Saturday, 12 February 2011

The strange case of the disappearing headcoverings

In his recent post on the subject, The Catholic Knight reproduced this cutting from The Atlanta Journal, dated some time in 1969. Father Z (here and here) and others have also dealt with the consequences of that strange incident.

I can remember it quite well. At the church I attended in Liverpool, as soon as we women heard the message that we no longer had to cover our heads, off came the hats, scarves and mantillas. The following Sunday, hardly any of the women were covering their heads.

Almost immediately, or so it seems at this distance in time, the word came out: As you were! The law has not changed: women must continue to cover their heads in church. As I recall, it was even announced from the pulpit.

And the majority of us did not comply. I think there was a general – if mainly unspoken – emotional response: This is ridiculous. First you don’t need to wear them, and then you do. It’s just not important. I’ll decide. That was my own decision too. But do you know, I felt just a little bit uneasy about it at the time. There was a niggling voice of conscience.

But gradually the new way became the generally accepted custom. And the requirement was eventually dropped, as a de jure recognition of the de facto practice.

I find great joy these days in covering my head when I attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form. But at my own parish church, I have a real reluctance. For the usual reasons, I suppose: sticking out like a sore thumb, holier-than-thou, and all that. I don’t really know the answer, except more courage; though it’s ridiculous to feel that one needs courage to do something that was completely natural only a few decades ago. I think we would have to be prepared to counter any criticisms with good, positive reasons. An expression of unity with Catholic women in other places and in other times, perhaps.

It would be rather wonderful if the Holy Father, or the competent body in Rome, were to recognise an indulgenced Sacramental, along these lines: that a woman or girl who covers her head before the Blessed Sacrament is empowered to offer this action to obtain a partial indulgence for the Souls in Purgatory.

1 comment:

A Reluctant Sinner said...

Thank you for this interesting post. I've always wondered how it happened that mantillas and hats just suddenly disappeared, as if over night.

I understand how uncomfortable it would feel to wear your mantilla, veil or hat at your local parish church... But, it seems that more and more woman are choosing to return to this venerable practice. Every time I attend Mass here in London, I'm sure the number of women wearing mantillas has increased since the last time! It always starts with one brave woman... Maybe, in your parish, that would be you?

God bless.