I used to, actually.
In college, a lot of girls wore them, and I thought they were awesome. Pretty, special church accessories! What could be nicer? I wanted one, but I resolved I wouldn't do it just because they were pretty. I had to find out what the reasoning was behind them.
Well, I'm afraid I never really found out. Someone said something about symbolizing the Church as the Bride of Christ, and that sounded so awfully romantic I went to the fabric store, got myself some lace, and made a veil. It was very nice, if I do say so myself.
But most of the time, it was either a distraction to me (because it was so dang pretty) or a hassle because I kept forgetting to bring it with me to the chapel. It didn't enrich my spiritual life in any way I noticed. If I thought about being the bride of Christ, I either felt sad because I hadn't been able to be one in the way I'd dreamed, or got distracted thinking of what sort of veil I would want at my wedding. I wound up giving it to my mother, and I think she still wears it.
Lately I've seen more and more people on the blogosphere adopt veils. This isn't the "old" veil crowd, the Latin Mass goers who insist that we are still required to do wear them (we aren't). These are run-of-the-mill churchgoing Catholics who are adding this as a new devotion.
I don't mind .... why should I mind what someone else wears? But I get frustrated, because it seems to be this Big Thing for some people -- as evidenced by the time I got in a blog fight with someone by suggesting a wife should listen carefully to her husband's reservations about veiling or skirt-wearing. I also was bothered by the comment, made by one of the veil enthusiasts, that they wouldn't dream of entering a church without one and are careful to stock up their purses and cars with extras so that they don't have to turn around and go home rather than go to church without something on their heads.
Seeing as it's not required, why give it that level of importance? Why does it outrank concerns like consideration of your husband's feelings or your desire to make an unscheduled holy hour?
I decided to push back on a facebook post recently and simply asked, why? What is the reasoning behind wearing a veil? I got a lot of reasons, but none of them really make much sense to me. Here are a few:
"I feel personally called to wear one."
Fair enough, right? No one can argue with a personal call from God! But I always wonder, how do these women know? It's hard enough to discern your vocation in the first place. Maybe I'm a skeptic for having been burned before, but it's just so easy to confuse your own feelings for a "call." How do you know it isn't that you envy the pretty veils of other people you've seen at church or online, or that someone whose blog you read and admire is now wearing one and you feel like it must be the holy thing to do? Can you be sure it isn't a desire to stand out as extra holy? Maybe you really are called to wear one. But it seems to me that if you are really called to do it, there should be some reason connected to it -- some spiritual meaning the veil has for you. So usually there will be another reason besides just this one.
"It is more modest."
What is modesty? If it's covering parts of your body that could be considered sexual, or wearing what is appropriate in your culture and situation .... veils don't seem to fit. Hair is not sexual; both men and women have it. And our culture doesn't consider hair to be indecent. If it's hiding your most beautiful features, a kerchief tied tightly around your head, I suppose, is modest -- but a see-through lace veil surely isn't. And if it's avoiding drawing attention to yourself, a veil, at least the Novus Ordo, is about the least modest thing you could wear.
"It is beautiful and feminine."
This is mutually exclusive with the previous reason, I do believe. And yes, they are very pretty. But when I'm at church, I'm not looking to draw attention to how pretty I am.
"Women are proud of their hair, so a veil symbolizes humility."
I am not proud of my hair; it's a frizzy mess. Right now it's growing into a mullet. But I am rather proud of my fine-boned hands. Should I wear gloves?
"Sacred things are veiled, like chalices and tabernacles, and women are sacred because they bear new life."
Not all women bear new life; some are perpetually single and others are infertile. There is something that makes me a little uncomfortable with focusing so directly on my reproductive ability in church as well .... perhaps I am a bit manichean that way. And are we not all tabernacles at church, since we receive communion? Why do we not all veil ourselves after receiving? (That would actually be a kinda cool custom.)
"The Bible says so."
The Bible is really hard to understand, which is why I am glad that the Church interprets some of the tough bits for us. And the Church has come right out and said that this passage was a disciplinary teaching for the Corinthians, not a doctrine for all time. Since the Church no longer includes that requirement in canon law, I don't feel bad at all not wearing anything on my head.
"It is a sign of a woman's submission to her husband."
Even if married women should perpetually remind themselves that their husbands are the boss (which, as you know, I don't believe), why do single women still wear them? The Church has never, ever said that all women should be submissive to men in general. However, this is where the argument always goes: some people who encourage head covering really do believe that all women should be in perpetual subjection to men. They'll throw up a million and one reasons for veils besides that, but if pushed, they will admit that they believe women are supposed to be lesser or submissive at all times, in all states of life.
And if that is the meaning of a veil, I sure as heck don't ever want to wear one. Perpetual subjection of women is not a teaching of the Church, not in harmony with Christ's call to both men and women, not following Paul's words that in Christ there is no male and female, and not respecting of human rights in general. Life experience will teach you that women have the brains and abilities men have, and a reasonable God would not give us these abilities and then demand we never exercise them.
If you want to wear one because it helps you focus, because it has a meaning to you, because it is traditional, you go right on ahead. But for me, it really does seem to mean subjection. I think of burqas and child brides and honor killing, and I get steaming mad. At this point in my life, veils have a completely different set of baggage and I don't think I will ever get back into wearing one.
But hey, you never know. Maybe an angel will appear to me with a bulleted list of good reasons.
Do you wear a veil or hat to church? Why?