Friday, January 23, 2009


Gads KAT – What a question. People have been killed for taking a position on this topic. *sigh* Really. Between you and Rob . . .

If you missed the question by KAT she asked about the symbolism of the chapel veil and peppered the question with the tag, “in or out?” Who could imagine that a little piece of material on top of one’s head could cause so much controversy? Believe me however, it does. Since it is a topic for symbolism however, I will try to answer just the same.

What is really at the heart of the matter here is not a chapel veil but a head covering. This is based on 1 Corinthians 11:3-10,16. Here is a link to the passage with notes from the USCCB. A chapel veil was used when one was not using another type of covering such as a hat. Basically it represented a hierarchical status in symbolic form. It was in use in the church for almost 2,000 years before completely (almost) fading away in our own day.

So that is the symbolic meaning. Don’t shoot or praise the messenger. Dems de facts as I sees ‘em.

So it this a symbolic fashion do or don’t? Consider the current liturgical law in the United States about how one may receive Communion. It is (almost) entirely up to the communicant if they wish to receive Communion on the tongue or in the hand (unless you are at a papal Mass where he now will only distribute on the tongue.) Save for some specific circumstances it is canonically and liturgically improper for a priest or any other minister to dictate in what way a person may receive Communion. So I can honestly say that as long as a person receives reverently and properly I haven’t the slightest right to care which way they receive. They are clearly on the Catholic playing field, and perfectly able to make a mature decision in the matter.

Head coverings (Jimmy Akins has a good articles on it. Here is one. I find the comments section particularly thought provoking.) are absolutely NOT required by Canon Law. They are not recommended by the Church in any official way that I am able to determine. Like the “orans position” mentioned last week, they are also not forbidden. So I would assume that if you wanted to be an orans-position, chapel veil wearing Catholic, you have the right to be.

AT THE HEART OF THE PROBLEM is a strong dual symbolic interpretation system running in the Church at the moment. There are those who have a symbolic interpretation of the veil that is very negative, causing the symbolic value of the veil to actually run counter to Christ’s message. Everyone needs to be sensitive to this. Then there is the group among whom are those who have not had prior experience of such items and who have reinterpreted the symbolic meaning and value of them and see them as a boon to their spiritual journey.

So who should have the right to say which way we should go especially considering that Rome does not seem to care too terribly much one way or the other? Should it simply be left to the individual adult Catholic to make a choice on something that is on the Catholic playing field? Well, Kat, you asked for my opinion and here it is: Whatever your inclinations are you must first sit down and determine what this means to you symbolically and if it is truly helpful to your spiritual journey and the journey of those around you. Secondly, no matter what your decision you have to make sense in your heart of this Scripture passage. There are different ways of interpreting this. Our only non-option is simply to ignore it. Next, you must know and understand that not everyone is going to agree with you so decide that you are going to enact your decision with dignity, modesty, joy and charity. Be set on not judging another person by what they choose to do since we should neither be holier than Mother Church nor less holy. And since this is not a matter of prescribed Catholic practice, faith, or morals, be supportive of each other’s point of view. And bear in mind you can always change your mind.

Does that sound fair?


Adrienne said...

Very fair and well said, too

Anonymous said...

I had to wear a chapel veil when I was younger. I know that I didn't understand why, but a few other girls at my church wore them too. I do know that I'd purposefully forget my chapel veil and hope my mom didn't have a spare one with her.

When I do see a woman wearing a chapel veil or a mantilla I don't find her strange, weird, or super submissive. I do think, "old-school, holy, trying to get closer to Christ." Clearly none of those are bad words to be said about someone. I think if you have a desire to wear one, do it. Don't be surprised if people ask you about it.


Unknown said...

Just think of it this way, Rob and I are giving you a chance to work off purgatory now.

Adoro said...

Well stated, Fr. V.

I wear one when I'm at my own parish or the one we go to when we're in class, but I don't wear it at my work parish.

When I began, I took some hits for it..was accused of being disobedient to the Magisterium, she called it a "doily", etc.

It seems wrong to me not to wear it now. That's not to say I think everyone should be wearing one (well, I do, but of their own volition, not through force of law!)

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Father V: I wonder at your comment about Rome not caring much either way. Haven't they, in essence, taken a position for the mantilla by requiring women to have their heads covered when they meet the Holy Father?

Anonymous said...

I took up the mantilla again, once, and my two daughters were MORTIFIED-- as well they should be. They're only lucky it wasn't a bobby-pinned Kleenex like in the old days when we found ourselves in the Church lobby without a veil or a {{{{shudder}}} rainbonnet. There are pics of me in pillbox hat on Easter (and white gloves..O Jackie!), and there are also pics of me in Magdalen hair later in life. Both ways, I was Catholic.

I like the mantilla, especially on a bad hair day, but I also felt a little tented-with-the-Lord.. I liked it! Sorta like a tallit. If it were ordered at me, I wouldn't like it.

Elena suggested a beret for those who didn't really want a hat or veil, and I got one and promptly realized not everyone can pull that look off. I looked like someone from a Harold Lloyd film. (Ha, folks'll have to Google that.)

Catholicism is not a cult. It should never have been a cult. The Holy Father's going to mainstream the schismatics now, and surely it is so as to de-cult the cult. Amen. The message was and is of Christ's Good News, not how to please Pharisees. Never get sucked into doing that at the expense of what's far more important about the Faith. It feels safer to comply with strictness, but Christ came to free us into the Father's love.

Anonymous said...

Cathy_of_Alex: I haven't heard that women are required to have their head covered when they meet the Pope. I've seen many pictures of friends in audiences with the Pope, and their heads aren't covered.

Maybe you're thinking of the rule that shoulders are to be covered? I know that if a couple wants to have their marriage blessed by the Pope in Rome, and if they're wearing their wedding gown, the woman must cover her shoulders.

Anonymous said...

Suspect most people see the veil as mere throwback . . . guess people have the right to look the way they want to.