“I know better than to comment on women’s fashions, but what’s your mom wearing on her head?” A parishioner asked #2 that question after seeing a mantilla on my head for the first time. Being a surgeon, I suppose he knew better than to get on the bad side of a nurse so he avoided asking me.
About three weeks ago, I knew I had to make a decision: mantilla yes or mantilla no. My “no” reasons were starting to wear thin on me. It was time to commit. So, one day after work, I headed to a Catholic store, dragging #8 with me.
The lovely Sister was more than happy to help me with my purchase. She carefully unwrapped various veils and placed them in front of me. She urged me to try on each one before deciding.
There were long, rectangular mantillas as well as different sizes of triangular veils, cream ones and black ones. With #8 and Sister acting as fashion critics, I happily modeled every piece that was offered to me. There was a unanimous “no” as the first mantilla went on my head – a beautiful cream rectangular specimen. Thereafter, the Sister, with wholehearted approval from #8, took away all the cream mantillas.
“You don’t look good in cream, dear.” Could Sister have been any more blunt?
I narrowed down my choice to two black triangular veils, one a little larger than the other and both fashioned from different lace designs. I bought them both.
The first time I wore my mantilla was to Saturday morning Mass. I wasn’t sure whether to put it on before leaving the house (overkill); put it on in the parking lot before exiting my car (perhaps); or put it on in the washroom (I had to go anyway).
In the washroom, disaster struck. I dropped the bobby pin meant to secure the mantilla to my head. It was the same colour as the tile floor! Panic! But only for an instant. Being a mom of 8, I know the cardinal rule of mommyhood – always bring extra – diapers, band aids, even bobby pins.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that some people stared, including the surgeon. On that Saturday morning no one asked why but some people did look. I bowed my head and thought, “this too shall pass.”
I wore it to Sunday Mass the next morning. Again with the puzzled looks. This time, three women asked why I was wearing a veil. I uncomfortably replied that I wanted to bring more tradition and reverence into my Mass attendance. They all seemed to like my answer.
This week, I wore my mantilla again to Saturday morning and Sunday Mass. A few more looks, including from the visiting priest, but no questions.
Having my head enveloped by a beautiful piece of lace is very grounding. It’s as if the mantilla is gently caressing my head and keeping me focused on Mass. I felt greater reverence for the prayers, for the Blessed Sacrament and for receiving Jesus in Communion.
Can a piece of lace really do all that? Well, by itself, no. And, it’s a personal choice. Wearing a mantilla doesn’t make me a better Catholic woman than someone who doesn’t wear one. But personally, the mantilla helps settle me to be more reverent, humble, focused and prayerful at Mass. I believe my mantilla helps me to remember why I’m at Mass and who I am before God.