To Veil or Not to Veil

“Every man praying or prophesying with anything down over his head dishonors his head, but every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a woman will not be covered, then let her be shorn! But since it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.” (I Cor. 11: 4-6)

It was about this time of year four years ago that I made the choice to wear a chapel veil, or mantilla, during the Liturgy. In large part, I was motivated by the verse I quoted at the top of the post. I was also motivated in a very personal way by reverence for the Eucharist and for the Liturgy as a whole. As I have said to many people over the past four years, if the Eucharist (and thereby the Liturgy) are what we say that they are, then we ought to approach it with fear and trembling. It’s the Eucharist. It’s Jesus Christ, physically present to us. To me, that is something that requires incredible reverence and respect. And for me, that reverence and respect meant that I should cover my head during Liturgy.

However, I believe that this is my choice. Yes, it is guided by Scripture and Church teaching/tradition. But ultimately, this was my choice. I believe that I have been called to do this as a reflection of my own relationship with Christ. While it is something that I do in public, it is a personal decision, a personal call, and a reflection of a personal relationship. I came to this decision on my own through prayer and reflection, and as such, I do not wish to impose this on others. I don’t know if I’ll expect my (maybe possibly someday) daughters to veil-and I have been asked that before.

But as I said, it is my choice. I veil because I made that decision for myself. And I don’t want to force that decision on others. I don’t wish to make other people make the same choice that I have unless it is what they feel that they have been called to.

I say this because I have been asked by various people about my choice to veil. Most people accept it as my choice and move on. However, several months ago, a man said to me that he liked that I veiled and he wished that he could get his wife to do the same.

And that comment is what led to the writing of this blog post. He wished he could “get” his wife to do the same. Now, I won’t get into the gender roles and such involved in that statement because that’s not my point here.

Right or wrong, veiling has fallen out of common practice in the Catholic Church over the past fifty years. Now, I have several friends who veil, and I both respect and admire them for that choice. However, it is their choice. While St. Paul would like all Catholic women to veil, I believe that veiling is a personal decision. I think it is something that a women needs to explore at an individual level rather than having it imposed on her. (Goodness, I sound like a product of the early twenty-first century, don’t I?) I see veiling as a call. I see it as something that reflects, as I said earlier, my relationship with Christ. Therefore, it is something that I had to discern on my own, and I believe that every woman needs to go through her own discernment process. Does the veil fit her relationship with the Lord? If she believes that it doesn’t, then it is not for her.

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