QUAERITUR: Should I remove chapel veil to read during Mass?

From readerette:

I recently feel called to wear a chapel veil and wore it for the first
time this weekend. It was a very humbling experience. My pastor asked me to take off the veil when reading so as to not call attention to
myself. What would be liturgically correct?

This is one of those questions that can only arise as younger people are beginning to reclaim their traditions.

Liturgically correct?   There is nothing which says that women cannot wear chapel veils in church, whether they are in the pews with toddlers, reading to people in the pews, scraping gum off the pews, or sitting quietly and praying in the pews.

It is not as if you had a green Mohawk and eye-brow rings.

I think Father should mind his own business about this one, frankly.

And what you you want to be that Father would not have told a black woman not to wear one of her fancy church-going hats?

I can’t advise you.  I don’t know what your comfort zone is or how important reading is to you.   Perhaps some of the readers can chime in, especially women who may have been in a similar position or priests who have faced this particular situation.

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  1. Lirioroja says:

    I always wear a mantilla when I’m in a Catholic church. The one exception is when I sing at the parish where I’m a paid cantor. When I started singing there I used to wear a small crochet kerchief instead of my mantilla because I knew that I’d be the only woman wearing one and I would stand out even more than I already do (I cantor from the sanctuary – it’s what Monsignor wants and he signs my checks.) However, only 2 or 3 months in my music director came to me and asked me to not cover my head when I cantor. He said simply that “it was requested.” I didn’t ask but I knew who requested it. I decided to comply. I’m not a parishioner and I have no interest in being the outsider who starts trouble with the beloved pastor. So when I’m at that church as a cantor I’m bare-headed. When I’m at Mass at my parish or at any other Catholic church, I wear my mantilla.

  2. lacrossecath says:

    While reading as lector? I think it’s a fantastic witness.

  3. Ana says:

    I cover my head at Mass even when lectoring and I am the only female lector that wearings a head covering. Thankfully, the pastors at my Church have always encouraging or, at least, supportive.

    Maybe if you wear a very simple and modest hat that matches your outfit this would be more acceptable to your pastor until he becomes more comfortable with the idea that you wear a head covering. Men, even pastors, will rarely ask a woman to remove her hat as they know it isn’t proper and hats are generally more acceptable.

  4. Frank H says:

    One of the best female lectors in our parish always wears a veil. It IS a terrific act of witness, and I have never heard any negative comments.

  5. I am a reader at my parish, and I cover my head. I have a variety of coverings, from a black lace-trimmed semicircular veil that snaps at the nape of my neck, to handknit lace shawls and pashmina stoles. I do not uncover to chant the Epistle, and have never been asked to do so…..in fact I’ve only ever gotten one comment: from a gentleman who told me, with a big smile on his face, that I reminded him of his grandmother.

  6. Choirmaster says:

    I have often wondered, while wading through the Catholic blogosphere and reading about altar girls and strategies for charitably limiting them, whether requiring a chapel veil for all women assisting in the sanctuary could be a good place for pastors to start.

    It would certainly add a certain amount of decorum, as well as a powerful sign of humility. Often times, while working in many parishes, the use of altar girls was not limited to simply a female analog to the altar boy, but was a response to necessity, where a grown woman would serve at, e.g., daily Mass. The women that performed this function, for the most part, would probably have felt (and looked) more comfortable in a veil. What makes me think that? The only altar servers in the parish that would bow their head at the Holy Name were these older women servers at the obscure Masses.

    @Ana: A simple, modest hat sounds to me like an air-tight compromise for this person. She can cover her head, and I can’t imagine the Pastor or anyone else even noticing, much less summoning the brass to ask her to remove it.

  7. Choirmaster says:

    My previous post should read in the second paragraph: “Often times I have noticed, while working in many parishes, that the use…”

  8. apagano says:

    At the local Novus Ordo parish we sometimes attend there is an elderly Filipino woman whom lectors. She always wears the veil, whether reading or not, and to my knowledge nobody has ever complained about this woman wearing her veil.

  9. glvg says:

    It is not as if you had a green Mohawk and eye-brow rings.

    There have been many ridiculous forms of fashion throughout human history. And something that we aren’t used to seeing in our personal range of experience we might think of as extreme or disrespectful, etc. But perhaps people can try not to judge someone too harshly on their outward appearance. [Wearing a chapel veil is normal for a woman in a Catholic Church. And I believe that a reader with a green Mohawk might be a distraction from the text being read. Just a guess.]

    As a younger person, I would semi-regularly assist at an EF Mass, covering my pink hair with a mantilla. Thankfully, no one cared how silly my hair was.

  10. Christina says:

    I guess it’s true that in many (most?) parishes, wearing a chapel veil could be distracting. It seems that of all the head-covering options, it makes the biggest statement, and you do want the Scripture to be making the biggest statement here. I would suggest that you ask whether a more subtle head covering would be acceptable. I’ve always thought that an extra-wide headwrap offers sufficient cover without drawing as much attention. Presumably the pastor is considering the spiritual welfare of his parishioners on this one, so perhaps if you explain your motives for covering your head and suggest a compromise he would comply.

    Modesty, humility, and obedience (to Scripture) are three of the reasons why I cover my head, so I suppose if my pastor asked me to forgo it altogether (especially for the reason here), I’m not sure I’d have a good reason to fight him on it. Of course, you motives may be different. All the same, I think it’s great that you’re trying this out!

  11. NCtrad says:

    Do away with lay “readers” and problem solved. Why are lay readers necessary when you have a priest sitting there?

  12. NCtrad says:

    1 Cor 14:34 “Let women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted them to speak, but to be subject, as also the law saith.”

  13. digdigby says:

    ” St. Emanuel, Bishop of Cremona, celebrating mass in the year 1170, refused to receive those wearing long hair like women. The rejected young men immediately retired to the portal and hacked off their fashionable hair with swords and knives rather than forgo communion. ”
    -Digby, Mores Catholici

  14. Geoffrey says:

    “Do away with lay ‘readers’ and problem solved. Why are lay readers necessary when you have a priest sitting there?”

    Not a realistic option. As someone said above, witness is very important.

    I recall often seeing female readers at the Masses of Ven. John Paul the Great wearing a veil. I don’t recall seeing it recently…

  15. “I think Father should mind his own business about this one, frankly.” – spot on, Father.

    Our parish has a good number of women who choose to wear veils in the church. Some of them are cantors and lectors. The pastor has even been approached by some of these women to get his perspective – he is very encouraging of the practice, which no doubt bolsters their confidence.

    When I read this article aloud to a interested woman today, she raised a related question – if the pastor would object to a veil-bearing woman as a lector, would he hold the same to the (somewhat) more common hat-wearing woman? Same principle, different application.

    In any case, its not uncommon at our parish and works quite well. And happily, people are no more (or less) distracted at the readings for the veil!

    [I’ll bet you all the money in my pocket that the priest would not have asked a black woman not to wear one of her spectacular Sunday church hats. (Which I think are great, btw.)]

  16. Henry Edwards says:

    Why are lay readers necessary when you have a priest sitting there?”

    Aside from whatever the substance of the matter may be, it occurs to me a female lector wearing a chapel veil would likely provide a more salutary “witness” in the typical parish than would a priest serving as lector. I must confess to having seen lectors without veil who did not (whether male or female) provide a notably salutary witness.

  17. Cazienza Puellae says:

    I’ve served Mass with a head covering on! :) I had checked with my parish priest beforehand and he was all for it.

  18. James Joseph says:

    Around here… some women where hijabs when they are inside a Church… I suppose that’s because they’re Eastern Catholics.


  19. CDNowak says:


    I can’t quite reconcile the desire for the traditional practice of the mantilla with female readers, as others have noted. If it is necessary to have women around the altar, however, than perhaps Choirmaster is correct on the wisdom of requiring the veil.

    More importantly, I noticed more lectors (and female ones and that!) mentioned here in the comment box than exist outside the seminary in most dioceses…. ; (see Questions on Collaboration Practical Provisions, Article 1)

  20. Animadversor says:

    I think that the pastor is right in desiring that the lector not call attention to herself (and no reading with “expression” either, please!); however, his advice will produce an effect which will be the opposite of what he wants. If the questioner wears a veil while at Mass, people know this already; her removing it to read, whether she removes it in the pew or at the lectern, will draw more attention to her than if she had just left it in place.

  21. kabergeron says:

    I was a cantor at my parish before I felt called to cover my head. I tried to keep it discrete with hats and/or scarves, but I forgot one day, and had to use a chapel veil (which I always carry with me). I was then presented with the choice to lose the head covering or to stop cantoring. I chose the later.

    When I first felt called to cover my head, one of the most beautiful graces that the Lord afforded me the remittance of some of my pride. I was so embarrassed to be the only person covering their head, I just wanted to curl into a corner. I had to grow in humility in order to do His will.

    Being given this ultimatum was difficult for me, but it was also a wonderful chance to grow in humility and obedience. Your pastor is responsible for your spiritual growth as well as that of your parish. For me, in obedience, I had to gratefully accept his direction, while still praying about and following the will of God in my life as I understood it.

    God is good, and if you prayerfully consider your decision to wear the veil or not, or to read or not, in the end, you’ll be doing His will. And there’s nothing better.

  22. NCtrad says:

    Geoffrey stated “Not a realistic option.”

    Why not? Why do we need lay readers, man or woman? The TLM was scrapped overnight so why can’t we do away with lay readers?

  23. green fiddler says:

    Women wearing head covering as a sign of reverence in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament is a beautiful custom; I wish this would be revived. As children in the 60’s we always wore a hat or mantilla to Mass… if not the long veil, then a small lace circular one. I remember being unprepared when we visited the Vatican exhibit at the World’s Fair… since we had not thought to bring our mantillas with us, my grandmother gave my sister and myself each a kleenex to put on our heads. It would have been disrespectful and unthinkable not to do this!
    I’m not understanding why her pastor believes that the lector’s mantilla would be distracting, but hope he comes around.

  24. Ben Yanke says:

    I wouldn’t go tell the pastor this (or at least not in these words), but shouldn’t the people be focusing on the reading during the reading? If it’s “distracting”, as they say, why don’t they try shutting their eyes, or looking down at their hymnal or missal?

    I also find it ironic that while wearing a veil is “distracting” to some, a guitar strumming hippie next to the altar is no problem.


  25. Ben Yanke says:

    Also, I think this is an awesome practice that should be revived…

  26. Rich says:

    Perhaps the woman does draw attention to herself because she is wearing a veil. But the problem with that is not the fact that she is wearing the veil, but that it should be uncommon for women to do so. A real solution would not be to ask the woman to remove her veil, but to instruct people on the custom.

  27. Maria says:

    Is this all the Pastor has to worry about? [C’mon. Just because we are talking about this point, that doesn’t mean that this is the only thing he worries about. Sheesh.]

    First thing I thought was how petty.

    I would have to question this with him at an appropriate time and see if I could sway him.

  28. Charivari Rob says:

    Unless the veil/mantilla/hat somehow impedes the lady from seeing the text clearly (or the steps) or impedes the congregation from seeing her mouth (remember, some of the deaf and hearing-impaired do use some degree of lip-reading)… why should it be a problem?

  29. Phil_NL says:

    I suppose I’ll draw some flak with this, but I’ll say it anyway: chapel veils, mantilla’s and so on is one part of traditional practice I would not mind seeing the last of; and I while I cannot guess at what reasons this pastor had, I can see at least one making this quite akward.

    The thing is – and this is pretty much a European issue, given our demographics – that for the uneducated many mantilla’s will raise the question if catholics are suddenly promoting the muslim headscarf, or at least similar ideology. Covering can be seen as a humble act, directed at God. But also as directed at men, in a very onerous way: if covering is limited to women, as is traditional, you quickly start wondering whether the reason is not that the male population would be too distracted from all the female beauty on display and unable to control its urges (which is, in a nutshell, the islamic motivation, which is promoted by a considerable part of the muslim population here, which in turn is closing in on 10% of the total population, so to be reckoned with).

    While I normally don’t give a …. about the feminist BS flying around, massive reintroduction of the chapel veil would be very hard to explain here indeed. I imagine that it does more harm than good, not in isolation (tradition is fine), but by the unavoidable association with islam and its ugly features that female coverage has nowadays in much of Europe.

    Once islam is defeated, fine enough, but before that it will detract from a battle that is more profound and important than an optional sign of piety.

  30. Supertradmum says:

    I am a wearer of hats and always have been, even as a child. I have discovered that pastors are much more accepting of hats, than mantillas, for some reason. If I am in the choir, I wear a hat. I do think we need to be sensitive to the culture of the parish. The wearing of headgear is no longer an American custom, except at the EF and in some ethnic parishes.

    I think that the actual humble thing to do is not read, period, as being a reader as a woman is not traditional, as is not wearing a veil. So, if you want to wear a veil, do not read. If you do not mind setting aside a head covering, read. Otherwise, I suggest some modest hats.

  31. JaneC says:

    I have been a cantor at a few different churches, and this issue has come up when I sing the psalm from the sanctuary. In the first place it happened, I did as I was asked and removed my veil. I was new to veiling, and no one else in the parish wore a veil, so I was still a little timid about it.

    In my current parish, no one has asked me not to wear it. I know that one of the readers was asked not to wear hers, and consequently she withdrew her name from the rotation of readers. I’m not sure why I haven’t been asked not to wear mine–maybe it’s because no one has complained about me, or maybe it’s because I’m one of the better singers and they’re afraid I’ll quit (sometimes it’s good to have leverage).

    My advice to the commenter would be, don’t uncover your head. If you are willing to invest in a couple of small, modest hats, ask if that would be less “distracting.” If your pastor refuses to let you cover your head at all while reading, then refuse to be a reader anymore.

  32. Singing Mum says:

    I say make the best out of it- go invest in 2-4 simple and cute hats. Who can object to a woman in a cloche or beret?

    Wearing a hat with a great skirt suit or dress would raise the fashion and modesty level (good witness part of the equation) and satisfy what you describe as your call to cover your head. Don’t see how Father could object, especially if you took on the expense to meet his preference.

  33. Supertradmum says:

    If I may add, that unless one is disobeying something evil, and the wearing of veils does not fall into that category, a great sign of humility is to obey the pastor. Perhaps in that you are giving a better example of womanly graces than insisting on a veil.

  34. Aeh, Father’s just jealous that he ain’t got a biretta…. :)

    But any priest who is willing to declare fashion ukases has opened up a vast can of worms. I do trust that you will do your wormy part by coming up to him after every Mass, asking him to go tell the EMHCs (male and female) that their outfits are liturgically inappropriate. But of course, that would be mean and wrong. :)

    I cantored and sang the psalm from the ambo just this Sunday with a hat on. People on this forum have heard me argue before that hats and scarves and shawls are more consonant with the vast majority of the female American Catholic experience… But aeh, women gotta right to wear whatever they want, if it’s decent. Just don’t tell me chapel veils are the be-all end-all, or I’ll send you pre-V2 photos of hats at Mass till they come out your ears. Wherever there are cold morning churches, there will be cute wool hats.

    My mother says that when she was a pre-Vatican II Pius XII schoolgirl, and the boys from Corpus didn’t come over to serve, she and the other sacristan assistant girls would serve Mass wearing the chapel veils that went with their uniforms (and it wasn’t a particularly liberal school). So it’s not like women on the altar were never seen back in the day, either. You’re allowed to opine that it shouldn’t have happened, but not that it didn’t.

  35. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    As a lector myself, but a more conservative revert to Catholicism, I say this: Because the Church at the base level isn’t as a whole welcoming to traditional practices (cough … TLMs everywhere … cough … veiling …) You should obey your priest for now, but veil whenever you can otherwize though. Else the liberal minded pastoral committee and pastor may strip you of your ministry.

  36. albinus1 says:

    My pastor asked me to take off the veil when reading so as to not call attention to

    If standing up in front of the congregation reading the Epistle doesn’t count as drawing attention to oneself, I don’t know what does. [An obvious point that needed to be made!]

    I don’t mean that as criticism of this woman for serving as a lector. Rather, if her pastor really didn’t want lay people to “draw attention to themselves”, he wouldn’t have them serving in the Sanctuary at all. I think that what he really objects to is the fact that by wearing a mantilla, she draws attention to the fact that *she is traditional*. A woman wearing a bright patterned skirt would “draw attention to herself”, but somehow I doubt he would say anything about that.

  37. I was a little flip there…. So yes, I agree that you should be obedient. But also, that wearing a cute little hat, a scarf, or a giant floppy bow of covering, next time (or better, the time after next) you’re reading, would not be disobedient (unless the pastor adds them). If you get a general anti-hat statement, don’t tease the pastor by going through every possible head covering, though.

    And of course, you could always go with a wig and be totally stealth. As long as it’s not pink or something…. :) But I don’t advise it particularly. The big thing is to do or not do, and then just keep your mind on Mass and Christ.

  38. Fr. Basil says:

    I don’t think this should matter either way (I like to see at least married women covering their heads), but if the pastor asked you to remove the mantilla when reading, do so.

    Remember the general rule about humility and modesty is NOT to draw attention to yourself.

    And there’s a monastic saying. “Beware of the brother whose humility you’re always tripping over.”

  39. Andrew says:

    How is a woman wearing a vail drawing attention to herself? Would it be better if she wore a miniskirt with red high heels so as to avoid the show of humility and stop drawing attention to herself?

  40. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    Sorry an add-on of encouragement for the person with the question: Do not give up. Meet with like-minded traditional people in your parish, get them to wear the veils or their husbands to support it, and hopefully if there is enough of a number of you, then you could petition the priest to let the change happen. If that fails, there’s the ordinary bishop and you have to try him. If all else fails, you have to contact the papal nuncio or the CDF, BUT DOCUMENT every step you took (e.g. Minutes, word documents, photocopies of petition or responses from the clergy members associated). We will triumph overall in the end but we can’t do it rashly.

    It’s like the old saying about a frog and water: Put it in a boiling pot and it’ll jump out immediately. Put it in normal temperature water and slowly raise the temperature to boil, and it won’t budge.

  41. K. Marie says:

    I am the occasional cantor at my local parish and I use a snood instead of my normal chapel veil as a way to cover my head without drawing to much attention to myself in doing such. You could also try a beret or really any hat that is appropriate for Mass.

  42. wmeyer says:

    I personally find the veil far less objectionable than when lectors choose to wear clothing that is of the color of the vestments. The latter makes me think they are entirely confused as to the role of the laity.

  43. abiologistforlife says:

    @Phil_NL: interesting point. While not originally Islamic (Tertullian, at the beginning of the third century AD, comments on the ‘excessive’ veils worn by Arabian women — as opposed to the covering-the-hair-only ones used in the Christian community presumably), the practice of veils does seem to have become almost exclusively associated with Islam.

  44. Federico says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but I think the root of the problem is that a lector was not available — as is the case in 95% of dioceses across the globe. I would bet that this poor woman would not have faced this problem if the local diocesan bishop had done what he is supposed to do: provided a sufficient number of instituted lectors for his particular church.

    Some consideration on this topic…The ministry of lector may be properly called a ministry (see e.g. Ministeria quaedam and also Instruction: On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Ministry of Priest[1997]). This same instruction provides that:

    § 3. The non-ordained faithful may be generically designated “extraordinary ministers” when deputed by competent authority to discharge, solely by way of supply, those offices mentioned in Canon 230, § 3 and in Canons 943 and 1112. Naturally, the concrete term may be applied to those to whom functions are canonically entrusted e.g. catechists, acolytes, lectors etc.

    So, lectors are lacking in most dioceses, and the local pastors must provide for them by temporary delegation. Why, oh why, I wonder, don’t bishops institute for their particular churches plenty of lectors? Here’s my hypothesis: because women can’t be lectors, so by creating a shortage the bishops essentially permit women to exercise a role, out of necessity.

    Of course, John Paul II warned against this abuse. In Christifideles Laici the Holy Father wrote:

    In the first place, then, it is necessary that in acknowledging and in conferring various ministries, offices and roles on the lay faithful, the Pastors exercise the maximum care to institute them on the basis of Baptism in which these tasks are rooted. It is also necessary that Pastors guard against a facile yet abusive recourse to a presumed “situation of emergency” or to “supply by necessity”, where objectively this does not exist or where alternative possibilities could exist through better pastoral planning.

    I suspect that, should the pope one day agree to the 17th proposition of the twelfth synod of bishops, specifically the proposal that:

    The Synod Fathers recognize and encourage the service of the laity in the transmission of the Faith. Women, in particular, have on this point an indispensable role above all in the family and in catechesis. In fact, they know how to enkindle listening to the Word, a personal relationship with God, and to communicate the sense of forgiveness and of sharing the Gospel. It is hoped that the ministry of Lector be opened also to women, so that in the Christian community their role in the proclamation of the Word is recognized.

    Then I bet bishops will go out of their way to institute lots of lectors.

    In the meantime, the Holy Father’s silence has been deafening. And if women were to refrain from volunteering in this so-called emergency, maybe more bishps would take this seriously and obey the law.

  45. AnnAsher says:

    Hmmm is it liturgically correct for women to Lector? Supposing that there are men available if Father is illiterate and mute and said men are not also illiterate and mute? There’s another question – can a mute illiterate man become a Priest?
    I don’t mean to be flippant – I chuckle because I used to Lector … And write the “prayer of the faithful” … And read them at Mass … Then came the Holy Spirit with the veil … The end! And a happy one at that :)

  46. Andrew says:

    (Tertullian, at the beginning of the third century AD, comments on the ‘excessive’ veils worn by Arabian women — as opposed to the covering-the-hair-only ones used in the Christian community presumably)

    On the contrary: Tertullian praises the women of Arabia. He writes: “Arabia’s heathen females will be your judges, who cover not only the head, but the face also …” etc. (De Virginibus Velandis, Cap. XVII)

    Unless you have some other source of information.

  47. Katherine says:

    I am in my forties and I grew up wearing a veil. My mother, sisters and I stuck out like sore thumbs, but we did it because my father demanded it. He threathened that if we ever forgot our veils, he’d make us wear a tissue on our head (and we knew he’d do it) so we never forgot. Wearing one did not make me feel more devout or add to my spiritual growth, even when I wore it voluntarily as an adult. I do not wear one now . I see it as irrelevant in a society that does not wear head coverings, period. I know many devout, modest women who do not wear veils and do not call attention to themselves in any way. I know other women who wear veils who seem to use it as an in your face statement – “I’m traditional, so there.” The most ridiculous are the little doily veils – hardly a head covering, more like a little decorative touch on top. Wear it if you want, but I see it as pointless in a hatless society.

  48. Katherine says:

    Rather than being a witness, don’t you think this women lector is sending mixed signals? She follows the old tradition of veil wearing, but not the tradition of excluding women from the sanctuary? Which is more important? Things are just getting too weird in the Catholic world….

  49. JKnott says:

    Here is a twist. The Legion of Mary, throughout the entire world has brought souls of all kinds back into, or new into, the Church. It’s charism is entirely spiritual. It is precisely what VII asked of the laity. However, the sad fact is that it is dying out because no one wants to make the sacrifices required to PARTICIPATE. Two hours of apostolic work a week and one hour of meeting and Marian prayer,
    So, why is everyone clamoring to be busy in the sanctuary when such God-pleasing and sorely needed attention is needed to regain our Catholics?
    I agree with the suggestion that a lovely hat would resolve the problem , and that the real reason for the request was because the readerette is traditional. When have we ever seen imodestly dressed gal readers corrected? And yes, all the other distractions that happen in a NO.
    As it has been a custom in the NO and, approved by the Church, women today are very sincere in choosing to volunteer. But I believe at its very foundation, (and here I will raise the ire of many, especially women) that because God made men and women different, when they enter the Sanctuary during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in any function, I personally think that they lose their inherent beauty as the women God made them to be: to be Mary-like, humble receivers of God’s Mercy,
    Mary was present at Pentecost but she didn’t stand up and quote Scripture to the masses. St. Peter and the Apostles did that. They were ordained to have the Holy Spirit bless the sound of their male voices.
    St Gertrude wrote a prayer to Mary;
    Hail Mary, white lily of the glorious and ever peaceful Trinity: Hail brilliant rose of the garden of heavelnly delights; ….”
    She has a special place in the Trinity as a woman. All in all, it is difficult to articulate this but something about women in the Sanctuary is very disturbing from a deeply contemplative or mystical aspect. I don’t mean to insult my sisters in Christ because don’t doubt the purity of their intentions. Ultimately, the “most beautiful thing this side of heaven.” the Tridentine Mass never gave us this troubling conflict.

  50. JuliB says:

    When I attend the EF, I veil. I am usually scheduled as an EMHC or a reader most Sundays, so I don’t get to go that frequently. I do not wear a veil to my OF parish.

    At first I was somewhat self-critical about acting different, but we’re reading the letters of Paul in my Scripture class. One thing I’ve taken away from it is ‘when in Rome….’. I prefer to blend in and not draw too much attention to myself. When I help out, I wear very subdued clothing – the focus is on the reading, not on me.

    While we have many older people at my parish, I believe that wearing a veil would cause people to focus on me rather than on the reading. As it is, I am uncomfortable when someone compliments me in the parking lot for doing a good job so I would be mortified if people started talking to me about a veil.

  51. mrs.v says:

    With all due respect to the writer of this question- and I really do hear where she is coming from. When we first were reverting back to the Faith, something similar happened to us. Please don’t think I’m judging her for saying “yes” to be a lector. Please take a look at Cannon law on this (230- Lay men whose age and talents meet the requirements prescribed by the decree of the Episcopal Conference, can be given the stable ministry of lector and acolyte……….) and this is from 1983 code – women really don’t need to be in the sanctuary during Mass at all. Lectors, if they are deemed necessary at all, should be men; that’s how it reads.
    Our function as women in the Church is very good and necessary….and not the same as the function of a man. Most women who find themselves really loving the Lord and learning about the True Faith want to do whatever they can to help at their Parish; whatever they are asked to do, and with a servant’s heart. Problem arises when women are asked to do these things by people who for whatever reason think that active participation of the laity means “active in the sanctuary” instead of active in the world, in society, at work, at home, at the market-wherever life brings us, we bring the Gospel. Be the hands and feet of Our Lord and Our Lady. Let the priest and other men do their jobs. We women should do ours, and do them well.
    Covering the head is not required today in the Church, but in our family we cover the head. Out of respect for the Lord, and out of respect for the head of our family.

  52. AnnAsher says:

    A book recommendation : The Privilege of Being a Woman by Alice von Hildebrand. It is not an insult to embrace what makes us uniquely feminin and those gifts to which we are rightly disposed. Men belong in the Sanctuary because men are to lead, to provide, to offer sacrifice and women are to receive. It’s really not a bad deal.

  53. Paul says:

    Aside from the fact that since the chapel veil was never canonically abrogated by the 1983 CIC, and thus means that the Pio-Benedictine law regarding chapel veils is still in force*, I would say…

    When the reading is where St Paul says that when praying women should wear veils and men should not, wear the chapel veil, maybe it would connect with the congregation.

    Fr Z is on target once again, though, that the priest should not bother with it. It appears that the veil enhances her spiritual experience with Our Lord at Mass. It would seem counter productive on the priest’s part to prohibit that. I thought that priests were supposed to enhance their flocks’ experience with Our Lord at Mass, but I guess that’s too old fashion for today.
    * (For a good treatment of this idea see John Salza’s: http://scripturecatholic.xanga.com/703978386/1-should-women-wear-veils/)

  54. RichardT says:

    As others have said – there’s a simple solution – stop reading.

    And pray for more properly instituted Lectors.

    As well as being more in tune with tradition, it might also cause some inconvenience for the priest if he has to find other readers, and so remind him that his actions have consequences.

  55. Sandra_in_Severn says:

    I have a couple Chapel caps (that just cover the top of my head when my long hair is pinned up) made of lace from a lovely Jewish lady, her web site is http://www(dot)headcoverings-by-devorah(dot)com. One I wear most often is her “Black Floral Lace Buchari Style Kippah w/black grape clusters venise trim.” I have brown hair, and the black lace, and the small size, makes it not as noticeable as a mantilla or scarf. But I am still covered. And they are really not that noticeable from the pews.

    Baby steps friends, baby steps.

  56. webpoppy8 says:

    You obey Jesus by wearing the veil. You also obey Him by following the celebrant and the pastor. Don’t be upset.

    I have known women who felt called to wear the veil as an unambiguous personal directive from Jesus, so they did. But it’s much harder to obey Jesus when he is mispronouncing the Mass, making long and self-indulgent sermons, or making pointless requests like this. Still this obedience is no less precious to Jesus.

    I had a pastor instruct me not to genuflect to the tabernacle before reading (bowing to the altar was OK). I’d thought I was quite discreet, but not enough for him. I thought it best to obey Jesus by obeying the pastor – didn’t actually like the fellow much.

  57. Joanne says:

    Bizarro. What difference does it make that you’re wearing a chapel veil? As noted above, why can’t people read along in the missal if the sight of a lector in a chapel veil is going to be THAT distracting (which it wouldn’t be)? And to be nitpicky with Catholics who show up and want to be involved, when so many who should be there with us couldn’t give a hoot about Mass or what the Church teaches, also strikes me as a very strange “battle” to choose on your pastor’s part.

    All that said, if you feel – as I do – that wearing a chapel veil in the presence of the Eucharist is more reverent than not wearing one, then quite honestly, I don’t understand what the deliberation is about – you wear the chapel veil, of course, and accept whatever happens as a result of that. If you’re asked not to lector, then so be it. Good luck!

  58. NWFLDeaconsWife says:

    I became an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and I don my chapel veil for every Mass I attend, regardless if I am serving at the Alter or not. My Pastor supports this and was delighted as other ladies in our parish started wearing theirs again and he wished aloud that all the ladies at our parish wore one to Mass. You might ask Pastor why he thinks it’s a distraction.

  59. JulieC says:

    Fascinating discussion! Since no post-Vatican II Church documents strictly mandate or prohibit veils or women lectors, both appear to be a matter of personal preference. Therefore, despite the many wonderful insights here, I’ll stick with my original opinion that BOTH veils and women lectors ought to be avoided.

    My experience has been that the wearing of veils in traditional Catholic circles exacerbates any latent sexist/clericalist attitudes. Until male chauvinism and clericalism (both genuine vices) are repudiated you will not find this otherwise traditional Catholic woman advocate the wearing of veils.

    Paradoxically, allowing women lectors and altar girls exacerbates any latent feminist attitudes and encourages women to serve in ministerial roles previously reserved for the male clergy, and shatters the proper Christological iconography of the Mass.

    Modern Catholic liturgy and culture are in an unfortunate state of transition, and until Catholic tradition and orthodoxy are properly restored, confusion will continue to reign.

  60. Annie says:

    This is so interesting! In the UK, you are undoubtedly an oddity for using a veil at an ordinary Mass. You’re also an oddity if you genuflect before receiving the Host and receive on the tongue too.

    I used to just wear a veil to the EF, but came to the conclusion that I was being inconsistent if I believed in the Real Presence at the ordinary form Masses too. I was uncomfortable not wearing something on my head in my own parish, so started using a variety of headcoverings at the NO. Now I’ve graduated to my mantilla. I think if I had to choose between my mantilla or reading at Mass, I’d choose the mantilla.

    But is it easy? Do I feel comfortable, do I like being different? Is it the right thing to do in spite of how I feel and how I think I am perceived by fellow parishioners? Well, no it isn’t easy, and good grief, no really I don’t like being different, but without question, yes it is the right thing for me to do.

    So I think if you want to wear a headcovering, any headcovering, do. If you don’t want to wear one, don’t. But please, let’s not have the completely specious ‘veils are distracting’ argument! Are they really more distracting than t-shirts with slogans and whale tails? And please let’s not go down the ‘holier than thou’ track either, in this lovely liberal world, let’s live and let live, after all, ‘judge not,’ and all that!

  61. Phil_NL says:


    I think that what 3rd century fathers had to say about the matter is now, frankly speaking, irrelevant. We do not allow 14 year olds to marry anymore either; habits like these have little to do with the faith itself and much more with contemporary notions about what is decent. And those change, for better and worse.

    The problem in this 21st century is that women covering themselves brings an association with islam, like it or not, and that won’t change anytime soon. As the Church is permantently under seige here anyway, any link to backward islamic practices is to be utterly avoided. Pick your battles.

  62. Annie says:


    Excuse me for muscling in, but I don’t equate what I do, veiling at Mass and in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, with wearing the hijab 24/7, it’s not the same thing at all. Veiling in the Catholic tradition is not a ‘backward islamic practice’, it’s an ancient Christian practice, and one St Paul was quite keen on from what I recall. I’d love to see more traditional Catholic practices because they are what make our Faith unique.

  63. Phil_NL says:


    You shouldn’t equate it. There’s a whole world of difference. The problem is, you know it, I know it, but the majority of non-catholics (and even a fair bunch of catholics) don’t. And they will make the comparison, especially in the bigger european cities where one cannot walk the streets without encountering islamic headscarfs in copious numbers. Count on very unfavorable press and comments, in a time the Church is already under fire. I don’t think it’s worth it, plain and simple. It will be nigh-on impossible to explain.

  64. Annie says:

    Let’s educate them then Phil :) Not that I think anyone really who isn’t Catholic pays much attention to what people have on their heads in church. And if we aren’t getting some bad press, we aren’t doing things right, we’re supposed to be different, aren’t we?

  65. Phil_NL says:

    Different, yes. Poor strategists, no. To make some comparisons, I can see attention for the chapel veil having effects right on par with the SSPX’s Williamson’s nutty ramblings. That was an umitigated PR disaster as well, and no attempt at education was even remotely succesful. Even among mainstream catholics. You may feel differently, but it’s not a battle I’d pick.

  66. Phil_NL says:

    And to make things absolutely clear: I’m of course NOT talking about moral equivalence, only equivalence in effect (on society’s perception of the Church)

  67. Elizzabeth says:

    Very interesting discussion. I agree entirely with Anne Asher, and Annie’s comments. I too used to read at the OF Mass in my small parish. I was the mother of a young son, and having seen the immodestly-dressed altar girls (and I mean real bums and bellies showing immodest!) waltzing in to Church, and young ladies going up to read with skimpy bust-hugging tops on , for some reason I felt called to wear a head-covering as an act of reparation. I wore a long thick black piece of cotton lace fabric, so not an obvious mantilla, wrapped around like a snood. The comments I got from the old ladies who had been my friends up to then, were astonishing. It was as though I had changed, and yet, I came and chatted with them after Mass in exactly the same way as I had before! My husband, however thought it looked extremely modest, and the Priest was indifferent, so I continued. But then I got drawn more and more to the traditions of the Old Mass (the liturgical abuses in the New Mass were creeping in moreso than ever). I attended a Diocesan Day for Readers, and as I still wore my head-covering, the Priest running the day must have thought I was an “out and out” Traddie – although I hadn’t attended the Old Rite Mass at this point. It was his comment that the Priest used to say Mass with his back to the people, that really got me thinking. If the old Mass was good enough for Saints like Therese of Lisieux, who everyone raves about nowadays, well surely there must have been something good about it! I realised that I could no longer read at Mass, and eventually, after attending the Old Rite a few times (and working hard at beginning to understand it, although I immediately felt spiritually “at home” there) I began to attend regularly, with my husband’s permission. He continued to attend our parish with our son. But he began to investigate the EF, and eventually realised that it was the right place for all of us. We have been so much at peace ever since, and after years of attending awkwardly timed afternoon Mass we have been blessed with a move to an EF parish. God is Good. Keep wearing the veil, mantilla, headscarf, beret, snood, or whatever you want, and remain open to what God is calling you to – it may not necessarily be the role of lector…

  68. Latriagiver says:

    My wife and I are the “crazies” at our NO parish, she wears a chapel viel, I kneel for communion. we stand firm on liturgical and faith issues… just real annoyances and, “protestants” we are!!!… following the “written word” rather than the “authority” of the pastor. (ironically, authority is given through the Church in Holy Orders, acting on issues against the Church’s written word seems like there would not be authority any longer, since a priests authority comes through the Church…. but that is a different rant. Back to the issue at hand: I simply do not understand why people use this argument “do not draw attention to yourself….” It seems to me like such a deflection from the reality. The reality is that, due to the state of the church and the catechisis of the people, it seems offensive to wear a chapel veil or kneel for communion. The reality is that I am drawing attention to Christ in the Eucharist when I kneel and humility when my wife wears the Chapel viel. THIS reality is met with disdain because people do not want to be told to act certain ways, or to love certain ways, or sacrifice, or humble yourself, or acknowledge something greater than yourself. Why does it have to be attention on ones self? Why can’t it be what it is…. attention towards God. That to me seems the logical answer.
    If everyone did it, it would not be so odd, and the world would be a better place.

  69. Centristian says:

    On the one hand, it was bizarre of the priest in question to actually approach a female lector about wearing a veil. Talk about micromanaging. I can see a pastor observing it and thinking to himself, “oh lawrd…one of THOSE.” But to actually take action against it? One could legitimately wonder about his priorities.

    On the other hand, one could, perhaps, wonder about the lector’s. If the veil represents, in this case, an awkward clash with the culture of the parish, or with the age of the wearer, and is being worn just to flaunt an attachment to one’s innacurate perception of “yesteryear”, then maybe an alternative, more mainstream sort of headcovering might be better employed.

    Mantillas are typically associated with elderly women of a bygone era. The mantilla causes one to imagine a grandmother kneeling before a Madonna and lighting candles while frantically clicking her beads. They are also traditionally more cherished by older Italian women and older women of Latino heritage.

    I think that if a woman is a young woman, and does not belong to those cultures typically associated with the wearing of mantillas, then it can seem a bit odd, to be honest. It always seems odd to me, in fact, when a person tries to usurp for himself or herself elements of a culture or era that he or she was not raised in. That may not be the case, here, of course; I don’t know. For all I know the lector in question is a 75 year-old Italian grandmother.

    I would say, that if you simply aren’t of the mantilla “genre” but you want to cover your head in church, then wear a scarf or a hat. It doesn’t have to be a typical “church hat”: one of those lamp-shades with lace and flowers that look like something retired from the wardrobe of Elizabeth II. We aren’t Baptists, after all. Something subtle, something age-appropriate.

    Leave the mantilla to Nana.

  70. Centristian says:

    On the one hand, it was bizarre of the priest in question to actually approach a female lector about wearing a veil. Talk about micromanaging. I can see a pastor observing it and thinking to himself, “oh lawrd…one of THOSE.” But to actually take action against it? One could legitimately wonder about his priorities.

    On the other hand, one could, perhaps, wonder about the lector’s. If the veil represents, in this case, an awkward clash with the culture of the place, or with the age of the wearer, and is being worn just to flaunt an attachment to one’s innacurate perception of “yesteryear”, then maybe an alternative, more mainstream sort of headcovering might be better employed.

    Mantillas are typically associated with elderly women of a bygone era. The mantilla causes one to imagine a grandmother kneeling before a Madonna and lighting candles while frantically clicking her beads. They are also traditionally more cherished by older Italian women and older women of Latino heritage.

    I think that if a woman is a young woman, and does not belong to those cultures typically associated with the wearing of mantillas, then it can seem a bit odd, to be honest. It always seems odd to me, in fact, when a person tries to usurp for himself or herself elements of a culture or era that he or she was not raised in. That may not be the case, here, of course; I don’t know. For all I know the lector in question is a 75 year-old Italian grandmother.

    I would say that if you simply aren’t of the mantilla “genre” but you want to cover your head in church, then wear a scarf or a hat. It doesn’t have to be a typical “church hat”: one of those lamp-shades with lace and flowers that looks like something retired from the wardrobe of Elizabeth II. We aren’t Baptists, after all. Something subtle, something age-appropriate.

    Leave the mantilla to Nana.

  71. irishgirl says:

    When I ‘used’ to read and sing as a cantor, I sometimes wore a brown ‘beanie’ cap (a leftover from my Third Order Franciscan days). I couldn’t wear a veil with my short hair-it would fall off!
    I never had a problem with any priest telling me to remove it. Didn’t bother them in the least.
    Nowadays I go to the TLM ‘exclusively’, so I wear either the veil or the ‘beanie’….right now I wear the latter for the winter months.
    As regards the original poster’s priest telling her to remove her veil, I say [respectfully of course], ‘MYOB, Padre-if she wants to wear the veil, then let her.’

  72. Supertradmum says:

    RE: the Islamists head covering and that of a Traditional Catholic

    For the Islamist, the female head covering is a symbol of the fact that women in those cultures are not seen as equal to men in rights and privileged. It is a left-over from desert days and a horrible institution revealing the regressive culture of Islam. Many Islamic women hate the veil and burka. Western cultures are correct in discouraging the use of burkas.

    For a Traditional Catholic woman, the veil should not be a personal or a political statement, which would be prideful, but a sign of respect for the Eucharist. As our culture does not, thankfully, insist on female head coverings, the Church does not either. It is a custom. Hats are particularly “Western” and seem a better way to cover the head than long, flowing mantillas, which, frankly, for some trad women who put them in boxes in their cars, look tattered and un-ironed. That messiness is more of an insult to God than the lack of a head covering.

    In addition, if a priest does not want such a head covering in the sanctuary, that seems reasonable to me, as the woman, as a reader, is “under him” in authority. No lay person has the authority to either demand veils or no veils. Custom dictates either use in most areas. Hats are definitely less provocative. We should use common sense in these matters.

  73. Supertradmum says:

    Without stuffing the combox, here is a Jewish site for modest hats and veils. The hats are particularly nice.


  74. Re: veil/hat/scarf, etc. — Like any other piece of clothing you wear to Mass, ideally you want it to fit, look neat, and go together nicely with the rest of your outfit and demeanor. But I don’t think veils necessarily look weird, either, even in the middle of an OF Mass. (And of course, there are some women who can wear anything anywhere and make it look perfect, because life’s just not fair or because they are artists at wearing things.) Women just need to use their judgment, that’s all, and not assume that every veil goes with every face and head and outfit and weather. I mean, obviously it can, but just ’cause it can doesn’t mean it does.

    Of course, anything dress-related that I say I have learned with much effort and no natural talent. So take anything I say on this subject with a whole road truckload of salt!

  75. MichaelJ says:

    I do not think that the lady desiring to wear a mantilla is the only one with an”innacurate perception of ‘yesteryear’.

  76. tcn says:

    Um, if the priest had asked her to remove her blouse, everyone would have been aghast. But the reason for veiling has as much to do with modesty as does her blouse. That the priest did not understand what he was asking is clear, so perhaps some education to him on her part is in order. Veiling is not just a quaint custom or a fashion for those who choose to do it.

  77. Singing Mum says:

    Great link- thanks!
    Also appreciated your contribution distinguishing the reasons behind Catholic and Muslim coverings. Between nutty feminists and cruel Islamists, the true dignity of women realized in Christ and demonstrated by Mary needs to be reasserted often.

  78. Catholicity says:

    The word obnoxious comes to mind. Why on earth would a head covering on a woman be of any concern to a Catholic priest? Miss Manners might have countered, “I believe that you are the only one drawing attention to me, Father.”

  79. nanetteclaret says:

    I guess I’m not understanding why the lady in question would take to heart St. Paul’s admonition that women should be veiled in church, but totally disregard his instructions that women not speak in church. It seems to me to be a clear case of “cafeteria Scripture selection.” Of course, it’s possible that she doesn’t know the relevant Scripture verses and if that’s the case, it’s sad.

  80. Precentrix says:

    I used to read (as well as sing) at OF Masses. I did this because it was the best way of never being asked to serve. I continued to do so after I had begun to cover in church and certainly didn’t stop reading straight away. It never caused an issue (though white lace may have been more noticeable) and I never perceived an inherent contradiction. My ceasing to act as reader probably came at least a few months later and wasn’t complete for a while, and it had nothing whatsoever to do with St. Paul’s injunctions but rather with the more conscious formulation of my understanding of this being, quite frankly, a boy thing.

  81. Constance says:

    As a 16 year head-covering Catholic , I do not and pray that I never have to appear in the Sanctuary(ya know the area that is sacred) to be a witness. I can witness just fine from the pew. I hope someone slaps be if I ever become that childish and prideful.

  82. Ben Yanke says:

    @ nanetteclaret

    I’ve always understood “speak” (in this context) to mean something along the lines of preaching, not simply reading. Even in the “old days”, women were still allowed to ring the bell and pray the responses from the pews, so the literal understanding of “speak” might not be the best to use in this situation.

    Anyone else with me on this interpretation?

  83. nanetteclaret says:

    @ Ben Yanke

    My thought is that if a woman is in the sanctuary area and speaking in front of the congregation, from a lectern, she is “speaking in church,” whether it is reading Holy Scripture or preaching. I wouldn’t think that ringing a bell or praying responses – from the pews – would be the same thing at all. St. Paul says: “Let women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted them to speak, but to be subject, as also the law saith. But if they would learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is a shame for a woman to speak in the church.” I Cor. 14:34-35. It seems quite clear to me, and I don’t have a problem with it.

  84. catholicmidwest says:

    This is just a strange question, plain & simple. I mean the hat is symbolic of exactly what? And doing the reading is necessary for you, exactly why? There could be reasons, mind you. I just have no idea what they might be, but the asker of this question seems confused. Heck, this question confuses me.

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