Thursday, August 15, 2013

Catholic Mom Ponders the Chapel Veil

Pros and Cons of Wearing the Veil 
by Gail Buckley, LHS

Gail Buckley, LHS, is the founder and president of Catholic Scripture Study International ( ) She also hosts “The Bible Lady” show live every Monday on Radio Maria and as well as a “Bible Lady” segment on The Catholic Connection with Teresa Tomeo on Ave Maria radio.  Gail serves on the boards of several Catholic apostolates and  is a Lady of the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, an ancient order under the Papacy.  In 2009 Gail had a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI and presented him with a CSS study. To contact Gail, please email   


I had a profound conversion of heart at age 45, which in turn led to my conversion to the Catholic Church.  In hindsight, I believe it was the culmination of a journey Mother Mary started me on when I was 15 years old, maybe even younger, but that’s another story for another time. 

I grew up as a Methodist in a small southern town where there were many Protestant churches but only one Catholic Church. There was a Catholic school adjoining the Church and it was only 2 blocks from my house.  In fact, the Church was on the corner of the street where my best friend, Carol lived and so when we visited each other we would walk by the Church. Often we would stop and swing or see-saw on the school playground. 

Even closer to my home, just around the corner, was a Catholic convent that housed nuns who taught at the Catholic school. This was in the late 1950’s, before Vatican II when all nuns wore full habits.  I often saw the nuns walking to or from the school and Church and I was always in awe whenever I saw them.  I thought they were the holiest people I’d ever seen.  I don’t know why I thought this because I knew nothing about the Catholic faith but they had a positive impact on me, even though I never even talked to them. Just the fact that they wore those habits spoke volumes to me – they were not ashamed of their faith or their calling. As Jesus said, no one lights a lamp and then puts it under a bushel basket.  They were letting the light of Christ show through them just by wearing their habits – they didn’t hide the fact that they were brides of Christ. 

It wasn’t just the nuns who captured my attention by their attire though. I also noticed that Catholic women and girls wore veils on their heads when they attended Church. Again, I was very impressed.  Only Catholic girls did this and this set them apart and that made them special in my mind.  I thought it made them appear holy too. I certainly didn’t have any theological reason for my thinking – just that to me It just seemed like the right and reverent thing to do when attending the house of God. 

And that brings me to the topic of this article.  My husband is also a convert and a few years ago he started questioning me as to why I didn’t wear a veil. He said, “You’re the “Bible Lady” (my nickname and name of my radio show) “and in Scripture St. Paul says that women should cover their heads at Church.”  I replied r, “well, the Church interprets Scripture and the Church doesn’t require women to wear veils any longer and I follow what the Church teaches.” After a couple of years though he started challenging me about it.  To my response he’d say, “Well, the Church doesn’t require you to go to daily Mass but you do, right?  And the Church doesn’t require you to pray the Rosary, but you do that too.” True. “And the Church no longer requires you to abstain from meat on Fridays except during Lent, yet you abstain every Friday of the year, correct?” [Editor's note: we are required to do penance on Fridays if we don't abstain from meat during times of the year other than Lent when we are required to abstain.] That’s true too. “And the Church doesn’t require you to go to confession but once a year but you go on a regular basis.” Right again.  “So, he said, why is it that you don’t wear a veil?” I didn’t have an answer.

 So I decided I should pray about it and I believe it was from that prayer that I was led to make a list- a list of pros and cons for wearing the veil.  Below is my list:

Wearing a veil shows reverence for Christ and His Church
It gives a good example to others outside the Church
It feels like the right and holy thing to do
It shows my faith - that I’m Catholic
It’s a simple expression of my love for Christ, His Word and His Church
It’s a very easy way to show the reverence I have for Christ in the Eucharist.

I look like a drowned rat with it on my head; not at all flattering to my appearance
It’s old fashioned and the Church no longer requires it
It’s hard to remember to wear it and it’s not always convenient
I’m a lector and I’d have to wear it up on the altar where everyone would see me
People would probably stare at me and make me feel self conscious
People would think I was trying to appear “holier than thou”
I’d have to buy one and they’re difficult to find and also expensive
I’m invited to speak at Churches – It’d be embarrassing to have a veil on when giving a talk at a Church.
If I started wearing it, I’d have to do it all the time

As you can see, I had more arguments against wearing the veil than for it but if you’ll also notice that my arguments against wearing the veil are all based in pride.  It was obvious to me that I had no good excuses for not wearing the veil and many good reasons for doing so. 

I think wearing a veil at Mass is the LEAST I can do to show reverence for our Lord in the Blessed
Sacrament.  As a Catholic I realize that our outward actions reflect what is in our hearts.  Genuflecting, kneeling, crossing ourselves, using incense, dipping our fingers into the holy water when entering and leaving Mass – these are all outward actions that reflect our inward feelings of reverence, just as wearing a veil does. 

We are living in times when there is a lack of respect for our Lord and His Church. Atheism and Relativism has become the norm. Many fall away from the faith because they don’t understand it and don’t see people living their faith. We need to set examples of reverence for others.  Maybe they will be intrigued enough to start looking into their faith more and come closer to our Lord in doing so.

And you may be surprised to know that faithful Catholic men like to see women wearing the veil – just as my husband wanted me to do so.  I’ve been complimented by many good Catholic men and priests about wearing the veil.  One young priest said to me that he loved looking out at the congregation and seeing women wearing veils.  He felt that it was important to do everything we can to restore reverence in Church and  he wished that wearing the veil would make a comeback. 

I hope women who are reading this article will give this simple act of reverence more consideration.  Think about it -  what are your reasons for NOT doing so?


  1. I am also a convert---grew up Methodist as well--came into the Church at around 15 years old, on my own after asking God to show me the Truth. I was also impressed with the nuns I'd see on tv and actually went into a cloistered monastery as a postulant for 6 months (and then again later to give it a try). I was 17, then 19 when I tried the convent. I didn't go that route, of course and now am married with 6 kids, but I also went through the "should I wear a veil or not" period. I saw a family that did this and they were pretty much the only ones at that parish. So I did. I bought the veil and even had my girls wear them with me (though they were totally embarrassed and I let them not wear it if they were as such). As I wore it I went through a lot of feelings. I felt like everyone was staring at me (which they probably were since most modern Catholics don't wear it and some have never seen people wear one) AND I also felt like people thought I was "holier than thou"--which you also mention. After debating that my time at church was felt with so much discomfort and self-awareness, I felt like I was wasting my precious Mass time with these conflicted feelings. I'm a very shy person normally and I suffer a nerve affliction which makes my hands and legs shake (which only became worse with stress)--so I had to give up the veil. My conclusion: yes it is ONLY good if you wish to humble yourself before God (wearing it to show respect to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament in church) but "no" if you are doing it to show you belong to more "traditional" Catholics (the family I had admired turned out to not think JPII was anything special and thought Vatican II was false) and probably "no" if you are wearing it to show how religious you are. I'm guessing most women wear it to show respect to God. One can equate this to Muslim women who wear the head covering too---and often join more traditional Muslim sects to "stand apart" and be a separate part of a community. Personally, I think if Catholics are to use the veil with respect, it should be mandated from the officials above (meaning everyone would be wearing one)--so that way everyone feels part of the community and everyone is equal. Otherwise, it tends to separate the fold. Mary wore a veil but so did all the other women. I may be wrong on this and I still think every woman can do what they feel called to do in this regard. :)

  2. Thanks Gail, and Kaylan too. It's good to hear different perspectives. I don't feel strongly about this issue so its a pretty new topic to me, but I have wondered about women tho choose to wear the veil and what them to that.