An Easy Beginner’s Guide to Veiling at Mass

In the past couple of years I’ve noticed something beautiful around the multiple parishes that I have had the privilege to attend. There are more and more women veiling at mass. Veiling, as a tradition in the church, has had a long history. Throughout the centuries, women wore a headcovering before entering a Church or throughout the day to honor God. Veiling, as a tradition, seems to be making a comeback. So, why do women choose to veil and how can you start?

Women wore veils as a sign of their submission to God and to respect the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In Corinthians, Paul exhorts that all women should cover their hair as “it is their glory”. God gave women a special role in creation as co-creators of life with Him. We posesses the gift of life, and that needs to be honored. In the Old Testament, the Holy of Holies was veiled because it was where God resided amongst His people. It was a sanctified place. Likewise, women are sanctified in our gift to bear life. We cover ourselves in recognition of God’s ultimate authority and His care for us as women. We cover ourselves to honor the entire presence of God in our tabernacles.

6 Things to Remember Before Veiling

1. People Might Stare At You

I once heard a nun during a retreat say that wearing a habit was like always wearing a full gorilla costume everywhere she went. It was a funny description but I quickly realized she was right when we went out in public and everyone stopped to stare at her. You may get a similiar reaction when you start veiling. If you are in a more progressive parish you may even be looked at suspiciously by some other parishioners. In my parish, I was one of the only ones out of thousands of people to wear a veil. It also didn’t help that I was one of the only people under the age of 40 at daily Mass. It really makes you stand out, but you learn to appreciate it. In those moments when you’re nervous and self-conscious remember Christ in the Eucharist and that you want to make this sacrifice for Him and Him alone.

2. Common Practices

When I started vieling I would keep a mantilla in my purse and in my car, that way I always had it handy if I wanted to stop by the chapel. When you start veiling you might be nervous that you aren’t doing it right. It’s okay. It’s actually simple once you gain the courage to do it. Here are some questions that may help.

Do I have to worry about the color veil I’m wearing?

No- wear whatever color you like best. Traditionally, white was worn by unmarried women and black by married women; however, this isn’t a hard fast rule that needs to be followed if you don’t like it. I like wearing black and brown mantillas (even as an unmarried woman) because they blend in better with my dark brown hair. Some people even like matching their veil color to their outfit. Do what makes you comfortable.

When do I put it on?

The general consensus is that ladies will place their veils on before entering the sanctuary. Since Christ is present in the Eucharist then your veil is a symbol acknowledging that fact. If the veil happens to fall off your head, it’s okay, just put it back on. You can use bobby pins or clips to keep a mantilla in place.

What do I tell people that ask me about it?

Nine times out of ten no one is going to bother you about your veil. If they do ask you just tell them that it’s something that you feel called to as a personal devotion to the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. With that explanation, most people quickly understand your motivation and either leave you alone or become interested in learning more.

3. You Don’t have to Wear a Fancy Mantilla

So, you’re convinced! You’re ready to start veiling this weekend and you can’t wait to get your card out to buy all the most beautiful veils on Etsy. As tempting as that might be, I would caution against it. Someone who doesn’t have a veil can very easily wear a hat, headband, or scarf as a head covering for the first time. You can also pick up some lace at the local craft shop and cut it to fit your head. It doesn’t have to be fancy if it does the job it’s intended to do. When I first began veiling I started by wearing headbands to church. This was an easy transition for me since I was so self-conscious about what people would think or say. I got into the habit of wearing headbands and then slowly transitioned to mantillas. If you want a mantilla, go for it, but don’t assume that that’s the only way to veil.

4. You Aren’t Holier

The devil has a sneaky way of taking something good and twisting it for his own benefit. Wearing a veil may make you feel special or connected to God, you may recieve a lot of consolation in your decision. However, this does not automatically mean that you are making a “holier” decision than someone else or that you’re more far along on your spiritual path than those who choose to not veil. God calls people to specific devotions for certain reasons. If the other ladies you know don’t feel called to veil that’s not anything against them. Each of us have our own path to walk in following the Lord, veil included or not. Additionally, if you decide to not veil that doesn’t mean that God loves you any less or that you’re not as holy as you think you should be.

5. Don’t be Scrupulous

There’s a common pitfall that happens when you start vieling, at first you’re self-conscious and afraid and then you start getting the hang of it until finally you can’t even walk into a church without a veil. Veiling is a personal devotion but it shouldn’t be a crutch to your spiritual life. If you happened to forget your veil at home it doesn’t mean you can’t walk into Church. If you forget to put it on, it doesn’t mean that God is going to be angry with you. The sacramentals that we use for our spiritual life should be a means to bring us closer to God, not a means to make us anxious if we forget to use them. God knows all our circumstances. Whatever the situation, be at peace, He desires to give you His heart!

The sacramentals that we use for our spiritual life should be a means to bring us closer to God, not a means to make us anxious if we forget to use them. God knows all our circumstances. Whatever the situation, be at peace, He desires to give you His heart!

6. Be Prudent

Do you have relatives that are offended by you wearing a viel? Are you a cantor at a contemporary church? Are you in a role of leadership? All of these questions should cross your mind when evaluating what is the prudent thing to do when it comes to vieling. When I was the lead cantor at the Contemporary Mass, I realized that it wasn’t appropriate to veil since I didn’t want to make anyone feel uneasy during Mass. Since it was a personal devotion, I realized that I would still feel comfortable going to Adoration on my own and wearing the viel but I didn’t want to “make a statement” with my decison when I didn’t have to. Vieling is not something that can be pushed on other people and isn’t something that should distract from our worship.


Remember, this is a private devotion. Veiling is not necessary for the sake of salvation but does help orient our hearts before the Lord and Mass. Every time I veil I feel protected, treasured and taken care of. I’m grateful for the ability to have a physical sign of my devotion to the Lord, even if it’s unusual where I am.

So, are you ready to take the leap? Here are some other resources if you are interested in continuing your veiling exploration journey.

Websites and Articles:

Etsy

Aleteia

Veils by Lily

Have you guys started veiling? What advice do you have for those just starting out? How did you feel when you first started veiling or have you been doing it your whole life? Let me know in the comments!

J+M+J

#Catholicism #Veiling #Traditions #Mantillas #PrivateDevotion

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