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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