To Wear or Not To Wear: Church Veils and Mantillas

Posted at Catholic Insight

If you do an internet search for “church veil” or “mantilla”, you’ll come across many websites dedicated to wearing a piece of lace covering on your head during Holy Mass. You’ll also find many blog posts and articles that ask the question: should I or shouldn’t I wear a mantilla?

The reasons for veiling are numerous: humility, reverence, modesty, bringing back tradition to Holy Mass. The reasons against veiling are just as strong: subjugation of women, false humility, holieir-than-thou, taking the Church back to pre-Vatican II days.

There was a time in the Catholic Church when women were required to veil at Mass. The 1917 Code of Canon Law mandated it. Canon 1262 states: “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.”

But then, changes occurred. The document, Inter Insignoires, issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the 1970s stated that mantillas were no longer mandatory since wearing them was not a matter of faith: “It must be noted that these ordinances, probably inspired by the customs of the period, concern scarcely more than disciplinary practices of minor importance, such as the obligation imposed upon women to wear a veil on their head (1 Cor. 11:2-16); such requirements no longer have a normative value.”

Even Cardinal Burke, who is the head of the Holy See’s highest court, the Apostolic Signatura, addressed the question. He wrote a letter regarding veiling which is available on the EWTN web site. In part, he wrote: “The wearing of a chapel veil for women is not required when women assist at the Holy Mass according to the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. It is, however, the expectation that women who assist at the Mass according to the Extraordinary Form cover their heads, as was the practice at the time that the 1962 Missale Romanum was in force. It is not, however, a sin to participate in the Holy Mass according to the Extraordinary Form without a veil.”

The 1983 Code of Canon Law which is in effect today doesn’t mention church veils. Its absence from the Canon means it’s  been abrogated.

While veiling is no longer required, it’s still an option that some women choose, including me. When I was deciding whether or not to veil for Mass, the more I read about it, the more I wanted to veil. I liked the idea of wearing a lovely piece of lace on my head. I thought the practice of veiling was pretty, not in a vain way, but in the same way that I would dress as attractively as possible if I were going to a special event. And what could be more special than Mass? The intention of veiling to show reverence appealed to me.

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21 Responses to To Wear or Not To Wear: Church Veils and Mantillas

  1. what a wondeful explanation for a post Vatican II convert. I really understand now, your writing is infused with the Spirit, flowing straight from your heart. No justifying, no rationalizing, just pure love for the lord. the Mass and the Eucharist. Irresistible

  2. SaintlySages says:

    I say it is praiseworthy and salutary to retain meaningful religious traditions, both in the communal liturgy and in private devotions. Christ could have chosen any number of settings in which to institute the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist: the Cana wedding, the feeding of crowds, the home of Martha and Mary, to name a few. But, instead, He chose the Passover seder, which is a family celebration that commemorates the liberation of Jews from slavery, and which is replete with meaningful elements and purposeful actions from start to finish. God bless!

  3. I’m glad it’s not a sin not to cover your head for an EF Mass. We were in the Twin Cities last week and went to Latin Mass at St. Agnes, which was once our parish. We didn’t know that since Summorum Pontificum they had begun having Mass in the Extraordinary Form. So there I was with a bare head. It was my first time at an EF Mass.
    Just as an aside, I’ve read that “veiling” is not a precisely correct term. Except for Hispanic women, most women wore hats rather than veils before the rules changed. Hats were part of the fashion for women, so it was easy for them to pop into Church and be properly dressed. We (my mom, sisters, and I) used to wear hats to Mass when I was little, and I loved it. But for me it was vanity, not humility! I liked to dress up. Maybe that’s why I don’t feel the urge to wear a veil now. It’s such a blessing that there is a room for both options!
    God bless.

  4. Me says:

    This has been on my mind so frequently and I keep pushing it aside. I noticed one woman veiling this past Sunday and made me ponder it further. Now I am feeling the real push (or is it a calling?) to do so.

  5. Thank you, Terry. This isn’t something I’ve read about lately but I am seeing more women wearing veils to Mass. I appreciate the opportunity for thought and discussion.

  6. genericmum says:

    I haven’t ever felt the inspiration to wear a hat or veil, but I am sure I’m meant to always wear skirts. (I’m equally sure I shouldn’t criticise anyone who doesn’t.) Thanks for this post 🙂

  7. It’s fun to wear a hat, scarf or veil to church, but sometimes I’m running late, and then I’m glad it’s not required anymore. I don’t always have time to look for one.

  8. Fran L. says:

    Love this post. It is very timely for me, veiling keeps coming up! Hmm… time to pray about it.

  9. This post makes me all warm and fuzzy remembering what it was like when I first started veiling. Of course, it also brings back how terrified I was that very first time and for most of my first six months.I was so petrified about what the people I knew would say or presume falsely about me, just like you were. I decided that by covering despite my fears, I could offer my worries up as a sacrifice to join with His on the altar and it made all the difference. Eventually, someone also pointed out to me that it wasn’t very charitable for me to imagine that most everyone was thinking unkind thoughts about me. That changed so much for me! On her suggestion, every time I saw someone watching me who my first reaction was to imagine they were thinking unkind things, I would deliberately try to imagine that they were actually directing warm, supportive thoughts my way. It worked wonders. 🙂 Plus, charity (whether deserved or not) is good for the soul! Thanks for writing about this topic.

  10. I’m new to the church. I was in RCIA last year and found out my husband needs an annulment form his 1st marriage in order for me to receive sacraments. I found this out 6 days before my 1st Holy Communion. I was devastated. I wept for days. I can’t explain it. I just felt such grief at not being able to come into full communion with our Lord God. Eventually, after a lot of prayer, I began to see that God has a reason and His Will is always best. (I’ve started to pray that in this time of waiting my husband will find his way to the Catholic church as well)

    I started to search for ways to stay connected. I found a picture on pinterest of a woman with a mantilla on at mass. I’d never herd of this before. I read up on it. I knew right away this was for me. I bought a infinity scarf before Sunday mass. It’s true what people say! I was able to concentrate more. And for those first weeks when I would tear up during the transubstantiation I had a veil to duck under until my husband would whisper something to cheer me up. I feel so blessed to be able to be at mass. So thankful for Jesus giving himself for our salvation. I can’t imagine walking into the church with out showing the upmost respect possible.

    I’m passing this practice on to my daughters. They started to veil after Easter. I got them white lace mantillas from our church gift shop and decorated the boarder around the face with small beads. I also added a necklace clasp so the mantillas clip right under their chin. Now we don’t have any issues during mass.

    We’ve gone to mass in other states and around our home town. No one has ever said anything negative. Mostly there’s smiles from older prisoners. My 3 year old even asked me to make her baby doll a mantilla so she could go see Jesus too. 🙂 That wasn’t too surprising since we revamped her Barbies and Kens the people at the tomb of Jesus on Easter Sunday!! LOL

    • Thank you so much for sharing your testimony, It’s powerful! I visited your lovely Etsy website and wonder if there is some way to include what you’ve written here? Your witness could help many women who are unsure whether or not to veil.

  11. Pingback: Should I Mantilla? | 8 Kids And A Business

  12. Cristina says:

    I LOVED this…

    “what it will do is enhance our experience of worship at Holy Mass and be a beautiful external reminder of our littleness before the Blessed Sacrament. Wearing a veil helps me to envision that when I receive Jesus in Holy Communion, my head covering forms a cocoon that helps to mentally block out the sounds around me so that I can concentrate on praying to Jesus who is now physically inside me. And veiling makes me more mindful of how appropriately dressed I am for Mass.”

    This encapsulates what I feel now that I veil. And the one time I didn’t. I was just sad that I didn’t feel that special focus. Rest assured there is a veil in the mail to me right now to stay in my purse at all times.

    Thank you SO much for linking with us at the #VeilProject.


  13. Theresa says:

    What can I add Terry that has not been said…this was so informative and right from the heart. I am grateful I was blessed to read this today.

  14. Lyn Mettler says:

    Wonderful post! Just what I needed to hear :). I, like you, like the idea of wearing a veil with the intention of reverence. I need to just forget what everyone thinks and do what I am called to do!

  15. Pingback: Small Success Thursdays – Random Edition | 8 Kids And A Business

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