Beneath the Veil: How Unusual Practice Become Beloved Prayer

veiling for mass

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.

Overcoming Hesitancy

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.

Nothing happened.

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?

[Tweet “Beneath the Veil: How Unusual Practice Became Beloved Prayer #BISblog //”]

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.

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  • Reply
    May 14, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    I’ve always been intrigued by veiling. I just joined the Church last month and absolutely no one veils so I’m extremely nervous to even give it a try.

    • Reply
      Katie Sciba
      May 14, 2018 at 3:55 pm

      FIRST – WELCOME HOME, Crystal!!! I’m so happy for you to have joined the Church. And I totally get your hesitation. I’m the only one in my parish who veils, but it’s no big deal. Someone told me once, “You’ll be amazed at how many people won’t even notice.” Veiling isn’t super common here in Nebraska (or where I was in Louisiana a year or so back), but it’s generally common enough that it doesn’t strike people as weird or foreign when they do see it. When you’re ready, give it a shot!

      Congratulations on becoming Catholic! I’m just so delighted for you. God bless you 🙂

  • Reply
    May 14, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    We used to veil as children. If we forgot our veil, my father would pull out his white handkerchief and plop it on our heads… so we tired our best not to forget! As an adult, I never wore it until about a year and a half go. I had the same reserves- the same self consciousness about what other people would think or say, as there were only one or two other ladies wearing veils. Through the encouragement of one of my sister, who had also begun our old family tradition up again, I started wearing mine- also an infinity veil. It’s like ‘my own little chapel’ as St. Bernadette said.

  • Reply
    May 15, 2018 at 12:59 am

    I’m the only one veiling at my church, too. I see it as just another beautiful devotion. Our faith is so rich.

  • Reply
    Lucie Loftus
    May 16, 2018 at 9:25 am

    I am very happy to read this blog post. I was attending the local latin Mass parish with my boyfriend at the time, I felt like an outsider with all the ladies veiling around me. Then more then anything as I was trying to make up my own mind why I was at that parish, for Christ and not just a guy, I learned the beauty in the mantilla. I remembered the story of St. Rose of Lima during one of the Masses, and how she was so beautiful and always had so many suitors, but she only wanted to be close to Christ. St. Rose took on bodily mortifications as penance, but also so that people would be deterred from her beauty and instead look to Christ. So I’ve been wearing the mantilla lately as sign of hiding my beauty, and allowing myself and those around me to put away worldly distractions and vainity to focus more on Christ in Mass. Thank you again for this blog to remind me I am not an outsider 🙂

  • Reply
    June 20, 2018 at 9:11 pm

    Hi, I have recently been intrigued and drawn to veiling as well. I’m also nervous about using one since no one at my parish practices this. My biggest question is .. is it suppose to be worn thorughout the entire mass? Or how does that work? Also, does my young daughter also participate in this? Or is it just for women?

    Thanks in advance!

  • Reply
    October 12, 2018 at 8:33 pm

    This blog post is absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing your testimony Katie you spoke right to my heart & I think I am buying my first veil tonight!!!

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