What kind of woman veils at Mass?

Imagine you are a millennial Catholic woman. You are at Mass, kneeling at the altar rail, waiting to receive Christ in the Eucharist. As you peer at the high altar through your lace mantilla, your heart burns with love.

And into your back burns the searing hot gaze of that weird dude in the pew behind you—the one who once cornered you after confession to let you know your modesty is smoking hot.

I am not making this up. That really did happen to a friend of mine. And, based on a recent meme posted to the Facebook group Traditional Catholic Millennials, her experience may not be unique. The group, which has over 20,000 members, posted a photo of three young women kneeling at an altar rail, veiled and apparently in prayer. The emoji-littered meme exclaimed:

Looking for a good husband? [shrugging emoji] Want to be irresistible to Catholic men?? Simple!

[heart eye heart eye] VEIL! It’s a SMOKING HOT

Trad magnet! [fire fire] #Truth

#GetAHusband #NotPC

And the photo description read:

#BringOnTheTrollArmies TRIGGER WARNING:

It’s so true!!!! Holy men LOVE virtue and reverence for the Eucharist! Inner beauty is SMOKING HOT! [heart eye, panting emoji panting emoji heart laughing/crying fire] Externals show it. Buy one Here: https://www.veilsbylily.com/

Because God forbid there be one hour per week when a woman is not forced to deal with the consequences of whether or not men find her hot.

The cognitive dissonance was jarring if you are not familiar with the bizarre netherworld of outré ultra traditionalists, where pants are verboten because their pockets form a visual arrow pointing to the crotch; where working outside the home is stealing time from your family, but incessantly tweeting about collarbones and hemlines is doing God’s work; and where feminine modesty is a great way to advertise your…modesty.

If this makes any sense to you, I am telling it wrong.

The good news is, it does not make sense to a good many traditionalists, either, millennial or otherwise, and they found the “smoking hot veil” meme revolting and ridiculous. Lily Wilson herself, the founder of Veils by Lily, the website that was promoted in the post, told the group to take the meme down, which they eventually did.

Ms. Wilson thinks the contingent of traditionalist Catholics who objectify women and fetishize veils are in the minority.

Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine

Photo by kilarov zaneit on Unsplash

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19 thoughts on “What kind of woman veils at Mass?”

  1. Thank you. In my country, children don’t wear veils for their First Communion either. Only some brides do but it’s not considered a sign of humility or submission at all, it’s more like a fashion issue or surprise effect. I realize that this must be something peculiar to the US now.

  2. I tried wearing a veil for a few years in college, but I felt so self conscious, especially when I wore it in a non-Trad church in a liberal suburb… the priest actually gave me the evil eye. It only felt natural when a certain critical mass of other women were wearing them. Then there would be all the times I forgot it or didn’t have one on me when I wanted to visit a church, and the whole thing in the end was more trouble than it was worth. If I wanted to cover my head again, I think I would wear a hat because that doesn’t stand out as much.

  3. I don’t cover my head in church, but I think I know why some do. I imagine that they want to feel the transition between the sidewalk and the sacred space. The quiet does it for me, the light filtered through stained glass and the smell of incense still hanging in the air, the day after the wedding or funeral

  4. What kind of woman veils at Mass? I do. I started veiling a couple of months ago. I, a woman in my 40s, have been inspired by my 11-year-old daughter who asked me almost two years ago if she could start veiling as a sign of her humility and love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. We attend a Novus Ordo Mass at a moderate parish and, 99% of the time, she was the only one who veiled – until I began joining her followed shortly by my 8-year-old daughter. So, who are we? “Normal” Catholics who love Jesus and adore His true presence in the Blessed Sacrament. We see our veils as sacramentals that help us draw closer to our Lord, much like Miraculous Medals or scapulars.

    1. I am curious, if you can answer: how did your daughter even think of wearing a veil as a sign of humility if nobody else in your community veils? Where did she learn about it? My oldest daughter is 10 and has no idea that veiling is a thing.

      1. I think she first learned about it when we talked about her veil for her First Holy Communion. It was around that same time that we attended a young priest’s first Mass and several of the women who were at that Mass wore veils and I think she really took it to heart.

        1. Thank you. In my country, children don’t wear veils for their First Communion either. Only some brides do but it’s not considered a sign of humility or submission at all, it’s more like a fashion issue or surprise effect. I realize that this must be something peculiar to the US now.

  5. This post is a timely one for me. At some point over the next few weeks, our high school freshman son has to go to a Latin Mass as part of a Religion assignment and we were thinking we’d go this Sunday or next. The veil has always struck me as a Dark Ages holdover – I didn’t wear one at my wedding, but even so, I was actually going to get one for this Mass just because it seems rude not to wear one. Same as I’d buy an hijab if I were going to Iraq. When in Rome… 😉

  6. Veil is smoking hot? Vile. Why? Because you’ll nab a lazy husband who is after a submissive wife? What if when the moment she leaves that Church and takes off the veil, she goes back to her ‘normal’ self which is not what the husband ordered. Just ridiculous.

    Go to Church for God. God doesn’t care if you veil or not. He looks at your heart. My late grandmother used to veil, and that’s how her era grew up. But, I find it ridiculous that we live in an era where we have grown up adopting modern clothing, and then all of a sudden out of nowhere, people are calling on women to express their “holiness” through a veil during Church. What happened with ‘come as you are’. Your authentic true self.

  7. I appreciate this post a lot. Trad Bro Catholics and their wives are turning people off big time and they ARE objectifying women.

  8. I wore a veil as a kid on Sundays in the cover your head if female days. We went with veils because they could be stuffed in a coat pocket and took up no room. I would take off hats and berets and tams as a kid and “forget” where I put them. Mom had spare veils for those days.

  9. Thanks, Simcha. I know a few very young Catholic women that veil. I have to admit that it seems very bizzarre to me and I find it very hard not to be judgemental. I don’t understand how someone can feel “called to veil”just as I don’t understand how someone could feel called to wear brown shoes…
    It seems like part of a movement that is desperate for some kind of Catholic identity and is making an idol out of veiling/Latin Mass, etc.

  10. Very well written.

    People I know veil, but they see it as a personal thing. I admire the tradition for it’s own sake, but the cultural connotations of it have kept me from doing it.

    1. I agree with Gianna. Veiling is something I could never even consider doing, precisely because of its cultural connotations.

  11. I wonder if this would all be less polarized if more people realized that most pre-Vatican-II American women usually wore hats, not veils. “In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it” – written by a Jewish man about an upper-class Protestant milieu, but I think that was what Catholics wore as well. Nowadays, of course, hats are just generally out of fashion. A veil obviously seems more respectful than a winter hat or a baseball cap, the only kinds of hats that contemporary women (or men) commonly own. But it does create a mistaken impression that this was the norm of the past when it was not. (In the U.S. Latin America is obviously a different story. And maybe this does also reflect increasing Hispanic influence on the U.S. Church.)

    1. Yes, you are totally correct. And it wasn’t called “veiling” either. Women wore a “head covering,” usually some kind of a hat. It was the custom and had nothing to do with “being called,” nor was it considered a sacramental. My mom remembers some women occasionally forgetting theirs and pinning kleenex on their head! And no offense to anyone here, but in rural New England, veils were called “mantillas” and not worn culturally by the Irish Catholics, they were for Spanish/Mexicans.

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