Veiling at the Latin Mass

from: Liturgy Guy



There are several things that grab your attention the first few times you attend the Traditional Latin Mass. Some immediately notice the positioning of the crucifix, candles and altar cards which are situated for the Mass to be offered ad orientem. If it is a Low Mass, the greater emphasis on silence can be quite striking. For most, however, the sheer sight of so many women veiling at the Mass presents a visual rarely seen these days in the “typical” Catholic parish.

So what’s the deal with all the veils?

Most are aware, to some degree at least, that women historically covered their heads in Church. Many have read St. Paul’s instruction from his first letter to the Corinthians:

“I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head—it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.”
(1 Corinthians 11:2-7).

While the traditional practice was there from the beginning, it was not canonically addressed by the Church until the issuance of the 1917 Code of Canon Law. Canon 1262 stated in part:

“Men, in a church or outside a church, while they are assisting at sacred rites, shall be bare-headed, unless the approved mores of the people or peculiar circumstances of things determine otherwise; women, however, shall have a covered head and be modestly dressed, especially when they approach the table of the Lord.”

This of course defines the practice of veiling (or to be more precise covering ones head) as one of obedience and not simply personal devotion.

However, the 1983 Code of Canon Law did not reissue canon 1262. In fact, canon 6 of the revised code abrogated it, in addition to any other canon of the 1917 Code that was not specifically included in the new legislation.

What then is driving the rediscovery of such a beautiful tradition among so many women, particularly younger women? More specific to this discussion: why are so many women who choose to attend the Traditional Latin Mass also deciding to veil?

The answer is simple and twofold.

First, presented with so many others veiling at Mass, women begin to feel a pull toward the practice. I have personally heard of many such examples. At times, the primary reason women have waited so long to begin veiling is simply due to the fear of others reactions to them. It is not because they do not want to veil. Entering into an environment where most women cover their heads at Mass, these women finally make the intellectual decision to respond to the spiritual calling to cover. It is as much a response of their heart to God’s calling as it is something they themselves have chosen.

Secondly, they are responding in obedience to the expectation of Holy Mother Church. The juridical explanation was given by Raymond Cardinal Burke, the prefect for the Apostolic Signatura in Rome, back in 2011 when he wrote:

“The wearing of a chapel veil for women is not required when women assist at the Holy Mass according to the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. It is, however, the expectation that women who assist at the Mass according to the Extraordinary Form cover their heads, as was the practice at the time that the 1962 Missale Romanum was in force. It is not, however a sin to participate in the Holy Mass according to the Extraordinary Form without a veil.”

If for no other reason than obedience, attendance at the Traditional Latin Mass allows for women to veil -often for the first time ever- in the presence of the tabernacle and Our Eucharistic Lord. An increasingly greater availability to the Traditional Mass (the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite) in the years since Summorum Pontificum is facilitating the reemergence of this beautiful practice. While there is no sin in NOT veiling at the Traditional Mass, refusing to do so is a conscious decision to oppose the expectation of the Church…at least once one is aware of the practice at the time of the 1962 Missal, the 1917 Code of Canon Law in force then and, finally, the recent statement from Cardinal Burke.

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14 Responses to Veiling at the Latin Mass

  1. toadspittle says:

    “…any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head—it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.”
    Last thing I’d want to do – dishonour my head. I’ve grown attached to it.
    After you with the shaver.
    No woman, no glory – very true. Lots of women – lots of glory. Ask Donald Trump.
    (Paul’s comment is a teeny bit sexist, don’t we agree?)

    “(Man) is the image and glory of God..”
    That’ll be Donald Trump himself.

  2. Roger says:

    Toad again you have been well and truly seduced by so called modernism. The Dogma of the Big Bang. St John tells Us in His Gospel. The created order of Man (as Pius XII pointed out) was Adam then from His flesh Eve. The Dogma is that we Adore Our Lord (God-Man) and the Our Lady is a Creature and supremely venerated.
    So St Paul is right isn’t he!

  3. Tony McGough says:

    Perhaps the canon was dropped for good reason.

    Through the 1950’s and sixties, according to my observations, ladies did not wear veils in church (nuns excepted): ladies wore hats. Gentlemen and boys went bare-headed. This followed exactly the general custom of polite behaviour when visiting in someone else’s house. Not a veil in sight.
    These habits continued after the New Rite was introduced. Only when customs changed, and respectable ladies would walk abroad hatless, were these perfectly modest and decent customs carried through to Church.

    Different customs prevail in different countries. Jolly good. But it seems unwise to require special clothing – where else would one wear a mantilla? – to attend Holy Mass. Let regular modest and decent attire be sufficient to accompany devotion. Having to carry round special garments would certainly not encourage daily piety in young ladies…


  4. Mary Salmond says:

    I thought the veil showed a sign of humility. Covering the head, especially when a woman has a glorious head of hair, is a humble and non vainglory honor to God in a house of worship. That’s why nuns and sisters covered their hair with their habit, so they were focused on God rather than their own beauty. ( However, after the 60s, they got just as self-indulgent as other women in the modern world – which is one of the many reasons for their decline in numbers). Vanity is not humble.

  5. Roger says:

    It was customary for most women in the ancient Near East, Mesopotamia, and the Greco-Roman world to cover their hair when they went outside the home. In biblical times, women covered their heads with veils or scarves. The unveiling of a woman’s hair was considered a humiliation and punishment (Isa. 3:17; cf. Num. 5:18 on the loosening of the hair of a woman suspected of adultery; III Macc. 4:6; and Sus. 32).

    Interesting how from 1960 onwards.
    “Certain fashions will be introduced that will offend Our Lord very much.” – Our Lady of Fatima, 1917

  6. Mary Salmond says:

    The 60s nuns will say that was the veil and long attire were the custom in ancient times, but it was not practical to continue that or some such nonsense. I always ask “so how will the general public know if you’re a nun???”. Crickets, silence, no answer, no rebuttal, but hogwash about how they act, etc. I never bought it. The general public have long acknowledged priests and nuns in garb were a good reminder of the Church. Most non Catholics will tell you they miss the habits in the public.

  7. Roger says:

    Modernism and fashions? The truth is the Deposit Of The Faith which is both the Word Of God AND Sacred Tradition.
    Modernism is simply the prophet utterances on Dogmas and morals of the World.before it changes its mind for a new set of fashions and morals.

    Modernism already condemned by the Popes long before 1960.

    Diplomacy may well cover the dealings between Men and Man BUT the Law of Charity places GOD (and obedience to God) first then Our Neighbour (man and or nations) As Our Lord pointed out in the Gospels seek you first the Kingdom of Heaven.

  8. Sandra Kostrzewski says:

    In times past we gave or received a gift; today it is referred to as “gifting” or ” being “gifted”.
    In times past we wore a veil. Today some idot is calling it “veiling”, or “veiled” and others seem eager to jump on this linguistic bandwagon. Perhaps this trend to change verbage, using a noun as a verb and other such affectations are percieved as more “formal, liturgical, descriptive, or what have you?

    Quit already before this gets out of hand or I shall be “hatting” while in church praying for the repose of your soul.

  9. Mary Salmond says:

    Nice one, Sandra. It’s the mutilization of the English language! Did I just make a noun out of a verb? Snap! Oh well, you get the picture!

  10. It was actually more typical in the USA before Vatican II for women to wear hats at Mass, rather than veils except for first communicants and brides. Scroll for 3rd picture.
    In the 1960’s chapel veils and chapel caps ( lace for top of head only) became popular as women wore fewer hats, and because Jackie Kennedy was often photographed going to Mass and wearing a cahpel veil.

  11. toadspittle says:

    “In times past we gave or received a gift; today it is referred to as “gifting” or ” being “gifted”.
    … … Perhaps this trend to change verbage, using a noun as a verb and other such affectations.”

    Forming verbs from nouns, and vice versa, is as old as language itself. It is not an “affectation.” Shakespeare* “utilised” the device often. To think otherwise is fooling yourself. From the noun a “fool.” Or does the noun spring from the verb? Who cares?
    Ask Yorick, and I’m not jesting here. It would be quixotic to think otherwise, and we should be wary of quixoticising.

    *”Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
    Clean from my hand? No; this my hand will rather
    The multitudinous seas incarnadine,

  12. kathleen says:

    @ Mrs. Maureen Avila

    Thank you for that fascinating link to photos of pre-V2 Catholicism. It’s truly wonderful to witness the respectful dress code, piety and demeanour of Catholics, especially the little children, of those long lost days! Perhaps one or two pics – like the one of the three girls in front of the statue of Our Lady – look a little staged, but the overall impression is one of a vibrant Catholic Faith and great devotional love for its ceremonies.

    What a lot has been lost since then! Will we ever recover that sense of the Sacred that the demonic “Spirit of Vatican II” destroyed?

    And talking about “veiling at the Latin Mass”, I can only add that how we dress on the outside reflects how we believe on the inside.
    The beautiful custom of a woman covering her head with a mantilla or veil before the Beloved at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (or, in reality, whenever she enters into a Church, and thus into the hidden Presence of God in the tabernacle) is a silent acceptance of inner humility, love for God, obedience to the Church… and like Our Blessed Lord in the consecrated host, her desire to go unnoticed, to be alone with her Saviour in prayerful communication.

  13. I agree that the lace veil, which probably originated in Spain centuries ago is very beautiful and fitting for Catholic Mass and devotions. Personally I like to blend in with the congregation so I often omit the lace veil and try to dress like the congregation as much as decency and weather permit. Different areas of the country or different Countries may have their own stated or unstated dress codes.

  14. Sandra Kostrzewski says:

    Mr. “Spit”
    You are an example of a perfect ….. ,. Well, I don’t know the perfect word yet. I have been reading your comments on many and various sites for some time. You and your usual foils are a “hoot”. I am sure you are catholic, and the good sisters taught you well. I am not in your league in any way, but I too am very opinionated.
    As this is a religious site, I will waste no more time on linguistics. I prefere commom, everyday usage to any other when attempting to communicate my thoughts. (“Ah, Shakespear!), M.A.S.H. (1967) as in (” Ah! Bach), also M.A.S.H.
    As for the action itself, I occasionally wear a hat or veil to church or elsewhere (elseware?) . Sometimes it is a fashion statement (just goes with the outfit) or it may represent my political, or religious belief. Sometimes, I just like to “stand-out”. I do not subscribe to “when in Rome”.

    Dear Lord, I love being Catholic. Last night, I held the personal chalice of St. Padre Pio in my own two hands and couldn’t stop the tears in my eyes. I love and bless all you “posters”. Keep up the good work.

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