain to them it’s all about women’s rights.  Women, unlike men, don’t have to be ordained in order to dress funny at Mass.  We get to do it just because.

Be brave in the small things, and one day you’ll be brave in the big things, too.



File:Tea party With Hats.jpg

Photo by Kat Sommers (Flickr: Tea party) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons  If you search Wikimedia for “Baby with Hat” you get all kinds of interesting results.  But this one sums up the inner lives of church people, I’m pretty sure.


*Same world where some years earlier my mother’s physician urged my mother to abort my same nephew’s then-unborn mother, my sister, because she’d been conceived several months in advance of the time when my parents had been planning to start actively trying to conceive again.  The nerve of some people!  Having children and being grateful for them!  How dare they!

It turns out ignoring bad medical advice makes the world far more beautiful.

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