I grew up at what was then the most traditional parish in our diocese. About half of the women there veiled; none of the nine girls in my family did. I had a brief encounter with the practice when I was about nine or ten, but I remember it more as a chance to play dress up than a pious practice. My strongest memory of it was a distinct perception (real or not) of holier-than-thouness from the ladies who did.
Now that the Motu Proprio has been around for a decade, I am seeing many of my peers begin to veil. Not only do most of the women–young and old– at the local Tridentine Mass veil, as to be expected, but some of my best friends do as well. Even my two sisters-in-law who don’t even go to a Latin Mass on the regular walk into church sporting lovely lace over their heads.
At first I thought it was just peer pressure telling me I needed to go buy a mantilla. But a nagging voice (oh hey there, conscience) has been bothering me for over a year, and after this past weekend, I have realized it is not going away. So here are the reasons I am currently in the market for a chapel veil.
I have developed a few awful habits from being an organist for the last fifteen years. It is a wonderful opportunity to use my gifts to serve God in a very finite way, but it does demand a great portion of my attention during Mass. Especially at my first Mass of the weekend, I end up bustling around the choir loft, making sure I have everything I need for the next services, making sure everyone is on the same page, and that I don’t accidentally start playing the wrong Mass setting….
Things get worse for the Mass my husband brings the kiddos to. We try to sit upstairs together, but that means we have to keep the two year old away from the stairs, the rails, the sound equipment, and we have to keep them both quiet lest the mics pick up their wails. Its quite the circus, and it happens even if I am miraculously not playing Mass that day.
The worst habit of all though, is during the later Masses in the day. I tell myself that I already attended Mass, so I don’t really need to pay attention, and I end up messing with my phone up in the choir loft when I don’t have to play. Mea maxima culpa.
Yes, I do definitely have a responsibility to make sure the liturgy is running smoothly, and that my children are not disruptive, but nothing supersedes my obligation to attend Mass faithfully, and I have come to the conclusion that a chapel veil will help that. I tell my choir members all the time that even though they are in music ministry, they are primarily there to attend the Mass. Its time I started taking my own advice.
And as for the “I already went to Mass”, my pastor told us two weeks ago a story of a priest mentor who told him the best way to waste time was to waste time with Jesus. I am lucky enough to have two extra hours a week where I have to be in church. Why am I not using that time to talk to God?
I got up the courage to ask my boss-pastor what he thought of the practice, and he gave me the usual reasons for the devotion and said he thought it was a very good practice to voluntarily take up, but it was by no means necessary. He gave me the usual reasons women usually chose to veil– to honor the Eucharist, to imitate the Holy Women of the Bible, and as a sign of humble submission to God. Then he informed me that, no, if I was going to veil I couldn’t at just one Mass, and that I really need to be all in or not at all. Which I suppose I knew, and looking back it was an idiotic question to ask…
On a personal note, I feel as if we lost a lot when we stopped veiling. I get that it was seen as a sign of male oppression, which is specifically why it was removed from Canon Law as being mandatory. I am by no means a doormat and believe in the equality of genders, but there are distinct differences between men and women. I definitely enjoy a good old fashioned opportunity to exhibit traditional gender roles. And I think it is hilarious that traditionally only unmarried women wore white veils, unintentionally (or was it…) marking out the available women in church.
Additionally, it is fascinating to me that while the change in Canon Law removed the rubrics for both men and women’s head coverings, there is no self-respecting man that would dream of wearing a baseball hat in church. Nobody cries sexism (or false humility) over that.
In conclusion, here are my hopes for this new devotion. I hope that the act of wearing a veil in Church is a reminder to me that I am not primarily at work, I am primarily in the presence of God, and should act accordingly. I hope I get over my need for human approval, and grow in my need for God’s approval. Finally, I hope that I can be more productive in my prayer at church.
P.S. If anyone knows what St. Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 11:10 “because of the angels” please let me know! Even The Google can’t answer me this one.