|Back in my childhood, when hats were mandatory for Mass, I never quite understood why my official Mousketeer hat didn't qualify, but Kleenex did. Don't they look innocent? I think the idea was to keep us all ignorant and innocent.|
Heidi Schlumpf wrote an op ed piece on the NCR which has generated a lot of comments. It's about the burgeoning trend amongst young conservative women to wear head veils and mantillas to Mass. The following is an excerpt, and because I disagree with Heidi that this trend is purposely or inadvertently showing submission to patriarchal society, I edited out all of that speculation.
....If traditionalist Catholic blogs are to be believed, veil wearing in church is making a comeback. The biggest supporters? Young women, who see it as a countercultural sign of their devotion to the church. A recent Facebook photo of a young woman, hands folded in prayer and head topped by a lace veil, garnered dozens of "likes" and comments gushing about how it's an "amazing way to express our faith" and "honor the Blessed Mother," as well as an antidote to "immodest dressing." (Seems like an awful lot of weight to throw on a lace doily.)
Other websites supporting a return to head covering for women note that it's a privilege, not a sign of submission, since the only other "covered" things at Mass are clergy, the tabernacle and the chalice. That's a stretch. Most supporters cite 1 Corinthians 11:5-6, which says that "any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head ... she should wear a veil." (I'd have to say this is a stretch, but it's kind of cute in it's really stretched out grasping at straws.)
It's not surprising that traditional Catholics who prefer their nuns in habits and priests in cassocks would want to get in on the dress-up fun. And I understand the power of a nonverbal message sent through clothing. It's why police officers wear uniforms, gang members wear colors and Packer fans wear cheeseheads.
But some of these enthusiastic would-be veil wearers don't seem to see the contradiction in "getting up the courage" to wear a veil as an in-your-face expression of submission and humility. A few even noted how great a veil is for "blocking out distractions" at Mass, as if fellow worshipers are an annoyance during private me-and-God time. (Truthfully though, the TLM is designed to encourage the Mass as a private me-and-God time, and too many priests celebrate it that way for themselves.)
A little history (beyond the romanticized "it was better then" type) might be in order. Veils and other head coverings, for both women and men, have had various meanings throughout history, and it is true that style of dress sometimes signified marital status, purity and virginity, or deference before a deity. While men sometimes have covered their heads for prayer (think Jewish yarmulkes), the cultural requirement for women to cover their heads has often extended not just to prayer and worship but to include any time she was in public (think Muslim hijabs). (But in both cases the idea was to suppress the sexual in favor of the spiritual. Dualism has a long rich history all it's own.)
For centuries, the church's interpretation of Paul's (admittedly confusing) words in 1 Corinthians 11 has been that women should cover their heads at Mass -- a tradition that was enshrined into church law in the 1917 Code of Canon Law. Since the 1983 code revision did not address the head-covering canon (1262), veil wearing is no longer required.
I found a lot of the comments just totally fun to read. The young trads have absolutely no idea what a somewhat diabolical farce this hats in Church for women decree really was in actual practice. There was no self affirming choice about it. No self respecting mother with daughters ever failed to have at least one clean piece of Kleenex and one bobby pin in her purse. My mother had to have more than one emergency hat set because she had three daughters. I can remember more than one occasion in which I seethed with anger because I had to have a stupid piece of Kleenex on my head and my brothers didn't. No public embarrassment for them.
Rest assured, it was intended to be a public embarrassment and humiliation when Father so and so would comment from the altar that certain uncovered heads were disrespecting their Lord and Savior. Every daughter's mother would instantly start searching for the emergency hat set. Those lace doilies had really nasty tendency to fall off short clean hair, unless the bobby pin virtually went through your scalp, and gulp, they were so light a somewhat oblivious young lady wouldn't even notice she was sinfully hatless. Whether intended to be or not, this policy was a true from of sexual othering, and it got to be really oppressive at least in the sense that one's worthiness to be at Mass could be dependent on a piece of Kleenex.
One thing I wish the young traditionalists would acknowledge is that even though they are attending the same rite that predates Vatican II, they are attending that rite in context of the Vatican II church. What is spiritual choice for them as they understand it, was just another mandated occasion of sin for those of us who actually lived the pre Vatican II church. There was no choice about incidentals like head coverings for women. There was only sin and condemnation if one was out of compliance, but the real problem is that the punishment for incidentals was way too often the same as the punishment for serious sin. There never seemed to be any nuance, and I suppose this got raised to it's most hurtful and yet farcical apex in the Church's sexual morality in which masturbation sent one to hell just like 'real forcible rape'. Lots of us could never figure out why that was. but too many of us swallowed this kind of thing without ever really looking at it. We were all too conditioned and all too afraid. The young trads are not steeped in that kind of conditioning and that kind of fear and they can thank Vatican II for that.
My last thought about this retro trend, is that it's just another example of how the thinking in the 'reform of the reform' is all about externals. I understand why that is. It's to the hierarchies advantage to have Catholics entwining their spirituality with externals since the priesthood is the biggest 'external sign of God's grace'. If the priesthood is to be kept on it's pedestal, the Vatican has to put place of primacy on an externally reinforced spirituality. The problem is Jesus taught the exact opposite. To follow Him one had to internalize their spirituality, make it the foundation of who one was and from where one acted. This is not selfishness. This is removing the external boundaries between oneself and the God who is found with in. When your fellow worshipers are a distraction to your spiritual life, you haven't got an authentic spiritual life in any meaningful Christian sense. I have come to the conclusion the apparent unbridgeable gap with in the Church is not necessarily between trads and progressives, but between those whose faith is reinforced primarily through external symbols, and those whose faith has been internalized and there for don't prioritize all the external cultural identity markers.
Or to put this differently. It wasn't the external uniform that made Michael Jordan the basketball phenom he was. It was his innate drive and ability. He made the Bulls uniform mean something, not the other way around. Same thing with the vaunted Yankee pin stripes. Those pin stripes would be as vaunted as the Cubs pin stripes, except for the fact the Yankee pin stripes were worn by a bazillion Hall of Famers. So my advice to the young female trads going the mantilla route is this: God doesn't care what you wear on your head, it's what you actually do with your life. Live your life well, as an example of truly understanding what it means to follow the Way, and eventually that mantilla on your head may mean something real. Right now, it just brings back memories of some of the more farcical laws of the old Church.
Do you remember those little plastic cases that held the those lace doilies?ReplyDelete
They were a solid back with clear front. I remember the deli near my church would carry them in case you forgot your own.
But I remember as a catholic school student having to carry a spare in our book bag.
Thanks for the memories!
These poor young women don't realize they are wearing these more for submission to men then God.
If it was so important them men should wear them too!
I just laughed, because I had forgotten all about those little plastic cases and their little lace doilies. The really cool girls had those. I had a genuine Detroit Tigers baseball cap, which made me exceptionally cool with the boys, but obviously, that didn't qualify for Mass anymore than my Mouseketeer hat.Delete
What next, Mormon underwear? But seriously folks, my altar boy outfits were a bit over the top. The usual black cassock and white surplus, which my mother starched and ironed with such pride, had to have an old fashioned celluloid collar from the 1920s, a specialty item sold at a local boy's clothing stored. Those collars really choked you with the wrong head movements. Brass collar button fastener and a long white silk scarf, about 6" wide, tied into a bow attached to the collar and of course white gloves. And for special Easter Services or a performance and presence of the Bishop in your local church, a white cassock (creme colored) and red cape (over the shoulders half cape)with dangling gold tassle fringe no less and red silk scarf tied into a bow. Show time!ReplyDelete
I don't remember our parish being quite that formal, but I always wondered why some altar boys had black cassocks and some had red.Delete
Hey, at least you got to serve the Lord!Delete
Closest I ever got was going to the communion rail.
No girls allowed when I was growing up!
Oh my gosh, does this bring back old memories in the VI Church in the '50s & '60's. We had so many of those little lace doilies to put on our head with so many girls in the family. If one had dark hair, the dark round lace doily seemed to disappear and it did not look like one was wearing it at all.ReplyDelete
I remember seeing in Church the white kleenex adorned heads too. How absurd then and even more absurd to imagine young women thinking that wearing someone on the head is a sign of reverence to God. God does not care about this. This is nonsense.
Traditionalist young women can wear what they want. To imagine that they are serving the Lord more so by wearing a veil is just ridiculous.
The trads keep pushing this Catholic identity stuff only to the realm of the superficial externals.
No one is more loving to God who wears a hat or mantilla. Respect and helping the poor serves God much more than wearing a piece of fancy cloth on ones head.
Maybe the men should not look so handsome when they go to Church in their fancy suits. They should wear sackcloth and ashes in Church as a sign of reverence to God. LOL....
Fran, you are right about the sackcloth and ashes, and the Catholic prelates should be the first to wear them!Delete
It certainly would not hurt them, Kathy!! But, they will not. They will continue to parade around in their finery and imagine they are wiser than the Blessed Trinity.Delete
Maybe some of the women in the Church might consider wearing some crazy looking hats on their heads with peacock feathers reaching to the sky and big angel wings with a black veil on each wing!! !! LOL.... Imagine. :-)
I don't know Fran, maybe sack cloth and ashes will be the next cool trend.Delete
Maybe. If Opus Dei has its way. Maybe the cool trend will be to parade around whipping themselves!Delete
Whipping? Let me give them a hand!...right out of the church.Delete
Interesting trend for Catholic women...another step backwards for the church. Such backwards thinking seems to be a pattern that is reflected in both politics and religion these days.ReplyDelete
Backwards it is. I grew up in the Vatican II church, and the only timeI wore a veil was at my first communion. When I was a kid, only older ladies wore mantillas or chapel veils. To me, the traditionalists' nostalgia for veils shows their overemphasis on externalities rather than on what is in one's heart. I really think at in a way, it rather resembles the cheap grace we see on display in the marriage of big money, right wing politics and religion that has consumed one of our political parties and is threatening to destroy the social justice norms of the Catholic Church.ReplyDelete
Kathy it is all external conformity and it is cheap grace. I really get so tired of the 'I'm going to put on my uber Catholic face to attend my uber blessed Traditional Latin Mass" crowd, who then turn around and extoll the virtues of wealthy elitism. Serving only the approved select poor is not a prudential option. Jesus made no distinctions. His command was to serve all the poor no matter the reason for the poverty.Delete
"wealthy elitism"? A lot of those girls wearing mantillas are not at all from wealthy backgrounds, some are struggling students, some have poor families themselves, and in no case could one seriously suggest that wearing a mantilla is in any way a contradiction of the command to serve the poor. What barely-hidden bigotry lies behind these prejudices of yours?
Maybe it's reading too many comments on the National Catholic Reporter from Trads who think Romney and Ryan are that cat's meow, even though their budget is Ayn Rand all the way. And maybe the fact too many religious conservatives are willing to sell their own futures away over abortion at the behest of the 'wealthy elite'. I didn't mean to imply these girls were the wealthy elite. I have no doubt only the one's in Legion schools belong to the wealthy elite.Delete
If one thinks attendance at Mass, being pious, wearing specific clothes to Mass, or otherwise engaging in self soothing Catholic piety is serving the poor, then one has a very long way to go on the Spiritual path.
Maybe it is. Maybe you should meet some real living observant Mass-going Catholics, instead.Delete
As I said; wearing a mantilla does not mean one is not poor or that one does not serve the poor. Just as shaking a tambourine in a folk liturgy doesn't mean that one is open-minded.
Ha, what a great article. :-)ReplyDelete
My favorite suggestion is that we should all dress up like a parade of cocky Cardinals in full splendorous regalia. Don't be shy, show the young trads how to really do it right! No shortcuts, no half measures, we'll settle for nothing less than absolute full devotion to fashion purity Christianity!
In fact, I hereby commit myself to always wear my Cardinal costume while posting on this blog from now on. So, unless you have a Pope costume, my opinions will always trump yours. Yes! I sure hope the rest of you sinful posters are not typing in mere casual street clothes, and you can be sure we'll be sending somebody around to your house to check.
Seriously, one of the great things about getting older is that you've eventually seen the pendulum swing through every fad, and you know it will be swinging back again soon.
What the young trads don't yet realize is it's 100% guaranteed that their kids will be showing up in church in T-shirts, blue jeans and flip flops, because youthful rebellion is nothing less than eternal.
Hmmm, do I detect a challenge? How do my red wings stack up against your cardinal costume? Does the possession of wings trump papal white and cardinal red? And no, I refuse to dance on the head of a pin. :)Delete
I find the comments in the thread at NCR fun to read, too, Colleen--as well as the ones here, especially Phil's proposal that we all play traditional dress-up and head to church together. Your analysis is brilliant, Colleen--especially the note about the extrinsicism of so much of this thinking about tradition. All based on externals.ReplyDelete
What puzzles me about all this is the lack of any real historical knowledge among those pushing for a return to the old symbols. So many of these younger traditional Catholics seem to have no historical or theological knowledge about why many of these symbols grew up in the church, how and when they were implemented, why they were discarded, what they really meant at the time they were used.
To me, this points to a very significant lack of good catechesis of younger U.S. Catholics under the last two papacies. These papacies have claimed they were correcting the bad education offered to Catholics after Vatican II, but from what I can observe, they've actually succeeded in dumbing down theological and historical discussions to a shocking degree.
I agree Bill, why is it that younger trads are so oblivious to the psychology and theology in effect prior to Vatican II? There doesn't seem to be much of a question that the depth of their catechesis was about six inches deep, but I could say the same thing about my own in that I didn't really get any of the deeper richer story until I took theology in college from some very good professors.ReplyDelete
Personally I think the real failure is at the college level and can be directly attributed to the mandatum. That effectively silenced some of our best theologians and made sure only one interpretation of Catholicism would be taught. And is Catholicism ever paying the price for that.
"So my advice to the young female trads going the mantilla route is this: God doesn't care what you wear on your head, it's what you actually do with your life. Live your life well, as an example of truly understanding what it means to follow the Way, and eventually that mantilla on your head may mean something real. Right now, it just brings back memories of some of the more farcical laws of the old Church."ReplyDelete
I assume you've not met many?
The girls and young women I know who 'veil up' for Mass came to their orthodox Catholic belief before they came as far as outward expression of it in the form of the mantilla. The girls I know do live their lives well, they do love God.
We're all fragile clay, of course, but the girls I know who wear a mantilla at Mass are very sound; university educated or en route to it, modern, pro-life, and confident in their love for the Church.
I won't deny that it's possible to wear a mantilla out of arrogance, or conformity, or as a disguise for one's own sinfulness and lack of faith...but all the girls and young women who I know are living their faith, and if you think that is farcical then it is a tragic reflection on nobody but yourself.
I'm not interested in their love for the Church. That's easy. I want to know about their love for marginalized and especially their enemies.ReplyDelete
You didn't read this article,or you didn't comprehend it. My point for the whole thing was the stupidity of the MANDATORY head wear for women. You have probably never seen young girls with Kleenex on their heads so that they would be worthy of being at Mass. Don't you think it's utterly ridiculous that girls in my generation, before Vatican II, had to have Kleenex on their heads to go to Mass? We all had little lace doilies or discrete lace veils. It was MANDATORY. We were thrown out of Mass if we didn't have them. Sometimes I think you are the perfect example of the typical young trad who laps up all the Latin and smells and bells and who is utterly oblivious to psychology of fear those of us who actually lived it endured. You keep your fantasy as long as it works for you Invictus. I will continue to pray you get over the fantasy.
My brother and his wife visited the Vatican last year. She's the church-goer. At the entrance the official waved my brother in and barred my sister-in-law "Exito!" No appeal, no instant replay, no explanation. She's over 50, was modestly dressed and thought she was in compliance with all possible dress codes. (My sister-in-law was a teacher who lived in Europe for a number of years. She knows what is expected.) Not amused, she went shopping, to see the commercial, more secular sights of Roma.Delete
There's an amusing addendum to my story above. My sister-in-law left the Vatican with the money. My brother didn't have the euros, so he wasn't allowed to climb to the top of the cupola at St. Peter's.Delete
And there I was digging out my Halloween witches hat with the luminous green spider on it ready to take to Mass. What? I've covered my head? Is there a problem with this?Delete
Trouble is that my local Catholic church are all so nice that half of them would just die laughing anyway, and our amazing parish priest would probably ask if he could borrow it :) You just can't wind up people who have a sense of humour - nor perhaps would one wish to.
And I've never seen a head covered in my church other than the lady with chemotherapy who is working her way through the most amazing array of silk turbans. Father Raf jokes that she upstages him every time, because they're all so much brighter than his vestments :)
Nobody is talking about making the mantilla mandatory though (let alone mandatory kleenex-wearing!), so you're barking into an empty room.Delete
"I'm not interested in their love for the Church. That's easy."
If it's so easy, you should try it.
Invictus, there is a very dark side to the catholic church and it is very easy to ignore that side. All the light is being sucked right out of the church with focusing on external appearances instead of on the heart of the meaning of the Gospels.Delete
There is so much darkness in the RCC from fundamentalist that many are leaving the Church. Those who seem to be in the greatest darkness show those with any sign of light in them to a welcome mat which is placed at the exit doors. This attitude is not Christian at all. It is real easy to just tell people who have a different view to just leave or tell them they are not really catholic. That is the problem in the church now. It gets us nowhere real quick.
You have clearly not read any Papal Encyclicals in the last...fifty years?Delete
Darkness? A focus on external appearances? Lack of welcome?
Your perception is not one which correlates with the real output of Catholicism.
Invictus, the darkness that is in the RCC is clearly in your comment.Delete
Whether one has read a Papal Encyclical in the last fifty years is irrelevant to Faith.
One can see the positive output of Catholicism. Look at Colleen. She's positive output. But there is no positive output when it comes to bashing elders and in particular, the women in the LCWR. That would be a big fat negative output for the Church to continue bashing the sisters and everyone else who truly is serving the Church and beyond just only those within Catholicism. That's not positive output for Catholicism to out the sisters who have served the Church and Catholicism a hell of lot better than the men in the hierarchy in the last few centuries, at least, while the men lived in posh royalty, waited on hand and foot. The snobs of Catholicism that currently rule narcissistically, will not rule forever, thank God.