ASK FATHER: Should I use a chapel veil for a priest friend’s first Mass (TLM)?

From a reader…


Father Z, would you help me with an EF etiquette question? I’ll be attending the First Mass of Thanksgiving of a priest friend newly ordained into the Institute of Christ the King. It will, of course, be in the Extraordinary Form. I have only ever attended one EF Mass before. (I didn’t fall in love with the EF there and am comfortable with the OF, though I have a personal “wish list” that the priest face East, Holy Communion be distributed to people kneeling, and the music be consistently more liturgical and less pop-folk.) I know women typically wear mantillas to the EF Mass, but they strike me as an out-of-place cultural relic and not a liturgical norm. (We are not in 18th century France or Italy!) Out of respect for my priest-friend and others there, is it necessary for me to wear a mantilla?

While there is no strict obligation according to the the Church’s law, the ethos of the older use of the Roman Rite creates a soft obligation, an environment in which people of their own free will conform to what the older use is about.  That suggests a willingness on the part of women to use a head-covering in church.  It does not impose any hard obligation.

No one should look cross-eyed at a woman with an uncovered head in church for the Extraordinary Form.  That would be boorish.

Anyway… ladies… promote the New Evangelization start wearing those chapel veils in church!  The New Evangelization has to do with recovering a Christian identity in those places that were once Christian.  I think women can contribute through the use of chapel veils, just as we all could take up Friday abstinence and other practices for which Catholics were once well known.

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  1. Legisperitus says:

    If veils seem like an out-of-place cultural relic today, it’s only because of a widespread flouting of canon law prior to 1983, because up to then it was still an obligation to wear one in church.

  2. Legisperitus says:

    Or, I should add, some other kind of head covering.

  3. mysticalrose says:

    And if a mantilla seems odd because you are not Spanish or Italian, don’t forget the possibility of wearing a stylish (but not large and Kentucky Derby-ish) hat!

  4. Joan M says:

    I grew up before VII, in Ireland – then strongly Catholic. Women wearing veils at Mass were, to my recollection, non-existent! Yes, we wore something on our heads – frequently a hat, or a headscarf (something we would usually have handy for if it was raining, or windy). Sometimes it was a handkerchief because we were visiting a church and had nothing else with which to cover our heads.

    At some stage, in the early sixties, I think, since I had left home and was living in Dublin, Spanish mantillas became fashionable, and they were worn to Mass by some women, but not the majority.

    Wearing hats in these times seem to be limited to Ascot, tea parties in Buckingham Palace and such like. I have seen very few women wearing anything on their head here in Trinidad, except as protection from the sun. The only ones who do are Muslims.

    I can’t see myself wearing anything on my head at Mass unless the Church mandated it. I would have difficulty finding anything suitable to purchase in a tropical country, except hajibs.

    If I ever do get to go to an Extraordinary Form Mass, it will be bare headed, but not to make any kind of statement. I have nothing against hats – I used to make them, very pretty ones, but as far as I am concerned, the days of women wearing hats etc., are long gone.

  5. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Hats are awesome. They come in all shapes and sizes. And as we’ve said before, it was the head-covering practice of many/most female American and European Catholics before Vatican II, and throughout most of the Middle Ages. Straw or white hats are perfectly appropriate for church in the summer or when it’s hot, for example, and they’re not pricey.

    (And yes, this includes minimalist options like fascinators; people wore ’em back in the 1940’s. And yes, there were times when it was more common for little girls to wear hats to their First Communions than veils, because the cute veil custom is relatively new from last century and took time to spread.)

    The hotter areas of Italy, Spain, etc. were the ones who introduced mantillas, and of course lacemaking areas tended to follow. Lace was honking expensive back in the day, and that’s the deep meaning of that. (That and it was more attractive than just wearing your outerwear (ie, your hooded cloak or blanket-sized mantle) over your head.)

    That said, if you have one of those romantic/Gothic hooded cloaks and it doesn’t make you look like a Halloween costume or an albino assassin monk, it would be totally Kinsale Irish to wear your hooded cloak to church with the hood up. Albeit not in summer, unless the A/C is really really cranked up.

    Snoods, cloth tapes, and wire hair cages are another nice way to go, although the latter two don’t seem to have ever gotten back in style since Renaissance Italy. (Probably because you need the help of extra hands to secure it to your hair, in the latter two cases. But I’m sure the technology could come, since those hairstyle magazines in the beauty parlors do reinvent this particular wheel fairly often.)

    Starched and pleated linen shapes, or flat linen headrails, tend to be associated with nuns now, but they were everyday women’s fashion way back. Again, it could probably be brought back, if you did it in a totally non-Muslim, non-nun way. But unless you’re already in the SCA and have this stuff sitting around, probably not the time to try this fashion move.

  6. St Donatus says:

    I, as a man, think that a mantilla is beautiful in and of itself. It adds a certain femininity to those who where them. Today our culture has tried to turn women into sex objects rather than the givers of live itself. Many women wear men’s clothing such as jeans, tee shirt, sneakers, and straight short hair. The only time you would know they are a woman is with their clothes off. To me, these are a way to degrade a women. Yes we ALL came from a woman. It was her love and care that brought us into the world. Women are deserving of the greatest admiration and anything that takes away from that, that makes them more ‘manly’, does disservice to that womanly and honorable role. I think that is why I love all things feminine when a woman wears them and why I deplore men wearing feminine attire. I love when women wear dresses and mantillas, and delicate shoes, beautify their hair, walk with femininity and grace.

    This, just as I admire men who wear manly clothing such as suit and tie or work boots and Carharts but a mans attributes can never compare to the grace and beauty of a women.

  7. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Oh, and of course the simplest option – pretend you’re Grace Kelly riding in a car with Cary Grant, get a longish scarf, wrap it around the part of your hair that might get windblown, and tie it stylishly on the side. Or alternately, fold a squarish scarf into a triangle and tie it under your chin or behind your head. (This might be harder, because most square scarves are either too small (check first) or too huge (which means you might have to fold it multiple times before putting it on your head).

  8. snoozie says:

    I just began to wear a veil about 3 weeks ago after many years of considering it. The deep theology behind it is SO breathtakingly beautiful I just had to do it. I cannot begin to put into words the difference it makes in my comportment, my prayer, and my thoughts before the Blessed Sacrament…The only regret I have is not doing this long ago. Ladies, I tell you with my whole heart….TIE ONE ON! :)

    BTW….veils by lily has the most exquisite Spanish mantilla veils available.

    For a primer on this veiling theology, spent 16 minutes listening to a priest’s wonderful homily on her site in the post labeled “The Theological Signficance of the Veil”.

    The other great thing is I haven’t worn jeans to daily Mass since….the veil makes you acutely aware of your femininity and the great gift that it is. Tale the plunge; make the commitment…you will be amazed at the spiritual benefits.

  9. Latinmass1983 says:

    Could this mean that if males wear hats, baseball caps, or bandanas to Mass, no one should say anything? After all, times and practices have changed!

    Experience has told us that many things that the Church does not “mandate” anymore are, in fact, good practices that help those who still (or start to) practice them, whether it is in the context of the traditional Mass or not.

    Wouldn’t most people like to see their Priests in Cassocks? We can be sure that that is technically not mandated anymore (having been left to many people to decide that) … but it does give a greater sense of Catholicity and Catholic joy (if we can say that) to see people (males and females, laity and clergy) wearing what they should wear and not wearing what they should not wear.

  10. Volanges says:

    I just found a picture taken in church at my baby brother’s confirmation in the 60s. All the women have their head covered but there is nary a veil to be seen.

    If I went to an EF Mass I’d likely wear something on my head simply because that’s what I did until it wasn’t mandated anymore. A veil? Unlikely.

  11. Uxixu says:

    My 7yo daughter loves to wear her mantilla at our usual NO as well as the EF when we get a chance (usually about once a month). My wife covers her head when we go to EF but doesn’t feel comfortable doing it in the NO since noone is doing it and she doesn’t want to stand out. There is usually one elderly lady who wears one otherwise but very few others.

    I tried to say that standing out isn’t always bad if it leads others to reverence and as long as our intent isn’t to be Pharisaical about it and quoted St Paul. I definitely empathize with her position though. My inclination is to wear a suit but just stuck out too much, at least outside of Easter & Christmas when even the EMHC in the weekly procession in front of Father are wearing jeans. I usually just wear nice slacks, dress shirt & tie since I’m trying to impart to our children that this is THE Sacrifice of the Mass and that we’re standing before the Real Presence of the King and Master and that our dress & bearing partially reflect our reverence.

  12. Papabile says:

    My wife, as a convert, considered this issue long and hard for some amount of time. Ultimately she ended up deciding to wear a straw hat during the summer, an Annie Hall-ish hat during the fall/spring and a scarf during the winter. She hasn’t worn a mantilla though. It seemed too foreign to her and not part of her tradition.

  13. yatzer says:

    I was a kid in a non-church going Protestantish family in the 1960’s, but observed my Catholic neighbors intently. In the early part of the decade hats were the thing. Later mantillas took over. I believe it was Jackie Kennedy who started the mantilla trend. Everything was Jackie this and Jackie that, for better or worse depending on your POV.

  14. majuscule says:

    When I was invited to my first TLM in 40 plus years I pondered the head covering question–didn’t have anyone to ask. So, since it was the dead of winter I wore a cap I had crocheted. And now that we have semi-regular TLMs (not on the schedule, too complicated to go into here) I wear my old 1960s mantilla. I am usually the only woman with a head covering. I like the focus it gives me! It goes so well with the quiet Mass!

    Just two weeks ago, when I knew ahead of time that some visiting ladies would be veiling, I wore my mantilla to my regular OF Mass for the first time. It took some discernment because I didn’t want people to think I was putting on airs. Since I grew up during the era of head coverings and I actually wore this same mantilla to Mass back then I feel I am carrying on a tradition that has deep meaning to me.

  15. SubjectVerb says:

    Thanks, Father Z, for the positive feedback on veiling. The veiling movement is growing, especially among us young women. Veiling in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament has increased my belief in the Real Presence beyond measure. In fact, I believe that the Holy Spirit’s nudging of me toward veiling was an answer to my prayers for increased belief in the Real Presence. My faith grows deeper everyday, and veiling has been an intricate part of this. I love my chapel veil!

  16. Volanges says:

    Yes, it was only after Jackie wore one to meet the Pope that they became popular. Most girls wore tiny triangular kerchiefs with ties which they tied under their chin — the cooler girls with long hair tied theirs behind their head.

  17. Patrick-K says:

    When I visited Korea, most women at Mass had veils on. This was true both in urban and rural areas. I didn’t go to any Latin Masses as I believe there is only one in the country. Also, most of the churches are fairly modern architecturally. My point is that although it has largely fallen out of use in Western Novus Ordo Masses, that doesn’t make it a relic or anachronism.

  18. vetusta ecclesia says:

    At Royal Ascot a fascinator, if worn, must be “substantial”!

  19. amsjj1002 says:

    Regional background also affects this. I live in a formerly Spanish-ruled state, and even long after the U.S. took over, I’ve seen pictures of mantillas. I also remember them being worn even up to the late 1970s/early 1980s.

    Anyway, at whatever Mass I attend (OF/EF), most ladies don’t wear any covering, but no-one’s ever made a fuss. Frankly I’d be surprised if anyone noticed me! Why look at me when one has the good Lord with us? :-)

  20. TMKent says:

    If you are attending the first mass, were you at the Ordination or have you see pictures? Do you know if the new priest’s mother/sisters veiled? If they did, then I would say you should do so.

    I have been drawn to wearing a veil for several years and I started doing so a little over a year ago. I began veiling last May when a group in our diocese asked women to veil in honor of Our Blessed Mother – I simply never stopped. Though I am by no means a part of the majority at our OF parish I am certainly not alone. As to veils vs. hats, I have worn both but and I find that veils are much better. They are lighter in warm weather and do not obstruct anyone’s view. They also easily fit in a purse or pocket so I can always have one on hand. I find hats a much greater anachronism that come across as more fashion statement than an act of simple piety.

  21. teejay329 says:

    Definitely YES to the mantilla. After I started veiling, I found that I had new reverence and respect for the Blessed Sacrament. It has nothing to do with fashion…or image…or sexism. But it does in fact have EVERYTHING to do with our roles as women in the Church. Very important roles as essential members of the body of Christ, wives, mothers, educators of future generations, etc. In fact, when I attend the TLM in my area, there is not one single female or young girl in the congregation who is not veiled.

  22. Cerbonius says:

    Ditto to everyone who is pointing out that there are other head coverings besides mantillas. My wife has a few hats and scarves that she’ll wear to NO and EF masses.

  23. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: Korea, as usual you need to look at where they get a lot of their little-t traditions. Although they celebratedly evangelized themselves — once they did start getting priests and religious, they came from areas where traditions came from the Italian missionaries (ie, China) and from the Spanish missionaries and settlers (ie, the Philippines, etc.) I believe that in areas where the missions were heavily staffed by orders that were German, Irish, American, etc., you got different outfits on the ladies. Unfortunately, most of those folks evangelized villages in what is today North Korea; so if any Catholic ladies are still alive and hearing Masses, it’s hard to say what they wear.

    There’s nothing wrong with loving mantillas, and it’s a praiseworthy custom of long standing.

    But thinking that’s the only thing to wear to an EF Mass is like telling people that all steampunk costumes are historically accurate to the Victorian and Edwardian period… especially the bit where women wear their corsets outside their clothes! (Yeah, that last thing bugs me, can you tell? It looks like Captain Underpants.)

  24. awmnathome says:

    I started to cover my head a few months ago. We attend NO Mass. I’ve noticed a few other younger ladies covering as well. For me when I cover I feel more humble before the Lord and as a mom with little kids it is another reminder to pray. I use a lace infinity scarf, easy to pull up when entering the church and fun for the baby to chew on ;)

  25. JKnott says:

    I had been attending the EF Mass for several years, when possible, without a head covering and never felt at all out of place.
    However even though I felt drawn to wear a veil for some time, it actually took until May of this year to start and am happy and very comfortable doing so, at the EF and the NO. It seems to be catching on considerably in my area. At one of our OCDS retreats for the first time there were over a dozen women with veils and in my home parish even at the NO the practice is common and growing so it is impossible to really feel out of place.
    One reader mentioned this wonderful video on the meaning of veiling over at Veils by Lily. Most here have probably seen it.

  26. Kathleen10 says:

    I think it is a tradition that we should want to bring back. If we are trying to regain our Catholic identity it stands to reason the veil is good for similar reasons a priest should wear the cassock. It does seem to require an upgrade from casual wear. Maybe not require, but suggest. A mantilla, being elegant and very feminine, looks a little sketchy with casual clothing. A skirt is preferable, and that works for me. I like it. Or as was suggested at least a scarf of some kind. A hat of any kind would not, to me, suggest one is wearing a hat with the intention of piety. A mantilla or scarf does.

  27. Kathleen10 says:

    Hm, I did not intend to say one could substitute a scarf for a skirt. Talk about causing a stir.

  28. APX says:

    I have gone through numerous books of old photographs of Mass before Vatican II in Western Canada and never came across anyone wearing a “chapel veil”. The previous norm appears to be a babushka.

    I do not cover my head in the EF, nor do many women, including the mother of a priest from the FSSP, so I wouldn’t worry about it. Furthermore, if one is covering one’s head out of respect for the priest, then one is covering one’s head out of human respect, which isn’t good.

  29. Volanges says:

    I wonder how many of you reading here are of the generation that had to cover their heads? How many of you did it for any reason other than “the Church says I have to”?

  30. Deacon Augustine says:

    Think on the theology of why we veil and what we veil, then you may not be so self-conscious about it:

    In the Temple, the Holy of Holies was veiled, because it was holy and sacred.
    In our churches the altar is veiled with altar cloth and baldaccino because it is holy and sacred.
    The tabernacle is veiled because it is holy and sacred.
    The chalice is veiled because it is holy and sacred.
    When not exposed for adoration, the Blessed Sacrament is veiled because it is holy and sacred.

    Woman uniquely participates with God in the bearing and nurturing of new life within her, therefore, all other things being equal, she is inherently holy and sacred. It is only fitting, therefore, that in the holiest of places on earth – the Mass – the sacredness and holiness of femininity and motherhood are honoured and acknowledged by the wearing of the veil. It is not about you, it is about what you are in the very core and essence of your being: holy.

  31. nemo says:

    When I was young we had to cover our heads. The extraordinary form was simply the Mass–there was no other kind. When the novus ordo came in, I felt like I was forced to become a protestant against my will. I have since found an FSSP parish and feel that I can breathe once again.

    The veil or head covering was cast aside because of the women’s lib movement in the 1960’s and 70’s. Somehow the lie that the veil represented suppression of women came into being. This is the opposite of the truth, which is explained so beautifully by Deacon Augustine above. Women veil in church because of the special relationship of Woman to God, who infuses the soul into a child at conception. The veil honors woman’s holiness–NOT suppression of any kind!

  32. kkroll says:

    I’ve been veiling now for the last four years and feel utterly naked when I do not wear the veil (because of forgetfulness, rushing around at last minute, etc.). The feminine aspect cannot be denied–wearing pants w/veil is soooo unnatural–so, no more pants, either. The experience has been exhilarating. Seems to reinforce the idea of submission and servility to The Lord, My God. ‘Nuff said!

  33. [rocks reflectively in rocking chair on porch]

    Y’know, young ‘uns, I remember a time when ol’ Fr Z wouldn’t have dared put this item up without turnin’ on the moderation on the com-box.

    Now look at all you youngsters, just talkin’ away, and ain’t nobuddy’s called nobuddy a heretic yet.

    [lights baccy in pipe, takes up whittling – then reads kkroll’s comment]

    Dag-NABBIT! Someone’s done gone and brung up the pants thing.

    [reaches for rifle under rocking chair, props across knees]

  34. St Donatus, when you say:
    I love when women wear dresses and mantillas, and delicate shoes, beautify their hair, walk with femininity and grace.

    you do mean ‘when at Mass’, don’t you?

    Because I have to finish the interior painting this weekend, and I can’t see myself doing it in high heels. Not up and down the ladder, anyway.

  35. catholictrad says:

    Covering the head is not tradition. It has always been in 1 Corinthians 11.

    How many other passages from St. Paul’s writings can be ignore because we don’t agree with them?

  36. KateD says:

    Just cover your head.

    You have it in SCRIPTURE as mentioned by catholictrad.

    No one can deny that it was the TRADITION until the 1960s for women to cover their heads.

    And from the MAGESTERIUM: Acording to Liber Pontificalis, Pope Linus issued a decree “in conformity with the ordinance of St. Peter”, that women should have their heads covered in church.

    Finally, a woman’s glory is her hair, according to St. Paul, and at the celebration of the Mass all glory is to be given to God.

    Who do you hurt by being respectful?

  37. skvie5738 says:

    We go to an Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest parish. No one is judgmental about if you wear a veil or not. Sometimes I forget to bring mine. No big deal. I think you will be fine either way, and your newly ordained friend will just be happy that you are there.

  38. Imrahil says:

    Right honorable dear Deacon Augustine,

    that about sacredness is a secondary meaning attached. The reason for the tradition of female headcover are other ones. And no, woman per se (i. e. without taking into account personal saintliness, which I won’t discuss here) is not any more sacred than man is (sorry ladies). – much less inherently: by the usual use of vocabulary (though there’s a point in calling nature sacred, but that refers to men too), neither is inherently sacred, but such sacredness as we have come from the sacramental characters attached to us and the habitual Grace (which can be lost) within us.

  39. Chon says:

    Catholic identity is a good thing, if it means decorum and modesty. Not so much if it becomes a lock step uniformity, which is not Catholic (see G.K. Chesterton’s great essay on hats). I went to Mass in Maryland in the 1950’s. Hardly anyone wore chapel veils to Sunday Mass. They wore hats. Wonderfully unique hats, a different one on each girl and woman. This new fad of trying to re-create a 1950’s that never existed amuses me, and at times alarms me.

  40. Chon says:

    Legisperitus, it was not a law that women had to wear veils. They had to wear a head covering. There is a big difference. We wore everything from hats, to chapel caps, to veils, to kleenex.

  41. Chon says:

    Legisperitus, oops, I didn’t see your second comment. Sorry.

  42. BigTin says:

    You should really read the website of the church you’ll be attending to see how strongly they suggest wearing a veil. You’ll obviously be a visitor so I don’t think it’ll matter too much though.

    The EF is a part of your patrimony, which others have tried for decades to unjustly deny you. You owe it to yourself to explore it a little more.

  43. Marissa says:

    I wonder how many of you reading here are of the generation that had to cover their heads?

    Nope. I’m 27 and in the process of conversion. I encourage it and do it myself (at a TLM). I just wear a plain black scarf I bought at Kohl’s though I do intend to knit myself something different.

  44. Supertradmum says:

    Having written on beauty the past few days, and discussing this with a beautiful woman friend of mine, she commented that she loves going to France, where one can tell who the women are, as most French women wear dresses, and skirts. As to head covering, hats are in again, as are scarves around the head a la Audrey Hepburn. Why not? I usually give away veils to those who cannot seem to find places to buy them, but I always and have usually, worn a hat to Mass.

    Be feminine, be lovely, honor God.

  45. Supertradmum says: Example of hat worn by yours truly when I was talking with Bishop Athanasius Schneider. Women in Dublin tend to wear hats or no head covering rather than mantillas. Mantillas have made a comeback in certain parts of England. Zelie’s Roses makes lovely mantillas and one can buy Spanish lace ones in Walsingham at the Pilgrim Shop. I know of two weddings where all the bridesmaid wore mantillas from They looked absolutely lovely.

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