Ever asked that question, or heard it asked? I’ve done both–as well as quite a bit of research on the topic in order to find the answer. I’ll try to condense it here in bite-sized pieces and a Q&A format.
So, really. What’s with the veil at Mass?
My standard short answer: because I am in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Implication: God is truly present in the Eucharist and deserves every respect. By veiling my head, I humble myself before Him, as is appropriate.
Doesn’t that make you feel inferior? Men don’t cover their heads. They take their hats off. Why shouldn’t they cover their heads too?
Excellent question, albeit a little common. It does not make me feel inferior–I’m simply fulfilling my role as a member of Christ’s Body, the Church: the Bride of Christ. Men, while also part of the Church, are more like Christ by their very nature (that nifty little genetic thing called “XY”). This does not mean that men are inherently any holier than women, or more faithful, or anything of the sort–simply that, by nature of being male, they are more like Christ. Because Christ is the Head of the Church, men leave their heads bare. Women, on the other hand, are representations of both Mary and the Church–the Holy of Holies. This gives them a degree of sanctity which men do not have, since women–like Mary, the Mother of God–are female. They are inherently mysterious creatures (ask any man and I can guarantee he will vouch for this–even if it is phrased as, “well, I don’t understand them, if that’s what you mean” because that is EXACTLY what I mean) and that which is mysterious is hidden. Hence why women hide themselves before their Almighty God: the veil is an external sign of an inherent and transcendent truth. The veiling of a woman’s head is a profound representation of the unique femininity and sanctity which they possess.
But men and women are equal.
Equal–but different. Now I don’t mean “separate but equal” (I know you’re thinking that, history-buffs. I swear there should be a Godwin’s Law for slavery.) but, quite literally, “equal but different.” I am completely equal to Quill in dignity (I have a soul, so does he; I was created by God in His own image, he was too) but absolutely different (think physical, chemical, genetic, spiritual, emotive, etc). You cannot expect men and women to be exactly the same–they simply are not created for that. (Plus, the world would be a much more boring place, if you think about it.)
If men are like Christ, and women are only like the Church, doesn’t that still make women lesser? Christ is GOD.
Yes, and the Church is the Bride of Christ. In matrimony, the spouses are equal in dignity. Because Jesus IS God, and the Church is His Bride, and the components of the Church (all of us) were made in His Image, we share in His profound dignity. I am not saying that the Church is equal to Christ –not remotely. But Jesus condescended to us and became human, and all humans, as God’s creatures, made in His Image, are equal in dignity. Therefore, the Church and Jesus are equal in dignity and this does not make women lesser.
So you don’t cover your head in the presence of men, and you don’t cover all your hair. Right?
Right. Those specific veiling requirements are both associated with Islam, not Catholicism. Sadly, however, the practice of veiling is often solely associated with Islam and rarely (if never) comes to mind when referring to the post-conciliar period of Catholicism. Some women opt for what my family affectionately refers to as “doilies”–small circular veils pinned atop the head. I frequently wear a simple hat instead of a veil at many churches because veils are so infrequently seen that I do not wish to distract my fellow Mass-goers.
Where do I get one?
Catholic stores, online… some bloggers make them and sell them. I’m hoping to create a list of Catholic artists and post them into a separate page on the site, so if you make veils or rosaries or artwork, send me a link and I will make sure you are represented!