I walked into Church before Mass on a Sunday in spring, 2014, and spotted two of my friends; they wore what looked like doilies on their heads. I had seen this twice before: once at a Brethren church I visited, and again at Baptist church, but never before in a Catholic Church. After Mass I asked about the doilies. They explained that they were wearing veils (aka mantillas) because of a passage in Scripture that tells us we’re supposed to. Then why aren’t any other women wearing them? I saw the look on my mother’s face, which spoke, “Oh, no, here she goes.” I had been on the path of learning as much as I could about the Catholic faith, with a deep desire to live the Word and spread the Word. She knew that if this custom was in Scripture, it wouldn’t be long before I invested in my own veil.
While I did look up the Scripture passage (1 Corinthians 11:2-16), it took me another 3 years to begin veiling. At that time, I knew that if I studied the concept further I might feel “called” to veil; looking back, I simply didn’t have the courage to answer, so I avoided the topic altogether.
I moved to Mississauga in 2016, and within two weeks, met my husband. Being with a man who cherishes modesty and traditional Catholicism, I felt supported in taking my faith practice further. I wanted to be more reverent. I wanted to be a witness for Jesus. I wanted to grow in holiness. I wanted people to look at me and see Him. Not weeks later did the concept of veiling return to my mind.
Research showed that first, the Church veils holy things; women, as vessels of life, cover their heads to symbolize their dignity and life-giving power. Before the Second Vatican Council, all women veiled. Second, as women we represent the Church, the Bride of Jesus Christ. The Church submits to Jesus and He sanctifies her, making her holy and perfect, just as He is perfect. Through veiling, we are visible signs of that same submission to our Lord. Jesus, you have my life. I am nothing without you. I’ll go wherever you ask. The veil, in a third sense and definitely applicable to me, can also symbolize the submission to one’s husband as the head of the family, just as Jesus is the head of the Church. To submit to a man of faith who lays down his life for me is an absolute honour; I wanted a visible sign that Ante and I are trying to model our marriage after the love Jesus has for the Church.
My first time veiling was nerve-wracking. I prayed that God would calm my mind, helping me focus on Him rather than wondering whether people were judging me. When I left the Church and removed the veil, a small group of women came to me telling me stories of when they were young. One woman told me that when she was a teen, she would not dare walk into a Church without a veil; if she forgot her veil, she would grab a tissue (I’m not quite there; I forgot my veil this weekend, and went without)! I smiled, but quickly felt a mild sadness. How did we stray this far? Why did we lose this beautiful tradition? Veiling is no longer mandatory under Canon Law, so we by no means MUST veil, but the theological backing is worth thinking about. Note: at the rise of radical feminism and the advocating for abortion, women actually burned veils protesting the Catholic Church. It made me want to fight back with a true feminism, with God at its core.
Some women avoid veiling because they do not want to attract too much attention to themselves. Fair, but I’m feeling it’s time to become visible signs of submission to God among the body of believers. The devil, though the inevitable loser in the battle of good and evil, is doing a decent job at infiltrating the Church; my sense is that a return to reverence, piety, and humble and strong femininity is exactly what we need. Remember that it was a woman’s humble submission and obedience that gave us the Saviour of the World.
"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel." Genesis 3:15