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veiling

    Dear Edith

    Dear Edith Response #4 – Erin

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    Hey, Carey! Your question about veiling is a good one! There are a lot of layers to this question and to its answer, some of which I am still uncovering myself. But I’ll do my best!

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    Dear Edith Response #3 – Kyla

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    Hi Carey,

    First, I would like to say I was totally with you in the fact that I had no idea what women wearing chapel veils was about, or that anyone was even still wearing them! When I decided to start wearing a chapel veil for Lent, to work on humility and concentration during mass, my super liberal (as am I) parents were almost appalled. “Why would you want to wear a symbol of the church’s oppression of women?!” They asked me. Well, here was my reply to them.

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    Dear Edith Response #2 – Kate

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    Hi Carey!

    The important thing to remember about interpreting Scripture is the Catholic Church teaches that there is a literal and spiritual sense, and ultimately, the Church guides us (see CCC 115-119). When we look at St. Paul’s writing, we need to consider the cultural significance and how it relates to modern times, as you pointed out in your question. What we as women must understand is that we are morally obligated to dress modestly and reverently. A woman’s hair is viewed as something incredibly beautiful in a variety of cultures, which is why the idea of veiling came about. We also see other beautiful, and even holy things, “veiled” (that is, covered) in the Mass like the Eucharist in the Tabernacle or the blood of Christ being in a solid chalice. “Covering” our beauty rightly orients the focus away from us and towards what the focus of the Mass should be: Christ.

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    Dear Edith

    Dear Edith Response #1 – Amanda

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    Dear Carey,

    Thank you for your question! To start, I think you are correct in that St. Paul’s teaching was related to the culture at that time. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a declaration in 1976 called Inter Insigniores, in which they state about the teachings of St. Paul regarding women,

     “. . .it must be noted that these ordinances, probably inspired by the customs of the period, concern scarcely more than disciplinary practices of minor importance, such as the obligation imposed upon women to wear a veil on their head (1 Cor 11:2-16); such requirements no longer have a normative value.”

    Since the 1970s, women are not expected to wear head coverings while in church (though the expectation remains for Mass in the Extraordinary Form), leaving it up to a woman’s personal choice. As it is a choice, I can only share why I choose to do so. There are variety of reasons, but they are all part of a desire to recognize my femininity before God by wearing a veil in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

    One such reason is that, when I put on my veil upon entering a church, it is a concrete reminder that I am in the presence of God. This fosters a disposition that helps me pray and focus (helpful for someone who is as easily distracted as I am).

    I also wear a veil as a sign of submission to the will of God; however, for me, this is far more of an accountability measure than it is a sign of holiness. I continually struggle with surrendering my will to God’s, and wearing a veil helps me remember that I still have much growing to do in this area.

    Finally, the veil reminds me that it is a great blessing to be a woman, as our bodies are sacred vessels capable of carrying life (think of how the chalice which holds the Precious Blood is veiled before the consecration). This is one attribute that distinguishes us from men. As a woman, I have a special vocation to receive life and nourish it, whether that be through loving my friends, in my work with college students, or one day as a mother. All of that being said, the veil is certainly not necessary for women to focus at Mass, surrender their will to God’s, or embrace the gift of their femininity. There are plenty of holy women in my life who inspire me and happen to not wear veils. In the end, I wear a veil because I like wearing one for the reasons I mentioned, and I hope that any woman would feel free to wear one or not, as she chooses.


    Amanda is a Coloradan who recently relocated to the south. She works at a Catholic college and could talk for days about her love of Catholic education. She can usually be found at a local coffee shop or getting lost while exploring her new city.

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    Dear Edith

    Dear Edith: Veiling in Church

    Dear Edith,

    Reading the Bible as a Catholic and a Feminist, I have long been confused by St. Paul’s straightforward command that women should wear head coverings in church. I would think that this teaching perhaps had relevance to the culture at the time and is now obsolete, but I know millions of Catholic women still wear head coverings. I don’t understand the purpose and it troubles me that women and girls cover themselves when there is no expectation that men and boys do so. I would never do this myself or ask it of my future daughters, but I would love to understand more about the application of this teaching in the modern church. Thank you!
    – Carey Helmick

    Carey Helmick joined the church last Easter. She’s a brand new blogger at raisinghelmicks.com where she writes about parenting and making the world better for babies. She and her husband Kyle have a 4.5 month old named Rory. 

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