QUAERITUR: headcoverings for women also outside church?

From a reader:

Father, I read and answered your poll regarding veiling during Mass. I have been thinking and praying about taking it a step further; to wearing a head covering outside of Mass as well. I have not personally observed laity women do this (outside of the Amish and Mennonite’s). I am curious on your observance ot this? Thank you.

This could be dangerous ground.  I can just see it: I say something like “Go ahead and wear a head covering all the time if you want!” and some idiot will claim that Fr. Z thinks women should wear hijabs or burqas.

Of course you know about the WDTPRS POLL about women covering their heads in church.

Look, friend.  I think it is great when women wear head coverings in church.  It is an old Catholic tradition, it is biblical, it is – in my opinion – pleasing to the eye.  It isn’t obligatory, but it’s nice.

I think hats are great, on men and on women alike.

If, for reasons either spiritual or for fashion, you want to wear a head covering when you are not in church, go for it!

Bring hats back into style, I say!  Serious hats for all adults!   Let hats abound!  Hold your head high and put hats on them!

Even the New York Times – which I detest – has said that hats are making a comeback.  The New York Times is almost always wrong about anything good, true and beautiful.  I hope this is an exception.

And may I use this opportunity to add a complete non sequitur?  I think people should refresh their coffee supply by buying it from the Carmelite Monks in Wyoming.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Flambeaux says:

    Our latest shipment of Mystic Monk Coffee just arrived. :)

  2. Flambeaux: Excellent! Now please vote for WDTPRS if you haven’t already today!

  3. Flambeaux says:

    I shall do so presently.
    And I should add that my wife and I were interested in Mystic Monk Coffee, but it was your recommendation of it that convinced us to place our first order. Thank you.

  4. Tuotilo says:

    I like hats, but I can’t stop thinking about how I’m wearing a hat if I wear one so I feel really uncomfortable.

  5. If you want something to be habitual, make it a habit.

    For example, if you were in a medieval reenactment group and were learning to wear armor, you’d wear it all the time when you were at home and go clanking around the kitchen and the family room all evening. If you practiced wearing a hat all over the house for several days, you’d probably start wearing it like your skin.

  6. Girgadis says:

    Not only did the coffee I ordered for my husband arrive today, but with it came the Rosary I got for me, plus a brown scapular that the monks include with any order of religious gifts. They blessed both devotionals, which is a priceless benefit of supporting them.

  7. Katherine says:

    Why doesn’t she go full out and wear the wimple that all married (assuming she’s a Mrs.) women wore in the middle ages? I had a protestant friend who wasn’t Menonite, but had cultural leanings in that direction and adopted some of the customs, including headcovering for women and girls. The reasoning she gave me was that it showed her subjection to her husband as head of the family and her daughters’ subjection to their father (and their future husbands). I thought it was a bit quirky and eclectic, but maybe she needed that reminder as she was a very headstrong redhead.

  8. JKnott says:

    For courage:
    One could start by going to the Kentucky Derby;
    and then hopping over to England for the British Royal Wedding. Young Kate Middleton wears interesting hats; as well as some ladies in England.
    Then, back home, toss on a DVD. Hmmm, how about “My Fair Lady”!
    Put your feet up and sit back with a piping hot cup of Mystic Monk coffee to strengthen resolve,
    and watch the Ascot Opening Race.
    Seriously C. K. Chesterton wrote some interesting comments on head covering and clothing in “The New Jerusalem.” I think he would certainly appreciate Father Z’s comments on “hats”.

  9. catholicmidwest says:

    I have no idea what brought this on. A person can wear a hat if they want to. Or not. Male or female. And it ought to stay that way in free sane society. Don’t we have enough problems without playing “hat militia?”

  10. pfreddys says:

    um….hats…coffee, well ok then!
    Hats are coming back in part due to the show White Collar which is good family entertainment for the most part.
    I do hope it becomes very fashionable as my hairline thins by the day!

  11. sejoga says:

    I’m a male who has taken to wearing a flat cap outdoors more or less anytime I go out in the winter. I’m even contemplating getting some kind of summer hat. I like hats. At first it felt a little strange, since hardly anyone wears hats, except for hideous ball caps or the occasional cheap stocking cap when they’ll be outside for a while, like at a football game. But I’ve really grown to like wearing a hat, and not in some kind of “ironic” hipster way. I wear a nice hat that I spent a good amount of money on and I like the way it makes me look.

    I kind of wish people of both genders would take up wearing headdress of some kind. I can’t quite figure out what it is about American culture in the last 50 years or so that makes people find hats so aversive.

  12. samgr says:

    Cars with low headroom and high seatbacks did in hats for men. I never try to speak for women.

  13. APX says:

    If I wear a hat it’s for either a practical reason, freezing cold outside, required as part of uniform, or it’s CFL football season and it’s my watermelon helmet.

    I find women’s hats pretty ugly, and I would much rather not hide my crowning glory. I love my hair and I don’t want it covered.

  14. Not that long ago in the world mos Christian women wore a veil/ covering of some sort. However, with the coming of the “Enlightenment” all those practices went out the window. It became the fashion for the upper class to not do so. That might be why in 1917 the Church saw it fit to put it into canon law so at least women would veil in Church if no where else. However, in small rural communities it may have persisted right up to the 1900s.

    It is nice to watch movies from those time periods (like Bernadette, etc). While I don’t ascribe to the religious info the link below is nice for a pictorial reference. Yes a number of them got very silly looking and sort of lost the point of modesty. It is interesting that some of the earliest styles lasted the longest. If done appropriately (like using a scarf/ cloth) and not using the Amish/ Mennonite style it might not be that noticeable to others- at least during the colder months. However, it will eventually bother some people who feel that while they are the most “tolerant” people on earth it is their duty to frown upon you for doing it or sometimes even ridicule. It is interesting to note that more people are more open these days to the promotion of homosexuality than the idea of women veiling.

    Before I was a Catholic I knew a couple where the wife did it year round Mennonite style. It was nice and she liked it but some people were very bothered by it and shunned her for it (though she was one of the nicest ladies I have ever met). If you believe it should be done I would encourage it- though be forewarned it will be a sacrifice. Others will be offended by it though they will never logically explain why (usually they don’t even know why- personally I think its because they have a sting of conscience or are ashamed of it and feel that if they don’t put it/ you down they will never be able to face other people). Personally I wish women would once again take mind that modesty is important. Since the Church doesn’t command veiling outside Mass I can say that while I think it should be brought back it is not the most critical issue these days . However before some get upset with what I said I would remind them that a burqa/ hijab is quite different from the Christain practice of veiling and yes modesty is required of both men and women.


  15. Ellen says:

    In the winter, I wear a knit cap since my head is cold. In the summer, I wear a broadbrimmed straw hat to keep the sun off my face and neck.

    I wish I liked coffee, but to me it is nasty and bitter. I wish the monks offered tea.

  16. I always wear a headcovering in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, whether inside or outside during a procession, and also from the start of Mass (or at an appropriate time in preparation for Mass as one does not wish to fumble with headpins as the liturgy is actually beginning) if Mass is celebrated in a place where the Blessed Sacrament is not reserved, such as the wonderful traditional Mass in the lovely (but now sadly not Catholic) stave church in Røldal, Norway last summer.

    I do not personally think I would be obliged in any way to cover my head outside of those situations, but I certainly have no desire to prevent others from following their convictions or desires in that regard. I would say in terms of the practice by Catholics in the past that at many places and times when married women wore a headcovering in public, it was still common for unmarried women to go about with their crowning glory uncovered outside of church. It does thus not seem that the argument that one should cover one’s head when praying and that one should be praying all the time and in all one’s actions has been held valid by all societies that have taken seriously both Catholic headcoverings and a difference of roles and symbolism pertaining to men and women.

  17. Kat says:

    Hats are definitely coming back in style, which imho is a wonderful thing (because I like the look). I think if you want to wear a hat, do it and love it! I’m a huge fan of vintage millinery, particularly the 30s-60s styles of hats. There were so many incredible styles, and a good hat can make an outfit pull together. Luckily, I think I’m still young enough to pull some of the more crazy ones off in a quirky, retro style, but there are many more understated hats that can be worn at any age and in any situation.

    I’m excited for spring to get here so I can bring out my non-winter hats more fulltime.

  18. Legisperitus says:

    I actually don’t mind seeing hijabs. They make me smile because I think of a nun’s habit, the practice of modesty, etc. Not that I would consider that as a standard for Christians, because it isn’t traditional in the West. But thinking back to a time in America when you would see a lot of fashionable women’s hats, headscarves, even veils sometimes, it wasn’t unattractive.

  19. Centristian says:

    I am forever grateful to President John F. Kennedy for eschewing hats, thus causing them to fall out of favor with American men for decades. It’s 2011 and they’re still not back in vogue (saints be praised). By hats in this case I mean bowlers and fedoras and the other sorts of hats men once wore with suits; I do not mean touks and baseball caps, and other silly things worn with casual attire (not that JFK would have been caught dead in any of those things, either).

    Like fedoras, ladies hats in this day and age do strike me as a bit anachronistic, unless the hat is subtle and understated. Sure, there are times and places for that less-than-subtle sort of ladies’ hat: the Kentucky Derby, for instance; a garden party at Buckingham Palace; a New Orleans society wedding perhaps. I’m not sure I’d want to go to Mass every Sunday, however, to encounter a sea of lampshades in the pews.

    At any rate, wearing a hat as a fashion accessory is one thing. But I think to reflect in prayer on whether or not women should be wearing headcovers in public at all times as a matter of religious piety smacks of the fringe, to be frank, and suggestions of this kind make me uncomfortable. They make me uncomfortable not only because of what they are, but because of what inevitably lurks behind them.

    I would be concerned about any woman who “thought and prayed” about this (non) issue, and then concluded that “God told her” that women should always cover their heads, no matter where.

  20. Banjo pickin girl says:

    apx, Oh a watermelon helmet would be just my style! Maybe not in church though. Hmm, sitting on the patio with my banjo and watermelon helmet.

    When I was a Quaker I had a friend who wore the traditional Quaker bonnet and she was somewhat ostracized for putting on a show of her religion. The bonnet was made by a woman in Iowa as I recall. I thought she was brave. Not as brave as wearing a watermelon helmet would have been though!

  21. suzannaleigh says:

    I wear a headcovering all the time, normally just a snood as that it doesn’t stand out, and I don’t wish to be confused with the Amish or Mennonites (though one person thought I was Jewish). My reason is because I know our angels are always with us and we are meant to always be in prayer or recollected. I know someone said that that isn’t a valid reason because of history, but I don’t consider history as being part of my reason. What matters is that I followed my conscience, after prayer and checking with my spiritual director and my husband.

  22. Janey says:

    I stumbled across the poll and voted for “don’t have a strong opinion either way”, mostly because I knew next to nothing about the practice (I was born after Vatican II, raised in the 70’s, etc.). Even at the EF Mass and Adoration at my parish, nobody does this and I am sure that I would raise some eyebrows (even if it was a scarf), which of course seems like exactly opposite the point. After reading here and on a couple of other blogs, though, I have been praying at home “veiled” and I must say that it has really benefitted my focus and attitude during prayer. I am surprised (and humbled) at how much this small physical act inspires reverence. Can I change my vote?

  23. majordadto9 says:

    I just started the Mystic Monk coffee Fund raising program at St Mary Mother of God in Wash DC.
    We’ll be brewing Mystic Monk coffee at donut hour and selling it to help Fr. Harris raise some money.

  24. Re: flat caps and Greek fishermen’s caps, they are a lot better at staying on people’s heads in the car. Maybe why they got popular again, before all the other hats.

    Re: unmarried medieval women not wearing hat/wimple — Actually, in most medieval times and places there really wasn’t much difference when it came to adult married and unmarried women’s hair/hats/wimples, etc. It’s just that when you got old enough to wear something on your head for non-utility reasons, you usually were married. Sometimes there were style differences or such between married and unmarried, but that depended on where you were. And actually, in most medieval times and places, medieval kids (male and female) also wore hats, etc. of the same kind that adults did, and on the same occasions. In general, there just wasn’t any bright line to tell married women from unmarried. People usually just knew who you were, and therefore knew your state; or they didn’t need to know.

    (Not wearing a hennin to church, though at least that would ensure that veiling stayed over my head (not under the pew) without resorting to the evils of hatpins and bobbypins.)

  25. mother undercover says:

    I greatly admire women who heed the call to cover full-time. I suspect this call is more widespread than we know and that there are more Catholic women covering full-time than we recognize. Perhaps the covering is only a wide headband or scarf, but the symbolism and spiritual discipline remain. Let us not belittle one another’s spiritual practices; let us instead rejoice in our shared faith.

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