Among the many things the secular media and liberal Catholic media missed from Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke’s recent interview with the New Emangelization Project was His Eminence’s call to return a more reverent awe in the Mass. Here is a summary of His Eminence’s key points:
The Mass has become de-sacralized. There have been and continue to be “serious liturgical abuses” that include “priest-centered” liturgies and rampant liturgical experimentation that has “stripped the Rite of the Mass of much of its careful articulation of the Sacred Mysteries that had been developed over centuries…” Because of this, many men have been “really turned off by the loss of the sacred…and are not being drawn into a deeper liturgical spirituality.”
The Church needs to return to more reverent masses and catechize men on the Mass. His Eminence believes that “men will respond when they see a priest reverently acting in the name of Christ.” Men also need to be catechized “about the profound realities of the Mass.” While it is clear that the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite has a special attraction for men, particularly young men, if the Ordinary Form is “celebrated very reverently with good music, [it] can have the same strong positive effect on men.”
Rebecca Devendra has made an important contribution to the conversation with her recent article, “The Chapel Veil and Women’s Rights”, over a the excellent website OnePeterfive.com. In part, Rebecca says:
The Church, in her traditional liturgical practice, adorns things that are sacred. We veil our altars, decorate our tabernacles with gold and jewels, and robe our priests in beautiful vestments to signify the dignity of their office. It is certainly not sinful to do away with these things, but the outward acknowledgement of the dignity due to them is laudable and conducive to humility. As St. John Chrysostom said, “Christ appears when the Priest disappears.”
I wear a veil regularly now at Mass. It took some time and prayer to feel at home in it. It helps to find a parish where half of the women wear head coverings (veils or scarves or hats, as all of these things are acceptable substitutes), and to know that people will not make it their personal mission to comment on your attire. I can assert comfortably now that there is great solace in the practice of veiling. It is conducive to prayer, and like all acts of loving devotion, freely chosen.
Modesty, chastity, dignity. This is what a chapel veil represents, and it belongs to a woman in respect to God, not only to man. It is a symbol of her authority and of her right to communicate with God in a specifically feminine form of devotion.
Here are several thoughts:
- A constant theme, coming from the extensive and growing list of New Emangelization Project Interviews and the soon-to-be-released results from the Helping Priests Become More Effective in Evangelizing Men Survey, is that when the Mass is offered in a reverent way it has a powerful effect on men.
- Men are moved by the sacred; they are bored by the common. The Mass in too many places has become common (as Cardinal Burke and many others have observed) and men are bored. This is not opinion, but fact: 48% of men agree that “Mass is boring” and 55% agree that they “don’t get anything out of the Mass.”
- Men are also getting less out of the more modernized Mass than women: Many men are not moved by the Mass and are less moved than women across the various aspects of the Mass: the readings and the Gospel, homily, music, the Eucharist, prayer, worshiping with other people, the presence of God.
- Women, who are moved by their own sense of awe, can lead men to be more awed by the Mass. When a woman wears a veil, it has powerful impact on many men. It tells a man that something is different in the Mass and that veiled women are demonstrating their awareness of that Divine Awe. As any man will tell you, and many women know, men look at women. A woman, through a sense of awe that is shown by wearing a veil, can lead a man to reflect on the reality that causes a woman to veil.
While there is much work to be done to return many men back into a deep understanding and awe of the Mass, and many ways to do it, one clear way is for women who feel so moved to wear a veil.
I’ve got a hunch that if large numbers of women started wearing veils to Mass, large numbers of men would begin to grow in their faith.
Lead on sisters! Lead on!