Monday, 26 August 2013

The Mantilla Post

I veil.

That's it. I've said it.

No, I'm not a pyromaniac religious extremist. How can I?—my pretty mantilla will catch fire! *shudder* Nor am I a "traddie" who thinks that there are two kinds of Catholic Church, pre-Vatican II (thumbs up) and post-Vatican II (thumbs down).

I do, however, think that the Church's tradition of veiling is too beautiful a tradition to be lost. A woman who veils immediately sparks the sense of sacredness and mystery inherent—but often blurred or distorted—in her. Of course, veiling the head must also be accompanied by a proper veiling of the rest of the body. I'm not talking about a head-to-toe niqab, but simply clothing suited to the time and occasion. You don't combine a reverent lace veil with a mini skirt or a pair of fishnet stockings, do you? (No you don't.)

The History

I first knew about the mantilla when an acquaintance invited me to my first Tridentine Latin Mass. He said veiling was preferred for this form of Mass, although not veiling was to be tolerated because at that time the TLM was still being slowly introduced to the public. I thought the idea of veiling was interesting, so I borrowed my mum's. She is a convert from Islam, so her veil is a "real", large veil that is meant to be wrapped around your head to form a hijab.

Over time, as I knew and grew more in the faith, and after seeing pictures of modern women regularly veiling at Novus Ordo Mass (yes, South Korea, hats off to your ladies!), I began to veil again. Now I've been veiling regularly at Mass and Adorations for almost two years.

The Style

This is a flesh-coloured mantilla I bought during my recent trip to Greece. I'm guessing that it must be an Orthodox veil (if there's such a thing) because I bought it in an Orthodox monastery. It's triangular, with very long front ends relative to the back tip. This veil has become my regular veil because its muted colour makes it less distracting.

This is the white, "classic" lace veil in a semicircular shape. Before I had the flesh-coloured mantilla, this veil was my staple, but now I wear it mostly for solemnities. Since I'm an aspirant of Lay Dominican, I will also wear this veil during Dominican special days, like the birthday of the order, and the feasts of our Holy Fathers Saint Dominic, Saint Francis, and Saint Augustine.

And finally, this is the black lace veil. It's not completely black, it has "spots" of blood-red flowers on it. I wear this one during Lent and Advent, although I may also be found wearing it during Ordinary Times when I forget to replace it with the white or the flesh-coloured one. This veil is also semicircular, but smaller in size than the white veil.

The Logistics

It's difficult to find real mantillas in the country, even in Christian or Catholic shops, at least the ones "on the land". There are veils, but these are Muslim-style veils that are quite large and long. I ordered my white and black mantillas from an online shop. I actually don't like ordering clothing articles from online shops because I can't touch them (I have sensitive atopic skin that can't tolerate certain fabrics) and I can't try them on first. But since these were veils, I figured I would just try and order them. I wasn't disappointed :)

The Experience

VERY self-conscious at first! O_O I could FEEL people staring at me! (yes I'm a Jedi) I tried hard not to be fidgety with the edge of the veil. The veil is supposed to make you more focused to what happens at the altar, not to yourself!

But as I've become accustomed to the habit, I now feel naked if I'm not wearing it in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I don't fidget anymore, I am much more relaxed, and I don't worry so much about the staring (I think the congregation has already familiar anyways with this weird veiling girl in the parish). Plus, the way that the left and right edges of the mantilla fall slightly in front of the corners of my eyes, physically acts as a barrier against my surrounding, thus helping me to keep my attention to the altar and to the song booklet.

Once, for fun, I put up a picture of me wearing the white veil as my Blackberry display picture. I wanted to know if there would be reactions. Oh yes there were. My Muslim friends passionately asked me if I had converted to Islam! I happily explained the tradition of Catholic veiling and although they seemed to be a little disappointed (sorry guys, a troll is a troll), they were positively approving of the tradition. A nice evangelisation starter, no?

To be honest, there's still a teeny wee concern with veiling, that is, I'm afraid that people will view me as holier-than-thou, especially because I receive on the tongue as well (I don't know what would become of me if I also receive while kneeling!). For me, though, the act of veiling—and receiving on the tongue—is a beautiful physical reminder of my submission to the Lord. It makes me more feminine, in the way that I become more receptive of Him and His graces.

Truly, what you do with your body expresses the sentiments of your heart.


Thanks to Call Her Happy for her mantilla link-up, which inspires the uninspired! :)


  1. wow :-) i'll talk to you more about the "wow", in private message :-D on kneeling when receiving the Blessed Sacrament, really don't hesitate to do it. it is only logical that you kneel down when you really are so close and even about to receive Him. you do kneel down at consecration, right? He is so far away from you then; and now when He is so close to you, you opt to remain standing? hahaha, do i sound logical or am i another extremist?

    1. Hey Pak Albert, thanks for the comment! It does sound logical after you pointed that out. At the same time, though, I am constantly reminded of being prudent. In this case, receiving while kneeling *might* produce a division and attract unnecessary attention... But I'm not sure, really :-/

  2. What an interesting topic Anna. I've been thinking about the whole subject of veiling for a while now, and a friend and I have talked about getting one of the more discreet ones. In our parish, many veil. In fact one lady veils so "heavily" that all that's showing some days is her face and hands. I find that a tad excessive, but hey, to each her own. I think I'd feel self conscious the first few times, but more I think about it (and the more I read posts like yours) the more I'm drawn to it. Thanks for this!

    1. Hi Sarah! How blessed you are to have "companions" in veiling! :) I hope this beautiful tradition will make a comeback very soon!

      What colour is your hair? Maybe you can start with a veil whose colour matches or nearly matches your hair colour. My first veil was the white one and I think I stuck out like a sore thumb! :p But no matter, just keep in mind that you do this for the Lord :)

  3. You are a veil connoisseur! And I love your unapologetic attitude about being a Catholic woman. Something to be admired!

    As for your final thoughts, I would say never let the worry about the thoughts of the world deny you the opportunity to bring yourself closer to Christ.

    I should take that advice too.

    Thank you for linking up :)

    1. LOL I'm no connoisseur, Jenna! I just love pretty things, 's all ;)

      My (or should I say, *our*) faith is such a tremendous grace!! I could have been something, anything else; I still don't understand why Our Lord even bothered to keep me in Him. That's why I have no regret whatsoever about my faith :) If anything I regret my perpetually imperfect expressions of love for Him and His loved ones.

      No problem. Sharing is caring! :)

  4. Love this post and yes yes yes you don't wear fishnet and mini skirts with veils. I wear black since my hair is black, it goes with everything and my husband likes it better than other colors.

  5. Posted this to the #VeilProject page on my blog and tweeted it! xoxoxo

  6. I like what you said about veiling being not just for the head - but also the body.

    I am somewhat confused when I see women in church who veil their heads, but are dressed in tight pants, sexy high heels, revealing tops, or skirts that are too short or too tight.

    While on the one hand, I am glad that they appreciate the veil, on the other, I feel that they do not understand the concept, or they would also dress more modestly (i.e. "veil" their body).

    Not that they need to dress in sackcloth, but you know what I mean. :-)

    The same even holds for Muslim women - now as a Catholic, I only veil in church, but when I see a Muslim woman in public with her head covered, and strutting in tight jeans or something else, I just do not get it. I wonder, why bother to cover her head, when she is finding other ways to show herself off?

    It is good to read of someone who "gets" the concept of the veil for both the head and the body. :)


Any thoughts...?