QUAERITUR: Wore a black chapel veil and women scoffed

From  a reader:

I wore my black mantilla (it blends in with my dark brown hair better) to an OF Mass this evening for the second time (no issues the first time), but after I arrived, a group of chatty and gossipy elderly women came and sat behind me. [Is the technical term “biddies”?  (as I now cautious back out of the room…)] When I turned around during the Sign of Peace, and (I’m assuming) realized how young I was, she scoffed me, and another one wouldn’t shake my hand.

I’m single and can legitimately wear white, so the last thing I want is for people to think otherwise of me. Do I still have to worry about the connotations behind black and white veils that elderly people might have?

Why did the image of Monty Python’s Granny Gang just pop into my head?

And now for something completely different…


Back to our topic.

I, for one, am glad when women decide to to return to this custom.  Kudos.

First, while I believe that there may be some connotation to colors (e.g., black for the married and widows, white for the nubile) you can wear any color veil that it pleaseth you to wear.  I suggest avoiding blaze orange, unless its autumn.

Second, did the old woman scoff, really, or did you just imagine that she did?

Third, perhaps it is a blessing in disguise that you got to avoid a handshake o’ peace.

Seriously, you have to determine for yourself whether or not you care.  They’ll probably get used to you in a little while.  Some may start using a veil themselves.

However, you may from time to time have to take a little heat from a scoffing ninnyhammer, feckless gowk, Fishwrap subscriber, or excerebrose flibbertigibbet.

If you have a run in with your local granny gang again, invite them out to coffee afterwards and you can ask them if it was the color they objected to or to the wearing of any veil.  Be nice to them.  If nothing else, you will have followed Proverbs 25:22.


On your mark!  Get set!  ….

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Puir Slow-Witted Gowk and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. JoAnna says:

    I suggest avoiding blaze orange, unless its autumn.

    Hey, I didn’t know Cabella’s sold mantillas now! ;) [If they don’t, they should. Perhaps some enterprising young lady could start a cottage industry. It could go along with my rosaries of knotted paracord.]

  2. inIpso says:

    Why feel self concious? Don’t worry about em! Veils aren’t about what other people think… it’s about loving God. So just smile and say a prayer for them.

    Personally, my my veils are pink and dark purple! Our heavenly Father knows his little one likes color ;P

  3. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Yes, the RealTree Brown 3D goes best with my outfits. Don’t forget pinnning on one of those cover scent wafers, Fresh Earth for fall or White Oak Acorn for later in the season.

    Seriously, biddies = old cows = me some day. Ignore them if they are really mean (or jump over the pew and kiss them with a loud smack on the cheek).

  4. MissOH says:

    First, JoAnna- roflol…
    Second, to the writer, don’t let anything imagined or real detract you from wearing your veil. The women who did not shake your hand may have had another reason.

    I know of those who have had severe arthritis and I know they dreaded the glad handing after the sign of peace in parishes which were on the enthusiastic side of the peace. I am not that self-sacrificing so I tend not to give my hand because I am having a problem with a joint on my right hand. If I don’t have my youngest (who is still small enough to enjoy behing held) I just smile and make it clear I am exchanging the peace.

    I also wear my veil when I attend OF masses (which is my only choice during the week) or any time I am in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. I have been asked by some older (60’s) women about my veils and several have obtained their own. As Father Z said, if you do detect any “criticism” it may be from women who did not understand the practice and who are convinced “we don’t do/have to do that anymore” so why wear a veil.

  5. When I turned around during the Sign of Peace . . .

    Wouldn’t it seem at least a bit odd to see a woman wearing a veil turn around and try to shake hands with someone? Doesn’t one expect a bit more decorum of a woman wearing a veil?

    [O Henry! You had to do it. Good luck, pal.]

  6. Legisperitus says:

    I seriously doubt they were attaching any meaning to the color of the veil. Most likely just a negative reaction to the sight of such a young woman using a veil at all, as Fr. Z suggested. Women of a “certain age” sometimes get offended by the idea that they may not have changed the world forever.

  7. “When I turned around during the Sign of Peace . . .

    Wouldn’t it seem at least a bit odd to see a woman wearing a veil turn around and try to shake hands with someone? Doesn’t one expect a bit more decorum of a woman wearing a veil?”

    Even those of us who wear a veil have to strike a careful balance between performing the sign of peace with the highest amount of decorum and not causing undue distress due to the expectations of even orthodox Catholics that they should exchange the sign of peace with everyone around them. Perhaps this consideration is especially difficult when one is a mantilla wearer as it could very easily be misinterpreted and cause greater hostility to tradition. It is difficult. Most of us do want Mass to be as little of a battle ground as possible within the boundaries of putting the worship of God first and what is and is not permitted or prudential within that is a difficult discernment.

  8. Lily says:

    Ah, yes, a friend and I had a similar experience, although not face to face for me. A friend of mine was visiting (while discerning a religious vocation with the Sisters from the Institute of Christ the King) and she overheard some older ladies say, “Look, there’s another one of THEM.” It’s as if they can’t possibly conceive in their minds that someone would want to veil for the pure sake of pleasing God. It’s their own problem, of course, so I wouldn’t worry about it.

    P.S. I am now no longer the only one who veils at OF Masses. I believe we are now 5 of us at our local parish, with many more thinking about it.

  9. amenamen says:

    Some biddies exchange the sign of peace; some turn away; some behave rudely and scoff.

    [Ah yes… another meaning of “biddies”. They are also, nisi fallor, chamber maids. The word might be a corruption of the name Bridget.]

  10. Lily says:

    “Perhaps this consideration is especially difficult when one is a mantilla wearer as it could very easily be misinterpreted and cause greater hostility to tradition.”

    I agree. And I think that a simple warm smile when making eye contact goes a long way to reduce possible hostility to tradition.

  11. Gail F says:

    “Wouldn’t it seem at least a bit odd to see a woman wearing a veil turn around and try to shake hands with someone? Doesn’t one expect a bit more decorum of a woman wearing a veil?”

    Are you serious? You think there is something indecorous about a woman in a veil turning around to shake the hand of someone behind her? Last I checked, women wearing veils are quite capable of turning around without causing a scene.

    If you want to wear a veil, fine. But this kind of comment is one reason I do not even think about it. I suppose it depends on where you are, and what your personal stance on such things is. But to me it is inviting people to be nasty to you (as you perceived the women to be) or to judge you as this commenter did — for having the temerity to turn around! Sheesh.

  12. Annie says:

    I wear one at the OF and I too have been snubbed at the Peace! It’s always Laydeez of a certain age who disapprove, and yes, they are biddies! But they’ve made their point now, so you can make yours, and wear that lace in whatever colour you blinking well like!

    It’s not a nice experience I know, to have someone actually pointedly ignore you (when heaven knows you’ve made the effort to smile and shake hands while Our Lord waits patiently on the altar for everyone who hasn’t spoken to each other for at least twenty minutes to get over themselves and go back to their places).

    But wear it anyway! I do, even though I stick out like a sore thumb.

  13. Brad says:

    To Father’s questioner: sister, the biddies might not appreciate you, but the younger men do, at least the ones who admit certain things. [Good point!] You are doing us a charity and we thank you. One day you will see, in instant replay, just how so. So be happy.

    As far as those who refused your hand, no doubt followed by communicating, woe to them. May God have mercy upon us.

  14. ncstevem says:

    All the more reason to ignore participating in the hand shaky thing during Mass. I never do it. Even when the old timer next to me kept hitting me in the arm so I’d shake her hand.

    Fortunately when I do assist at the NO Mass my wife and I go to the early Mass when the church is maybe 50% full and we sit in a place where no one bothers us. When we assist at the TLM, obviously it’s not an issue.

  15. Faith says:

    As an old biddie myself, I’m trying to think like one. Maybe, shock that someone is sticking out their hand to be shook. One parish I attend, everyone just turns and smirks at you, another parish is where I think the Christians are saying goodbye before they’re going to be thrown to the lions. Perhaps, this parish was of the former bent.
    And of course, the old dears could have been awestruck at the beauty of the lady in the mantilla.

  16. Lily says:

    “If you want to wear a veil, fine. But this kind of comment is one reason I do not even think about it. I suppose it depends on where you are, and what your personal stance on such things is. But to me it is inviting people to be nasty to you (as you perceived the women to be) or to judge you as this commenter did — for having the temerity to turn around! Sheesh.”

    People are nasty to other people all the time for a myriad of reasons. People also judge other people all the time over even the most trivial of things. Most of the time, the problem lies with the person being nasty or doing the judging. Just because people do these things (and you and I do as well from time to time, as it’s part of our fallen nature) doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do good things out of love for God (like veiling in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament). Right?

  17. HyacinthClare says:

    I agree with Legisperitus. I doubt very seriously if the old dears had any idea of the difference in a white veil and a black veil. It was a sign of something [shock!] pre-Vatican-II. They were telling you how up-to-date THEY ARE. Like the lady singing behind me once… she had a very nice voice, and after the mass I asked her if she’d be interested in singing in the little classical (Latin) choir that our priest had asked me to start. She was visibly, profoundly offended! “I am NOT OLD!” she declared. Sigh. That was a long time ago and we’re blessed with an EF community now.

  18. ” . . . to the expectations of even orthodox Catholics that they should exchange the sign of peace with everyone around them.”


    GIRM 82. . . . It is, however, appropriate that each person offer the sign of peace only to those who are nearest and in a sober manner.

    This might suggest the persons immediately to your right and left. But everyone around them?

    Has there been such a decline of religious sensibility that it does not seen incongruous to turn your back on Our Lord present on the altar to shake hands with the person behind you? Does the Real Presence mean nothing to “even orthodox Catholics” anymore?

    Gail F: Although I have no personal preference whatsoever whether women wear veils or not–just could not care less; most of the women at the TLM I attend do not–it is my informal inference over the years that women who do wear veils tend to be a bit more orthodox in their general beliefs and practices.

  19. Blessed are the persecuted!

    As others here have stated, “Don’t worry about what others think!” And, as for those not shaking your hand at the “sign of peace”, you might try doing what I do. I never turn around to shake anyone’s hand if I am at a parish other than mine.(We don’t shake hands at our parish) No one has ever tapped me on the back to get my attention from behind. If someone in front of me turns around to shake my hand, I will respond, but I don’t go looking for hands. Also, when people turn around to shake my hand, they look at my 13 yr. old granddaughter and me in a startled manner, because she wears a Chapel cap and I wear a veil.

    After a while you will forget that you even have a veil on and won’t even let the glances or comments of “those pious women”, as St. Pio called them, bother you in the least bit. Just smile for Jesus; He is smiling at you!

  20. Philangelus says:

    When someone attempts to snub you, I highly recommend judicious stupidity. Pretend you didn’t notice.

    It’s outwardly more charitable anyhow to assume the best, so if you get snubbed at the Sign of Peace, just give a HUGE smile and flash the “peace” sign as if all they’re concerned about is that they have a cold and don’t want to pass you the germs. You’ll look friendly and they’ll look petty.

    And if it wasn’t really a snub, you’ll look friendly and they won’t wonder why you look miffed.

    The big smile really does work when you get a nasty look from someone. In the end, we’re only responsible before God for our own behavior, and Jesus had something to say about when we’re persecuted for His name’s sake. (Even in church.)

  21. Liz says:

    Oh, but people can be so nice too! I hate the way the veils seem to draw attention to me and my girls, but I’ve gotten somewhat used to it. I still get embarrassed, but I finally realized that is my ever-present pride. I want to wear it (I hope) for love of God. Anyway, back to the nice people. After our last first Friday mass at the OF…a nice lady came and handed me two brand, new veils. She bought them because she thought she had to have them in Rome, but said they didn’t use them. I find the lace mantillas expensive so I was grateful. I also like veils because the priest can see us coming, and maybe it’s not so shocking when we kneel for Holy Communion! I have them cropping up at more and more OF masses too.

  22. APX says:

    @Henry Edwards
    Wouldn’t it seem at least a bit odd to see a woman wearing a veil turn around and try to shake hands with someone? Doesn’t one expect a bit more decorum of a woman wearing a veil?

    I’m curious what you mean by this? Given that I attend Mass alone, and often have no one sitting next to me, my options are those in front, and those behind. Sometimes those sitting in front or behind are in the same predicament as I am, but do not have the same feelings towards the sign of peace as I do, and need someone to shake hands with. I see no point “shunning people,” especially while wearing a veil, as it could easily lead to the “one of them” labels and further harden them towards veiling. A warm smile and a friendly handshake goes a long way, and makes you more approachable. Granted, in the middle of Mass is not the best place for this, but not shaking someone’s hand could do more harm than good.

    FWIW: I know my grandmother is still very much of the ideology that virgins wear white, and married/non-virigns wear dark colors. When my cousin wore a white dress to her wedding despite her and her husband’s daughter being born out of wedlock, that’s all she talked about throughout the banquet. Lord help me if she ever sees me in my black mantilla.

  23. St. Louis IX says:

    No comment on the chapel veil.

    Father thanks so much for the clip! I so much needed the mental break..a much need smile

  24. JKnott says:

    As one of the saints said: “Keep your eyes fixed on The Crucified and all will become easy for you.”
    I like the wearing of the veil. Maybe a good meditation would be on the above quote and on trying to understand the woes of human respect in regard to our faith. That said, while there are many elderly ladies , and I am afraid more and more biddie men, being chatty and noisey in church, there are just as many young adults in church who offend by their choice of wardrobe ( of lack thereof) and lack of attention as well at Mass.
    I visit the elderly in nursing homes every week as many do in the Legion of Mary. I have come to love them as Christ would hav us love them. Blessed John Paul never made fun of the elderly.
    It is sad to keep hearing how ladies in veils are so constantly oversensitive and looking for sympathy. Ladies, make a few visits to nursing homes and forget about your looks. One day in the not too distant future you will also be called “an old lady”.

  25. lucy says:

    Good grief ! Henry Edwards was just making a joke !! Sometimes we really are too serious for words !

  26. Been there. Women who remember “the bad old days before VII swept away all the cobwebs and women HAD to veil at Mass..yadda yadda” often refuse to take my hand at the “Sign of Peace” and hiss comments about me that I can clearly hear. Ignore them and ponder that if you are big enough to engage in the N.O. “Sign of Peace” they should be big enough to get over your veil.

    Mr. Edwards comment gets to what I’ve observed. If you attend EF Masses (where many women veil) you, typically, will not have the congregation “Sign of Peace”. However, I have to say I’ve observed veiled women at N.O. Masses who cross their arms, look angry, and refuse to shake hands during the “Sign of Peace”

    IMHO, there is enough ‘wrong’ on both sides. Why are there so dang many joyless women? Seriously.

    I’m curious if those same women would hiss and judge the young man and ladies who arrive at Mass barely dressed? My guess is: no. Society has embraced underdressing as the “norm” but people who formally dress and show reverance before the Lord are the outsiders.

  27. benedetta says:

    amenamen, Well done. Yes, and biddies go in a brooder, that’s true.

    When veiled ladies or ladies wearing a scarf or other covering, young or elderly, have turned around or from the side to exchange the sign of peace with me, wearing a gentle smile, during the NO, I have found it quite encouraging. I tend to assume that young women who veil feel called to do so, and I respect their intuition and conscience in doing so. If I am curious as to their reasons personally then if I knew them then I would just ask, but with respect and not in a nosy or a skeptical way for one doesn’t really know unless, as they say one has walked a mile in another’s mocassins.

    That said, if I were to veil with a scarf or a mantilla then my color would be blazing orange. At a minimum.

    I should think that the writer should feel free to continue what she is doing with generous and joyful spirit, continue to show the kindness that she has, and always be ready to give an explanation, to anyone who asks.

  28. amenamen says:

    Ladies, place your orders before deer season opens:

  29. irishgirl says:

    I’m single (never married) and I wear a black veil when I go to my TLM chapel for Sunday Mass.
    I hardly ever go to the OF Mass anymore anyway, so I don’t have to worry about older ladies (or anyone else, for that matter) making comments at the Sign of Peace.
    But if I did find myself at an OF Mass, I’d wear my veil-not to be ‘holier than thou’, but to show respect to Our Lord in the tabernacle. And He’s the only One I want to be concerned about when I’m in church!
    Who cares about what a few old biddies think?

  30. BLB Oregon says:

    You scoff at old lady gangs? Learn from this fellow, who thought he could intimidate some church ladies after he clipped their car in an accident at an intersection outside of Dallas:

    (I love that this spectator from Dallas immediately recognized a hard-cover NIV when he saw one!)

  31. Supertradmum says:

    I have a beautiful Spanish lace mantilla and only get compliments on it. It is black, but I would wear subdued colors, such as dark green or blue, if I could find such. Pink for young girls is fine, as is white. But, let us not split hairs…I love the Granny mob sketch. Of course, we all know that Great Britain, as well as Eire, is a matriarchy. Father, what is wrong with a subdued orange, such as golden tones, or autumnal oranges? Too racy lacey???

  32. Elizabeth D says:

    We “randomly” had a retired Benedictine abbot (in habit, black zuchetto and pectoral cross) guest celebrate our daily Mass today (random to me because no one tells me anything). He explained Bishop Morlino invited him to Madison to found a liturgical institute. When we were telling him in the sacristy what our customary ways are for Mass in our parish (relating mostly to the unusual layout of the church, not doing something weird) he asked if we had intercessions and sign of peace. We sort of shrugged, and the good man omitted both.

    No biddies snubbed him for wearing a black zuchetto or thought he was being holier than thou. If it was a white zuchetto then we might have been upset.

  33. benedetta says:

    amenamen, Very nice. I like it very much. Right down to the moccasins. And yes by all means we should gear up for hunting season. I myself am not a hunter (imagine!) however there is a place where I used to bicycle where at the expected time of year some local hunters who have certain issues in terms of abiding by park laws would also go to in order to hunt deer, even though it is clearly prohibited. And at that time I did actually debate finding a proper orange cap or the like, just in case. Thankfully I never had a problem. I guess I just pedaled too fast for ’em…

  34. Nun2OCDS says:

    Remember, too, that some of those post-Vatican 2 folks have not a clue. Recently leaving an OF Mass I was stopped by a man about 30 years old who pointed to my veil and asked, “Why do you wear that? I don’t even know what it’s called.” The “wear that” was said with a bit of distain. I said very simply that it is called a veil and Iwear it out of respect for the Blessed Sacrament and out of modesty. Then added,”Until 1983 it was required by Canon Law.” “Really? Thanks.” A little education goes a long way. (cf. Hosea 4:6)

  35. MJ says:

    perhaps it is a blessing in disguise that you got to avoid a handshake o’ peace.

    ROFL! :)

    My 0.02…I don’t think the women had an issue with the black veil…I’m thinking they had an issue with the veil (in general).

    I own a dark and light veil, and I wear whichever matches my outfit better…I’ve seen 14 year olds wear dark ones, and I’ve seen married women with grown children wear white ones. I don’t think the color matters (as long as it’s not distracting – like orange! Or tye dye!). But personally I’m guessing the old gossipy ladies were scoffing at the veil, not because it was black.

  36. Denise says:

    Since this is only your second time wearing a veil, I encourage you to persevere. Once I started wearing a black mantilla to Mass, I got many compliments and only a rare unpleasant look or snide comment. If wearing a mantilla enhances your experience at Mass, then do it. Do not let the biddies intimidate you. Your joyful reverence and humility will be a form of evangilization.

  37. KAS says:

    In my short time wearing a veil to Mass, I met with so much direct hostility that I finally gave it up. It was just too much for me. I wish I had a thicker skin but I don’t.

  38. MJ says:

    Italics…off… Hope that worked!

  39. Father K says:

    so the old biddies clearly understand the meaning of the sign of peace…not

  40. o.h. says:

    Hey, let’s go easy on the biddies. I’ve got a little Biddy of my own. Four years old. She spurns everyone at the Sign of Peace and cowers under the pew instead.

    Haven’t we all noticed in real life and in comboxes, that no one is so hard on women who want to veil as other women? They’re being self-righteous! They’re showing off their piety! They’re judging other women who aren’t veiled! They’re ignorant of the pre-Vat2 fashion of wearing hats! They’re dowdy! They’re frumpy! And on and on. Beware, ladies, of claws catching in your lace….

  41. amenamen says:

    “She walks these hills in a long black veil”

    Blaze orange is safer.

  42. Gail F says:

    Lily wrote: “Just because people do these things (and you and I do as well from time to time, as it’s part of our fallen nature) doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do good things out of love for God (like veiling in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament). Right?”

    Yes, and that is why I said that if someone wants to do it, she should. I don’t. But if women came into my parish church wearing them, it wouldn’t faze me. I cannot imagine being rude to anyone for such a thing — or, for that matter, for not wearing one (unless it was required).

    I am still a little amazed that anyone thinks shaking hands with the person behind you is too much. I suppose it might have something to do with different experiences. At my parish we always shake hands with the people beside us, in front of us, and behind us. It just takes a minute. Now, there is sometimes some REALLY overdone hand-shaking. It doesn’t help that our pastor is a hand-shaker and wanders around the front pews. But I would consider shaking hands with the people around you to be simply normal.

  43. Margaret says:

    Amenamen– if head coverings are ever mandated at Mass again, I am *so* wearing that bright orange hijab. It is only a little louder than my hair color… :)

    And I can’t get / i or / em to end the $%^%$ italics!!!

  44. benedetta says:

    amenamen, Interesting, a duet. But I like the Chieftains’ version…

    I don’t know the veiling protocol, although I understand the reasons given, but truly why would colorful veils or covering be off limits? For instance it was interesting to see the faithful at Easter liturgies in Russia and the women, of all generations, wore every variety of covering, with some lovely scarves of color or design, and also mantilla in different shades as well. I can’t recall specifically, orange, but I can’t say for sure there weren’t a great many colors. And it certainly did not seem as if women were competing to outdo each other in terms of bolder and more stylish coverings (as some might speculate could wind up happening) but each woman seemed equally reverent, composed, prayerful, modest, feminine. I don’t remember especially leaping to one or another covering as seeing something that stood out so as to distract but rather took in right away that all women’s heads were covered, something that I felt on the whole was quite a reverent act, especially considering that commonly women there work outside of the home out of necessity, not for status or career, and have responsibilities to work and family both, but also even among younger faithful were in agreement together as women that this was an important way to show respect and their devotion while gathered together for liturgy and prayer.

    Certainly I have no idea what the custom would have been in the old days, but would it only be the limited choice of colors, truly, I wonder. I realize also that in generations past women and girls also wore hats and then of course it may very well have been a bright color that matched coat or suit. Very curious about that if anyone has any sense of it I’d be interested.

  45. APX says:

    For me it’s not so much the stares. I’m used to people staring at my head because I used to dye it every color of the spectrum from fiery red, to green, and all the way to blue and purple, and somewhere in there it briefly went gray. That said, I started veiling with a black veil because I didn’t want to draw anymore attention to my head than a veil would already create, thus creating a distraction to others. Interestingly enough, since I started veiling my friend who sings in the church choir has decided to start wearing a cardigan to cover herself, despite the unA/C’d church.

    What my concern would be with the biddies is if they still associated color to one’s nubility, and the rumours spread like wild fires through dry grass. Having had short hair and the assumptions and rumours that went with it was frustrating enough to wade through. This woman would like to get married some day without her nubility reputation getting dragged through the mud any further.

    The italics is a temporary thing that comes and go from time to time. It’s affecting the links in the side bar too.

  46. Someone used an evil “< i >” tag. Grrr.

  47. AnAmericanMother says:

    There’s a certain type of little old lady that just lives to make nasty comments. I am completely impervious and just laugh at them, but one of them was ugly to my sweet shy daughter.
    I refrained from giving her a good old fashioned commination service, I just pointedly ignored her whenever I saw her. Believe it or nor, she figured it out, apologized to my daughter, and we are cordial again.I think 95 percent of it is being old, set in their ways, and cranky. When they realize they’ve been rude, they’re usually sorry, if they’re not, they can . . . do the other thing.
    I veil when I’m dressed up, but it’s a bit much with a choir robe so I wear a chapel cap. Comments mostly positive, one kind of ambiguous remark that may have been a snark. Replied with big smile and that I felt moved to wear it out of respect for Our Lord. After all, we’d be on our faces in awe and holy fear if He walked in the door, right? And He’s on the altar, right? How can you argue with that?

    Wound up in a parish last Sunday where I knew nobody at all, had a sundress and sweater on and the chapel cap was in my purse so on it went. Nobody said boo.

  48. AnAmericanMother says:

    Joanna, Banjo pickin’ girl, LOLOLOL!
    I have some Realtree netting that we use for holding blinds, and I am SO going to make a pattern from one of my Spanish mantillas and run up a Camo Mantilla.
    It will go perfectly with my HRC Spring Grand shirt and my Camo brush pants!
    We were at Mass in a little country parish during a hunting test one time, and the priest announced that he wanted better attendance for the St Francis blessing of the animals. I told him afterwards at the church door that we had 250 retrievers 2 1/2 miles over the hill and how many did he want . . . .

  49. Tina in Ashburn says:

    If the biddies don’t approve of your veil, wear a BIG HAT that they can’t see around and then they will avoid sitting behind you! Hats are way cooler anyway, way more interesting. Hats are really what people used to do anyway.

    Hey Henry Edwards, as a child I was taught not to turn around in church…bet you were too. [And stirring up a hornet’s nest should be avoided too tee-hee] More to the point, though, I too usually avoid turning around for passing the peace. I make peace with my husband [I know him, and it never hurts to make certain we are at peace before receiving Communion]. I then return the gestures from those around me, I hardly ever initiate them. And I rarely turn around.

    Color? Maybe in European countries, not here in the States. But back in the day, I remember Kleenexes on the head when we forgot the hat or veil.I have never been aware of rules for the color of veils. I wear whatever veil or scarf goes with whatever, or what is in grabbing reach as I race out the door.
    Although I can feel self-conscious at an OF Mass wearing a veil, I’ve never been aware of being snubbed. [could be the bat I carry …no just kidding]

  50. PostCatholic says:

    One nice thing about being Unitarian Universalists is that my wife and I never have to deal with people who think we’re too Unitarian Universalists and scoff at our outstretched hands.

  51. Jayna says:

    I didn’t start wearing a veil until I moved to a more traditional parish as I expected I’d have gotten the same response as did the woman who wrote in. Interestingly, I’ve worn it probably a dozen times at my old parish since then (I still go to Mass there from time to time) and four or five times I have gotten favorable comments about it. One woman even asked me where I got it because she’d been wanting to start wearing one too.

    The women who I know would insult me for it, I never see at Mass. Funny, that.

  52. jjoy says:

    I just got an order today for a copper mantilla, its a sort of autumnal orange-y. I’ve even made a couple of variegated multi-colored mantillas.

    I often forget I’m wearing my chapel cap until I arrive somewhere else after Mass and catch a glimpse of it in a mirror!

  53. michelelyl says:

    Biddy is a nick name for Brighid (Bridget)…she who is the Irish saint, and Irish pagan goddess symbol of motherhood.
    And- Annie, maybe they weren’t snubbing you, but don’t do the sign of peace. Many people in my parish only attend the OF because we don’t have an EF within 100 miles. I veil on occasion and I’m the Pastoral Associate at the Parish. Never been snubbed, only some curious questions after Mass.

  54. Annie says:

    Oh yes it was a snub michelelyl :D they shake hands with just everyone. My husband standing right beside me, and the person on my other side got the shakies, lol! I think they think I’ve dissed the sisterhood…

  55. benedetta says:

    PostCatholic, You mean you (and your wife) veil at your Unitarian Universalist meetings?

  56. AnAmericanMother says:

    That sort of behavior says a whole lot more about the biddies than it does about you or your decision to veil.
    They also act ugly about all sorts of trivial things in and out of church, from when you stand at the “pray,brethren” to entering their sacred parish hall kitchen looking for a paper towel.
    Ignore them, smile, give an adoring “can you believe that?” look at your husband, and heap burning coals on their heads.

  57. AnAmericanMother says:

    “Biddy” picked up the negative connotation during the post-1840s Irish migration to the U.S.
    The bishop in New York (a tough character whose nickname was “Dagger John”) spent a lot of time uplifting his flock, and one thing he pushed hard was the women going out to respectable domestic service. So there were a lot of old ladies named Bridget in what you might call the lower tier of housekeeping jobs.

  58. Centristian says:

    I’m afraid I’ll just never understand this controversy. If someone is wearing a mantilla in church, honestly, so what? Why would anyone ever become disquieted by that? It isn’t unheard of. And anyway, mind your own business.

    If, on the other hand, you are a female and you desire to cover your hair in Church (for whatever reason) but you’re neurotic about what people will think about a mantilla (as many readers of this blog apparently are), then wear something other than a mantilla! Wear a hat, or a cap, or a scarf. Something that looks like it belongs in the year 2011. Problem solved.

    Lace mantillas are not an article of sacred vesture that cannot be exchanged for something else that serves the same purpose. The pious personal practice of some women who opt to cover their heads in church is fine, but insisting that a veil/mantilla is somehow the only way to go (particularly in an age when no headcoverings at all are required) and the notion that a woman ought to “veil” (it’s not a verb!) is something that, to me, smacks of cultishness.

    If you want to cover your head in church, you can do so without looking a like a first communicant or an Italian widow. Wear a cap. Wear a scarf. Look like a woman of today.

  59. APX says:

    the notion that a woman ought to “veil” (it’s not a verb!)

    Yes it is. It can be used as a noun, verb, transitive verb,and intransitive verb. It can also be modified and used as an adjective too! Veil is a very versatile word.

  60. MJ says:

    “Neurotic” is a strong word, Centristian. I don’t think most women are concerned about mantillas because they are vain or prideful – on the contrary, in my experience anyway, they do not wish to come across as vain or prideful (it’s sort of like “how does one practice humility while remaining humble”…same sort of thing).

    I don’t like the word “cultishness” either…I think most women – and men! – wouldn’t agree that wearing a veil is cultish.

    What good Catholic woman would want to “look like a woman of today”? I’m not saying hats and scarves do that to a woman — but a mantilla or veil certainly does not make a woman look like an “Italian widow”.

  61. o.h. says:

    I was right with you until your last paragraph. That was exactly the sort of cattiness I was describing earlier. That remark made you exactly the sort of person responsible for what you call the “neurosis” of women wishing to wear a head covering. “Sure, wear what you want, it’s nobody’s business. By the way, if you wear a lace veil, you’ll look like a first communicant or an Italian widow, har har.”
    And “veil” has been used as a verb since at least the fourteenth century.

  62. Centristian says:


    “I don’t like the word ‘cultishness’ either…I think most women – and men! – wouldn’t agree that wearing a veil is cultish.”

    And I would be one of them. I haven’t charged that it’s cultish to wear a veil, only to insist upon one and to refer to “veiling” as though it were some sort of liturgical rite. One wears a veil. One doesn’t “veil”.

    “What good Catholic woman would want to ‘look like a woman of today’?”

    A good Catholic woman of today, I suppose. Dressing modestly doesn’t have to mean anachronistically. At any rate, I only mean to say that if a woman who wants to cover her head in church feels uncomfortable about a mantilla, then don’t wear one. Wear something else; there are other options that look less “Catholic school girl” than mantillas do.

  63. MichaelJ says:

    This particular issue has come up several times here, but I get the feeling that we are reading different comments. Nobody has ever insisted that a veil is the only way. Nobody has even identified a veil as a strong personal preference. In fact, as I recall, nobody other than you has expressed any prerference one way or another. So, I’m wondering where you get the impression that anyon has ever insisted on a veil.

  64. Veil color/marital status seems to be an idea that only existed pre-Vatican II in certain ethnic communities. Of course, since only certain ethnic communities wore lace veils/mantillas at Mass instead of hats and scarves (until lo, the time of Jackie O), it’s logical that people would have picked it up. But it’s the kind of fashion rule that only works if you only have one or two headcoverings over a lifetime. (And if you had to make all that lace yourself, that’d probably be it. Because you’d want to sell the rest, not wear your profits.) Obviously colored lace is outside the boundaries, so anybody could wear anything.

    People who weren’t virgin at marriage not being supposed to wear white (which was a decorum rule mostly for second marriage of a widow, though of course it allowed for much snarkiness behind people’s backs) is only a rule that dates back to the time when white wedding gowns became fashionable, which was about the same time Queen Victoria got married. These things were not laid down in stone at the beginning of time. Before that, a woman just wore her best dress; and indeed, into the very late twentieth century, many women and ethnic communities rebelled against this fashion idea. Hollywood movies cemented it more than anything.

    Anyway, unless Grandma is Italian or Hispanic, Grandma probably knows nothing about black veils being supposed to mean married. She might ask if you were in mourning, more likely, because until relatively recently (except for eveningwear), most American women would do nearly anything to avoid wearing black except for funerals or maybe work. (And even at work, it seemed a bit severe.) Italian and Hispanic Catholic women were regarded by other ethnicities as either exotically sexy or highly depressing for wearing black to church almost every Sunday. Black was thought of as a “harsh” color rather than flattering. Again, fashions and aesthetics change over time. There’s no right answer for these things.

    Moving along, though… I hope these fashion wars do end soon, and I hope the original poster finds out that the lady behind her was just suffering from allergies, summer cold, or hand problems. If not, I hope the lady behind her does some work on her social skills; but there’s nothing the poster can do about that.

  65. “rebelled against this fashion idea” of wearing white for weddings instead of your best dress, I mean.

  66. TravelerWithChrist says:

    Father, you did it again, you brought on the veil topic…

    First, during the sign of peace, I pat my kids on the head then promptly kneel (in prep for the Agnus Dei and because the tabernacle is being opened). Thus I avoid the stretching over the pews and reaching across the altar and such hand-shakes.

    Second – why is it that the non-veiling want to presume that we (veilers) are being overly pious?? I’m probably going to step in it, but veiling wasn’t OFFICIALLY removed from the Mass. I’ve only been veiling about 4 years now.
    I feel so cheated that so much was left out of my CCD education. There is so much history in the Mass, just as in the bible, everything in the mass (at least in the older form) has a purpose, INCLUDING VEILING.

  67. Springkeeper says:

    When I was first considering converting to the Catholic church, I visited a church where a group of “seasoned saints” loudly said as I walked in the door, “Is she allowed to wear that?” (referring to my kerchief). I had only been in one other Catholic church previously and I was a bit taken aback but sitting through Mass I realized I was in a very liberal parish and my small incident was nothing compared to their other problems.

    I have since joined The Church and have had no other problems with anyone concerning my wearing a head covering. I rarely wear a mantilla (unless I am wearing a suit or something equally formal) because I feel too self-conscious otherwise. I wear black not only because I am married but mainly because I prefer to do so. I have seen many colors, including sky blue and a bright maroon/dark red. I can’t imagine anyone is trolling for dates amongst the ladies who wear white veils in Mass.

    One good reason for wearing a mantilla vice a veil- no one asks you if you are a nun. :)

Comments are closed.