Thursday, February 10, 2011

There are some fantasists out there... America. A friend, looking for Mass times on a visit, came across a parish website which told women to wear different sorts of headgear according to their marital status. I'm not inventing this. Apparently the priest wants a tradition to be established for this in his church.

Uh? I thought it was a joke at first, but no.

I can't imagine why any priest would want to force this sort of nasty humiliation on anyone - or why anyone would go along with it.

Is the idea that the unmarried ladies are expected to feel worse and worse as the years slip by and no one makes an offer of matrimony? Are they gently allowed to slip into more anonymous headgear as they reach a certain age, and their hopes fade?

While on the subject, I got an email from some one who asked if I was "veiled". This baffled me, but I discovered that it's a cult phrase among groupies (yes, I'm afraid it's the USA again) who like wearing lace mantillas in church. They don't use the word "mantilla", but prefer the notion of "being veiled" and are pushing for it to become something that Catholics feel they ought to do.

I had always rather liked the tradition of black lace worn as a decorative headgear for Mass, but this new approach isn't Catholic at all. Being at Mass is the most important and glorious thing that any person can ever do, and to mix it up with obsessions about "veiling" is just nasty.

Any woman can wear a hat - of any colour or design - at Mass and give glory to God by doing so, provided she isn't being smug or vain, and it's a joy to see an array of lovely hats for a wedding or a special occasion. God loves his daughters and good clothes can be a form of artistry and beauty just as other things can. We do NOT believe that women have to "be veiled" and our theology of human dignity, beauty and form helps us to understand why. Our understanding of these things is one of the things that makes us different from Protestants and, as it happens, Islam.


Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Wonderful common-sense approach!

Alenka said...

WELL SAID Joanna!!

Alenka said...

to elaborate a little.. I can corroborate your headgear story. Some in the US have latched onto the idea that unmarried girls wear white lace, married women black. I’ve seen this in church bulletins a couple of times.
The “veiling” craze (almost always seen at Extraordinary Form Masses) in the United States is a strange phenomenon and seems rather typically American (bless’em!) Huge enthusiasm and awesome fervour, very public and "in yer face" but sometimes a little too much for European tastes! You might like to know that some American women are now talking about being “called to veil”. They have attached a great mystical significance to the veil which embraces all kinds of things depending on who you talk to but sometimes these are contradictory. The most controversial point being whether or not it’s meant to show submission to their husbands. I did in fact see this given as a reason in a handout explaining the Tridentine Mass at one American church. So there may be several agendas at work here. A wise priest told me that he thought this had all come about because people felt let down by the American Church buying too much into secular values, which is an interesting point. Hence the veil wearing sometimes goes with other extreme sartorial choices such as donning long Victorian dresses. Another phenomenon coming in is a sort of “prayer shawl” which covers not just the head but a lot of the rest of you as well. I don’t quite understand where the little lace doily comes into it, since it’s not a cover of any sort. Of course they will happily quote St Paul’s admonition, never mind that the Canon Lawyers who drew up the 1983 code which dropped the headcovering requirement might just have had a little more theological training (and common sense) than they! I like to point out to Americans that St Paul also said you shouldn’t oppose your rulers but they don’t want to talk about that one!
The veil fad is still a tiny phenomenon – there are millions of American Catholic women who attend the Ordinary Form of Mass where veils are not an issue - but with the increasing availability of the Extraordinary Form, it is worth taking seriously, especially if those not “called to veil” are not to be seen as somehow lacking in piety. It’s also another sad sign of the polarisation of the American church. There is a lot of misunderstanding – for example women attending an Extraordinary Form Mass for the first time see all the veils and feel they have to wear one too, when this is emphatically not the case. Some churches will have a box of veils at the back next to the Catholic papers for women to borrow. And there will be plenty of zealous ladies to urge them to take one. Not all churches are like this but it may certainly put a lot of people off going to the Extraordinary Form of Mass, on the principle that this is a club they don’t particularly want to join. Result: more polarisation, which is the last thing the American Church needs with so many real issues to fight.

Malcolm said...

You shouldn't dress so as to attract attention to yourself at Mass, unless you are the priest or a altar boy, of course. Attention should be on the service.

Jennifer Gregory Miller said...

Thank you!!

Elizabeth said...

I'm a little distraught, I just found out that Bell Canada is cancelling the EWTN station from its schedule on February 27. I rely on EWTN to keep me in touch with the Catholic World at large. I've written a letter to Bell in protest. I hope others do the same. Say a prayer that they will reconsider their decision.

Sharon said...

I can only echo Jackie and Alenka. Well said, a common-sense approach.

Elaine said...

I wear a mantilla for Mass;it is a beautiful sign of the deepest reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, and a sign to others (plus a reminder to myself) that I am unavailable for 'chat'. I would not like to enforce the wearing of mantillas, and understand that some may see it as a sign of exclusion or submission. However,I can only witness to the grace I have received by being a quiet witness to Christ.

Anonymous said...

Apologies for commenting anonymously, because I can't find any way of naming myself without confusion.
I wonder if the (perhaps misplaced) intention is to honour both states (marriage and celibacy) rather than to diminish either?
Wasn't there a purpose in the very ancient tradition, in many countries, to dress differently to indicate certain responsibilities, or freedom from them?
In some parts of the UK this was still very widespread until only about half a century ago, and some of us feel very disconcerted to discover that people who appear to be the same age are in fact mother and daughter or father and son, or not to be able to distinguish between teachers and pupils

Felix said...

surely mantillas should reflect the ecclesiastical season - purple for Lent, white for Eastertide etc