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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Advent Veiling Project--Imperfect Women Seeking God

What kind of woman wears a headcovering in church?

It's a question that comes to mind, but that few ever openly ask. I've found that there are lots of assumptions about what the answer might be, but that many are not consistent with my experiences.  I've also found that there are almost as many answers as there are headcovering women.
There is a children's hymn that is popular in Anglican circles for All Saints Day.  The lyrics are these:
1.                 I sing a song of the saints of God,
                    patient and brave and true,
                    who toiled and fought and lived and died
                    for the Lord they loved and knew.
                    And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
                    and one was a shepherdess on the green;
                    they were all of them saints of God, and I mean,
                    God helping, to be one too.

2.                 They loved their Lord so dear, so dear,
                    and his love made them strong;
                    and they followed the right for Jesus' sake
                    the whole of their good lives long.
                    And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
                    and one was slain by a fierce wild beast;
                    and there's not any reason, no, not the least,
                    why I shouldn't be one too.

3.                 They lived not only in ages past;
                    there are hundreds of thousands still.
                    The world is bright with the joyous saints
                    who love to do Jesus' will.
                    You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store,
                    in church, by the sea, in the house next door;
                    they are saints of God, whether rich or poor,
                    and I mean to be one too.
Text: Lesbia Scott 
Music: John H. Hopkins 
Tune: GRAND ISLE, Meter: Irr.

Children and adults alike love that hymn.  I think it is the pragmatic and homespun feel of it:  "And one was a doctor, and one was a queen, and one was a shepherdess on the green; they were all of them saints of God, and I mean, God helping, to be one too. " Now some will point out that there are differences between the Catholic understanding of saints and that of (some) Anglicans, but that is not my point here.  My purpose is to suggest that people love this hymn because it speaks to the huge variety of personalities and life-experiences of those whom we honor as Saints. There certainly is no cookie cutter Saint.  There is a delightful garden of variety, each one a unique gift from God.

We Christians who are very far from sainthood are like that too, aren't we?  We are each unique and precious; isn't that what makes life exciting?  We are also each reaching toward God, from where we are. Many of you have it all together, I'm sure.  I, though, am horribly imperfect.  Still, I'm striving, sometimes falling backward, but ever seeking to grow closer to what God would have me be.  If only holy women wore headcoverings, then I surely would not be anywhere near donning one.

I think that sometimes people assume that women cover because they consider themselves to have reached a certain level of holiness.  I have never met anyone who covers for that reason, although some may feel that way.  I cover because I am a detestable sinner who is indescribably grateful for grace and feels entirely sucked into God.  I just cannot shake Him, no matter how dreadfully I fail to please Him. He loves me. It's inexplicable, this unmerited love. I can only fall at his feet with the awesomeness of it.  I am so overwhelmed, I can't quite stand naked in His glory.  My reverence for Him is too great.  He has saved such a vile sinner as me.

So, dear reader, if you come here seeking wisdom from a Saint, you have come to entirely the wrong place.  You will not find that here. If you come seeking shared experiences from a mess-of-a-woman as she yearns toward God, then pull up a chair.  I'll pour you a cup of tea; we have lots of talking to do.

It has been my experience that women who cover their heads in church are often like me.  They are ordinary women with a deep desire to know God.  Not one of them has ever communicated to me that she feels righteous or superior. Not one of them has ever told me that she "has it all together." None of them has been entirely like another.  Each has brought with her a unique set of experiences, interests, struggles, and viewpoints, but each and every one of them has shared the same desire to commune with God and to please Him.  Each of them has found that covering her head in church has helped to facilitate those efforts.

So then, who wears a headcovering?  One might be a teacher; one might be a police officer.  One might be mother; another might be grieving infertility.  One might be a fabulous cook; another might be struggling to get dinner on the table each day.  One might be working through a tendency toward anger; another might be struggling with addiction.  One might shine with kindness and joy.  One might even be a belly dancer while another might not have the talent to dance a single step.  All though, are probably overwhelmed with the love of God.  All are probably seeking to grow closer to Him.

There are lots of ways to do that--to grow closer to God.  We are blessed as Christians with so many sacramentals, spiritual disciplines, and devotional practices.  For some women, headcovering is one such beneficial practice.  Many women have told me that they feel a deep draw toward covering their heads in church, but are afraid to try it.  For those women, personal accounts of the experience from others have been helpful. That's one of the things we humans are designed for isn't it--to fellowship with one another?

It is in that spirit that I commend to you the upcoming Advent Veiling Linkup Project.  In it, regular women will be sharing their experiences with wearing a veil in church.  There will be no perfect women sharing, I can assure you.  (Although if you know one, you are welcome to send her our way.) There will be broken women, saved by the blood of Christ, and striving to live the life he calls them to. There will be every-day women making themselves vulnerable by sharing their experiences, in hopes that those experiences might be beneficial to others.  We'd love to have you join us.  We embrace you in a spirit of Christian love.

Pax Christi dear ones,

You are welcome here,

More related posts:

Playing the video? You might want to click the pause button on the music player near the top of the right sidebar.

Shared with blogs on the Blog Hops page.

Welcome! We love to hear from you. You are embraced here in Christian charity. I expect that with the Advent Veiling Project coming up, some will be tempted to use this blog as a forum for expressing opposition to Christian headcovering and criticism of those who choose to use it as a devotional practice.

Our purpose here is to provide a supportive environment and a source of rich information for those who wish to incorporate the liturgical year into their daily lives and, also, for those who wish to wear headcoverings at worship and in prayer.

There are many places where people opposed to such devotional practices may engage in argument and criticism. As that is not our purpose here, we encourage such persons to seek out an appropriate venue for their efforts.

Pax Christi!


  1. I can't tell you how beautiful this post is for me - and how personally moving. I am one of those, a "broken woman, saved by the blood of Christ, and striving to live the life He calls me to".

    P.S. That first mantilla veil - it's absolutely beautiful Michelle. It may accidentally fall into my cart next payday!

  2. writing is as beautiful as you are! I am so happy to get to know you here and join in the veiling project. I am looking forward to receiving the veil you are so lovingly making.

    "I cover because I am a detestable sinner who is indescribably grateful for grace and feels entirely sucked into God."...what better reason than that?


    1. Theresa,
      Thanks so much for your kind words. We're looking forward to sending your new veil on its way to you! :)

  3. You do understand that most of your grandmothers and great-grandmothers who covered their heads in church did so with hats, not veils, right? "Veiling" is not a traditional Catholic turn of phrase. There is a theologizing of the choice to wear a veil, specifically, that would be totally baffling to women even a hundred years ago. Honestly, even the Scriptural admontion barely entered into it. Women wore hats in public places, including church. Just as men wore suits everywhere, including sporting events. Spirituality barely entered into it, especially this spiritualizing of the veil, when in the US, most women wore hat.

    1. Yes, I do realize that most women wore hats in days gone by. You will notice that in the content of my post, I use the word headcovering; I prefer it. However, the linkup uses the word "veiling" and I am quite pleased to promote their wonderful undertaking. You may be correct in suggesting that the theological basis for wearing a headcovering would be baffling to many women a hundred years ago, but that does not preclude the existence of that theological basis. I think it marvelous that some members of a new generation of women are embracing this practice outside of general convention and for specifically spiritual reasons. I find it unfortunate, also, that women of an (often) earlier generation choose to attack those choices on the basis of social and cultural positions and issues specific to their own generation.

      At any rate, I think that present day women who choose to cover their heads in church enjoy a special freedom in that they have many options for doing so. I am also pleased to find that most Christians are accepting of the devotional practices of others. Certainly, ones own relationship with our Lord is not adversely impacted simply because a sister in Christ chooses to put something on her head.


  4. Beautiful post Michelle!
    Love this.
    I remember fondly ladies covering their heads. How beautiful Jackie O looked in a veil. All over Europe and Latin America this tradition has always been in tact. I believe it has always been a great part of our tradition, but we Americans turned our backs on it. And I am so glad that the younger generations are turning back towards this beautiful and feminine tradition.
    Veiling is all over the web. There are tons of companies selling them/making them.
    It's a perfect time to honor our Blessed Mother and women of all generations.
    Ha - I remember having a tissue put on my head with a bobbie pin! Just saying!

    Love this post.

  5. All the women in my family wore mantillas 100 years ago. Nobody wore hats. I have the pictures to prove it. I have my grandmother's mantilla and wear it all the time.

  6. Question! 1. Should the color of the veil change based on the liturgical season? 2. Is it true that only married women should wear black veils?

    1. Hi Alicia!
      Although traditionally, married women wore black and single women and girls wore white, today most women choose veil colors according to personal taste or preference. Some match veil colors to the church season. My singe 19 year old daughter (the one in the listing photos) wears black and other dark colors all the time, generally matching her veil to her dress. I wear white or Ivory on special feast days, especially Easter. Some input from readers is here:
      Have a Blessed and Holy Advent!
      ~Michelle @ Liturgical Time


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Pax Christi!