Misconceptions About Wearing a Chapel Veil


I Am Not More Holy than You

Many people these days look at women who choose to practice the devotion of veiling as ‘holier than thou’ – most characteristically in Novus Ordo parishes. Nothing could be further from the truth. In my personal experience, the reasons women veil are numerous. Their motivation includes emulating the Blessed Mother because she is the consummate female role model. Another reason is that, often times, sacred things are veiled – the tabernacle, for example. As life-bearers, we women, have a sacred collaboration with our spouses and God. We carry the treasure of little souls within our bodies for nine months before introducing them to this world.

It Is Not a Fashion Statement

There are so many ways to embellish our appearance. We wear flattering clothing, jewelry, and perhaps a bit of makeup. Yet a chapel veil is not a fashion accessory. If the temptation to look on the veil in this way, it may be wise to reconsider this pious practice. Conversely, wearing a veil is often a hindrance to fashion. That carefully coifed head, adorned with a beautiful hairstyle may very well be flat and unflattering by the time the final blessing of Mass is given. Wearing a chapel veil can, however, affirm the recognition of our God-given femininity as complimentary to the masculinity of our spouses.

I Am Not Stuck In The Past

Some Catholics of good faith believe that the obligation for women to cover their heads continues to be binding to this day. Others know the law surrounding veiling was abrogated and therefore, believe the practice to be passé. A quick study of Canon Law, however, confirms that, while the devotion is no longer binding, it is acceptable, and even desirable, as a voluntary practice.

It Is Not a Distraction

Wearing a chapel veil is, for me, a tangible way of removing myself from this world and entering into Heaven on Earth. As I clip my veil to my hair, my demeanor changes, and my soul stills. Yes, I am in communion with the others in surrounding pews but my soul is in still deeper communion with God. The distractions of life as usual fade away and my soul is transported to the Cross. There, Mary stands at my side and we ponder together this Son she bore and the Salvation He brought.

I Am Not Vain

Realistically my almost sixty years have left their mark. Short-cropped, salt and pepper hair that is left undyed, a body not nearly as svelte as my younger self, and creases etched into laugh lines at mouth and eyes – that is the reality of my present self. Wearing a chapel veil of the finest, imported lace would do nothing to change these realities. If anything, donning a veil when few or no others do is the opposite of vanity. It speaks of humility and a comfort with the God-given self.

I Do Not Want to Call Attention to Myself

How easy it is to seek acceptance – to be one of the crowd. When we blend in we are almost anonymous. That bit of extra weight, the charcoal hair, and unexceptional face can make for a monolithic scene. It is exactly when we step out of our comfort zone, for the sake of the spiritual, that we become different. Although this is never the intent, especially for an introvert, it speaks of a devotion that overcomes. It overcomes the trepidation of being judged and presents a vulnerability not usually sought. It could be called a childlike gift to Father God, one of the ways to show Him love.

I Do Not Seek Praise From Others

“She’s such a good Catholic; look at how modestly she dresses and wears a chapel veil!” No, that is not at all what wearing a veil is about. If anything, those of us who practice this optional devotion would rather not be called out as holy women. Speaking for myself and those friends who also veil, we are a sorry lot. Our lives have taken us on many crooked paths and self-inflicted detours. We have not always listened when the Holy Ghost whispered, much less when He hit us in the head while shouting at us, like the sinful children we are, to please pay attention.

Which Women Veil?

Women who veil vary as much as our chapel veils do. We come from all walks of life – cradle Catholics, converts, young, old, Latin Mass devotees, Novus Ordo attendees, married, single, and myriad other characteristics. Even our reasons for covering our heads are numerous. The common ground is our devotion to our beautiful Catholic faith, handed down to us directly from Jesus to his disciples in an unbroken piece of Heaven on Earth.

We seek forgiveness, sin and confess, resolve and fall – but we pick ourselves back up again, keeping our eyes on the Prize. 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.

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11 thoughts on “Misconceptions About Wearing a Chapel Veil”

  1. Thank you! I am a new convert and had questions about the veil that a couple of older ladies wear to mass. You definitely cleared things up for me. I will be wearing a veil in emulation of Our Lady and her reverance for our Lord Jesus Christ! What a beautiful reason! Thank you!

  2. I am sorry Birgit. I understand what you were trying to do with the title but it is incredibly misleading. Of course, it draws the eyes, but because it completely contradicts your article it causes confusion to the reader. As I read it, I continuously had to scroll back to the title to make sure I had read it correctly. I see your article is pointed at the misconceptions about veils and is in a positive light for veils, but the title makes it seem as though you yourself do not wear a veil. It makes the points seem almost for naught, if you believe all these things but do not follow them yourself (which I see is untrue from previous comments that you do wear a veil). If you are to create a misleading title, the reader expects the article to be sarcastic (pretending to write the opposite of what they mean, but in such a ridiculous manner that it is obvious the writer’s actual point of view) All-in-all, an excellent read. I myself, a young woman in her early 20s, have been contemplating wearing a veil and you made me feel more at peace in my decision! But again, the title makes the read very confusing. Title it as you mean or be sarcastic.

    1. Thank you for your candid comment. I really struggled with the title I wanted to use for this piece. Part of my decision was based on trying to entice those who misunderstand veiling to read the legitimate reasoning behind this optional devotion. I had misgivings from the start, so after considering your thoughts, I have decided to change the title. Blessed Good Friday leading us to Easter joy!

  3. Pingback: Veiling at Mass: Why I Choose Not To | The Green Catholic Burrow

  4. The Damascus Road Sojourner

    I felt it right and just to kneel to receive communion. Only one other parishioner and I do this. Although it is more reverent I eventually stopped doing it for many of the same reasons you spell out in this blog. We are to be in union with our brothers and sisters and when we do something visibly different we set our selves apart. Sometimes this is a good thing and we need to lead they way to bring others closer to God. When it becomes a distraction, or worse, something others gossip about it serves the wrong purpose. I love to see women wear veils to Mass because of the reverence behind it but all of your points are well stated and well taken.

    1. I find this comment ridiculous. You are basically saying that if something good (in this sense veiling) sets us apart then we should stop doing that something good. It is a false irenicism.

      To do good is to witness. People have died witnessing and yet you are afraid of “setting yourself apart”. We are all set apart for Christ.

      I am reminded of the verse in Mark 15: So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barab′bas

  5. Marion (Máel Mhuire)

    I’ve been wearing a sort of “abbreviated” veil to church for the past couple of years. It’s made of black lace like the usual mantilla, but it’s only about chin-length, and doesn’t have what I call the “droopy dog ears” hanging down about the shoulders. (Nothing against people who wear the full-monte mantilla, mind you; it’s just not for me.)

    I call it my “stealth” veil.

    A female relative promised NOT TO SIT WITH ME if I wore “that thing” into the funeral service we were both attending. So, there is some feeling against women who wear even a low-key, “stealth” sort of veil.

    1. Birgit Atherton Jones

      It is unfortunate that practicing a sincere devotion elicits such responses, which is one of the reasons I wrote this piece. The title is purposely worded to draw those with these objection in – and therefore give a gentle response and correction.

      Hang in there, Marion, my daughter and I are often the only ones who wear a veil. We have gotten very comfortable with the practice and do not worry about opinions too much. On the other hand, as advocates of veiling, we like to share our motivation, should the opportunity arise.

  6. Let’s do a quick translation for what this actually says, from the perspective of Catholic tradition…..

    1) I’m not trying to be as holy as I can possibly be.
    2) I think they look ugly
    3) I have no desire to follow the traditions of the church which exist all the way back to the scriptures themselves.
    4) I think veiling is supposed to be about me.
    5) cf. point 4.
    6) cf. point 4.
    7) This isn’t even a point….

    1. Birgit Atherton Jones

      You’re missing the point of the article, I’m afraid. I having been wearing a chapel veil, at the Ordinary Form Mass, for the past four years. The points made represent the arguments against veiling, that I hear about why people who don’t share this devotion. I’m addressing the reasons I do not wear a veil and then correcting the misconceptions. Perhaps a re-read with fresh eyes would be of benefit?

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