Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Sister Angela in my second grade class (1962) pointing out where the Vatican is and all the bishops of the world at Vatican II. She taught us that the veil might be eliminated as well as Latin and other customs to make the Church more modern.And as you can imagine, that pointer sister is using doubled for something else not too pleasant and I'm sure glad Vatican II outlawed it! Please notice that all the children have their knuckles under the table for protection!

I know that I am walking on thin ice with many people, women in particular, when I say I am in favor of the veil. To some, that's like throwing a bomb into the "spirit of Vatican II." And it does go against the grain! I was in London recently and one topic of great controversy was about Muslim women wearing the veil in public, the veils that cover them totally, much like the old habits of nuns and sisters. There is a move in England to outlaw the veil and also in France. So for me to suggest that the veil should be used and in public is a great threat to many people, especially those who think it is a throw back to pre-Vatican II days.

But in Eastern Orthodoxy, the bishop wears a veil. There is no move to make it optional or to ban it outright! But here I go again, advocating for tradition and I know I will have my detractors and those who won't even read much further than this. So be it. It's their loss, not mine!

When I was a small child growing up in the Church, I liked the veil. The veil added mystery and was unique. I often wondered what was under the veil. Many now don't veil and the mystery is gone. I think the veil adds something. It gives some elegance when it is used properly. Others say it adds authority and continuity with the traditions of the past.

I can remember being in parochial school as Vatican II began. Sister Angela who taught us religion in the second grade and was a Sister of St. Joseph of Corondelet and wore their very beautiful and elegant habit, would tell us about the goings on at Vatican II. She taught us that Vatican II would modernize the Church and that there was talk about doing away with many customs and traditions that don't fit in our modern society any more like Latin and the veil. She said the veil might not be needed anymore. She said she would miss it.

Some people despise the veil. They say it is a throw back to earlier times, but not what should be used today. We're modern and and using the veil does not speak to the world of modernity. It turns modern people off.

But in some places the veil is making a come back. In those places, where tradition, daily Mass and strong devotions are present, there is an abundance of vocations with young people entering. I think it has something to do with the veil and all that surrounds its use.

In fact I know of someone who recently went back to using the veil. There are some negative comments about it. But mostly people have been positive about the veil. They like seeing the veil. They ask why not use it? It touches the heart more than the intellect and certainly makes for more public visibility and discussion.

What do you think? Do you like the veil or not? Will the veil help with vocations?



Sr Elizabeth said...

Let me be one of the first to chime in here. I am totally for the veil. You are right about peoples feelings; many are terrified of "going back" and not being modern as though things have been great in the church and we should leave things just as they are. The loss of reverence, awe and mystery has left us bored and without a sense of longing and desire for the wonder and love of God revealed through ritual. So, veil on Father...

Anonymous said...

Father Allan:
You Devil! Teasing us modernists like that!

Gene said...

Either you are or you aren't...if you take vows to commit to a life apart as a witness, then it seems to me you would embrace the visible signs of such. What next...ties and jackets for priests? "Hey, I want to be in the army, but I ain't wearing that uniform!"

Templar said...

I read some where that veiling in the Catholic Church is done as a sign of respect to those things which can give life. The tabernacle, the altar, the chalice, women, a bride, etc. I am in favor of the veil in all suitable circumstances.

I also believe that in the case of the Chalice Veil (since that is the example Father provided in the link) that it serves as an obvious visual reminder to the congregation of the link between the sacrifice at the altar and the Priest (similar raiment albeit not a veil) in his role as Alter Christus

Anonymous said...

Veil !! It is tradition..In fact why not do it??

Robert Kumpel said...

I cannot begin to tell you what a powerful impact it has on my children (all girls) to see a nun on the street. They are fascinated and usually want to talk to her.

How do they KNOW the person is a nun? Guess.

Michelle said...

To me, just like the roman collar, the veil is one of the greatest witnesses of the reality of God's love. Why? Because the message is so counter cultural and points to total detachment from worldliness that it has to cause a certain reaction to us observers: how can someone wear that?! Plane and simple: because these nuns and priests have found a Love so great that they have stripped themselves of worldly things (fashion and comfort) to follow him. It is a great witness, almost a sacrament, an outer sign of an inner reality. Here is a GREAT article on the need for the roman collar:

skeeton said...

When something is veiled, an inner, unseen essence is revealed. People focus too much on what is covered rather than on why something is covered. Holy objects (and some people) are veiled. Whether it's chalices, tabernacles, sisters, or Mass-going young ladies, the veil is communicating something essential about the person or thing veiled. Even the seven sacraments acts as veils, as the visible and physical matter signify the greater reality that is invisible and spiritual.

Liturgically, the Easterns still enjoy the spiritual benefits of veiling, especially through the iconostasis. A Western Catholic might say, "Ah, yes, but I see the consecration with my own eyes, so I understand it better." Hogwash. How many Catholics do you think truly understand the action of the Mass? Not many. Why do you think attendance is so low? It can be easily argued that making things more obvious - English, versus populum, etc. - has actually reduced the understanding of the faithful.

This topic, veiling, is one big reason why I feel drawn to the TLM, and I'm not talking about veils for women here. To me, the Latin language is a veil. It promotes an encounter with mystery. Heck, even the ad orientem posture creates a veil of sorts out of the priest's body. Who says you need to see everything with human eyes to understand it? What happened to seeing with the eyes of faith?

Please, Father, do everything you can to bring back mystery to local parish. Encounters with mystery beget faith. And of course, fides quaerens intellectum... faith seeks understanding. You cannot take a shortcut to understanding by excising mystery.

Templar said...


Thank you Skeeton for that eloquent post.

Robert Kumpel said...

Father, I don't live in your parish, so I don't know what the situation is as far as nuns go. Most of the nuns I have known who have forsaken their habits are still generally nice people and many of them do good work. However, when one person comments that they would like for you to restore some mystery to the parish, I have to assume they mean trying to convince nuns to veil themselves.

Father, if such is the case, please be very VERY careful. The nicest, sweetest un-habited nuns in the world can transform into harpies in a matter of seconds when this subject is broached. Or worse, they might try labeling you as some sort of intolerant dinosaur and use their voices against you in higher places.

You do a lot of good work where you are. I would hate to see that jeopardized.

skeeton said...

Thank you for the compliment, but I can take no credit for my words. I am a catechist, and as such, my objective is merely to catecheo - or "echo back" - all that I've learned. Like I have told the Adult Faith Formation class numerous times, I have no original material. I just repackage what other people say, and make it sound pretty.

In this instance, much of my thinking has been formed by a recent book called The Heresy of Formlessness by Martin Mosebach. He's a staunch advocate of the TLM to the exclusion of the Ordinary Form. While I do not ascribe exclusively to traditional spirituality the way Mosebach does, his arguments are quite compelling. The last chapter in this book covers this topic, veiling. Get it. Read it. It is well worth your time.


Templar said...

Skeeton, I have that book on my shelf but it has been 3 years since I read it. I will revisit it.

Robert, fear not, you have misinterpreted Father's intentions. Your post did draw a chuckle from me; however inappropriate that may seem.

Anonymous said...

I think that the veil is beautiful and a sign of purity. I want to wear it, but am shy about it. I'm considering starting in the winter with a scarf I can use and put over my hair during mass, then move towards the veil. I know I shouldn't worry about what others think, but alas...

I wish more nuns wore the habit. I wish we could see nuns in the public and be able to really represent. Likewise, priests wearing the collar. Many don't out anymore. With the bad rep priests have in our society right now (because apparently "all" of them are pedophiles... GRRR) I wish the priests would wear the collar- represent us well! When the "nice man" holds a door open or something, it's nice, but when it's a priest, you are representing so much more! I want us to have a good appearance in the world!

Sorry for the rant! But to the point, I want to do the veil. Maybe we should have a "women who are interested in learning about the veil" event or something at St. Joseph?


Anonymous said...

I've long since wanted to veil myself. "Less of me, more of Thee."
However, the traditional mantilla appears so showy, and defeats the point.
Something more plain seems more appropriate...hmmm in the style of a Sister's veil. They are never decorated in showy flowers and such.

What about a veil for Altar Girls?
Too much to swallow?

Robert Kumpel is right about not ticking off those 'modern sisters'.
They kick and scream quite ferociously if one DARES say anything to them that is contradictory to their self-centered sisterhood.
Such conversation reallybringsout the worst in them. Oh they claim that shedding the habit allowed them to get closer to the people they serve. I say it allowed them to be contaminated and lowered by the people that they should be instead raising to a higher level while helping.

anon at 7:44

Anonymous said...

anon at 7:44

I don't think there is anything wrong with the veil being a bit "showy". Much like wearing dress clothes that are dressy (Rather than a bag-like dress that covers everything but boring or even unattractive). I think the veil can and should be attractive- as long as the wearer is doing it for the right reasons- which isn't really our place to judge.

Why should it matter if the veil is pretty? Is it really a "sin" in this case to be more modest, yet using beautiful fabric?


Gene said...

Whenever I meet a "nun" who isn't in a habit, I have trouble taking them seriously. Also, most need a wardrobe consultant. If you are going to wear "regular" clothes, then do it right and learn to match colors and items, use makeup, and get a hair dresser. Also, some decent looking flats or pumps and a purse that matches would help. I see way too many of you wearing street clothes with "convent" shoes. You are thus blending the best of both vocational and sartorial faux pas.
Oh, and street clothes with the addition of a five pound cross on a rope around your neck doesn't get it, either. I mean, how do we know you aren't just an old (or young) hippie? So, if it is about getting "closer" to those you serve, you may want to blend in a little better.

Gerbert said...

Veiling the chalice seems to me to be the right thing to do and is biblically supported. In the temple the Ark of the Covenant was veiled, as Christ is the fulfillment of what was held with in the Ark of the Covenant (the Word of God, The Bread of Life, and the Priesthood) veiling of the chalice is proper, as even in the tabernacle the host is kept behind a veil. Also in the book of Revelation, the understanding of the Parousia, is the unveiling of Christ, so he is currently veiled in the form of bread and wine. This all helps enhance the mystery, reverence and dignity we are to have to our Lord. So as you could guess I am for veiled chalice.

REMdreamtime said...

Here is a talk from a Catholic priest about the veiling of the tabernacle, the use of vestments, the veil on the Blessed Virgin Mary, use of the chapel veil, and Vatican rules for modesty in dress.

"Precious Things are Always Veiled" from the Audio Sancto podcast: