So, I’ve been covering my head at Mass since 2 April. I had intended to cover my head only when attending Mass in the Extraordinary Form, but before too long, I started feeling “naked” without my veil on! So I’ve been wearing it pretty much at every Mass. And actually, I’ve been wearing whenever I am in the church, be it for Confession or solitary prayer and meditation or something like that. I’m not sure if that is the proper protocol, but it seems like the right thing to do.
Wearing the veil has influenced me very positively. Having the veil on in church, bracketed by the acts of putting it on when I enter the church and removing it when I exit the church, has heightened my awareness of where I am, why I am there, and with Whom I am there. It seems like such a simple thing, but the extra little signals it provides are very powerful.
These little signals say very clearly: “This is more than just a fancy building. You are more than just a casual spectator. You are here for a reason and for a Person. You are here to encounter Him, to adore Him, to worship Him, and to give yourself completely to Him. This is a sacred place and a sacred purpose. This is something truly extraordinary, and it demands and deserves a certain decorum, a certain focus, a certain self-possession and self-giving, and also a certain receptivity.”
Can wearing a piece of cloth on your head really “say” all this? I know it may sound strange, but it is so true!
On a simple, physical level, the veil can literally help block out distractions. We always underestimate our peripheral vision and just how much our eyes and our brains suck in from it! When I have my veil on, all I see in my peripheral vision is white lace. I focus more on what is ahead of me: the altar, the tabernacle and Crucifix, the missal or prayer book, or whatever it is that I need to focus on. It is really quite calming, and enormously helpful. It quiets my mind.
On both a personal and cultural level, it makes me feel more feminine, more modest, more humble, more dignified, and altogether more beautiful. We smart, modern Westerners still associate the veil with all of these things, largely because we associate the veil with that most splendid, pure, and beautiful paragon of womanhood, the Blessed Virgin Mary. We see her and think of her as The Veiled Lady. She may not always be portrayed wearing a veil, but in the West when we see a veiled woman, we recognize her. If an artist wants to evoke Mary, even if it’s in a horrid, sacrilegious way (as we see all too often), they do so with a veil.
Why do brides wear veils? Is it not because they crown them with that radiant aura of purity, sweetness, quiet dignity, and beauty that we still admire so much as a culture, even though our society is largely devoid of it? When I wear my veil, I feel that aura about myself. And I feel as happy as any bride! Actually, probably happier, because I don’t just wear it for one day of my life.
It makes me feel more like a daughter of the Blessed Mother. Not that women who don’t wear veils are any less so. But for me, it makes a much stronger connection and identification with her. It makes it real. That is something I have needed and desired for a long time, without really realizing it. I want to be more like her, I want to be closer to her. In doing so, I feel more in touch with myself as a woman, and particularly as a Catholic woman. It helps me realize my worth.
I also understand why the veil has traditionally been part of the religious habit of consecrated women, even in more modern times (provided we’re talking about consecrated women who actually wear habits… but that’s a topic for another post). It sets them apart in the eyes of the world, but it no doubt benefits them as well, helps them to set themselves apart for God.
Interestingly, I have not yet worn my veil to Mass at our Dominican priory. The main reasons are the simple, physical ones mentioned above, together with the different layout of the priory chapel. Whereas in my parish church, all the seats face forward to the sanctuary, the priory chapel is set up like a choir, with the altar at the far end, and the seats facing each other across an open central area. I don’t have any problem with that, but… it would be more tempting to focus on the other worshipers or on the wall opposite me rather than on the altar which is off to the side. If that makes sense. I do see ladies with veils at the priory. I’m just not sure how it would work for me.
I suppose it is different for different women.
I feel like there was another point I wanted to make… but it isn’t coming to me right now. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this topic in the future! Feel free to share your own head-covering stories, questions, etc.!