Sunday, March 04, 2007

All about mantillas...

Edit: I just came across this most wonderful blog post on why we veil, I suggest you don't even bother reading mine, but head across to On Account of the Angels. I can't work out if it's written by the blog author, or all from the article she cites, but anyway, it's great. I won't delete what I've put already, mostly because it took me ages :)

so a few people have asked me about mantillas, where one can find them and why we wear them, or rather, why we can choose to. I thought it would be wise to create a post on it so if I get any more queries I can direct them here, so I'm just going to copy and paste what I've said elsewhere. firstly I'll link you to my other post on the subject, written when I was trying to make up my mind, and then copy and paste from a couple of messages I've sent people:

The Church has never told women that they shouldn't cover their hair, I think something happened after the council where a reporter asked a cardinal and he said that it hadn't been discussed, and the papers reported that no one had to any more. I guess the Church had bigger fish to fry and didn't make a fuss about it. Apparently according to the code of cannon law we still should, however far more intelligent people than me have argued either side of that debate, and I can't work out who is actually telling me what the Church teaches(!) I know that it is entirely permissable to veil, and I feel called to do it. I saw someone with a mantilla at mass a while ago and thought it looked so beautiful, and so feminine and so right, so I started to read into why we veil.

I think traditionally married women would wear black veils and single white, although it doesn't matter. When I first started to cover my hair at mass I wore a scarf because it was less noticeable, and then switched to a mantilla a few months later. To be honest I think the scarf just confused people, so in trying not to draw attention to myself I ended up bringing more. I wear a white mantilla because when I first became a Catholic I saw a woman in a black one and assumed she was a widow(!) ...and also I'm not married. I think it's nothing to worry about, I think EWTN sell blue mantillas, and I know some people who wore a bandana to cover their hair at WYD so as not to draw attention. Whatever you feel comfortable in :)
EWTN shop
Catholic Sacramentals
Miles Jesue Bookstore
Immaculate heart Mantillas

Why Wear the Veil?

In ancient traditions dating back even thousands of years, the “veil” represented purity and modesty in many religions and cultures. A veil, or head covering, is both a symbol and a mystical sacrifice that invites the woman wearing it to ascend the ladder of sanctity.

When a woman covers her head in the Catholic Church it symbolises her dignity and humility before God, not men. It is no surprise women of today have so easily abandoned the tradition of the chapel veil (head covering) when the two greatest meanings of the veil are purity and humility.

The woman who covers her head in the presence of the Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is reminding herself that she must be humble before God. As with all outward gestures, if it is practised enough it filters down into the heart and is translated into actions that speak volumes. The “veil” covers what the Lord calls, in Holy Scripture, “the glory of the woman”, her hair. Covering her hair is a gesture the woman makes spiritually to “show” God she recognises her beauty is less than His and His Glory is far above hers.

In doing this she is reminded that virtues cannot grow in the soul without a great measure of humility. So she wears the veil to please God and remind herself to practice virtue more ardently.

There is no other piece of clothing a woman may wear to serve this function. The veil symbolically motivates the woman to “bow” her head in prayer, to lower her eyes before the great and mysterious beauty and power of God in the Blessed Sacrament. By the bowing of her head and lowering of her eyes, she is more able to worship God in the interior chapel of her heart and soul.

The veil or head covering a woman wears gives a beautiful sense of dignity to a woman. When she wears it, she identifies herself with God’s greatest creation, the Blessed and Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God. There was none on earth that loved and loves the Lord Jesus more than the Blessed Virgin Mary. In her love, her humility breathed forth like sweet scented incense before God. The veil she wore symbolised her purity, modesty and of course her profound humility and submission before and to God Almighty.

Those women who love Jesus must come to realise the imitation of His Mother in wearing a chapel veil (head covering) and in other virtues is a small sacrifice to make in order to grow in spiritual understanding of purity, humility and love.

The covering of a woman’s head in Church is a striking reminder of modesty, something old but lost in the society of today. Modesty and purity walk hand in hand.

When a woman veils her head she is shielding her heart to be wooed by the love of God in the Blessed Sacrament. This is a mystical ‘country’ that only the Eternal Father may enter. Her veil is like the lighted lamps of the virgins waiting for the Bridegroom, an indication that she is prepared to receive Him at a moment’s notice; an aureole of her spiritual love for the Bridegroom. Wearing the veil is an act of love of God.

Why should a woman wear a head covering or veil in church? Not to be praised, not to go along, not for tradition’s sake, not to stand out in the crowd, not because you say or I say or anybody says…But because she loves our Eucharistic Lord Jesus and it is another small sacrifice she may offer for her soul’s sake and for the sake of many souls who have no one to offer for them. Amen.

(Sr Patricia Therese, OPB)
This is about Canon Law (thanks for the tip Adam!):

From Part II of Robert Sungenis, M.A.'s "What's a Woman To Do? The Issue of Wearing Veils":

Most of the objections raised by modernist Catholics are based on the idea that the new code of canon law issued in 1983 under John Paul II does not reiterate the specific mandate for women to wear head coverings that appeared in the 1917 code of Canon Law, and therefore there is no longer any obligation for them to do so. The 1917 code says:

“Men, in a church or outside a church, while they are assisting at sacred rites, shall be bear-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.”

The modernist further argues that, Canon 6 of the new 1983 code abrogates the 1917 code, and therefore, any commands given in the 1917 code are not applicable after 1983. Canon 6 states:

“When this Code takes force, the following are abrogated: (1) the Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1917.”

On the surface, this seems like a solid case for the plaintiff, but as Solomon teaches us in the Proverbs: “He who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Pro. 18:17).

First, irrespective of what either the 1917 or 1983 code say in this matter, the fact remains that women donning head coverings as they entered the Church has its roots in tradition, and it continued unabated for almost two millennia until it suddenly fell into disuse in the 1970s (coincident with the Women’s Liberation movement, just so no one forgets). Hence, the 1917 code was merely reiterating, and putting into more specified and legal form, what the Church already knew from Scripture and the Fathers, and which she was faithfully practicing. Similar to the Women’s Liberation movement of the 1970s, however, already in 1917, the rise of the Women’s Suffrage movement was convincing some Catholic women that they need not follow the practices of the traditional Church. In answer, the 1917 code reminded them of their ecclesiastical obligations. Nothing had changed as far as the Church was concerned. Unfortunately, by the time of the 1970s, the Church had bowed sufficiently enough to the pressure from women’s liberation groups, which by this time had seeped far and wide into the Church, and thus, weakened as she was, she failed to follow the lead of the 1917 code.

Second, it goes without saying, and is merely a matter of procedure, that a new code of canon law supercedes and abrogates a former code, since there cannot be two legal entities competing against one another. Legally speaking, only one entity can be the authority. It was the same with the New Covenant that replaced the Old Covenant. The New Testament is clear that, legally speaking, the New Covenant completely abrogated the Old Covenant (cf., Hebrews 7:18; 8:7, 13; 9:15; 10:9). We are not legally bound to obey any of the laws in the Old Covenant.

Ah, but here is the catch. Although the New Covenant, on a legal basis, supercedes the Old Covenant, nevertheless, it continues to borrow from and promote the legal principles contained in the Old Covenant, which is why the New Testament writers consistently cite Old Testament laws and practices as being applicable, in principle, in the New Testament (cf., 1 Cor 14:34-35; 1 Timothy 2:13-14; 5:18; 1 Peter 3:6, etc). The New Covenant takes from the Old all the things that were good, for as St. Paul reminds us, “the law is holy, and the commandments are holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:11).

All legal enterprises work the same way. For example, in a court of law, although former cases have no legal authority upon the case presently being argued, still, an attorney can cite previous legal decisions as “precedent” to help the judge or the jury decide the case at hand. Hence, what was decided in previous times has, in principle, a huge bearing on how the court will decide the issue. Unless there is some overwhelming reason to reject the legal tradition, it will be the most influential source in arriving at a decision.

So, we would not then be surprised to see in the 1983 code of canon law the same respect for previous laws and customs. In fact, the 1983 code goes out of its way to accommodate them. For example, canon 20 states:

“A later law [laws in the 1983 code] abrogates, or derogates, an earlier law if it states so expressly, is directly contrary to it, or completely reorders the entire matter of the earlier law.”

Here we see that the 1983 code puts limits around itself in relation to previous canon law. Apparently, the 1983 code will not allow itself to automatically “abrogate” an earlier law unless the 1983 code: (1) “states so expressly,” (2) makes a statement about that law which “is directly contrary to it,” or (3) “reorders the entire matter.” With regard to the issue of women wearing veils, none of these three things were done in the 1983 code.

Just so we know we are on the right track, canon 21 reinforces the meaning and extent of canon 20. It states:

“In case of doubt [e.g., about the application of veil wearing], the revocation of a pre-existing law is not presumed, but later laws must be related to the earlier ones and, insofar as possible, must be harmonized with them.”

Very interesting, no? Far from totally disavowing itself from the 1917 code, if the 1983 code is silent on an issue, it requires that we not presume that a previous law was revoked, and, in fact, the 1983 code says it “must be related to” and “must be harmonized with” the 1917 code.

Granted, as we have seen earlier, on a legal basis the 1983 code “abrogates” the 1917 code, but it is clear that, the 1983 imposes a legal stipulation on itself, a stipulation which requires it to consult with the 1917 code so that the final decision on a given issue will be in harmony with, not opposed to, the 1917 code. This would be especially applicable in regards to an ancient and scriptural practice such as veil-wearing - a practice that continued uninterrupted for over 1900 years in the Church.
I know some people say Canon law doesn't agree with all that... I don't know, I wear a mantilla because it resonated with me, I spoke to my spiritual director about it and he said (from what I told him about why I wanted to wear one) that it was a good idea. It seems to upset quite a lot of people, but I'm pretty sure it's what God is asking me to do, and if the teaching of the Church isn't on my side, it's certainly not against me. I guess a little humiliation is good for the soul.

Decided not to turn the heating on so wouldn't stay too late. Now am really cold!

Bless you,


Anonymous Spinster said...

I have always worn a black one and as a middle aged spinster would feel a little uncomfortable wearing white - something about mutton dressed as lamb I thnk. But I like the idea of blue.

10:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an older unmarried women I used to feel more comfortable in the black. But when I realised I was 'traditionally' passing myself off as married I felt even more uncomfortable! So I tried the white and it feels a lot more honest. Just because you are a 'spinster' and older does not preclude you from wearing the white, I think that may just be the secularization of women creeping in.

1:57 PM  
Blogger . said...

Thanks for this article. I linked to it at

4:39 AM  
Anonymous handmaid mary-leah said...

Christ is in our midst!
I noticed that you had linked to my blog so I wandered over to have a look-see...
No, I did not write the wonderful article that appeared in the 1997 Issue of the Handmaiden Magazine by Concilliar Press, an Eastern Orthodox publication (I highly recommend by the way).
I have read the original and have tried to find it again on the Internet and cannot, I can only find re-posted copies and the only byline provided is "Elisabet" and that is the one that I used when I reposted the article.
I can see where you may have been confused because of my blog being Handmaidleah and the article being from the Handmaiden.
In Holy Orthodoxy some things are just a matter of obedience. Obedience to God, His Church, to one's spiritual father and one another. When the woman's movement came along obedience became a dirty word. Obedience teaches us humility, respect for one another and love. Not so much of this self-esteem stuff that we see bandied about today.
If one goes about covering one's head with an eye towards how beautiful one will look in their pretty lacy mantilla (the women of Spain come to mind) what is gained? Vanity is always a danger, we are fallen human beings after all...
Thank you for the link.
He is and ever shall be!
the handmaid,

8:54 AM  
Blogger ali said...

I just found your blog and It seems pretty great!

I wore a mantilla for a while at the beginning of college, but it ended up bein a holier-than-thou issue for me. So for the sake of humility I dropped it. But I appreciate anyone who wears them with the right heart

God bless!
Oh! and you are formally invited to check out my blog(s) :)

8:49 AM  
Anonymous Mrs. H from Georgia said...

I am glad to have found this blog.

I wear not a Mantilla but a veil, it is small and blue, I wear it everywhere I go and when I am at home. My husband supports me in doing this.

I have chosen to do this to witness to the world "there is something else besides the visible world." Namely Jesus. I wear it not to bring any sort of attention to myself but to Him.

When I am out I get curious looks and smiles. I see people thinking.
Which was my response whenever I would see the Mennonite ladies in my town.

I belong to a group on Yahoo of women of all faiths who choose to "cover" that is how they describe it. It is a beautiful place to be. They are very loving and supportive.

For my sisters who choose to, may I say...YIPPEE. For my sisters who don't, I say OKAY. I at one time also did not. Perhaps some day you shall. Until then I will be praying for you.

I am the only Catholic who is covering full time in my city. Who knows hopefully I won't be the only one for long.

Two sites that I have bought my veils from are:

8:57 AM  
Blogger Do Not Be Anxious said...

I enjoy this blog. Perhaps a recent post may be of interest to you:

2:31 PM  

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