The veil is like hair to a nun (but better). For Carmelites, when the postulant takes Our Lady’s Holy Habit, she also gives a precious token of her love to the Divine Bridegroom: the gift of her hair. It is not just cut short, all of it is taken; it is braided and given to the family as a keep sake. This is totally normal, as Therese did the same thing, although she did not give up her hair until some years into her formation; she also was said to have been seen shedding some tears. As I said in my last post, Therese was no delicate flower. This “mighty oak” was known for having beautiful locks (as you will see below). The hair has always been known as the symbol of the woman’s beauty, or her “pride and glory”, which is why it is the perfect offering to give in the religious life. My Novice Mistress once said “it’s so romantic” and I actually thought that sounded weird, but I of course overtime, began to fully appreciate her meaning because it is, to be sure, a true act of self denial for the sake of the One True Spouse.
I have always been a romantic, but I also am convinced that a lot of these overused sentiments are overrated and cliché, when said out loud, and so I keep my romanticism undercover. Emily Post said words of “real true love is seldom flaunted in public”; there is a lot to unpack in that statement. I will save that for another blog post. Before I made this official “sacrifice” of my own hair, the day after my clothing ceremony, I remember thinking “there is no going back now” as my Mother Mistress forever took my own “pride and glory”. I certainly felt Therese’s pain in that exact moment because in a way, it’s hard to believe you are beautiful anymore, you literally feel bare and are ready to have the Holy Veil from the habit replace what was. To this day, I believe the religious veil is the most glorious garment in the world. It’s the veil of the bride; it’s divine and supernatural. Rewind a few years earlier: I officially started veiling during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in the Presence of the (exposed or reposed) Blessed Sacrament. This was a big step for me, but if I had known I would be giving up what I spoke of formerly, veiling would have been cake!
Why Veiling is a Command from Christ (During the Mass, Perpetual Adoration or in front of the Tabernacle):
1.) It’s Scripture Based: Veils are not just for religious sisters, they are for ALL women: wives, widows and virgin brides. The truth is, many people simply do not know this, but Vatican II NEVER got rid of veiling in their documents, because they couldn’t. Doing so would contradict scripture, doing so… contradicts Saint Paul:
That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. (1 Corinthians 11:10-12)
The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, the Jewish women and Saint Veronica, who wiped the face of Our Lord, did not simply veil because they lived in a different time period. And if Veronica did not veil, how could she have wiped the face of her Savior? The women veiled because they understood the distinct and different roles of the man and woman, before the official foundation of the Catholic Church, and in preparation for the institution of the Holy Eucharist and the Mass. We Catholics do not see our sacraments as a mere symbol, they are our literal ticket into heaven. When protestants, Lutherans in general, try to say that their Church “service” closely resembles the Catholic Liturgy because they proclaim to also have “sacraments”, they do not believe in transubstantiation.
Their so called sacraments are mere symbols, just how they perceive John 6 to be figurative, and their service might closely resemble the Novus Ordo, but in no way does it resemble the Traditional Latin Mass instituted by Christ. So, both men and women, are called to behave with reverence and perform certain tasks during the Holy Mass precisely because of the very thing that sets us apart from all other religions: the Transubstantiation of bread to Flesh and wine to Blood. If He meant it to be figurative, do you think half of His disciples would have left? I am not talking about being a reader of the week either, as a form of participation. In short, we are asked to come as our very best, and not just on Sundays but any Mass we attend. For women, one of those “acts” is to veil. The other? Simply being present.
2.) All holy things are veiled: The altar, holy items on the altar, the tabernacle (the tent or veil as it is referred to in scripture) is often (at least in reverent settings) covered in gold or jewels, our priests wear extravagant vestments, and our women are veiled. Why? Because they too, are made for holiness. It was a requirement for women to wear a veil right up until Vatican II (again the documents never said anything about women giving up the veil, it somehow happened along the way with all the other disastrous “fruits” that came with the gathering of that council). Women veil, not because they are forced to do so by men (I have heard that absurd argument before), but because they were made holy by the Creator. The word veil comes from the Greek word exousia, which so fittingly translates to authority.
Exousia can also mean might or power. Our Lord gave Our Holy Virgin Mother this same authority, and of course makes perfect sense, when we see Her glorious title of “Virgo Potens” (Virgin Most Powerful). While men remove their hats out of respect, if women choose to not veil in the Presence of Our Lord at any given opportunity, not only are they relinquishing their own undeniably precious role of being proclaimed holy, precious and powerful, with having certain rights over the Heart of God, but they are disrespecting their Creator. When we begin to doubt the times we are living in, with questionable changes that have taken place in the One True Church of Christ, we do not abandon our beloved Church, nor conform to these changes either. We look back to tradition and review what has been handed down to us by the Apostles of Christ and Our Church Fathers who came before us:
“Maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.”(St. Paul to the Corinthians)
3.) Lastly, out of reverence and love for our God: Out of our deep respect for Our Lord’s true and breathing presence in the Eucharist, women veil. We want to bring our best selves to the Sacred Liturgy. When women start to veil, not only does she cease wearing jeans to daily Mass, but she starts wearing skirts. When I started veiling exclusively, I began keeping veils in my purse permanently, so I was always ready to throw on my veil if I was going to see Our Lord spontaneously. The veil accentuates the woman’s beauty; it is her crown of glory. Jeans and crowns do not go together. Our Lady of Fatima warned of certain fashions being introduced that would be very displeasing to God, and She also said to we Catholics: “to not pay attention to the fashions, because the Church has no fashions”. During the middle of these displeasing immodest changes of dress, the veil was lost as well. And if women are not allowed into Saint Peter’s Basilica if they are wearing jeans and showing bare arms, why should they be dressing this way during Mass, any day off the week? Do you see my point?
I can no longer look at the faithful, everyday Catholic, and say “I am just glad you are here, come as you are”. We do not approach the throne of God in track pants and say, “well, at least I am here!”. I of course, go easy on new Catholics or those who have been away from the Church for a while; I am so glad they are home and rejoice! But this does not apply to the practicing Catholic. It’s the Catholics in good standing who should be raising the bar and setting a good example. We all take on certain roles out of respect and reverence to honor Jesus Christ Crucified in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, or simply sitting in front of the tabernacle. If, as I mentioned earlier, men remove their hats out of respect, why shouldn’t the women also show her own distinct token of esteem and regard?
According to Saint Paul, men should not cover their heads because they are the image and glory of God. Women, are the image and glory of Mary. Men and women are both fearfully and wonderfully made, but we must not mistake the different roles God calls us to. One is not better, but they are different for a reason. Paul also says men and women are equal, but since the fall it would seem that the greatest battle, and lie from Satan, is the woman has to fight how “she is not enough” or she is a slave of some kind to men. Feminism is an error of Russia. Some women are truly torn with veiling. Some only wear them at the Latin Mass, but choose to not if they attend a Novus ordo, Perpetual Adoration or other occasions. Why? Is this you? Ask yourself: why are you not fully ready to veil all the time, on all occasions in front of Our Lord sacramentally? I promise you, if you bring this question to Our Lady, She will enlighten you.
I have had countless debates with faithful Catholic women, who really have a problem with veiling, because they believe they are merely submitting to men or they are not important during the Mass. This notion couldn’t be more wrong, as the woman does not need to prove her importance by playing a part in the Mass: bringing up the Gifts, being reader of the week or a Eucharistic Minister. I am against all of those things to begin with, but when I switched over entirely to the Traditional Latin Mass (and I didn’t have to cringe anymore) and saw how only men were allowed on the Altar, I began to understand my necessary role as woman. All of those former “jobs” are not the role of the female. I will directly quote, my Pro-Life hero, Abby Johnson’s reaction to her first attendance to the Latin Mass: I just need to be here. Ah! Is that not so remarkable? THAT is the role of God’s daughters: He simply desires our presence, faithfulness and total abandonment in believing that we are loved as we are, not for proving we can do all that men can on the altar during the Mass. And as Carmelite Edith Stein said, God needs what women are, not what they have; most especially at the Mass!
Veiling was a process for me, but Our Lady was very gradual on my heart; I did not always veil. But when I understood this particular quote: “A woman should not wear the veil on her head, until she is wearing it first on her heart” something forever changed in myself. I have never been the type of soul to do something because I have to, or “everybody is doing it”; I have a determination to understand why first. So, when I grasped this veiling of the heart to its fullness, I couldn’t stop veiling externally. I embraced it and never felt more grateful to be a woman; as with Our Lady we are called to follow in Her distinct footsteps. Just as only men can be priests or fathers of homes, so only women can be brides of the Church. Mary has the Exousia: the power to crush the head of the serpent and the authority as Mother of Christ. I know, and believe, in the importance and crucial role of God’s divine creation of the woman; God loves the woman. The way we pray is even different, our prayer permeates the very throne of Christ the King. As brides of the Church, we are called to wear authority on our heads.