Millennials and chapel veils

The first time I learned of the word “Fashionista” was back in the days of the Catholic Online Forum, when staffers Dawn and Gayle (who made the best, the most beautiful rosaries I’ve ever seen – RIP and prayers for her) went at it.

Let’s just say that isn’t one I’ve bookmarked.  However, someone sent me a link to a story about Catholic “millennials”:

A growing group of young Catholic women are choosing to cover their heads in church.

When former “America’s Next Top Model” contestant Leah Darrow first encountered young women in her Catholic community putting lace veils on their heads when entering church, she was a little weirded out. Having returned to the faith after a mystical experience on a magazine photo shoot [all those flashes?] convinced her to leave modeling behind, Darrow was serious about Catholicism — but wary of a practice she considered outdated at best.

“I was like, ‘Is somebody making you do this? What’s it about?'” Darrow says over the phone.

Since the practice of women covering their heads in Catholic worship spaces used to be the norm, but was largely abandoned by the ’60s, Darrow was uncertain as to what women covering their heads might signify in the 2010s. But the fact that the veil-wearing peers in question were “normal girls you could have a glass of wine with, but also very faithful” gave Darrow pause.

“There was something attractive to me about the life that they lived and how they prayed,” Darrow says. After researching more about the history and significance of veiling in the Catholic tradition, Darrow decided to try it herself. “I’m definitely a girly girl, so wearing a pretty veil sounded kind of fun,” she laughs.

Though Darrow didn’t start wearing a veil to mass every week, she did come to a new appreciation for the practice and now regularly brings a head covering on her visits to Rome, where she leads pilgrimages at least once a year. Her travels as a Catholic speaker and book author have convinced Darrow that veils are experiencing a renaissance amongst Catholic women — especially young American ones.  [Wait ’til she discovers the TLM.]

“There’s a new uprising in the Church of millennials who are actually wanting a more traditional take on their faith,” she says. This poses a striking contrast to Protestant mega-churches that are leveraging streetwear and celebrity connections to stay relevant.

Samantha Skinner, a high school science teacher in North Dakota, is one Catholic millennial interested in a return to tradition. Raised loosely Protestant but not a regular church attendee until she converted to Catholicism in college, Skinner began wearing a veil to mass every week before she’d even completed the classes necessary to formalize her conversion. A conversation with a friend who worked in a “holy bookstore” convinced Skinner to try the practice for herself.

“It just kind of resonated with me,” she says on the phone. For Skinner, the appeal of veiling was initially an emotional one: It made her feel humbled and reverent, like removing a hat during the national anthem or at a funeral might, [which men do, but not women] and made her more able to focus on prayer.


¡Hagan lío!

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  1. Marion Ancilla Mariae II says:

    I’m by no means a Millennial, but several years ago, began to feel a tug from the Lord (I believe) to begin to wear a head-covering to Mass again. (“Again,” meaning as we practiced up until the 1960s – 70s). Now NO ONE wore any head covering at all at my parish, and my own sister once told me that if I wore a veil to a funeral we were going to, she wouldn’t sit with me. Wearing a veil is SO “not done” around where I live. So, I tried to ignore this tug for years, but no avail. Finally I bought a veil (if I can give a plug – Veils by Lily). What I call a “starter” veil, that won’t draw as much attention, are the ones that cover the head, but don’t extend down onto the shoulders; they’re about chin-length or so. That’s the kind I wear, and although plenty of people give a second-glance (“what IS she wearing?”), I don’t feel as if I stand out like a sore thumb.

    I have been noticing a few other women wearing veils, too, in recent years, but we are still as rare as hen’s teeth. You have to be a bit of a maverick to do this!

  2. majuscule says:

    Like Marion Ancilla Mariae II, I come from the era of head coverings for women at Mass. I happened to find the veil I wore in the early ’60s. (It was my first mantilla. Before that I wore a hat or a scarf tied under the chin.). The first time I wore the veil to Mass someone sincerely asked if there had been a death in the family!

    Another older lady wears a hat to Mass now. And the older girls and mom of large family that usually attends the main parish church but comes to ours occasionally always veil. At the main parish church I have even seen a group of pants-wearing ladies from the “Justice and Peace” group wearing knitted hats!

    So it takes all kinds! If you feel called, just do it!

  3. andromedaregina says:

    I think it’s great that some are attracted to wearing it. I did not however come through the ‘door of beauty’ as it were, but the more narrow door of truth. When I started seeing them, I began doing some research on the practice and found that the historical, scriptural, and theological basis made it impossible [for me] to ignore or view as something of mere preference. I hate wearing it, it breaks my concentration having to fidget with it when it slips, aaaannnnnd it looks horrid on me. There is only one reason I wear mine – to try and love Him as best I can, with my little sacrifices. The way I see it, we have nothing at all to offer to God, but ourselves, our reverence…so with that, I wear it.

  4. Pio Pio Pio says:

    When I was an undergrad at Florida State, one of my fondest memories was the first time I walked in to daily Mass at the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More on the corner of campus only to see a whole row full of fellow female undergrads sporting chapel veils. It caught me totally off-guard since I had never seen anyone but pious old ladies wearing them, but it very much moved me. I thought to myself, “If you’re going to marry, marry a girl that wears a chapel veil!” Your kids are bound to turn out alright with a mother so devoted to the Eucharist.

  5. grumpyoldCatholic says:

    Hmmm My church requires them. Yes there is a dress code. Women and girls should cover their heads (chapel veils or mantillas are available for loan in the vestibule). Women and girls should wear dresses or skirts that cover the knee completely when standing or sitting. Jeans and other casual attire are inappropriate for Church worship. Don’t know if it’s true or not but I’ve heard that women have to cover their heads after they have made their first communion.

  6. ChesterFrank says:

    With the preferences for the TLM and veils and such: I view it as evidence that Christianity and Catholicism has become a subculture and counter-culture. As a subculture they are distancing themselves from mainstream to an extent equal to what goths and punks did before. I am not suggesting good or bad, but an observation. A strong identity seems to be important.

  7. Adaquano says:

    We’ve recently started attending a new parish, and I was first struck by the many young families like us and that many of the moms and their daughters were wearing veils, after Mass I knew we had found a community that was serious about Christ.

  8. Suburbanbanshee says:

    These ladies seem to have their head coverings screwed on right. :)

    But just remember, folks, that chapel veils as such are a thing of a moment — namely, the moment of the pillbox hat and the beehive hairdo. Hats, cloaks, scarves, stolas, snoods, handkerchiefs, hennins, fascinators — all of those are traditional Mass headwear for Catholic women. Picking your own cultural expression of the principle is good; confusing it with the principle itself is setting yourself up for trouble.

    “Mass in a Connemara Cabin” is a great example of the ladies being diverse, even within the same area and time.

  9. Marion Ancilla Mariae II says:

    Some have alluded to the rule that women in pants in the church is inappropriate, that females should wear dresses or skirts. To church I wear the afore-mentioned veil, a pair of running shoes, dressy black pants that are deliberately quite roomy – not form fitting *at all*, and a nice top. I have to wear running shoes everywhere because of the arthritis in my toes, feet and ankles, and the few times I’ve worn a dress or a skirt with running shoes I have felt utterly miserable, down to the fact that the mirror revealed to me a woman who had dressed herself like an unreconstructed frump.

    It’s reasonable to point to Saint Paul’s admonition about covering the head. And where Saint Paul was living, both men and women wore long tunics with flowing robes over them, suitably draped and belted in place. So, today, both men and women wear long pants with a shirt or top, and often a jacket. I don’t think form-fitting or revealing pants are suitable for church, but I think it’s OK to wear pants roomy enough in every area so that a gal could comfortably run a series of Olympic hurdles while wearing them, and remain confident that each and every seam would remain good-as-new throughout the process.


  11. Grant M says:

    Interesting article. From my own observations: prevalence of the chapel veil among Catholic women at Mass…SSPX -100%, other TLM – about 80%, NO – 0.1%.

    The mantilla may be the thing of a moment, but it seems ideal for Indonesian Catholics. Indonesian women don’t wear hats, and only Muslim women wear headscarves. The mantilla lets a woman veil without looking like a Muslim.

  12. daughteroflight says:

    Are we morally obliged to wear veils/hats/head-coverings? I’ve read such conflicting views on the matter, and it concerns me somewhat…

    [No, women today are not obliged by the Church’s law to wear a head covering in church. It is a good custom, rooted in Scripture, but the Church dropped that obligation quite a while ago.]

  13. Veilinglady says:

    I have veiled full time a little over 2 years (I will also plug Veils by Lily). Before that, I would off and on wear one to Adoration, but wasn’t brave enough to wear to Mass. Occasionally, I see a few other women with veils at my parish. After teasing my teenage daughter about ordering a veil for her after I made the plunge into full time veiling, she kept refusing. A few months ago, she approached me and wanted me to order a veil for her. I ordered her a “starter” veil in the color mocha from Veils by Lily.

  14. Fr. Kelly says:

    Thank you for your reference to Aloysius O’Kelly’s Mass in a Connemara Cabin. Upon its rediscovery about 13 years ago, I was taken with it and got permission to use it as the image on my ordination card. What we priests, imitating baseball, call our “Rookie Card”

    Everything about that painting rouses me to a greater love of my Catholic Identity, from the painting itself, to the people figured in it (several of whom could be mistaken for relatives of mine), to the phenomenon of the Station Mass, to the painting’s being displayed under the name of Aloysius’ Fenian brother, to the tale of its “loss” and subsequent rediscovery on the wall of the presbytery at St. Patrick’s in Edinburgh (right where it had been placed a hundred years before).

    It is always a thrill for me to look at even the copy I have framed on my office wall.

  15. The Masked Chicken says:

    “…Hats, cloaks, scarves, stolas, snoods, handkerchiefs, hennins, fascinators …”

    I am so going to use Snood and Fascinator as names for superheroes in the next extra credit computer game I create for my students. The Mad Hatter was a Batman villain, after all.

    Oh, here are two silly questions:
    1. Do baseball caps count as head covering (probably, but in poor taste?)
    2. Technically, a wig is a head covering, right?

    The Chicken

  16. youngcatholicgirl says:

    I feel like I have to at least say something, as a millennial who wears a veil regularly (as in, every time I’m in a catholic church). My mother and I were introduced to it about six years ago, six month before I attended my first TLM, by some friends we made who wear veils (and who bought me my first one from none other than Veils by Lily!). I, for one, don’t feel right with my head uncovered in the presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist.

  17. I’m am so overjoyed that so many young ladies are choosing to veil themselves in submission to our Lord. The one thing I find interesting that one of the ladies explicitly states that “it’s not about submission to men.” Clearly, it’s not about submission to ALL men but Saint Paul makes it pretty clear in 1 Cor. 11 that it definitely has something to do with a woman’s relation to her husband. He makes some fairly deep ontological arguments about the order of creation and even invokes the presence of the angels. I continue to find it strange that young women are willing to accept submission to our Lord (deo gratias) but are unwilling to accept that submission to their husbands in the manner of Ephesians 5 might be part of that very process. I’m not qualified to adjudicate, especially since canon law doesn’t require the custom, but something seems incomplete here.

  18. JesusFreak84 says:

    During March for Life during my second year of college, (this would’ve been 2005,) I saw a black veil for sale in the shop at the Basilica there in DC and was promptly ordered by A Certain Someone to get it. I rarely, (as in virtually never,) get an indication that strongly or directly, so I did it. Took me another year or so to have the guts to take it out of my dresser drawer, though =-\

    Started veiling in the NO Masses, on-campus and in the parish next to the college, but when I went home for Christmas that year, (2006, I think? Maybe 2007… I started on the First Sunday of Advent by coincidence rather than design,) I got a LOT of flack from my family over it. Thankfully, I was able to ignore them and keep doing it. I still use that veil, making it second longest-lasting article of “clothing,” (loosely-defined) that I have. If I had to enter a church and didn’t have a veil handy, I’d sooner use the hood of my hoodie than go in uncovered–St. Paul has nothing kind to say about women in church with uncovered heads, and it seems like that would trump anything Canon Law does or does not say at present.

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