Subscribe via RSS Feed

A Few Reasons to Wear the Veil at Mass

December 15, AD 2011 84 Comments

There is a long standing beautiful tradition in the Catholic Church for women to cover their heads while at mass. I realize that writing on this topic is not going to be popular with the majority of people. It is a widely misunderstood practice, and you will always find various opinions in regard to it.

First let me point out a few things. I CHOSE to wear the veil at mass. My choice to wear the veil has nothing to do with my relationship with the men around me. I do not wear the veil as a sign of submission to an unrelated male, but as a sign of my reverence of the Blessed Sacrament, and to humble myself before Jesus.

Let me be frank. Wearing the veil is a very difficult choice to make. It takes a huge commitment; especially in a parish where nobody else does it.

I grew up wearing the veil, but that still doesn’t mean it is always a joy to wear. It seems to be an unspoken sign that you are ultra-traditional and live in the Stone Age. For this Charismatic, Novus Ordo loving, Catholic girl, it is almost painful when people assume because you wear the veil you must speak nothing but Latin!  As with any counter-cultural choice you make, the peer-pressure can lead you to question why it is valuable in the first place.

When I was over in Spain for WYD this past summer, the first thing we did after we landed and found our hotel was to find mass. Off we through the street of Madrid with a big group of people I was meeting for the first time. When we reached the church I was struggling. Should I pull out my veil in a crowd of complete strangers except for a few and advertise to them that I was “overly pious” The only other lady in the group that I knew wore a veil hadn’t brought any bag along with her, so I had to convince myself that it meant enough to me to overcome the stares of strangers and wear it regardless. Finally grace won out, and I reluctantly pulled it out of my bag and put it on. Into the church I went and was greeted with beautiful sight. At least six other girls were wearing the veil, some of whom I had met in the airport a short time before. As I knelt down, my fellow traveller knelt beside me, and it was only then that I realized she had just finished fishing her veil out of her pocket. It was a beautiful moment of grace and encouragement. If these girls had the humility to wear a veil, so could I.

Why do it in the first place? I have heard many good opinions on the subject, and as long as their goal is to draw themselves closer to Christ, then more power to you! I veil at mass because it matters to me that I am in the presence of God. Veiling is a reminder that this place is holy and should be treated accordingly. It is still widely unacceptable for men to keep their hats on in church; and why? It is a sign of respect for them to remove them. While it is not mandatory for women to wear a head covering in church, if we believe Jesus is truly present in the Holy Eucharist why not go this extra step in showing reverence? It is still a tradition for women to wear a black Mantilla when greeting the Holy Father, and talk about adding dignity to the whole occasion! Here is Nancy Reagan greeting the Pope John Paul II:

Or how about this classy Spanish look?External forms of dress do orientate our minds to the focus of the event. Whether it is your team colors on game day, or the costumes on Halloween. Veiling sets apart the Mass, as sometime out of the ordinary, like the bride on her wedding day.

So what are your thoughts on the veil? If you wear one; why? and what brought you to start this tradition? Are you alone in this practice?


[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Rachel Howell works for EWTN as the Customer Service Representative for the National Catholic Register. She loves her job, as she gets paid to talk on the phone and interact with people – her favorite pastime! A country girl who claims both Alabama and Idaho as her hometowns, she grew up in a large Catholic family that made her who she is today. She is passionate about her Catholic Faith, Pro-life work, and Cowgirl boots. She also blogs about her adventures in life at the National Catholic Register.[/author_info] [/author]

About the Author:

Rachel is a wife, Catholic, and cowgirl. Married to her sweetheart Sam, the two of them are enjoying the adventures of life hand-in-hand.

  • K.L.B.

    Before I converted and became Catholic, I recollect as a child asking my dad whom was also Protestant, why some women – even in Protestant churches – wore veils. I found his answer satisfying, though I did not understand it fully. Now, I do. It is dignifying, and most definitely Scriptural. It shows respect.

    Yours is a well-written voice on the matter.


  • Fel

    The person that said about the veil, I agree with her, and it will be good as a respect to our Lord, even about how to dress up, specially the women, when they go to church, modesty is part of our religion, and they must teach the children from they are young, to be dressed up in Modesty.

  • Pingback: A Few Reasons to Wear the Veil at Mass | IgnitumToday – Charismatic Feeds()


  • Bruce in Kansas

    Thanks for this. One woman who wears a veil said that what convinced her was a compliment about her hair from someone a few years ago after Mass; she realized her beautiful hair had been taking attention away from Jesus.

  • Ink and Quill

    I typically veil, but my veil is currently in the possession of one of my best friends right now, so I have been making do with my somewhat extensive collection of scarves. Apparently it makes me look Muslim, but that doesn’t matter to me–I am veiling myself in the presence of our Lord, which is what matters. While at school, it is just me and my friend who veil (and she, not all the time) but while at home, often I am the only one who veils when we attend some of the more liberal Novus Ordo Masses. For those, I have a “church hat.” (Don’t worry, it’s not flamboyant.) I just really wish it were more regular–often I fear that veiling is distracting to those who don’t see it much any more.

  • Jennifer

    I also wear a hat sometimes, instead of a veil. I grew up in a wonderful parish full of older black ladies, who always always had on a hat. It was a nice tradition to see. And the hat it a lot more tenacious when it comes to staying on one’s head. 🙂

    The challenge for me now, with a toddler, is to wear a veil (I actually seldom do at this point) and it not become a completely inhuman distraction to ME. The balance is sometimes hard, between giving up an external practice once it becomes a distraction in itself, and sticking with an external practice even when it gets tough.

  • Ink and Quill

    Maybe you’d want to go back to the hat then? I’m guessing the veil is difficult with a toddler because toddlers are squirmy and like to grab at things and run around, and you as Mom have to keep an eye on them. (I have three younger sisters and a boatload of small cousins so I’m hoping this educated guess is relatively accurate.) The youngest in my family is long past the toddler years but still kind of squirmy, so my mom doesn’t veil much either–same reason.

  • Dawn Gilbert

    I wear a crochet beret. It is less distracting, and stays on better. I started out wearing a lace veil, but it didn’t stay on well. I teach CCD, and one of the questions my kids ask about me is why I wear my “hat.” I love explaining my reasons and how wearing the veil helps me to show my reverence and love for the Eucharist.

  • Emily

    I wear it or several reasons. First, because Jesus asked me to. I used to make fun of mantilla-ladies when I was younger, and then coming back from Communion, Christ was like, “Hey, guess what you’re going to do?”

    More seriously, however, the first time I went up for Communion in my white lace veil, I had the overwhelming sense of being the Bride of Christ, and the Truth of the Mass being the Wedding Banquet of the Bridegroom was absolutely, beautifully overwhelming. And so that begun my true love of veiling.

    As I looked into it more, I realized that head-covering among women is a common, unitive aspect of the three religions of Abraham: Always showing a reverence for being under the sight of God. Jewish women, for example, would wear veils or head-coverings during the Shabbat dinner- and is not the Eucharist the new Pasch?

    Poking around some more, I read this:
    “The mantilla, or chapel veil, signifies the role of women as a life-bearing vessel. The chalice holding the blood of Christ is veiled until the Preparation of the Gifts, and the tabernacle veiled between Masses. Both of these vessels hold the Eucharist – the very life of Christ. In a similar fashion, woman was endowed with the gift of bearing human life.”
    This is the kicker, really. In addition to asserting my service and love for my Bridegroom, veiling also asserts my femininity and the unique role it plays in God’s master plan.

    There are other reasons too: Mary does it, and I want to copy her, naturally, and its scriptural nature. But those listed above are probably the reasons I would give offhand.

    • Carolina

      I’ve ran into your comment as I’ve felt a desire to wear a veil at Mass, but when you say you feel like you’re the bride of Christ, don’t you think that’s a little bit too presumtious? Are you a nun? Perhaps you’re single who is on a permanent Christian mission? I don’t know if you’re married, but in case you are, I think that to think of ourselves as the bride of Christ we must follow Him and only Him. We can’t have him as our groom and have a husband here on Earth at the same time. That’s why nuns are called brides of Christ, because they truly dedicate their entire life, body and soul to Christ. That’s what a true bride does. Now if you haven’t consecrated your entire life to Christ, and you work a regular job,ect. etc, how is this being a bride of anyone? Not that there’s anything wrong with living a regular busy life, having a husband, etc., but here on Earth, humans get married and they live for eachother. It’s no different than what nuns do with Christ. From the moment they wake up in the morning, until they go to sleep at night, they serve their groom. Is that what you do? I’m just trying to understand. I like the idea of the veil for other reasons….as a sign of humility, obedience, respect. I would love to be able to serve the Lord as his bride, but I have a family that currently takes most of my time. I wouldn’t dare call myself a bride of Christ, and if that’s what I am, or would be, then I have been neglecting him, and so would anyone who calls herself that and spends most of her day doing worldly things. Don’t you think? I’m not wanting to offend you, I just want to understand you.

      • Sarah Hein

        The Church is the Bride of Christ. Anyone who is part of the Church can call herself a bride of Christ. Though obviously there’s higher and lower levels, shared by laity and nuns/sisters, just as there are higher and lower levels of sharing in Christ’s priesthood, shared by the laity and *priests*.

      • Theresa George

        If you read St. John of the Cross, every soul is a *bride soul* seeking union with the Beloved. We can be married in the world and still see ourselves as brides awaiting the Bridegroom.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    In New England, where I grew up (back in the Pleistocene Era pre-Vatican II) I remember all the ladies wearing their nicest modest dresses, high(-ish) heels, hats, gloves, and nice leather purses to Holy Mass. We children did the same. Even little toddler girls were dressed in their tiny patent leather flat-heeled pumps with an ankle strap, white ankle socks with lace-trimmed cuff, a starchy dress with a petticoat, and a little hat with an elastic strap under the chin to hold it in place.

    I’m not of Mediterranean or Latina heritage and so have never felt that – lovely as they are on ladies of that heritage – wearing a lace mantilla is “me”. But I have accumulated a nice collection of hats to wear to Holy Mass, much as we did back in the day. Straw hats in summer and berets in cooler weather seem to work especially well.

  • Mary@42

    Thank you, Rachel Howell, for this beautiful Article. You can imagine how this 73 year-old Granny was elated to read your affirmation of the love and reverence for Jesus that you still wear the Veil in Church. Although it has become optional nowadays, people need to understand that those who prefer wearing the Veil are doing so out of utmost, genuine humble love and reverence for the Real Presence Who lives in all our Catholic Churches and Adoration Chapels world-wide in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. However, for those who do not understand what it means to us to present ourselves before the Lord of the Universe respectably dressed, we excuse them and pray they do not judge us too harshly. We are not stone-aged or prudes – we just physically feel the Presence of God Himself and humble ourselves before our Loving, Merciful Creator. May you all have a Blessed Christmas and may Jesus be born in your hearts and in the hearts to your loved ones.

  • @Emily Where did you find that quote? It is beautiful and I would like to read more of the source.

  • Thanks for writing this, Rachel! I attend a Novus Ordo Mass, and more than once I’ve toyed with the idea of buying a veil and wearing it. I’ve always thought that veiling is a beautiful tradition, because (like Emily said) it not only shows reverence for Christ, but it points to the fact that women have a special capacity within them to bear life. It seems to me that veiling points to the beauty and dignity of women. Like modesty, it makes one aware of the value of the person.

    That being said, I’ve always struggled with the idea of wearing a veil in a Church where veiling is not a practice. I guess I’m afraid that people wouldn’t understand its significance or the beauty and tradition behind it, and instead it would be more of a “Look at her, she thinks she’s so holy and better than the rest of us…” kind of thing and so just be distracting instead. I’m on the fence. Any thoughts on this??

    • Conor Gannon

      I’m not a woman so I can’t speak directly to veiling. However, I do experience the same sort of thing with receiving the Eucharist while kneeling. I am usually the only person in my Church (as far as I can tell) who does this and it would be easy to worry about how others are taking it or about being prideful.

      However, my thoughts always turn back to why I started kneeling. I was inspired to start kneeling after reading about the purpose for the practice and then seeing one person at my Church doing it. That one person will never know it but he has inspired someone else to receive the Eucharist with more devotion in his heart and that is something quite worthwhile. I would encourage you to veil if only it helps inspire one person to treat the Eucharist with more reverence.

  • @Alicia I’ve often worried about the “holier-than-thou” bit too. I don’t know how it is at your church, but mine doesn’t have most people dressing up, and so I figure me dressing up is already going to elicit that thought. What I always worry more about is simply being distracting from a lack of understanding, and for that, I’ll be curious as to others’ thoughts.

  • lizaanne

    Please consider joining my social group on Catholic Answers for women who cover – it is called Veiled in Grace:

    God bless,

  • Why not a picture of Michelle Obama wearing a veil with Pope Benedict XVI? She wore one and looked beautiful and respectful.

  • Richard

    Interesting! We as Catholics believe in an omnipresent God, meaning that God is in all places equally. God is not more present in one place than in another. God is therefore present in all of humanity equally and it is our job to make contact with the omnipresent Presence. Respect for this Presence is not about kneeling, holding the palm of the hands togethers with fingers pointed skyward, genuflecting, or wearing head covering. To respect God is to recognize his presence within us and live our moment by monment lives as Jesus said to due according to the eight Beatitudes. God knows if you truly respect him regardless of how holy one tries to look.

  • lizaanne

    @Richard – God is absolutely NOT present in the same way in the Eucharist as He is in the way you describe. There is a very living and distinct difference when discussing the Eucharist. Jesus Christ IS PRESENT to us, body, blood, soul, divinity. In NO other way is He present to us like this than in the Holy Eucharist of the Mass. So be very very careful of falling into the heresy of Pantheism.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    Another commenter asked: “Why not a picture of Michelle Obama wearing a veil with Pope Benedict XVI?”

    I don’t know, how many here feel that a man who has publicly stated that he would support the abortion of his own grandchildren if they should arrive at an inopportune time*, would, together with his wife, be suitable exemplars of Christian devotion . . . in any Catholic venue . . . or, in any sense?

    * “I wouldn’t want my daughter punished with a baby if she made a mistake.” Sen. Barak Obama (D-Ill), 2008.

  • emmydawn

    I converted to the Church last Easter and have thought a lot about the whole veil issue. I have never seen anyone in my parish wear a veil and think for me to do so would cause so much distraction that it would take away from the real reason we all go to Mass.
    I also feel that because no other ladies wear a veil to Mass that everyone would think that I put myself up higher to Jesus than they themselves do, which is not the case at all.
    It makes me sad that the practice of veiling has fallen out of “style” with the ladies of the Church.
    Maybe with the “new” Mass responses being more formal with the verbage, veiling will not be too far behind.
    We shall see…..

    • Conor Gannon

      I would say that if people are looking around judging other Mass-goers for their appearance, they are probably not attending to the Mass with the proper level of devotion anyways. I would focus on making sure that YOU are respecting the Mass. If veiling helps you to do that, then do it!

  • lizaanne

    @EMMYDAWN – You would be surprised actually. Even though it FEELS like every single set of eyes is stamped right to YOUR head – it really is not the case. Most people really don’t pay attention. And those who do, may just have an “hmm, interesting” moment in their heads, and just move on to their usual prayer routine and preparing for Mass.

    Don’t let what others think or feel, determine how you worship Jesus Christ. This is between you and Him – no one else. Just stay focused on that, and covering your head for HIM will very quickly feel very very right.

  • Ink and Quill

    Richard, I’d like to take you up on that. “God is not more present in one place than in another.” Let me argue. Jesus Christ–God-in-Man–is Truly Present with us in the fullest sense through the Eucharist. A quick Google search for Saint Josemaria Escriva’s famous quote, “When you approach the tabernacle remember that he has been waiting for you for twenty centuries” resulted in an entire list of pages expressing the supremacy of the True Presence in the Eucharist. This beautiful mystery is the reason the Eucharist is “the source and summit of all Christian life” (that’s in the CCC somewhere, I don’t remember the exact citation but I know it’s there). This link ( has a number of quotes about the Blessed Sacrament explaining its powerful and poignant truth–that Jesus Christ is Truly Present.

  • Rachel Howell

    Thanks to all who have commented! It is wonderful to hear your perspectives. Obviously there is much more that could be said on this subject. I guess I will have to do a follow up post! 🙂 I am a huge fan of hats as well. They are a nice option when the veil is highly conspicuous, and there are many lovely hats for the fashion conscious! The point behind all of these long standing traditions is to show respect, and to set the Mass apart from everyday routines. It is a joy to see other young people embracing respectful attire.

  • Bruce in Kansas

    @lizaanne: While each of us have free will and make individual choices regarding what we wear and what we say and do at Mass, the liturgy is public worship, so it is not just between Jesus and you. That said, the many good reasons for wearing a veil in thish column are truly impressive.

    @emmydawn: If you think for you to wear a veil would cause so much distraction that it would take away from the real reason we all go to Mass, then what is the real reason – to be seen and accepted by everyone else?

    @Richard: Amen! God IS present everywhere, and yet there are some places He is present in a special way. He was everywhere in the wilderness, but He was in the burning bush in a special way (hence God told Moses to remove his sandals); He was everywhere in the Promised Land, but He was in the Holy of Holies in a special way (hence only one chosen from the line of Aaron could enter on Yom Kippur); He was everywhere in Bethlehem, but He was in the manger in a special way (hence the Three Kings knelt and worshipped in His presence); He was everywhere in Jerusalem, but He was on the Cross in a special way (hence the Centurion testified, “truly this man was the son of God.”; and so on.

  • Fr. Justin Brady

    Blessings on your willingness to witness to mystery. You may already know this, but the Church uses veils in liturgy and worship to draw attention to the mystery present. Tabernacle veils, chalice veils, humeral veils etc. are all pointing to something important – that there are transcendent realities present. Your femininity is a holy mystery, and something not to be grasped at. The veil speaks of this. Plus, you represent in a special way the Bride of Christ – The Church – by wearing the veil. It reveals to all present at the Mass that Christ seeks to wed himself to us in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Good vestments, on the part of the priest speak the inverse. He is dressed for the wedding banquet. All of us orthodox, pro-Norvus Ordo Catholics can learn from your example.

    Blessings and peace,
    Fr. Justin

  • Grace

    Thank you for this beautiful article. I also found the comments to be stirring — both the experiences of those who have veiled and the confirmation that it is something that I want to do. I did not grow up wearing the veil, or knowing anyone who did, and I don’t know anyone at my current church who does, either (a few of the older women wear wide-brimmed hats which I don’t think I could do). Can anyone offer suggestions about where I can get veils or other head coverings (not hats)? Thank you!

  • Pamela

    You can purchase veils on eBay – just search “chapel veils”; you can also search on the internet for the same thing.

  • Colleen

    The Book Dressing with Dignity by Colleen Hammond is a wonderful resource to go to to find places to get a Chapel Veil. Our parish priest had a wonderful opportunity to present this beautiful side of wearing the Chapel veil – unfortunately it was discussed in a very negative way. I believe that when you come to this practice with an open heart and looking to be closer to God – you will be blessed abundantly!!!! Where your veil with all the confidence and Love that yu can give to Our Lord!

  • Joannie

    I was under the impression that you were to were a veil only a Latin Mass but maybe I am wrong about that. Most people at my local parish church don’t wear one, but when I was going to a traditional schismatic church (st Pius V) women and all females had to wear a head covering or you could not enter the Church. I have at least 2 or 3 of these from over 10 years ago and I am thinking of wearing them again now because of this article. Thanks.

  • Elisabeth Smith

    I have worn a veil for about 7 years now. In the beginning it was very difficult and I worried, as Emmydawn does, about appearing overly pious. In the beginning I made it a Lenten practice – figuring I could quit after Lent if it was awful. Now I wear it for many reasons. It reminds me each time I put it on that I have stepped out of my ordinary life and am about sacred business. It reminds me to emulate Mary. It shows my respect for the Blessed Sacrament. It allows me to embrace and honor something almost beyond articulation about my own womanliness that seems to have been lost to both the secular and ecclesiastical communities. I have never had a negative comment about it – in my own parish or when traveling. When people do comment it is generally young women asking because they feel a similar longing or men telling me how much they appreciate the veil.

  • Pingback: Are veils coming back? « The Deacon's Bench()

  • Emily

    @ Kayla Peterson : I found the quote here :

    Also, ladies, keep in mind, if a veil seems like too much for you, start maybe with a nice hat or wrap a scarf around your head [a la 1950’s movie star] Scarves are great, I’ve found, you can wear them around your neck to and from the church, and then just pull it up over your head once inside! I found it very helpful when I was Church-hopping in Rome- and much easier than pulling out a veil and then some bobby pins and making sure it’s on right and all that. [Though I do love my veils!]

    It is scary at first- especially seeing as I myself used to think poorly of the practice. However, the whole point of wearing a veil is to humble yourself! It’s all about Him! A friend of mine once described it as a calling, and definitely one that constantly requires a “yes.”
    If it’s a distraction to you, however, it’s okay to stop. Prudence is a virtue as well 😉
    The principle of the thing is to veil your heart. 🙂

  • Thank you for writing about this. I also wear a veil, in fact a mantilla, as a sing of reverence and respect to the blessed sacrament. Stay true to your faith and practice.

  • John White

    Richard wrote, “…God is in all places equally…Respect for this Presence is not about…holding the palm of the hands togethers with fingers pointed skyward…” The Church teaches we are incarnated spirits, and as such, what we do and experience in the physical world CAN and DOES affect us spiritually. As examples, consider the physical aspects of each sacrament (they all REQUIRE them.) I must admit I used to be of Richard’s persuasion, when I first returned to the Church as an adult (after 15 years as a believing atheist/materialist.) I hopefully imagine that Richard would not think it appropriate for someone to walk in the Communion procession in a lackadaisical fashion; instead, I would think he rather would expect a person to approach in a sober, respectful manner. Those employing the posture described as “hands folded palm-to-palm with fingertips pointed upward”, are doing as a deeply respectful posture, nothing more. I now assume the folded hands posture when receiving Communion, because I recognize it as both deeply respectful AND personally meaningful – the posture originated a thousand years ago in the Middle Ages as the posture a vassal took in the ceremony in which he pledged his obedience to his lord. So too, in the Communion procession, I voluntarily press my palms together in a sign of obedience to my Lord to Whom I pledge my obedience in His service. Do I – all 6′ 3″ and 230 pounds of me – stick out when walking down the aisle in that posture? You bet I do! And I have been ridiculed for looking “holier than thou” and “goody-goody”. But I also know that I now see more of my fellow adult communicants doing similarly than I used to, and I hope they do it – as I do – to better honor and show deep respect for Him Whom we in that line are blessed to receive. I remember as a child of about 8 seeing a uniformed police officer holding the posture as he went to receive Communion – to this day I cannot conjure in my mind a more at-once both humble and manly image.

  • Pingback: Here are a few reasons why I choose to wear the veil at Mass |

  • Nick

    I think the key to recognizing the beauty of the veil is by rooting it in Tradition and Scripture:

    Though it’s unpopular to mention, one of the primary reasons the head-covering was thrown out was that radical feminism mistook it as something “suppressive” rather than “expressive”. And even though most people don’t realize it, this ‘fear’ remains even to this day, though that’s changing as well.

    As Catholics, we are called to not shy away from something because it is unpopular, because ultimately all Truths of the faith are nothing to be ashamed of. And I wholeheartedly agree with the comments about this being a counter-cultural move, because it is!

  • freddy

    I assist at Mass in the Extraordinary Form.
    I am female. I do not wear a headcovering.

    Holy Mother Church has made it clear that a headcovering is no longer required.

    Of course, most of the ladies at Mass do wear headcoverings, and that’s fine. Whatever one’s personal reasons for wearing a headcovering, it certainly does no harm.

    However, this is a difficult subject adequately to explain without leaving some of us scratching our uncovered heads. When explanations include phrases like symolizing the bride of Christ, witnessing to mystery, the special ability of women to carry life, and even reverence and love for the Blessed Sacrament, it leaves me wondering whether you think women who don’t cover their heads are *not* humble before God, witnessing to mystery, obviously able to carry life, or have less reverence and love for the Blessed Sacrament.

    Now, I certainly don’t think that the many lovely women here who are struggling to explain why they prefer to wear headcoverings at Mass think that those women to don’t wear headcoverings are somehow less holy. I do think, however that the headcovering issue is an example of a practice in search of a theology.

    Really, the only real reason to wear a headcovering at Mass, if a lady so chooses, is that it is part of the rich patrimony of the Church to which she is entitled.

    • Redeemed Deplorable

      I would have to (respectfully) say that I do think there is theology behind headcovering. 1 Corinthians 11 goes into the theology behind women veiling themselves in church. But apart from women veiling, I wish the bishops would step in and set down some standards for modesty and appearance for both women and men when attending mass. Personally, I look with nostalgia at old pictures from the 1950s, where everyone was dressed nicely and with decorum. I know that Jesus looks at our hearts, not our clothes, but I think we’ve lost something when, coming to celebrate the memorial of our salvation (which should fill our hearts with such joy), we dress as though we don’t really care (or act like we’d rather be somewhere else). Now, if you’re poor and don’t have nicer clothes, that’s fine. But if you have the means to dress in a way that’s more fitting for the holiness of the occasion and the holiness of the place, out of love for Jesus I believe you should do that.

  • Maddie

    But what is it about the specific act of wearing the veil that indicates modesty? If my hair is distracting to others (which isn’t my fault) then maybe my face is too. Modesty for most people means covering up your private parts, but if we go as far as covering our heads, why not go the whole way and cover our faces too (cf some Muslims)?

    I’m willing to trust that Mary wore some kind of veil although any Bible references to this would be welcome, but it could have been for cultural rather than religious reasons.

    Some commenters have referred to women’s capacity to bear children but let’s remember this isn’t the only reason God put us on the earth!

    Don’t men need to be modest too? Why shouldn’t they cover their heads/hair?

    Any responses kindly appreciated 🙂

    • Redeemed Deplorable

      I believe 1 Corinthians 11 answers many of your questions.

  • lizaanne

    @Freddy “Really, the only real reason to wear a headcovering at Mass, if a lady so chooses, is that it is part of the rich patrimony of the Church to which she is entitled.”

    No – this is not correct. The “only real reason” is the one relevant to the woman covering her head. I cover because I am humbled to be in the presence of the Creator of the Universe. Another woman will probably have her own “real reason”. But whatever that may be, it is certainly not something that can be assumed by anyone sitting near here, unless she wishes to share why she chooses to practice this very personal devotion.

  • George


    Women wear veils in part becuase, as St. Paul points out (1 Cor. 11.14-15), nature teaches us that God has given women — but not men — the hair as a permanent covering of glory. In other words, women usually have their hair throughout their lives whereas men more often lose it to baldness. This is one of the reasons why, psychologically, women associate the hair so powerfully with themselves. Women cancer patients often say that losing their hair is the hardest part of the treatment, whereas men deal with this much more easily. Women, in covering their heads, respectfully veil what (in young women especially) is the most prominent aspect of their appearance even at a distance. Men, in leaving their heads bare, uncover (especially in old men) the passing nature of their hair, admitting that this is not a glory. This is why St. Paul says that a woman may gloriously nourish her tresses whereas if a man has long hair it is a shame to him. The long-haired man, Paul seems to say, is trying to claim a glory that is not truly his. Hair for men is a temporary covering. For women–both in Paul’s argument and in our wider culture–the hair is perceived to be a permanent and permanently-feminine feature of a women; it is a feature that God has given to her, Paul says, as a “mantle” (covering), like a royal robe. It draws attention to the woman, hence she veils it when worshipping the God who has given her this gift. One veils the head not to distract from glorification of God; but in veiling one also acknowledges the beauty of this (usually) life-long gift from God. Veiling is therefore an act of gratitude as well as of humility. The hair, in particular, the because in a way that hair is a sign of _all_ the gifts that God has given us; it can be this sign because the man’s bald head proves that the hair is in some way an “extra,” but the woman’s unbalding head proves that God has given it to the woman to keep. This is how he has given every gift to us; un-owed, and yet freely-given.

  • I grew up wearing the veil also. It was the last thing to put on before we left our homes. To see females in cars on the way to Mass wearing the veil was normal. I stopped wearing the veil in the late 70s and took it back up again in about 1995. It is part of my Sunday dress and it really never crosses my mind concerning what others think; it is part of me. I have been looked at strangely on vacations, etc, but I just smile and go on my way.

    Thanks for the post Fr. Brady.

  • freddy


    Your are absolutely correct. I was unclear. I meant that the only *public* reason that won’t run the risk of offending & etc. & etc.

    Personal reasons, as I stated above, are many and various and interior to each woman who makes the choice.

    Thank you for catching that!

  • Thomas Luce

    God Bless You,

    I am a male who slightly but noticably emphasizes my bodily prostrations during Mass (bending slightly at the waist and rolling my shoulders forward while standing during summons to prayer (such as during the Confetitor), and doing likewise while kneeling–ESPECIALLY DURING THE OFFERTORY!!!!) and I can only think that this pronounced reverence–my willfull call to a very conscience obedience, awe, and humility–is discomfitting to some other parishioners.

    What a shame, as I can’t help but think. Who would have thought that our Faith would have become so inert and ossified that we would have to summon moral courage to give simple forms of witness within our own parish walls????

    Again, God Bless You!

    • Redeemed Deplorable

      I have the same problem regarding the matter of singing. Why don’t most Catholics sing (and especially men)? I sing with my heart and my voice at church. And invariably, I begin to notice the subtle body language around me: people start to move away from me slightly, people turn their heads away from me…all signalling, in essence: “Hey, you’re making me feel uncomfortable. You’re not supposed to do that at mass. It’s not what we do here.” And I deliberately tone down my voice and sing moderately!

  • anna lisa

    One of the happiest periods of my life was when I was a new mother. I was 21 years old, and my life, as a new wife and mother had gone through a radical change. Only months before, I had been an English Lit. major, at a small, elite, liberal arts college. I was ELATED to trade the likes of Dickens and all the “romantics” with Teresa of Avila,Faustina, Catherine of Sienna, Teresa of Calcutta… After reading “Divine Mercy in My Soul”, I prayed earnestly for a spiritual director. This prayer was answered in a profound way.
    When I asked my director about the veil at mass, he said “no”–at least for me.
    Now, 24 years, and a room full of kids later, I understand the wisdom of why he steered me this way.
    I am in no way saying that I don’t admire the beauty, and the virtue of wearing it, but as for myself and my daughters, I believe my beloved Jesus loves and accepts me,and my daughters, with our heads bent in humility, at mass,without a veil.

  • Mary@42

    Freddy, we need to remember that in all Catholic Churches worldwide and in all our Adoration Chapels, Jesus Christ Himself is Present – in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. This Real Presence deserved utmost reverence and our mode of dressing before Him should be a Statement that we realize in Whose Presence we are. The wearing of veils or headscarf in the Catholic Church is to demonstrate our humility before our Saviour. and Creator. You state : “Personal reasons, as I stated above, are many and various and interior to each woman who makes the choice.” To me, a 73 year-old Cradle Catholic, “various personal and interior reasons” are not why women prefer to cover their heads in Church. We are taught when taking Catechism Lessons for first Holy Communion, the disposition we should cultivate while in Church and especially when going to receive Jesus in Holy Communion. And appropriate dressing is essential. However, for those who do not feel the need to wear a veil it does not mean they do not respect our Lord, because basically it is the person’s Spiritual Disposition that God sees and appreciates.

  • deds

    The way the argument is going to veil or not to veil, very soon, some people will start saying it is not important to kneel at mass except if you feel like it. If something was the practice and was acceptable by God in the beginning but is now stopped simply because of what people are saying, then I believe that the saying ” What God has joined together, let no man put asunder” applies to practices like whether women should veil or whether we should kneel for communion or whether communion should be received on the tongue and so on and so forth. These are all practices that go with the worship. When they are joined together with the liturgy they form and become the whole mass. Without it the mass is incomplete and if it were not true, we would not be having these deliberations. Who cares what anybody except God thinks about the way you dress at worship. We should be guided by what pleases God and nothing else. Anything else is an excuse. In Africa it is normal dressing for women to cover their heads and we are taught to do so in church. When the religion was brought to our shores, covering the heads for women was part of the teaching. Now you are teaching us that it does not matter what God wants, so what then…….?

  • marie

    When the church first started, Hebrew men AND women covered their heads when in prayer.
    If you want to remain scriptural, read 1Tim 2:8-15. Women should not braid their hair, nor wear jewelry, nor speak in church. Where do you stop? I won’t even get into women being saved thru motherhood (vs 15). What about all of us who do not or can not have children?
    We must always remember that God loves us and created us for who we are, not what we wear.

  • gsk

    I share Freddy’s views on this topic, and I also am reading the comments to find a justification for veils (as I always do when the topic arises). That said, I simply haven’t found it. If the question is humility before God, then both men and women should be covered (which explains the Jewish prayer shawls and yarmulkes for men). If it’s modesty, then Maddie is right that we should cover far more than our hair (truly, men are more distracted by other things). If it’s a question of the feminine mystery (which has far more merit) then it explains why such covering is only for women, but it doesn’t explain why only in Mass. If we are set apart by our life-giving qualities, then we should always be veiled.

    Holy Mother Church interprets Scripture for us (and that includes Paul’s epistles) and has deemed head-coverings for women unnecessary — which I believe is because the “cultural construct” no longer carries the same meaning. I’ve never had a problem being a sign of contradiction when necessary, but I am distinctly aware of an invisible wall is raised. It’s hard enough to evangelise, to be accessible to women who may want to talk about NFP, or for them to solicit prayers from “that really Church-y lady.” I’ve thus concluded that even if I wanted to indulge in one of those “personal reasons” for wearing a veil, I would have to forego it so that I don’t marginalise myself even more than I have already.

    [It shouldn’t need to be said, but opinions are just that, and in no way are meant to disparage those whose opinions differ.]

    • Liberty

      Brilliant & true. So glad you commented.

  • Jenny

    Thank you, GSK, I believe your comments were rational, objective and based in Scripture, but also with an historical-critical overview. There were many things in Judaism and middle Eastern culture that is not relevant for us today, as Marie also pointed out. Furthermore, having been to the Holy Land twice in warm to hot weather, I understand their need to shelter their heads and eyes (when they also didn’t have the modern convenience and protection of sunglasses, sunscreen, etc.) from the blazing sun that we don’t always have here in the States.

    I have no issue with those who would like to veil, and I do so occasionally myself, but not as a regular practice. I have, however, been made to feel that I must not be “humble ” because I don’t veil by some of those who veil on a regular basis. The author of this piece does not appear to have this attitude, but believe me, it is out there in some communities!

  • Bruce in Kansas

    It is a paradox and a danger to take pride in one’s humililty.

  • @Maddie, just to clarify, when I mentioned veiling and modesty earlier I was saying that a part of the reason we as women should dress modestly is because we cover something that has special value/dignity etc. not just because it is distracting – I was referring more to veiling because of it was a sign of modesty in the sense that you are covering something that has a unique value/dignity, not that someone’s hair was distracting.

  • Nick

    I think people are missing something important here, which is that this practice of women covering their head is a Scriptural mandate, not so much based on cultural customs but theological ones.

    In 1st Corinthians 11, Paul says:
    4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6 For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head [i.e. veiling], because of the angels.

    This isn’t a matter of growing up doing it or whether a given society deems it better for women to do so, but rather that there is a theological truth being conveyed – a sacramental so to speak, just like a crucifix or holy water or other devotional objects. Now it might sound “sexist” of Paul to say that, but before we go there, we should assume Paul is more trustworthy of a guide than our modern “norms” on Political Correctness.

  • gsk

    @Nick: if it were that straight-forward, the Church would mandate it. Obviously, it isn’t, so we’re to build in context, or nuance, or some such. I have no problem with the hierarchy within marriage, and decry androgyny, but if we’re going to take this scripture portion literally, then why not all the rest — starting with discouraging women from cutting their hair?

    And the last line of this scripture underscores my point above, that if the veil is a sign of being under authority, then the woman should wear it always, not just while praying, prophesying or worshiping. I love Saint Paul, but even he deferred to Peter — as do I.

  • marie

    @Nick, Read 1Tim 2:8-15. Where do you want us to stop?
    Things change in 2000 years and people have learned a lot….like the earth is round!
    GSK is right on.

  • Nick

    GSK and Marie,

    The Church has mandated it in the past, and even though it’s not ‘law’ at the moment it is in no way discouraged. Similar to how Latin still holds the highest honor in Liturgy, even though the ‘law’ doesn’t state only in Latin any more.

    I don’t see any problem with taking this or various other Scriptures literally (not to be confused with “literalism”) or what problems would result if we did. In a text like 1 Timothy 2:8-15, I’m not sure what “Where do you want us to stop?” is supposed to mean. For example, Paul says Eve was created second, after Adam. Is that offensive or something? To me it’s a historical fact. I don’t read these texts with any sort of “sexism” or misogyny implied, so they are not ‘offensive’ to my ears.

  • marie

    Nick, Scripture says women are not to braid their hair, wear jewelry, speak in church, not to teach,etc…(1Tim 2)In chapter 3 Paul writes the qualifications for a bishop is that he is to be married only once,keep his children under control….My point is that the Church’s stance on issues have changed with the wisdom of the Bishops and the Pope. Latin is not held in higher esteem in liturgies. Vatican 2 makes it possible to worship God and to hear the word of God in our own language, whatever that may be. Latin is respected as part of our history. Veiling is being romanticized (and respected)without the history of it being recognized. It is always important to look at the whole picture.

  • Richard

    Bruce in Kansas said: “It is a paradox and a danger to take pride in one’s humililty.” As a contemplative mystic I could not have said it better.

  • Mary@42

    Correction – with humility – Marie. Latin is the Official Divine Language of the Catholic Church. It is not history. You may not be aware but whenever the Holy Father writes an Encyclical to the Universal Church, it is always written in Latin. Whenever he appoints Bishops, Cardinals and all other Appointments in the Universal Church, the Appointment Notifications are in Latin.

  • Nick

    Hi Marie,

    I think you are reading texts like 2:9 in an extreme fashion (no pun intended). He is speaking within the context of “modesty” and “sobriety” and is not ruling out every sort of making oneself look nice. He sees the danger with getting caught up in the latest fashions and risk of confusing outward beauty and outward adornments with what really matters, which is Christian virtues. This is just as real of a danger today where consumerism/materialism are the ultimate sign of how ‘good’ someone is. As for teaching, there are also passages which show certain women helped teach (e.g. Aquilla), just not within a liturgical setting.

    Ultimately, we must take care not to mix changeable customs in Scripture with more fixed teachings/customs in Scripture, for the last thing we want is to open the door to “well, since this is outdated, then this other thing is outdated as well,” because that opens the door to “permitting” all sorts of serious sins ranging from homosexuality to abortion to divorce – all in the name of “we’re more advanced of a culture then back then”.

    Not holding Latin in it’s proper high esteem is actually directly contrary to every comment the Church has made upon it – Vatican 2 and following documents continue to emphasize the central and primary place of Latin – but sadly this has largely been ignored.

    Merry Christmas Eve!

  • Crissy

    I was the only one who ‘veiled’ at my parish. I would at other parishes I knew, where the priest encourage it;however, in my own parish noone else veiled and the parish priest was not for it and it took a lot of courage on my part to start veiling at my parish.
    Then,Strangely though I felt convicted to cover full-time (though I cannot due to my job, but I do keep my hair up for modesty and I also discovered bun covers which is consider a ‘covering’) when into over a year I was wearing skirts/dresses (modest ones) with modest tops, this started when a priest, a young priest too, sat me down and spoke to me about the Catholic church never encouraged or approved pants on women and the beauty of women modesty and dignity overall and how we women should model Mary, which I find out other priests and women are on the same page but the liberal women agenda enter the church. Thus the changing of clothing and interior attitude of being a woman lead to a conviction to cover full time, when I can.
    I am happy to report since I started to cover during mass in my parish, others have followed suit. I am not ‘submissive’ to men and I am not married, I hold two MBAs, yet I learn the beauty and dignity of true feminity and not the secular culture pushes and many Catholic women fall for it. All I can say, veiling has let Jesus enter a special place in my heart where noone can because I Feel humbled in his presence and it is a reminder I am God’s daughter. It is a spiritual and emotional journey truly hard to put to words and I reaped many graces and healing from it.

    ALSO BTW: Remember what Our Lady of Fatima said, that “then modern age” women fashion distressed our Lord. If the Fashion then Distressed Our Lord, can you imagine what today’s fashion doing today? I have learned to dress with dignity and headcoverings in a very fashionable way that alot of very fashionable secular colleagues constantly comment on my dress attires, and I don’t forgo makeup or jewelery.

  • Jeannie

    Thank you for this article. I began to wear a veil to adoration and NO mass a few months ago. When I put the veil on I am very much aware that I am stepping into a sacred space and that our Lord is truly present in a very special way. It is an act of humility and personal devotion on my part. I find the veil is a very physical reminder to me that Holy Mass is not just a public worship meeting, but a very real meeting of heaven and earth in the Eucharist.

  • Mackenzie

    Mary would have worn a veil because she’s a married Jewish woman. Jewish modesty rules (tznius) include that married women must not show their hair. Modernly, this is often accomplished by Orthodox Jews by wearing a wig, but a the tichel or mitpachat is common too.

    I find the explanation for 1 Corinthians 11 suddenly allowing uncovered hair for women after Vat2, that the hair IS the covering, a bit odd, since this would imply that when it says a few verses later that men must not cover it means that men ought to shave their heads.

  • Mackenzie

    Why don’t Catholics wear it always when praying (keeping in mind that the Bible also says to “pray ceaselessly”)? The same reason so many in this thread have made it clear that they’ve never read that portion of the Bible: because Catholics don’t tend to read the Bible, preferring instead to have a member of the clergy tell them the rules based on their interpretation.

    Amish, Hutterite, Mennonite, Brethren…they wear a covering at all times because Paul says to wear it when praying or prophesying and I think it’s in Psalms that it says to pray ceaselessly, which would imply covering all the time, as you suggested. It is no secret that the Catholic Church used to prohibit translating the Bible into the vernacular language of a region. Martin Luther got into a good deal of trouble for it. That the attitude of the Pope over the Bible has persisted is no surprise.

  • Mackenzie

    (Oh, and I say that “Catholics don’t tend to read the Bible” thing as someone who grew up Catholic, went to a Catholic school, and never once heard anything quoted from the Bible outside of Mass until becoming a Friend.)

  • Bruce in Kansas

    @ Mackenzie: Your apparent love of scripture is admirable. Of course, we all use many quotes from the Bible in our every day language, but I’m confident that’s not what you’re talking about. You seem pretty upset at the Catholic Church, yet here you are commenting on ignitumtoday. I am sorry you had such a bad experience, but I pray your heart is still open to the truth of Catholicism. Your perception on vernacular translation is not quite accurate; the scriptures had been translated into many languages, including German, long before Father Martin Luther. Freelance editing and commentaries are another matter. Ultimately it is a matter of not recognizing the authority Christ has given His Church. I hope you read up on the history of the Bible and of the Church from a few reputable secular sources, and continue to consider the claims of the Church. Peace.

  • E. Clare

    I started wearing a veil just a little over a year ago, after praying about it during Advent. There is a young couple at Mass who are very traditional. Seeing them, seeing the woman wear a veil and have a crocheted cap for her little girl, and raise their kids to be respectful in Mass… I knew if I wanted a family some day, I would want to raise them that way, too. Among other things, the veil was a change to be closer to God, to bring back reverence to the Mass for me. I agree that it should be for the purpose of holiness, but I would never encourage someone to wear it if there is any other reason. It is a very personal choice, and no one should feel judged for wearing or not wearing a veil. It is all about reverence, humility and holiness, with Christ as the center of it all.
    God bless you!

  • Hello, i think that i saw you visited my website so i came to go back the prefer?.I’m attempting to in finding issues to enhance my site!I assume its ok to make use of some of your concepts!!

  • Pingback: Mantilla on the Veil | StigmaBot()

  • Pingback: Mantilla on the Veil | Standing on my Head()

  • I am a revert to veiling having been a child before it became ‘out of fashion’. My adult daughter and I, along with her 2 year old daughter, began the practice on Mother’s Day of this year. You can read more about my experience and see my tutorial on making your own veil here:

  • Notgiven

    Veil or no veil does not make any one more holy or more respectful. It’s a nice thought but is often way out of place if it’s not done where others do so because it most certainly calls attention to oneself and is a distraction to others. We have someone in our parish who wears one, but still wears shorts (albeit longish) and sleeveless tops while doing so and has no hesitation in pushing a “visionary” and “devotions” which that local bishop has ordered to cease and desist (disobedience). Another “veiler” I know of is involved with youth ministry and wears high heels and miniskirts while veiling. All of this sends a mixed message. Don’t kid yourselves. If your behavior doesn’t match the veiling, you are not sending the right message. If you veil, then you should wear modest clothing underneath (no bare arms, no shorts, no see through materials) be obedient to the magisterium, faith filled, and living a holy life. This sends the right message: that your veiling is a reflection of that respect and obedience with which you honor the Lord at ALL times, especially in church. Otherwise, unless it is mandated, it’s a show pure and simple. Oh and btw, that Spanish veil shown? Just another fashion statement. Veiling in front of the Pope? A sign of respect AND protocol. When done by those who don’t respect the Catholic Church and what She believes and teaches, it’s simply protocol.

  • Judy Tosado

    This summer I found a beautiful cotton shawl at a thrift store and it made me think of mass so I bought it. I attend mass twice a week. No one wears a veil but on most occasions I have it in my car and I bring it with me. I use it on Sundays after mass when I go up to light a candle and pray for a dear friend who has cancer. I also use it in our Adoration Chapel where I go to pray the rosary. At home I pray the rosary every morning if it is not out in the car I will wear it. I am 52 and never wore a veil before, now when I do, it feels as if I always have. – Judy T

  • muslim

    Also. Muslim wear veilss. ,

    Mary did wear scarf and long dress

  • Georgina

    What moved me to veil was the love for Liturgy. I was finishing my theology studies, and as I deepened on the meanings of words and gestures in Mass I realized we don’t really know the depth of what is celebrated and the symbols used.

    We often think “God knows my heart, I don’t need to make it visible”, but I wonder: why keeping our adoration so hidden and personal when we’re supposed to be celebrating as Church the central mistery of the faith?

    So I veil and, while doing so, I pray for the Church to be a faithful and loving Wife. Thanks for your article. I’ve been veiling since Corpus Christi this year.