On December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, many young Catholic women across America will be wearing a veil to Mass.
I grew up in the pre-Vatican II days when chapel veils or mantillas were de rigueur. All women wore hats or veils to Mass as a sign of reverence. In grade school I wore a round white chapel veil, pinned to my pony tail with a hairpin. Later, Jackie Kennedy popularized the Spanish mantilla; and older girls favored the elegant lace headcovering that dropped to the shoulders, most likely in black. The girl who forgot her chapel veil wore a Kleenex bobby-pinned to her hair.
But after Vatican II, the world got away from the rigors of the Tridentine Mass. The liturgy was offered in the vernacular, and the rules requiring headwear for women were relaxed. Catholic Answers offers a historical perspective:
Throughout history it has been common for women to wear head coverings. This is something that has precedent in St. Paul’s epistles (see 1 Cor. 11:2-16).
It was mandated in the 1917 Code of Canon Law. Canon 1262 states:
1. It is desirable that, consistent with ancient discipline, women be separated from men in church.
2. Men, in a church or outside a church, while they are assisting at sacred rites, shall be bare-headed, unless the approved mores of the people or peculiar circumstances of things determine otherwise; women, however, shall have a covered head and be modestly dressed, especially when they approach the table of the Lord.
This is something that fell gradually into disuse.
In the 1970s there was a judgment issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in a document titled Inter Insigniores that basically stated that since chapel veils were not a matter of faith, it was no longer mandatory for women to wear them. In paragraph 4 it states:
It must be noted that these ordinances, probably inspired by the customs of the period, concern scarcely more than disciplinary practices of minor importance, such as the obligation imposed upon women to wear a veil on their head (1 Cor. 11:2-16); such requirements no longer have a normative value.
In the years since Vatican II, the chapel veil has rarely been seen, except at Masses in the Tridentine rite; but a new movement–especially among younger women who probably don’t remember their mothers’ wearing veils on Sunday morning–has renewed interest in veiling.
“Wear the Veil” Day began a few years ago when two women from Charlotte, North Carolina started an apostolate called “Our Lady of the Veil.” Their purpose was to encourage women to take up the veil once again and promote the true Christian virtues of obedience, humility, and modesty. Andrea Hines and Tina Witt, the founders of “Wear the Veil” Day, thought that the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception would be a great time for women who had been considering it to start wearing a veil.
For 2000 years, Catholic women have worn some kind of head covering in Church. Though the particular reasons for doing so have varied (for example, modesty, submission to God, etc.), this practice has always focused on the transcendence of the place – the church, the very dwelling of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Having been given this magnficent Gift by Jesus himself, every Catholic church holds something not found anywhere else: the true, living presence of our Savior, hidden under the appearance of bread and wine.
Today, wearing a veil – any kind of covering – is a symbolic gesture that points to the amazing reality of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. As women, we are symbols of the Church – the Bride of Christ – and “the veil is meant to be a visible reminder of the perfect submission of the Church to the loving rule of Christ.”
On December 8, join a global movement to encourage devotion to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, present in every Catholic church. Encourage your friends to join you – you won’t be the only one! – and wear the veil anytime you are in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, whether present inside a Catholic church for Mass or simply passing through momentarily.
With any kind of veil, and with the proper interior disposition. Similar to a religious habit, your veil is a public proclamation of your desire to submit to the will of God for your life, and of your commitment to answering the universal call to holiness and continual conversion. Your veil is also a sign of the great dignity inherent to a woman, who has the potential to receive life within herself… both human life and the supernatural life of God.
What about “other people”?
It is natural to be concerned about what other people think. Sure, some may think the veil is an outdated practice with no meaning in today’s culture while others may judge us as trying to be holier-than-thou. Love, however, seeks to ornament Love with beauty and to worship in humility. An act of devotion like veiling does both, while drawing to the fore our love of God above all else.
But the Church doesn’t require it
Just as the Church does not mandate that every person pray the Rosary, neither does she mandate that every woman wear a veil. This does not mean, however, that either is not a worthy devotion. On the contrary, these devotions are pleasing to God when done out of love for Him.
Where do I start?
Although any type of head covering is suitable, most women choose lace veils. You may browse all Veils by Lily here. For this campaign, we have designed a beautiful lace mantilla – our most affordable yet. See the Starter Veil.