Is  Wearing a Veil Still Required of Catholic Women?

veil, veiling, mantilla

It is common to see Catholic women wearing a veil during Holy Mass celebrated in the Extraordinary Form. In addition to receiving the Eucharist on the tongue, while kneeling, this devotion nicely compliments the Latin Mass. The veil is not, however, seen often in Holy Mass celebrated in the Ordinary Form or Novus Ordo Mass. Yet, some women like myself feel drawn to the devotion. Although some parishes have a mix of those who do and those who do not, veiling can sometimes lead to a bit of contentious misunderstanding. This is due to a lack of information readily available.

Hopefully, the following will offer enlightenment to questions you may have. Is wearing a veil, as insisted upon by some, still required of Catholic women? If not, is it somehow wrong to do so? The short and long of it is thoroughly addressed by checking out a bit of Canon Law. The requirement that women wear head coverings at Mass was part of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which provided (emphasis mine):

Canon 1262

1. It is desirable that, consistent with ancient discipline, women be separated from men in church.

2. Men, in a church or outside a church, while they are assisting at sacred rites, shall be bare-headed, unless the approved mores of the people or peculiar circumstances of things determine otherwise; women, however, shall have a covered head and be modestly dressed, especially when they approach the table of the Lord.

When the 1983 Code of Canon Law was promulgated this canon was not re-issued; indeed, canon 6, 1, abrogated it, along with every other canon of the 1917 Code not intentionally incorporated into the new legislation.

Canon 61

When this Code goes into effect, the following are abrogated:

(1) the Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1917;

(2) other universal or particular laws contrary to the prescriptions of this Code, unless particular laws are otherwise expressly provided for;

(3) any universal or particular penal laws whatsoever issued by the Apostolic See, unless they are contained in this Code;

(4) other universal disciplinary laws dealing with a matter which is regulated ex integro by this Code.

Thus, any canonical obligation for women to wear a head-covering was eliminated. Laws, which were part of the 1917 Code (including canon 1262) lost their force. Therefore, their legal requirement officially ended. You may further notice that, veiling in particular, was never specified – just a general covering of the head and modest dress.

Is Wearing a Veil Still Desired by Catholic Women?

Finally, after searching and reading multiple sources, I concluded that wearing a veil is a discipline (not Dogma) and therefore optional. Something interesting resulted from my searching, however. There seemed to be a trend of admiration and even encouragement for veiling on the part of many in the clergy.

I saw this repeated in my own experience, as well as anecdotally from others. Take the visiting priest from India who, due to a bit of a language barrier simply pointed to my veil after Mass and gave me a smiling thumbs up. Another favorable comment came from a deacon who had read my original post. He wrote about his thoughts that “in a culture in deep decline, and after having discussed this with a variety of priest friends, I have come to believe that the veil is one of very few symbols that manages to say something good and positive about the dignity of the Christian woman (and girl). It really warms my heart“.

What Veiling Is Not

To those who fear that veiling is sort of a ‘look at me’ exhibitionism, let me just share my experience with you. As only one of two women who veil at my small rural parish (my grown daughter being the other), I can assure you that this practice is more humbling than it is a practice of conceit. Further I don’t veil for exterior motives. I veil for the interior.

For me veiling is about getting my mind focused on unity with Jesus. It is about showing Him that I have come to be His as He is mine. Veiling gives me a curtain, so to speak, allowing a certain amount of intimacy that closes out the busyness surrounding me at the Novus Ordo parish we attend. Along with resting my face in my hands after Holy Communion, my veil provides a private place to commune with the Savior Who I have just received.

What Do Respected Catholic Sources Say About the Veil

Of course, there is differing opinion and reporting concerning the meaning of the Canon Law cited above. In order to solidify the topic in my own mind, I went to sources known to be solid in their grasp of Catholicity.

In his post, Do Women Need to Wear Head Coverings at Mass, Jimmy Akin pointed out, for example, that “given the natural expectations of many people at Extraordinary Form Masses, one can see a certain appropriateness to wearing them in that context“. For emphasis he references a letter written by Cardinal Burke addressing this very topic.

Since he is often asked about veiling Fr. Zuhlsdorf commented, “I think this is a good custom. It recommends itself on many levels, some of which are, frankly, obvious“. In another post, he continues, “My view is that this custom should be revived. According to the Church’s present law, women are not obliged to cover their heads in church. I would be pleased if they did, but… hey…” In an effort to get out of the lively conversation that ensues after the topic of veiling is raised, Fr. Z promptly linked to a post from Conversion Diary about a woman’s first experience with veiling.

So What Is the Bottom Line on Veiling?

From what research has shown, and my own discernment, my personal conclusion is that wearing a veil is a beautiful practice for those of us who feel called to it. That veiling is optional should quell any feelings of inadequacy or pressure on those who are not so inclined.

I personally find a peace and deeper ability to quiet my mind for prayer when I veil. Yet, that is my own experience. Others may not have the same inclination or result. All in all, the Lord wants our undivided attention. He wants our respect and love. The manner in which we are best able to give Him the worship, praise and adoration due to Him, will no doubt lead to a more fulfilling faith life.

Dogma or Discipline?

There are many black and white issues concerning Church teaching – Dogma – we are obligated to follow. Veiling, however, is not Dogma but an optional discipline. As our faith evolves we may change these optional practices from time to time. After all, a faith standing still is a faith in decline. So I leave you with this thought: veil if you feel called and do not worry about the perception of others. If you do not feel called to veil, dismiss any concern you have about the perception of others. Veiling is a practice that is, at its best, a call that we willingly answer – all with our own reasons and inspiration. To God the glory!

Our daughter and her beautiful family on Easter Sunday 2016

You might be interested in other veiling posts listed below:

Catholic Women Veiling 101 Explaining The Devotion To Children

Why Women Are Wearing a Chapel Veil Again

The Weight of the (Chapel) Veil

Devotion: Lifting the Veil Onto My Head

Why Fix Your Hair, If You’re Wearing a Veil?

Wearing a Veil: Don’t Judge the Motive

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26 thoughts on “Is  Wearing a Veil Still Required of Catholic Women?”

  1. Marianne MacArthur

    I have only been wearing a Mantilla for over a year now. This came about, as Parishioners started gifting me with them. I only once mentioned that I liked them . I have 5 now. At first I was a little afraid others would think that- I believe I am holier than them. Then my thoughts changed. How could I not wear such beautiful gifts from my family in Faith?
    I did not ask for any of these. I have 2 white ones, and 2 black ones- of different lengths. One that is old lace with silver and gold woven through it.- much longer. The latter was made by a young woman convert. She took it from the veil she made for herself when she renewed her marriage vows in our Faith and church. How awesome is that?
    I am a lector and communion minister within our Parish and am only one to assist in these ministeries- wearing a veil. I got over my timidness in wearing it quickly, for I wear it for Jesus. I still am among very few that do so. It really does bring my soul and heart closer to Him in a very private way.
    When people ask me how and why, My line is, ” My Parish is trying to make me holy. Go figure that? It makes them laugh, and leaves them wondering within- if they might do the same. I am always hopeful that the trend grows.

  2. The beauty is that where I live the winters are often long and harsh; it can start as early as October and last as late as April. So, when the wind and snow blows, I simply keep the scarf on during mass.

  3. IF you look at pictures of churchgoing women in the 1950’s in the US you don’t find church-centric veils, you find fashionable hats. Veils became popular after hats went out of style. They were easy to put on and take off and didn’t muss the hair. If you want to wear one, go ahead, but it isn’t “traditional” only something that was done at a point in time.

    1. exactly. I am noticing, more and more a very strong misconception that woman wore veils exclusively before Vatican II. I went to Catholic school for 8 years and if you forgot your beanie, Sister would give you a bobby pin and a clean handkerchief or Kleenex to pin to your hair. Women wore babushkas if that’s what they wore elsewhere, fashionable hats that matched their outfit, big straw hats, little berets, tams, knit hats, etc, etc. Women would even wear a rain bonnet if they needed to run into church unexpectedly and had nothing else available. When mantilla’s became stylish, they caught on because they were pretty, easy to carry in a purse and didn’t give you hat hair either. Veiling has very little to do with the Latin Mass rite or Pre Vatican II. Veiling is a new devotion. And, in fact, today, during a conference that began with a Mass, a young mom died her veil to a pony tail on top of her head so the veil bounced on her pony tail each time she bent her head or turned the baby, etc. Nearly all of her hair was exposed and the veil almost looked like lace flower attached to the pony tail. I am sure she attached it like that to the top of her pony tail because it’s easier to keep it on her head and hold the baby. Later, the baby won’t be able to reach it either.

    2. Hello Kaye Byerly, You make some interesting points of your own experience, however, some of us have a differing perspective. When speaking of the exterior – hats, beanies, rain bonnets, and pony tails – you are referring to the outward appearance. Even then, my experience differs from yours. For example, I still have one of my mother’s veils from the 60’s, so it is apparent that she wore one. We can find pictures of First Lady Jackie Kennedy in both veils and hats. On the matter of hats, yes, they were also worn. I wore a beanie myself (and have had a bobby pin attached kleenex once or twice). Yet these variations were also a fashion statement and did not cover the entirety of the wearers’ hair. All this, however, is not really relevant to the surge in veiling seen today.

      So let’s explore the interior, which is what the article is all about. The term veiling has become a standard (much like kleenex pertains to tissues) among women who practice the optional devotion of covering (some portion) of their heads when in the presence of Jesus. As you stated, actual lace veils are a simple choice. They can be carried in purse or pocket and kept available for spur of the moment visits to church. I carry several in my purse. On the other hand, I am also seeing more hats (even caps or rain bonnets or scarves) worn with the same purpose in mind – reverence to Jesus and His house. The point is not the amount of coverage; it is a sincere effort to materially observe respect. It goes well with dressing in our best when in the Presence of our King. It shows honor to Him. It shows respect for Him, the angels, and His House. It also honors Mary, His most loving Mother and ours. Yet, for whatever personal reason a woman wears a veil. It is for her to discern.

      What I am trying to convey is that veiling (covering) is primarily about personal devotion by practicing an optional act. If it helps individual women to more fully feel close to Jesus, then it is a good thing – for them.

  4. My personal opinion is that if the hair is going to be covered, it should be covered–as in, not in lace, through which the hair can be seen (and which is rather a sexy type of material–I used to wear a lace mantilla for church when I was young, and my husband always thought it was totally sexy), but by something solid (as in , the veils that middle eastern women wear, like our Lady did). None of this peek-a-boo stuff. I just can’t see the mother of God sporting sexy, see-through material over her hair.

    Here in America, a modest hat does the trick nicely and does not call attention to oneself. You don’t see too many of those these days, though.

    1. Honestly, I don’t understand that anything lacy is somehow sexy. Little girls wear lacy socks, but somehow I have a hard time thinking anyone (except for a sexual deviant) sexualizes those socks. There is a vast difference between ‘sexy’ and feminine, but often people get confused as to the difference. Veiling is distinctly feminine (particularly in our culture) because it is a kind of hair accessory. The lace is also distinctly feminine because it is delicate. Many husbands admire their wife in her veil, not in a ‘hubba hubba’ sexy way, but in a ‘you look feminine and delicate’ way.

      I wore a pill-box hat Sunday instead of my veil. More of my hair was visible under that hat than under my most sheer lacy veil. While I don’t think it was wrong to wear the hat ( I’ll be wearing it again for Easter), I think more is covered with my lacy veils…especially since most of my veils are of the mantilla or even infinity scarf type and cover my shoulders as well. The quantity of hair covered is not the point anyway. The point is covering the head more than the usual hair style. Many women who are just getting into veiling wear a wide headband as a ‘baby-step’ into veiling. Since they only wear that headband for Mass (or in front of the Blessed Sacrament), it is out of the norm and qualifies as head covering. It is the intent that matters more than anything since this is a private devotion.

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  6. To each her own. My mother wore a veil for years while attending Mass. Today, there is so much turmoil with priests violating their vows by abusing young people. Priorities would dictate that the wearing of veils places very low.

    1. I would have to respectfully disagree. While I do not deny the problems in today’s Church, I would offer that the two topics are not mutually exclusive. Instead, I would consider adding an additional layer of respect for Jesus in the Eucharist to be a good place to start. For the women who choose to practice the optional devotion of veiling, it is a beautiful practice. Of course, there is nothing wrong with opting out, since there is no obligation.

    2. There is absolutely no link between priest abuse and veiling. The priest has nothing to do with the personal devotion of veiling. Whether he abuses his vows or not does not affect a personal devotion. Actually, IMO veiling as a devotion can almost be made into an act of reparation for the sins of others, including priests abusing their vows. The more heartfelt and sincere the prayers offered, the more effacious they are. In my experience veiling allows a woman to concentrate more on her prayers, thus making them more effacious. Additionally, veiling women are often subject to minor ridicule (‘you’re holier than thou’ …’you must want more attention’ …etc) thus further uniting them with our Lord’s suffering and fulfilling one of the Beatitudes. To conflate veiling and priestly abuse is disengenuous at best and flat out inflammatory at worst.

  7. I know a woman who, allegedly, received messages from Jesus (private revelation of course) says she was told by Jesus, many years ago, to cover her head in His presence.
    If this true, then surely it is worthy of consideration by all woman as a sign of respect for The Lord. Seems a reasonable request. Also, He appeared to her with a little girl and said “The immodesty of the genders is offensive to His Mother And Maria Goretti. She had never heard of Maria Goretti at the time and asked me who she was.

  8. I’m all for head coverings if the woman wants to do it. My concern is the total lack of modesty in dress of both men and women in my parish. Men wear shorts and T-shirts and women and teenagers show up in short skirts and shorts that barely cover anything. Their shirts are often as long as their skirts or shorts. I saw one middle aged woman wearing a midriff baring/shoulder baring top with tight pants. This is how they dress to be in the Lord’s House. It’s anything goes at my parish. Covering the head is a great practice, but let’s cover the rest of the body appropriately first.

  9. It’s about “head covering” not specifically veils. Veils are a light head covering for warm climates, (southern Mediterranean countries, southern states, Mexico and South America ) but women wear hats in cold climates. (Northern States, Canada, Northern Europe) I remember when both men and women wore hats — before JFK broke the custom for men and destroyed the hatters trade in the USA. Vatican II was used as an excuse for women to uncover their heads in Church.
    Hats are equally acceptable as head coverings for women, especially in cold climates where veils are too flimsy to endure winter cold storms on the way to Church.
    Veils are mandatory for use by nuns to show that they are vowed spouses of Christ. Sisters who “modernise” and don’t wear a veil do not command the same respect for their vocation as those who do.

    1. When I was attending Catholic school in Kentucky (late 60s) we wore veils or the little lace caplets that some rudely call doilies. There were also beanies, matching our uniforms, available. I still have a veil worn by my mother as well.

  10. Veils are a light head covering in warm climates, (southern Mediterranean countries, southern states, Mexico and South America ) but women wear hats in cold climates. (Northern States, Canada, Northern Europe) I remember when both men and women wore hats — before JFK broke the custom and started a fashion not to. Vatican II was used as an excuse for women to uncover their heads in Church.
    Hats are equally acceptable as head coverings for women, especially in cold climates where veils are too flimsy to endure winter cold storms on the way to Church.
    Veils are mandatory for use by nuns to show that they are vowed spouses of Christ. Sisters who “modernise” and don’t wear a veil do not command the same respect for their vocation as those who do.

  11. One way churches where there is desire that more women veil ( a good practice
    indeed ) can incorporate same easily could be , as seen in atleast one church that also has the Latin Mass , is to have two baskets of head coverings that women then can choose to use and leave the used ones , to be hand washed by any volunteer ; that could be a good penance , of offering up the merits of The Passion , with our Lord and His Mother, on behalf of any in our lives , esp. for those towards whom the enemy might have made one fall into a mode of accusing thoughts , including if any such , for those who follow the Ordinary Form 🙂

    1. I love this idea but am afraid that it would be rejected at my parish. If I get up the nerve, I may approach our pastor. I haven’t quite figured out how he feels about it yet – he hasn’t been with us for long.

  12. God does
    1st Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians
    Chapter 11

    [6] For if a woman be not covered, let her be shorn. But if it be a shame to a woman to be shorn or made bald, let her cover her head. [7] The man indeed ought not to cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man. [8] For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man. [9] For the man was not created for the woman, but the woman for the man. [10] Therefore ought the woman to have a power over her head, because of the angels.
    [10] “A power”: that is, a veil or covering, as a sign that she is under the power of her husband: and this, the apostle adds, because of the angels, who are present in the assemblies of the faithful.
    [11] But yet neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord. [12] For as the woman is of the man, so also is the man by the woman: but all things of God. [13] You yourselves judge: doth it become a woman, to pray unto God uncovered? [14] Doth not even nature itself teach you, that a man indeed, if he nourish his hair, it is a shame unto him? [15] But if a woman nourish her hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. 1st Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians
    Chapter 11

    1. It was abrogated by cannon law, as stated in the article. Since covering is a devotion, not dogma, this is a legitimate decision. If a women prefers to cover, however, she has every right of practicing the option.

    1. Sadly, some people mistakenly look at the optional devotion of veiling this way. However, most of us who practice covering our heads know that it is our choice to do so. Our reasons have nothing to do with submission to men in general and everything to do with reverence for the King of Kings – Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

  13. Pingback: Is Wearing a Veil Still Required of Catholic Women? | Newsessentials Blog

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