Why are You Wearing That?

Why are You Wearing That? March 22, 2018

I’ve started wearing a scarf on my head in church.

It’s not because “it’s traditional.” I’m at the liturgy; I’m praying to Christ and receiving Holy Communion. I’m already participating in a rich and glorious tradition. The scarf is optional.

It’s not because my hair is a stumbling block for my brother. My hair really isn’t all that attractive, and even if it were, I think men need to have more self-control than that.

It’s not because “women are sacred and everything sacred is veiled.” That’s an adage that drives me crazy. It doesn’t even make sense. Icons are sacred, and you sometimes carry them around in a special towel, but it would be pointless if you covered them with a veil all day. Relics are sacred but they’re kept in a glass case for people to see. The Holy Eucharist is the most sacred thing there is, and the Holy Eucharist is sometimes veiled; sometimes exposed in the monstrance; and sometimes held up completely naked for the whole congregation to behold, then broken and eaten. If the Eucharist doesn’t need a veil at every moment to demonstrate its sacredness, then neither do I.

I’ve been wearing a scarf on my head in church lately, because it helps me mentally prepare for church if I put on special, nicer clothes and the scarf is part of my outfit. It helps me remember that Someone’s looking down at me when my head is covered.  Tying the scarf around my head tightly feels comforting like a pressure blanket, and that’s nice for someone as prone to anxiety as I am. And having a pretty, fancy scarf on my head is something I use to remind myself that I’m a child of God, a bride of Christ and a princess in His eyes instead of a mess He created on an off day. I tie or braid the scarf like a tichel and tell myself it’s my princess crown.

If you’re a different religion than I am, perhaps your headcovering has a deeper religious meaning for you, and that’s a different matter. But for me as a Catholic, wearing a scarf when I go into church is an optional devotion, and those are the reasons I’ve been doing it.

Now, maybe you’ve never struggled with self-esteem and feeling like you shouldn’t be in church the way I have. Maybe you’re already good and regal and don’t need to be reminded you’re a child of God. Maybe you find that wearing a headcovering distracts you from prayer because you’re constantly checking to see if it’s on straight. Maybe you find that the headcovering tempts you to pride because you’re the only one in the church dressed in a way that looks “traditional.” Perhaps it’s turned into a scrupulosity issue for you– perhaps you forget your scarf one day and feel like you shouldnt’t go into church. Or perhaps you’ve been abused in a more traditionalist setting and the veil just triggers horrible memories for you. In that case, I’d advise you not to cover your hair. It’s not doing anything for you and it’s making things worse. You are the one God likes to see in Church, not your clothes.

I think, in discussions about clothing, we sometimes lose our focus. There is no such thing as good or bad clothing– clothing is incapable of virtue and always morally neutral. Clothing is good insofar as it helps people achieve a desired purpose, whether that purpose is modesty, swimming, ballroom dancing, flattering a certain figure or just making the wearer feel cozy. Usually, a “good” article of clothing serves several purposes at once. The purpose of my scarf is to help me pray, to make me comfortable, and to help my self-esteem. It serves that purpose.

I think it’s always daunting to find that you have a choice. It’s easier, in a way, if your task is set out for you in black and white, and some things are– some things are not optional, especially if you’re Catholic. But there’s also so much room for choice, and then we have to think. We have to consider what we believe will help in our spiritual journey, and make a decision. We have to go to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, but which Mass do we go to– the vigil, the early morning or the afternoon? The one we would like to, if we have a choice. We have to go to confession every so often, but is it better to go face-to-face or behind the screen? It’s better to go to the one you prefer. We ought to pray without ceasing, but what should we pray? Figure out what brings you closer to God. The Rosary is a beautiful devotion, but some might prefer to pray the Small Paraklesis and some people pray other things. Unless you’re in a convent under obedience to a superior, you’ll have to decide for yourself.

Right now, part of my devotion is covering my head in church.

If someone tells you a veil is required at a Catholic Mass, or somehow better for every woman than going bareheaded, they’re simply wrong. But I like them, for me, and this is why. Do what works for you.

(image via Pixabay) 




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