Why one convert chooses not to veil in Mass.
Catholic/Protestant Issues, Catholicism, Conversion, Musings

The One Reason I Don’t Veil at Mass

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Veiling.

As a relative newcomer to the Church, I usually like to stay away from those lively, in-house hot buttons. I feel like a newly adopted kid giving her new family relationship advice – what do I know about it, anyway? I haven’t been part of the conversation that started so many years ago. Even for subjects that I do know some things about – like say feminism – the whole conversation has been reframed in a new and completely different context, and I just need to sit and listen for a while before I say a word.

But veiling.

I keep coming back to this one.

You see, as a Protestant, I practiced veiling – only, we called it “covering.”

Image result for desiree hausam headcovering
Summer, 2013

Same difference. Here’s a shot of my girls and I outside our old Presbyterian church (before we got banned – but that’s a different topic).

Sola Scriptura

We adopted this practice because of Sola Scriptura. Our personal interpretation of the Bible (informed by a variety of Bible teachers) was that women should veil in worship, and so we did. At times, a couple of other women in the congregation covered as well, but it was a minority position and tended to cause some in-house tension. At the end of my time there, I was the only woman who practiced it – along with being part of the only family who didn’t sing the hymns. Every Sunday felt like my own personal protest, staged against my brothers and sisters whom I dearly loved and desired unity with. But I could not deny what I saw in the Bible. Ultimately this path led to our complete breakage from our church home of 14 years.

By the time we later washed up on the shores of the Catholic Church, I was exhausted and heartbroken from the conflicts we had been through.  Week after week, I still faced the choice: continue to veil? Or set it aside?

Well, when I learned that the official position of the Church on veiling is that it is no longer Canon Law, and is an optional practice (want more meat? Try this one), I decided to lay my veil aside, for one reason only.

I don’t veil because 99% of the ladies in my parish also don’t veil. I’ve done my time as a Protestant; I protested until it broke my heart, for the sake of my interpretation of the Bible. That’s the fate of a Protestant who takes Sola Scriptura completely seriously. But I hung all that up when I chose to submit to the inspired guidance of the Magisterium of the Church.

The Priceless Unity of the Church

For those ladies that do veil, I have nothing but respect. It’s a beautiful, reverent devotion, and it is affirmed as valid by the Church. My heart warms to see the ladies who do it. We all come from different places, and are blessed by different devotions. I am often encouraged to see the same attitude from the veiling folks:

“Whether you join us in the devotion of wearing a chapel veil or not, we are your sisters. Let us truly be in communion. Let us pray for one another.” – Birgit Jones

But I am saddened and troubled when I occasionally encounter the attitude that it is irreverent not to veil – in Facebook threads, usually.

One thing I love about the Church is that she permits so many varied expressions of true spirituality without division. We have many different vocations, devotions, practices that are approved, and we have to accept one another under the shelter of Rome. Differences exactly like the question of veiling routinely sunder the Protestant world – yet Catholics hold together, because we all agree that the Church, not us, decides who is Biblical and reverent, and who isn’t.

The unity of faith and practice that the Catholic Church has is a priceless treasure. For a former Presbyterian, used to the endless shattering of denominations, it is simply a miracle. It IS a miracle, friends – the only reason we can all hold together is through the inspiration of the Spirit to the Magisterium of the Church.

Conclusion

So, for me, with my background and experiences, to veil in a parish setting where nearly no one else does disrupts my sense of finally belonging to a community with whom I have no quarrel. To lay it aside was an act of trust in the Church – a setting aside of my Sola Scriptura conviction in favor of submitting to the Church’s conclusion on the subject. I would don my veil again in a heartbeat if the Church asked me to, but until then, I go bareheaded in trust that this, too, is reverent.

Do you veil at Mass? Why or why not? Grab some coffee, let’s chat!

If you are thinking of starting to veil, remember that Ebates members get 5% cash back at The Catholic Company!

 

26 thoughts on “The One Reason I Don’t Veil at Mass”

  1. I enjoyed this piece.

    I do veil in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Namely because I have felt the call to veil for years – and, because Mary veiled. As the mother of God, she could have eschewed societal norms and not suffered any more than she already did. At least, that is what led me to veil.

    But, the longer I’ve been veiling, the more I believe my veil helps center me, and pull me back into the belief of the Real Presence. It doesn’t matter how little I’ve paid attention prior to the Consecration (because of small-child wrangling). Every time I am veiled, I approach the Eucharist centered, and I firmly believe it is because my veil helps give me the reminder that I am approaching Jesus, in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

    So, my veil is a personal witness – it’s between Christ and myself. I actually have never thought about someone who doesn’t veil being irreverent. Maybe because I know as a veiler, even my mind wanders, or my attention during Mass is pulled away to attend to matters of the small kids.

    1. I love your heart! In the Protestant circles I was in, I heard it said that when some veiled and some didn’t, each was passing judgment on the other – since the choice was based in one’s interpretation of what the Bible required, it was inevitable. It’s wonderful to see how well Catholics of different practice can lovingly co-exist. Not that we always manage it, but we know we can, anyway! 😉

  2. Lovely article on veiling and honoring God in that way that He is calling you. You’ve come on quite the journey of faith! It’s so good to hear different aspects of your faith journey. I’ve never quite been able to put into words why I veil but here’s a start. I grew up Catholic but never saw any woman wearing a veil until I was in college (besides Brides on their wedding day.) As I learned more about veiling/ wearing a head covering I felt like I’d discovered a great treasure of the faith and was saddened that it’s been somewhat lost over time and that I hadn’t even encountered it. I decided to veil ultimately out of love for Jesus (it’s just one of the many ways I can show Him love) and because the more I learned about it, the less excuses I could make to myself to not veil. When I first started I was consumed by worry, I really don’t like standing out so I started one Lent as more of a penance and haven’t stopped. It ultimately gives me great peace and helps me concentrate when I’m praying at Mass or at Adoration so I keep wearing it every time I’m in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Although, I never expected it other parishioners seem to appreciate it, some have said it reminds them of their mothers when they wore veils, it’s inspired other woman to start and some of the little girls in the parish have stopped to compliment my veil. I also occasionally go to another parish where my relatives attend and the majority of women there wear veils. It made more sense to me to commit to wearing it at whatever Catholic church I was going to versus just the one (also just a matter of simplicity, I don’t have to think every time I go to Mass whether I should wear my veil or not depending on the Parish and who else is veiling, which would just add unnecessary stress.)

    1. I don’t like standing out either – I think I had my fill of it, those last few Protestant years! 😉 However I do also feel encouraged when I see the occasional veil in Mass – like I feel encouraged when I see a sister there, or a monk in habit in the grocery store. There’s a feeling of encouragement that people care deeply about Jesus; we’re not alone! <3

  3. I just started to veil a few weeks back. It does give me a more reverent feeling to walk into church, and or Adoration Chapel where the true body of Christ is present. It is a humbling experience for me also. I’ve thought too much reverence has escaped the church in the past couple of generations.
    I’m old enough to remember all females veiling. Also when you did not chit chat in the church, and knelt at the communion rail to relieve the Eucharist.
    It seems once one and then another way of showing reverence got dropped, the down hill slide continued. It was outward signs to remember just how holy, what was present in the tabernacle and what took place at the altar were.
    As you, from the opposite side do not judge or look down on the majority who choose not to. I admit it would please me immensely if more reverence was practiced in the presence of the body, blood, soul and divinity our Lord. I don’t believe the change has been for the good of our church.
    BTW! I entered the Church as the youngest child of a family of 7 when I was going into 3rd grade. My parents and us 5 children all joined on Eastern Sunday. Veiling was just starting to dissappear but I remember wearing a little doily looking thing at least at first.
    I’m so glad you and your family have found your way to the One Holy and apostolic Catholic Church. Blessings to you all!

    1. Thank you! 🙂 I had a son that age when we were received. I’ve often fretted over how the change will affect them – especially the ones who were older at the time – and also about raising them Catholic when we are still figuring out Catholic life ourselves. That’s one reason we chose to put them in Catholic school this year instead of homeschooling. It’s encouraging to hear from a child of converts! Blessings-

  4. I am also a convert from Protestantism. I became a Catholic officially a few months ago. As for veiling, it is something I would like to do, and I definitely feel called to do it but have not started veiling yet.

  5. I’ve been on the fence about it. The church my family went to when I was a teen was traditional Latin mass so I veiled back then as most did, but I was never good at getting it to stay centered on my head and it distracted me. When I go visit I try to remember to bring veils for me and our 4 girls as they love wearing veils, accept our 2 yr old who keeps pulling off hers, mine and her sisters. So it feels like more of a distraction. At all the churches we’ve attended its been very rare to see veils and I don’t like standing out more than our large family sitting up front already does. I’ll probably revisit it when we don’t have babies or toddlers. I think they are pretty and love seeing other women and especially little girls wearing them so nicely unlike mine! 😉

    1. Haha, I can so relate! When we covered in out Protestant days, my friend wore a lovely large, long veil, draped artfully. With toddlers and babies! I had a teeny one with special no-slip ribbon that I knotted so tight it would leave a dent in my hair, and my babies still pulled it off!

  6. Desiree-
    You put in to words EXACTLY why I don’t veil. I submit FULLY to the Church and I will do what the Church tells me to do. I’ve read and researched a lot on this topic, but I come back to what the Church teaches every time. I’m already the weirdo enough in our tiny parish, and I don’t want to separate myself even more from my sisters in Christ.
    I respect the devotion, but I think I would find the veil a distraction to wear. I find them a distraction on others. There is something jarring about those old fashioned lace veils amidst our modern dress.
    I try in other ways to show reverence for the Eucharist: genuflecting before receiving, receiving in the mouth (when I can), and bowing to the Tabernacle every time I enter a Catholic Church. I also find it slightly amusing that many of the “veilers” I know have children who are very rude and distracting during Mass. I think teaching our little ones how to behave around the Eucharist should be foremost.

    I’ll be sharing this on my blog if you don’t mind!

    1. Great reasoning and love your words Elizabeth. JUST ONE WORD – only in your land is this strange word used ‘ veiling’ – nowhere else in the Church. Just so you know.

    2. I was very resistant to the idea of veiling because of how I was treated by several women who do veil…and I hear you on the rude children, but ultimately it was also part of why I decided to veil…I didn’t want a beautiful tradition of veiling to be held hostage by these few unfriendly women…so now I veil and try to be as gracious and welcoming to everyone…

  7. I think veiling is like using a rosary pr any other sacramental.
    It is a way to show reverence to God, yes, but it is also a way for some people to remind themselves that Christ is present spiritually, physically, and divinely, and that HE os the focus of the Mass.
    It is a way to turn attention to him and awau from the self.
    It is a prayer, that I might focus on God during the Mass and forget myself.
    Sometimes it works, and it always helps.

    I usually take my 2 1/2 year old to the nursery where the mass is piped, since she is a little disruptive. I do not wear a veil in the nursery.

    During communion, I put a veil on myself and her (she loves it☺), and go join the rest of the parishioner for communion. Genuflect and recieve on tongue when I take her. Stay for as long as she will let me hold her before dismissal (long in our church, with all the announcements).

    This way she gets exposed to best of Mass, reverence of the Mass, etc, without bothering people.

    1. I like thinking of it as a sacramental. Protestants don’t have sacramentals – I really love the variety of optional devotions that are so rich and beautiful, and reflect what a spectacular variety of people/personalities that all come together in one Body. 😊

  8. Hi! I just started veiling about two months ago. I loved this post and I think you are spot on! One of the things that really drew me to the devotion was the fact that it IS voluntary. If it was cumpulsory, I would have balked quite a bit, I think. Mercifully, at the two parishes I usually attend, it’s not unusual to see women both veiled and unveiled. My rule of thumb so far is if I am going to be more of a distraction, I won’t veil. If the whole purpose is to give glory to God, and I cause people to not focus on God…. Then what exactly am I doing? Idk, I’m new to the practice and maybe my views will change. But I very much appreciate reading non-dismissive takes like yours on not veiling. Thanks for writing this!

  9. As a convert from a conservative Presbyterian denomination, I was initially very drawn to veiling and practiced it occasionally at mass. However, I gave it up for similar reasons as you described. I wanted to just be an ordinary member of my parish community and I didn’t feel comfortable doing something that set me apart so visibly from the other women. God bless you & your family!

    1. Hello to a fellow former conservative Presbyterian! 🙂 I’m curious which denomination you were in if you don’t mine me asking? We were OPC, and tried (and failed) to join the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

      Thanks for visiting!

  10. This is SUCH an interesting perspective to me! I’m a cradle Catholic (early 20’s), and honestly don’t ever recall hearing of veiling within Protestant denominations. So that’s very interesting to read about! I do not veil, but have one, and have considered it for years. I think it’s so beautiful as a reminder of the reverence due to God in the Real Presence, and our role as women and as sacred vessels. But like many other women, I do not want to stick out, or for people to get a holier-than-thou vibe from me. I honestly find it really sad that that seems to be the main reason many women don’t do something they’re drawn to. The arguments about veiling can get totally ridiculous. And it’s true that how it went out of fashion wasn’t 100% legit – some people protested in the 60’s after Vatican II and only later was it officially recognized as not the norm. But anyway, the Church recognizes it’s not the norm, and I absolutely don’t think women without veils are less reverent. I do love seeing it coming back a bit, and see a trend within many young Catholic circles to return to our roots and older traditions. And since it’s totally valid, I love that! But I’m still not one of them – maybe someday. Thanks for sharing your perspective! Veiling conversations really intrigue me.

  11. Interesting perspective, the same I had for a long while! For me, it works the other way around though. No one veils in my parish, I feel deeply drawn to it. The fear keeps from it, the fear of being shunned for it, the fear of being mocked, the fear of being seen as stupid, etc. I’ve received two wonderful advice about this, one was someone who told me to wear the veil and offer that little suffering to God and Mary, the other was someone who pointed out me that a lot of women feel the same way I do, probably there are others in the same parish who don’t wear it because of the same fear, sometimes it takes only one person!
    I’ve also been thinking of the fact that most people in my parish also don’t go to Mass every Sunday, so why am I always thinking about their level of devotion? If I used the same reasoning for Mass as I use for the veil, I would rarely go!
    Also from my research I’ve found that Canon Law has never rejected veiling nor put it as optional, the newer revision simply eliminated all references to it, due to the high pressures being felt in the Church by certain groups. This makes even more uneasy and confused about the topic. Anyway sorry for the rambling.
    I’m happy you’ve found the one true Church!

    1. I can see where you are coming from. I would definitely say that if you are drawn to veil, not doing it out of fear is needless, and it’s true that attempting to match one’s level of devotion to those around us is misguided.

      But, it’s important to remember that veiling isn’t really a level of devotion matter (or at least, most people don’t think of it as such) in the same way that attending Sunday Mass is, and so it’s not so much that for me as it is an expression of unity with the local parish.

      It’s my understanding that Canon 6 of the current Code of Canon law specifically abrogates any laws that are not reissued in the new code, which is why veils aren’t obligatory at this time.

      Anyway. Thank you for your thoughts! 🙂

  12. The link that led me here made me think I’d disagree with you, but your reasoning is so, so right. To be a Protestant, to then convert to Catholicism, leaves wounds and scars. These heal and fade with time, but unity with our Church is a true balm. I am a former Baptist and there are occasional Evangelical ways of talking or playing music that I run across in Catholic circles that bring all the pain and frustration back.

    I started wearing a head covering to Mass 5 years ago. I was convicted by the Eucharist — how can I outwardly show what I inwardly believe. I opted for veiling, because it is a time-honoured tradition throughout the world that women in holy spaces will cover their heads. There were some moments of soul searching — my paternal side is Plymouth Brethren, although most have left, and the head coverings used by my Grossmutter were viewed by many of her children as a sign of repression and subjugation, not of devotion or piety. I am not so sure that my aunts are wrong in their views of this particular situation! To adopt the outward form but with a completely different meaning was difficult. Personally, it was a matter of spiritual growth in devotion to the Eucharist and my Catholic faith, but by that time I had been a convert for 10 years. It is a very long process of healing and strengthening!

    God bless you on your journey.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I can totally see how, over time and healing, it might not be so jarring to adopt a practice like veiling.

      I think in some Protestant circles, your aunts are completely right. I never thought of it that way, but my thoughts on feminism have evolved a bit since becoming Catholic. It’s hard not to be a little bit feminist with saints like Joan of Arc to look up to! Not to mention Mary, Queen of Heaven. 🙂

      Glad you stopped by. I love hearing from converts who have been home longer than I. Come round anytime. 🙂

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