Monday, February 28, 2011


You will notice many women of all ages, even the very young, wearing veils in chapel.  Saint Paul taught (1 Cor 11:1-16) that women should cover their heads while at prayer.  If his apostolic authority were not enough, Saint Paul tells those who would object that the Church knew no other custom or tradition!  So it is a matter of Catholic tradition.  The early Fathers of the Church, both East (Saint John Chrysostom) and West (Saints Ambrose and Augustine) strongly advocate the covering of the woman's head, at all times.  The wearing of the chapel veil was legally enshrined in the Code of Canon Law issued in 1917, Canon 1262.2.  The 1983 Code of Canon Law is in force today, and makes no mention of it at all, neither mandating nor prohibiting the chapel veil.  Some would argue that the 1983 Code itself calls for the retention of the custom, since the 1983 Code says that unless Church law specifically revokes an old custom or law, that custom or law is still in effect.

Whatever the case may be whether the custom is still law or not, the chapel veil is full of religious significance.  It promotes modesty in dress; it is a reminder, as Saint Paul teaches, of the relationship between God, man and woman; and it symbolizes the woman's connection with the Blessed Mother, and not only because the veiled woman shares the same gender as Mary.  In Scripture, veiled things represent the presence of God.  The first temple was actually a tent, a kind of large veil.  When the temple made of stone was built, a veil hung before the holiest room in the temple where God was present in a special way.  Mary is the true tabernacle of God, and she was veiled.  So the veiled woman in chapel or church reminds us that God became man through a woman, the Blessed Mother.  What an honor then for the woman to be veiled in church!  Chapel veils can be purchased through the several Catholic gift shops on island.

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