Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Donning the Mantilla

Much controversy surrounds this beautiful act of humility before the Lord; this age-old custom/tradition of our faith. Many claim that the Church mandates the covering of a woman's head when entering the presence of God in His Tabernacle. They say that "Vatican II" did not "do away with" the teaching...the "mandate" and that all who do not wear the mantilla (veil) are in disobedience to the Church.

This post is not about the validity or lack thereof of such argument/debate/opinion/accusations.

This post is about another topic: Pride.

I've been pondering this whole thing lately because a dear friend of mine, whose family DOES wear the mantilla, has started her own online business where she is selling lovely handmade ones in a personal effort to restore this humble devotion in the Church community.

When I was a child (and, having been born in 1964, I am a *post* Vatican II child, but nonetheless) the mantilla was still commonly worn at Mass. I LOVED it. What little girl doesn't enjoy placing a veil atop her head?

In fact, when we were young and played "Church" or "Nun" as we often did, we used anything we could get our hands on to become a veil...bath towels, dish towels, sheets, blankets...you name it, we tried it.

I have been asking myself why I haven't encouraged my girls to return to this custom?

I have shamefully decided that the answer is "pride" (and  a tad bit of a lack of courage).

My "good" motivation in raising godly children has always been to try to inculcate the idea that we are not to attract attention to "ourselves" but rather, to CHRIST, within us...mainly through our example of godly-living and Christian JOY. This has always been my answer to "But what exactly is WRONG with blue hair, Mom?"
It is "wrong" because it draws attention to "us" instead of to CHRIST, within us. (That was a general example to make a general point...not meant to evoke a debate on hair style choices and/or color).

Continuing in that line of thought...I have hesitated to return to donning a mantilla because we have been without one for so long (none of my girls have ever worn it) that I fear that if we suddenly start showing up at Mass with veils on our heads...it WILL draw attention...and I don't want that! (Several families in our parish DO wear the mantilla).

However, I hang my head as I type this...because I realize that even THIS is "pride". It is a lack of courage, as well...

Should I not be willing to have a few looks thrown our way...a few whispers here or there...a few questions or comments after Mass...if, in my heart, I feel that this truly is a lovely act of humility and devotion to bow before the Lord and "cover" ourselves in His presence?

My pride always makes me worry about "what others think". I wouldn't want someone to think we were just wearing veils to be "part of a holy crowd". Believe me, I have heard MANY awful things said (EVEN BY CLERGY) about those who don the mantilla; and have, on several occasions, risen to the defense of people who choose to show their humble devotion to the Lord in this way.

Do I fear such backlash?

Do I worry that some would "think" that I am trying to be "holier than thou".

(Although, as my friend has said...better *holier than thou* than *worldlier than thou*!)

My thoughts reach out to the wider congregation...as a whole.

Why won't ALL of us women return to this beautiful tradition/custom if we, in our hearts, believe that restoration is in order if we are to combat the ways of the world and rise up for Christ in an anti and post Christian society?

Why would we NOT want to take part in something so good, so lovely, so humble?

I am asking myself these things.

Part of my own, personal answer, I know...is that I don't wish to associate myself with that certain "sect" of people who actually DO claim that we are sinning NOT to wear a veil...that the NO Mass is not valid...that the current Pope and many Popes back to whomever are not valid, etc...Though this group is a minority in the Church...it DOES exist...and many of those who subscribe to these mindsets DO wear a mantilla...

So, again...PRIDE/LACK OF COURAGE...I, who do not wish to associate with that type of person, fear participation in this lovely act of devotion because someone "MIGHT THINK" that I "am ONE OF THEM".

Pride and lack of courage.

My girls would readily, eagerly, and wholeheartedly don a mantilla tomorrow if I handed them out and said, "Let's wear these as a sign of our humility and devotion before Christ's presence in the Tabernacle".

Perhaps, I will learn from my children...and do the same.


  1. Judy, This is a subject close to my heart! I have the exact same thoughts you do. I have a desire to veil, but my pride and lack of courage have kept me from doing so. I do not think there is anyone in our parish veiling right now :( And I have never veiled because I converted to Catholicism when I was 26, so it really wasn't even presented as an option then (in 1997). This is a desire that really started as my love for Jesus in the Eucharist has grown. I will pray for you as you discern. Please pray for me too. May we have courage to follow God's will for us, whether that be to veil or not to veil.

  2. Kathryn! How lovely to "see" you! Perhaps the Lord has connected us in this discernment so that we will both benefit from the graces of one another's prayers. Rest assured, I will be praying for you; and I think you for doing the same for me:)

  3. Thank you Judy! You have inspired me to post on this as well. I linked back to here!

  4. I'm a 1963 baby and I remember First Friday Mass and the sisters telling us to put a Kleenex on our heads if we didn't have our little doilie mantillas.
    Thanks for this one Judy. Maybe I will muster up the courage to return to this beautiful custom as well.

  5. Kathryn...I was born in 1960 and I remember the mantilla too. I would love to start wearing one but I too have the same concerns. Thanks for the post. Something to ponder.

  6. Kathryn,

    I was born in '57 and we always wore "doilie mantillas" or tissue bobbie pinned to our heads. Then, I remember when were were told we didn't have to wear them anymore. I have to say that when I see other women wearing them it always moves me.

    Thank you for this sharing this.

  7. Actually, it was the 1917 code of canon law that said, enshrining a centuries old custom, women must have their heads covered in church. It did not say "mantillas" but heads covered. Thus hats worked well, too, as long as they weren't the nutty stuff we saw at Kate and William's wedding.

    It was dropped out of the 1983 code, but that doesn't mean we can't continue to wear head coverings. Mantillas are easy. They don't smoosh the hair of people who have bad hair, like me, and they help people like me to stay recollected when church can be distracting. They are definitely a sign of submission to God.

    Think about this: you may not know it but one of the main reasons women doffed the hats and veils was because of the spirit of radical feminism which has infected the Church. We're not submitting to anyone! And don't open any doors for us either you male chauvinist pigs! I know because I was born in 1945 and have lived through all of it. Now I'm a really tough old buzzard who won't put up with feminist nonsense.

    If God is calling women to wear head coverings, we should answer that call. Who cares what other people think? Who cares if some of our fellow Catholics who wear mantillas are a bit over the top? We are, after all, a church of sinners. It's not a sign of belonging to a particular group but of belonging to God in our role as women. God knows our hearts. If we are doing it for good reasons, put everything else to rest.

    I started to wear a mantilla again in 1997 when nobody else was. Yes, some women were hateful about it, but my eyes were on Jesus and what He wanted. It only takes a few people to start reviving this practice for it to become the "norm" once more and nobody has to worry about attracting attention. As long as we are cheerful and charitable to others it all works out OK.

    Women in Korea and Japan wear mantillas to church. If you get a chance to see any pictures of Our Lady of Akita and the women attending Mass in the 1970s and 80s, you will not only see them wearing veils, you will see them kneeling to receive Holy Communion. How's that for a shocker?

    Follow the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and fear not. Human respect is the biggest trap we can fall into when it comes to giving God His due.

  8. I appreciate your thoughtful remarks Barb. I am so glad that you have found peace in covering your head for the Lord. I do wish to clarify your comment, if I may, though...for the Canon did not say (in 1917) that women "must" have their heads covered. It was not required as much as it was "expected". The exact wording was that women "shall". This link leads to an article for anyone wishing to clarify the issue in that way...it is never sinful NOT to cover our heads...and when that particular issue was abrogated...the question at hand was really whether women had to cover their heads during the Extraordinary Form of the Mass...anyway...http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/head_coverings_in_church.htm
    That letter...especially the final paragraph at the bottom...makes it very clear that it is a custom, not a requirement. THAT SAID, I merely offer that link for anyone interested in the facts...not to raise debate...for this post was intended to be more of a reflection about a beautiful devotion. And, as I said Barb...you have expressed, beautifully, how much joy you have in wearing a head covering...and I thank you for sharing your thoughts in this post.

  9. I think there is some confusion here as to who wrote this post :) Judy from Homeschool Faith and Family Live wrote this beautiful post and I thank her for it, because her honesty expresses what is also in my heart. I was just responding back to her that I also wrote something too because she inspired me, and gave me the courage to write at my blog about it. It is great to read the comments here too, and I have been encouraged both by Judy's post here and by all the comments. I agree with Judy, that the Lord connected us to receive the grace of one another's prayers. May our discernment bring us peace.

  10. I learned a lot from reading and reflecting on this. Thanks.

    God Bless.

  11. I just came across this article when doing a search to purchase mantillas. I have been wearing a mantilla to all forms of the Mass for 2 years now. I am the only one at my parish. Once there was an elderly woman wearing one. I am 51 years old and the change in my mindset when I wear it is astounding. I am reminded at every moment that I am present at a special event in a special place. And yes, it can be hard to be that conspicuous. Even after 2 years I still feel a twinge of discomfort, but that doesn't deter me. I do make sure that all of my actions are in communion with the Church so that I am a Catholic role model. Many people do not genuflect when entering/exiting the pew, they don't respond when directed to in the missal, and they talk before, during and after Mass. I feel some shielding from all this when I wear my mantilla. The increased wearing of it is obviously a quickening of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the devout.

  12. ...and like purrpurr I ALSO stumbled across this blog when looking for webshops selling mantillas (you cannot purchase one in Denmark, where I live - we have very few Catholic items for sale, as we're a very small minority).

    I have the EXACT same thoughts as Judy, who posted the blog - the EXACT same! This has only strengthened my resolve to be courageous and start wearing one! I have two further reasons:

    1) two great guy friends of mine recently said how very beautiful it is for them to see a women wearing a mantilla - how much it creates reverence for women in them and makes them think they have a job in "protecting" us from "the world" - meant not in a restricting, but reverend way - as in: women are something special, something beautiful in life and we need "to be taken special care of" - they both said how much they would like to see girls and women pick up this tradition again - and these are guys in their mid-thirties, not grandfathers...,

    2) in relation to the above: a mantilla is a counter-cultural thing that is much needed right now - women have never been so exposed and so exploited - pornography has become a completely ordinary - and almost required or celebrated thing in many, many aspects of young girls' lives (and older women's as well). The mantilla is one way of reminding our society of the divine fact, that the woman is a treasure - something to be revered, handled with respect, loved and protected, not exploited. The mantilla brings back the delicate and divine beauty of womanhood - and I would say - by veiling us thus gives us back our TRUE freedom (the kind where we live in God)- not the fake freedom of the promiscuous times we live in (by the way, can recommend here "Extreme Makeover" by Teresa Tomeo!).

    I think I'll write a post to our national Catholic newspaper - I'm probably not the only one having had concerns like Judy... - and who knows - maybe we'll start a revolution of women who start taking charge of their own dignity again, now that society isn't exactly doing it for us... And last: do I believe there are other ways of taking back our dignity or showing reverence in Church that are just as good or almost as good? Yes! But a mantilla is a very visible way to start doing it - and it's something that speaks to both guys and girls. Not all men are "exploiting predators" - a lot of them actually WANT us to take charge and start giving ourselves the respect and reverence we deserve - this makes it MUCH easier for them to do the same - !

    All the best to you, my Catholic family - Miriam Russell, Denmark.

  13. I'm not sure about the mantilla but it has been a long time since the Church from all over the world was targeted for wrong preaching. Because of the few bad pastors the Church has got its fame maligned. Thank you, by the way, for this informative blog. God Bless Everyone!

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