QUAERITUR: Wearing a veil while distributing Communion.

From readerette:

Would it be inappropriate to wear a chapel veil while Eucharistic ministering?

First, you are not a Eucharistic Minister. You are an Extraordinary Minister of Communion.

I cannot see any problem with a woman wearing a chapel veil, a mantilla, or other head covering while helping to distribute Communion.

The more important question is whether or not help from additional lay distributors is really necessary.

We should keep in mind what Redemptionis Sacramentum says:

157 If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it. The practice of those priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons.

158 The extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the priest and deacon are lacking, when the priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged. … A brief prolongation, considering the circumstances and culture of the place, is not at all a sufficient reason.

Finally, while it is not obligatory for women to wear a head covering during Mass, I think it is a good custom (rooted in Holy Scripture) which ought to be fostered.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I would also suggest that she considers carefully whether her simple, traditional act of piety will be taken as political statement by the pastor, or if there are other congregants that will find the veiling an occasion to make their own political statements.

    Perhaps, also, check to see if the other EMHC ladies would join you?

    I’ve often wondered if it would be appropriate to require ladies in the sanctuary to veil.

    Worms….. escaping…. from…. can… can’t…. hold them… back!

  2. SonofMonica says:

    This whole question strikes me as slightly off…. sort of like asking whether we should sing Gather Us In in Latin.

  3. Geoffrey says:

    Personally I would love to see such a thing, whether at the OF Mass or if bringing Holy Communion to the sick or home-bound. As it is, whenever I see extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist receive Holy Communion on the tongue, I breath a sigh of relief and thank God saying “they get it!”

  4. CarismaTeaCo says:

    I presented RD 157 and 158, only to have Sor Liberata (who does not wear a veil) tell the committee I was being too ‘pre-VII’ and then assigning 8, EIGHT euministers for Ash Wed. In ADDITION to the two deacons and priest.

    When She brought communion to the choir loft this last Sunday, i wasnt trying to be rude when i left the loft and received from the priest like a normal person. Bottom line for me, I’m sticking to my low TLMass.

  5. heway says:

    ‘When in Rome, do what the Romans do’ I don’t believe that being different from the congregation is a sign of piety…..but maybe another sign. In our parish women may offer the chalice of Sacred Blood….but only the priest distributes the Blessed Body.

  6. wmeyer says:

    It could be worse. In my parish, with a church capacity of about 700, we routinely see 11 or 12 EMHCs. The smallest number I have seen there in 6 years was eight, and there were only perhaps 120 in the pews.

    I think the EMHCs have been conditioned to believe they have a right to serve. I’m sure I will never understand it.

  7. Being in a prickly-grammarian kind of mood today, shouldn’t that be, “eucharistically ministering?


    (And I hope the nice reader whose devotion to our Lord is commendable knows I am just kidding a little.)

  8. wmeyer says:

    Has any letter been issued that would clarify the meaning of “sufficient number”?

  9. ronconte says:

    I was present at one daily Mass, some years ago, on Thanksgiving. There were about 100 parishioners present, and 7 priests concelebrated the Mass. But when it came time to read the Scriptures, one lay woman got up and did all the readings herself, except the Gospel. And when it came time to distribute holy Communion, numerous ‘extraordinary’ ministers got up to distribute the Eucharist.

  10. wmeyer says:

    At daily Mass in my parish, there are usually 2 EMHCs. the chapel seats no more than 60.

  11. Geoffrey says:

    “But when it came time to read the Scriptures, one lay woman got up and did all the readings herself, except the Gospel.”

    Unfortunately, there is technically nothing wrong with that. GIRM #59 says:

    “By tradition, the function of proclaiming the readings is ministerial, not
    presidential. The readings, therefore, should be proclaimed by a lector, and the
    Gospel by a deacon or, in his absence, a priest other than the celebrant. If,
    however, a deacon or another priest is not present, the priest celebrant himself
    should read the Gospel. Further, if another suitable lector is also not present, then
    the priest celebrant should also proclaim the other readings.”

    However, there is no excuse for the extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist being utilized with so many ordained clergy in attendance.

  12. jamie r says:

    I would be a little distracted. Who is traditional enough to wear a scarf and liberal enough to be an EMHC? Unless there was some clear reason – like a mass with a 1000 people and one clerk – I would be really confused as to what’s going on.

  13. Sissy says:

    Thanks, SonofMonica. You owe me a keyboard. I’m confused by the whole concept. Cognitive dissonance, much?

  14. Sissy says:

    I’d like to clarify – I wasn’t suggesting the questioner suffers from cognitive dissonance, but rather that the sight of a veiled EMHC would produce a state of disorientation in me.

  15. Mary Jane says:

    @ Choirmaster, who said, “I’ve often wondered if it would be appropriate to require ladies in the sanctuary to veil.”

    I’ve often wondered if it would be appropriate to keep ladies out of the sanctuary. In fact, I’ve often wondered if it would be appropriate to keep EMHCs (unless they are deacons) out of the sanctuary.

    That said, I mean no disrespect to the woman who asked the question. I think it’s great that she wants to wear a veil. I wear one all the time. I just have an issue with female EMHCs – well, and EMHCs in general for that matter.

  16. Mary Jane says:

    Just a side-note for some perspective. I have been to Mass at one of the largest FSSP parishes in the country, and they had two priests distributing the Eucharist. There must have been hundreds there that Sunday. It went fast – 6, maybe 7 minutes tops. Gave the choir some time to sing some great polyphony, and it allowed time for recollection and prayer. No EMHCs needed (not even a deacon).

    EMHCs, unless you’ve got thousands of people and one priest, aren’t needed. If they are, they should be deacons or additional priests. Not laity.

    Just sayin’.

  17. Sissy says:

    Mary Jane said: That said, I mean no disrespect to the woman who asked the question. I think it’s great that she wants to wear a veil. I wear one all the time. I just have an issue with female EMHCs – well, and EMHCs in general for that matter.

    I agree with you, Mary Jane, on all points.

  18. Sissy says:

    I used to attend a very large Anglican “high church mass” which routinely had several hundred congregants per service. Two officiants had no trouble whatsoever serving communion while the choir sang 2 or 3 lovely anthems. All received on the knees at the altar rail. I loved having the time to pray. I don’t miss Anglicanism, but I do miss kneeling at the altar rail.

  19. Precentrix says:

    There is technically nothing wrong with a woman wearing a veil of sorts – or a hat – any time she chooses to do so.

    There are situations where EMHCs may be necessary and permitted. They usually don’t include Mass.

    However, if a woman is serving as an EMHC, there is no actual reason why this should mean she can’t wear a hat, headscarf or mantilla.

    It would just seem really, really odd to me.

  20. Springkeeper says:

    I am a former Episcopalian (birth to 20), then Baptist (20-42). I have worn a headcovering in church for years before I became a Catholic. That being said, after I became Catholic I considered becoming an extraordinary minister of communion because they were short handed. I decided against it after doing some study on the matter.

    @Sissy- same here. No one but the priest and deacon at my Episcopal church handed out communion no matter how many people were present. Sigh- I miss altar rails; I had so expected the Catholic church to have them.

    @heway- No woman I know of that covers her head in church does so as a “sign of piety” to anyone but herself. You have no clue how difficult it is to face hostile and belligerent women who have no problem publicly berating you for wearing a veil. I would rather blend in with everyone else but my conscience will not allow me to do so.

  21. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Yea, what Mary Jane said. Commendable to wear a veil.

    Its has been theorized that just because the rule on headcoverings for women was left out in the last Canonical update on that, doesn’t mean we don’t need to cover our heads anymore. If a practice has been common throughout, leaving out the statement can mean its doesn’t need to be mentioned because the practice is [was] so common. I dunno. But I wear a veil or hat pretty regularly.

    On Ash Wednesday, when the crowds were non-stop crushing, I attended the Noon Mass – which was packed in our large Gothic-style church. I think my parish had 5 or 6 Masses, our two priests distributed ALL the ashes and Communion. Way to go!!

    D’oh. Y’know if more people were sensitive about going to confession as needed before Communion, maybe there wouldn’t be so many going up row by row. Oh and those blessings too [in other parishes]!

  22. mike cliffson says:

    Tangential judgemental criticism :
    It may well be a Brit catholic urban myth , and only a few years before I was born , but it fits many of that generation of clergy, the rather protestant description of muscular christianity falls short, we shall not see their like again, , and may even have happened, anyhow one was told that in the midst of the Uboat campaign in WWII, when the rations were going down by the week, the two maiden aunts of whoever told you the story went to confession after letting some meat(probably already a bit high) rot (few fridges in those days) on Friday- and get a right telling off in the confessional and a hefty penance: for being stupid.

  23. lizaanne says:

    Springkeeper: “@heway- No woman I know of that covers her head in church does so as a “sign of piety” to anyone but herself. You have no clue how difficult it is to face hostile and belligerent women who have no problem publicly berating you for wearing a veil. I would rather blend in with everyone else but my conscience will not allow me to do so.



  24. Paul M. says:

    Mary Jane: Deacons are not EMHCs. They are OMHCs.

  25. AnnAsher says:

    Recently I was persisting the Eastern Canons and found it interesting that they specify when extraordinary ministers are used they are to be in a one to 75 ratio.
    It also clearly says ” no women in the sanctuary”. Sometimes clear rules are nice.
    I appreciate Fr Z reminding the well intentioned lady faithful that the public life is not naturally ordered to our femine form and bears us no real dignity. At least I think that is what you’re saying Fr Z.

  26. Tradster says:

    Paul M. : I prefer to refer to them as Extraneous Ministers of Holy Communion.

  27. Tradster says:

    Oops, sorry. I was referring to the laity, not the deacons.

  28. Nicole says:

    While women wearing a head covering at Mass can arguably be put forward as not binding by Canon Law…I don’t see how one can get around the binding quality of what is contained as found in Scripture and Tradition (which the First Vatican Council teaches bind one’s belief by divine and Catholic faith).

    Perhaps more women should read St. John Chrysostom’s 26th Homily on First Corinthians ( http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/220126.htm )

    Especially here:

    ‘”But if a woman is not veiled, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be veiled.”

    ‘Thus, in the beginning he simply requires that the head be not bare: but as he proceeds he intimates both the continuance of the rule, saying, “for it is one and the same thing as if she were shaven,” and the keeping of it with all care and diligence. For he said not merely covered, but “covered over ,” meaning that she be carefully wrapped up on every side. And by reducing it to an absurdity, he appeals to their shame, saying by way of severe reprimand, “but if she be not covered, let her also be shorn.” As if he had said, “If you cast away the covering appointed by the law of God, cast away likewise that appointed by nature.”

    ‘But if any say, “Nay, how can this be a shame to the woman, if she mount up to the glory of the man?” we might make this answer; “She does not mount up, but rather falls from her own proper honor.” Since not to abide within our own limits and the laws ordained of God, but to go beyond, is not an addition but a diminuation. For as he that desires other men’s goods and seizes what is not his own, has not gained any thing more, but is diminished, having lost even that which he had, (which kind of thing also happened in paradise) so likewise the woman acquires not the man’s dignity, but loses even the woman’s decency which she had. And not from hence only is her shame and reproach, but also on account of her covetousness.

    ‘Having taken then what was confessedly shameful, and having said, “but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven,” he states in what follows his own conclusion, saying, “let her be covered.” And he said not, “let her have long hair,” but, “let her be covered,” ordaining both these to be one, and establishing them both ways, from what was customary and from their contraries: in that he both affirms the covering and the hair to be one, and also that she again who is shaven is the same with her whose head is bare. “For it is one and the same thing,” says he, “as if she were shaven.” But if any say, “And how is it one, if this woman have the covering of nature, but the other who is shaven have not even this?” we answer, that as far as her will goes, she threw that off likewise by having the head bare. And if it be not bare of tresses, that is nature’s doing, not her own. So that as she who is shaven has her head bare, so this woman in like manner. For this cause He left it to nature to provide her with a covering, that even of it she might learn this lesson and veil herself.’

  29. Sissy says:

    Thanks for posting that portion of St. John Chrysostom’s 26th Homily, Nicole. I’ve been wavering. On the one hand, I feel called to veil. On the other, I feel intimidated by the hostility. That clarifies things for me.

  30. I recently heard that women shaving their heads was actually a (shortlived) Roman fashion trend. I don’t know if it was as a foundation for wigs, or imitating “professionals”, or whether it was some kind of weird Roman punk religion thing; but it kinda lends a new basis to Paul’s comments!

    (If true, that is. I’m still trying to find out what the “fashion” source is.)

  31. Back to the subject — well, obviously if women wearing headgear in church (or even just as fashion) becomes more of a norm, you can expect to see more women EMHC’s wearing headgear.

    And obviously, having a woman wearing some standard kind of formal headgear (as long as she’s also wearing clothes!) can only be doing a morally neutral or morally good act, because it’s not evil.

  32. MyBrokenFiat says:

    SonofMonica – YES! Thought the same thing! I actually said, “I smell ‘set-up'” but that could just be because I read Father’s article on Johnson two seconds earlier. LoL

    We’re all a little suspicious anymore.

  33. AnAmericanMother says:

    You have no clue how difficult it is to face hostile and belligerent women who have no problem publicly berating you for wearing a veil.
    If you can pull off a little acting (deep breath! steady! silent Memorare!) just give them a wide-eyed, innocent smile and say in a sweet voice, “But I veil for My Lord in the Blessed Sacrament! Surely you don’t object to my showing respect!” Then make your exit firmly but not hurriedly. If you can do this little cameo within earshot of a priest, so much the better.
    That has worked very nicely for snarky questions/comments. Nobody has ever actually berated me, but then I’m a solid little Scotch-Irish fireplug with a tomboy past and an excess of attitude. Trying to look gentle and innocent is a real stretch for me.
    Or you could try the camouflage veil. Even without the dog and the shotgun it might give them some pause about being hostile. :-D

    I miss kneeling at the rail too. My husband was head usher at our Episcopal parish, so I know exactly how many people received, and it was just as many as at our current parish . . . but no EMHCs. They did have chalice bearers, but they were given Minor Orders and vested in cassock and surplice.

    The other thing I miss is general appreciation for good music. It’s like pulling teeth to get Catholics to join the choir.

  34. Mary Jane says:

    @ Paul M – thanks for catching that. Of course I am aware of that, I just worded my comment poorly and didn’t proof read. GA! Thanks again.

  35. Grateful Catholic says:

    SonofMonica, thanks, best laugh in days.
    Tradster, usually they are extraneous minions of hapless confusion.

  36. Bill Russell says:

    As a great priest in New York once said: “True renewal will come when the last guitar is smashed over the hand of the last Extraordinary Minister.”

  37. Bill Russell says:

    Ps hand- the should be “head”

  38. Dad of Six says:

    I was at a daily NO Holy Mass two years ago, with a visiting Aftrican priest celebrating. There were perhaps 25 people in the chapel. At communion, FIVE (5) women EMHC’s got up to “assist”. It took longer for them to receive the Body and Blood than it did for the rest of us.

    The homily was great though!

  39. irishgirl says:

    I’m going to try this again:
    Last Sunday our local Perpetual Adoration Chapel had its 20th anniversary of foundation.
    There was a Mass of Thanksgiving in the church where it was located.
    There were FIVE (count ’em, five) priests up at the altar, concelebrating the Mass, plus one deacon.
    And yet there were FOUR (yes, four) EMHCs!
    I didn’t go to the Mass myself-I go only to the TLM exclusively. I can’t stomach going to the NO Mass, what with all the laypeople (yes, particularly women) swarming the sanctuary.
    But if I DID go, my question would have been, ‘For heaven’s sake, Fathers: why did you need to have EMHCs when there were five of you at Mass? That’s your job, to give Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament to us-not the laity!’
    @ Bill Russell: That’s a great quote from the New York priest, misplaced words (hand vs. head) and all!

  40. Denita says:

    If I go to an OF Mass, I receive from the priest only. I hate it when I can’t go up to the front because the EMHCs deliberately blocking the way. I won’t take communion from a layperson. Period

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  42. JillOfTheAmazingWolverineTribe says:

    Mary Jane & Sissy: Give your attitude of women not belonging in the sanctuary, I’m sure you’ll agree then that men should do ALL the cleaning in the sanctuary area too–it’s not ‘wimmin’s work’ then is it? So we should all insist that they and they alone, should scrub the floors, do all the polishing, dusting etc. right?

    @Nicole — if you want to be literal, then I suppose you’d have to say when the priests celebrate the EF form of the Mass they shouldn’t be praying with their heads covered, since Paul had hissy fits on the matter, because men were ‘made in the image of God’ [and women obviously are worms] they’d be eunuchs or something if they prayed with hats on. So tell me again why at certain points in the liturgy when the priests/deacons are seated with their birettas on, they doff them at the mention of the Deity? Were they perhaps praying with hats on? Can’t have it both ways. Unless of course you are positing that the priests/deacons aren’t praying at that point, but thinking ‘what’s for lunch?’ and ‘oh, the MC glared at me so I guess it’s time to lift the biretta.’

    Sorry, I just can’t take Paul too literally when he goes all in a tizzy about this subject. Especially when he gets himself worked up in a lather about ‘for the sake of the angels.’ [Since you are qualified to sit in judgment on Paul’s teaching, are there some other things he says you would like to toss out?] Meanwhile, for those of you who want to wear a hat or veil – whatever — your right to do so. But please don’t prattle on in one breath how ‘ooooooo PRETTY the veil is’ isn’t that sort of counter-productive to what Paul was actually trying to do? i.e. have people dress in a manner that doesn’t call attention to themselves? Isn’t all that frou-frou so-so ‘pretty’ stuff distracting to the men who obviously shouldn’t be ‘teased’ like that? Wouldn’t it be better if you just stuck a burlap sack or kleenex on your head? Burqa or niqab might even be your best option, as most Catholics look away by reflex. No chance of being a ‘temptress’ there.

  43. JillOfTheAmazingWolverineTribe says:

    Denita: Go to whomever you wish, but don’t assume the EMs are standing there because they feel like torturing you as if they were small brats pulling wings off flies. Likely they stand where they do because Father told them to. If you really want to go to the priest every time for Communion, fine — but you might make it easier on yourself by simply sitting in the front section on the ‘priest’s side’ surely you should know by now where the best place for that is? Or do you have small children you might have to take out if they start acting up and need to be close to the door at the back? I’ll assume you’re not in a rush to be first out of the parking lot.

  44. Mary Jane says:

    @ JillOfTheAmazingWolverineTribe — I think you knew what I meant. No need to twist what I said, put words in my mouth, or insinuate that I mean things I didn’t say.

  45. Nicole says:


    Thanks for the entertaining read! :) It was pretty amusing…sorry I did not respond sooner.

    Anyway, fallacious logic present in your response to me aside, I dunno what you’re taking exception with. Apparently, since you believe tradition has treated the subjects (men and women) on which St. Paul dealt differently in regard to head covering, you wish to throw out what St. Paul wrote altogether?

    If you’re not going to take St. Paul seriously, by the way, why take the Gospels seriously? or anything in the Scriptures for that matter? Besides, it really isn’t for the laity to presume to bind upon one another their private interpretations of the Scriptures or what we subjectively believe to be traditions, but we can bind upon ourselves and those under our authority what is contained in the Word of God as found in Scripture AND tradition…since the First Vatican Council binds us to believe such by divine and Catholic faith.

    Presume as you will and take that as you will.

    Well, I hope you find what you seek in life. :)

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