It’s my favorite way to begin prayer now. In Mass or before a crucifix at home, I kneel and lightly drape an ivory lace veil on my head. It’s an infinity mantilla, so it’s more like a delicate hood, and the clip inside ensures that once it’s on, it’s not going anywhere. From beneath the lace, my eyes open to the Lord’s presence and I understand more clearly that He sees me.
The Practice of Veiling
Wearing a veil is a new thing for me. For years I shook my head at a devotion I didn’t understand. I knew that prior to Vatican II, it was mandatory that women cover their heads at church. So with the mandate gone, any veiling I saw came off as excessive, even pompous. An ostentatious display of a woman’s “holier than thou” attitude. I was sure “veilers” in Mass wanted to draw undue attention to themselves, attention that would have otherwise been appropriately directed to Christ. Based on these ideas, adorning oneself in such a way seemed prideful, and I was resolved against it.
Still, the unusual practice intrigued me, and over time I saw women I admired donning their heads in lace during Mass. I was sure I had to have an opinion so I settled on uncomfortable indifference. Fine, I thought. You do you.
To this day, I can’t recall why veiling moved from off-putting to appealing in my mind, but in time it became something I desired. There was a mysterious beauty about it, but I refused to let myself dive in. Just as I had been sure ladies who veiled were prideful (I finally realized they weren’t), I was also certain they possessed something within themselves that I didn’t have: a saintliness, a particular devotion, or maybe a deep intimacy with Christ. I didn’t feel holy enough and thus committed myself to the sidelines, watching and admiring. It was a lovely idea, but I didn’t want anyone looking at me or judging me.
I explored online veiling groups and found communities happy to encourage me and answer my questions. When I asked why they veiled, the threads were flooded with desires for humility, for more focus in prayer, stronger relationship with Jesus, or out of reverence for Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. Even more women said they were simply drawn to it.
One of the most compelling and repeated reasons was that these women who veil did so in imitation of Mary. Who doesn’t want to be like the perfect woman? Other comments cited 1 Corinthians 11:3-15, explaining that just like men bare their heads out of reverence (e.g. take off their hats), women veil theirs for the same reason.
My First Veil
When a friend sent a veil to me for my birthday, I felt a big nudge. I had to let go of my own hesitations and what anyone else might think.
The following Sunday I sat quaking in my pew, too nervous to put my veil on during Mass. The processional hymn finished, the first and second readings passed. I couldn’t do it. They’ll look at me, I thought. I wrestled with my anxiety, telling myself that I could do it some other time. It was pure grace that silenced my racing thoughts. In one fluid move as we stood for the Gospel, I threw on my veil.
The windows didn’t shatter. Mass didn’t stop. No one started whispering around me. I didn’t feel the least bit strange.
Since that first Mass, I’ve been giddy to wear my veil in both private prayer at home and every Sunday at our parish. All the misconceptions I had were false and all the fears I had remain unfulfilled. There are no requirements to veil; no boxes to check to make sure I’m worthy. I was concerned about the sentiments of others, but once I focused on Jesus, they just didn’t matter anymore. I’ve been approached, but confronted only by compliments and support from fellow parishioners.
Veiling as Prayer
Veiling is one of the most honest, vulnerable prayers I have now. It’s brought about a new devotion to the Lord I didn’t at all anticipate. I’ve never felt more like a beloved daughter of God, and more than ever I’m encouraged to approach Him in prayer.
Humble, not prideful. Focusing, not distracting. Fitting, not lofty. As it is with so many other Catholic devotions, I can’t presume to understand the depth of veiling yet. But for now I know quite simply that beneath my veil, I am focused in prayer and I feel lovely in the gaze of my Father.
Where to Find a Veil for Mass
If veiling piques your interest, you can find lovely and excellent products (and information!) at the following veil shops:
Do you veil during Mass or other times of prayer? What’s your experience been? Share with us in the comments below?
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Katie Sciba is a national speaker and five-time Catholic Press Award-winning writer. Her work is focused on vulnerability with Jesus, holiness in marriage and family, Catholic minimalism, as well as her retreat Courageous + Captivating. Katie and her husband Andrew have been married for 10 years and live with their children in Omaha, Nebraska. You can find out more about her here.