Especially for those readers who don't know me, I thought I should share on a way I stepped up my Catholicism lately and how I discerned it. This is not a post about me being holy, pious, reverent, or a better person/Catholic than anyone. In fact, it's about how I'm a fairly lousy Catholic despite my best efforts and a rotten sinner in need of Christ's mercy on a daily basis. While this doesn't relate directly to Catholic parenting, I hope it will help you see how we all need to regroup our prayer lives now and again and help our children do this as well. Doing this can make us better spouses and parents. In my case, it makes me better at serving others and the Church.
So, how did I step up my game? I recently returned to the ancient practice of veiling at Mass or in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. It's one of the most difficult things I've ever done for my spiritual life, but it is so very helpful that I find the sacrifices that come with it totally pay off. Unlike other spiritual practices, this is a very public choice. This makes the discernment process a bit more involved than just deciding to say a rosary each night before bed or attend Eucharistic Adoration once a week.
About 2 years ago, my oldest and dearest friend, Amy, announced that she was veiling at Mass and in Adoration. I was intrigued, but it wasn't for me (or so I thought). I asked her about it, did some reading on it, and forgot about it. I saw her in a chapel veil on a few visits, but didn't see how it was relevant to me. I knew another friend, Amanda, veiled but I didn't think it was noteworthy that two holy, inspirational women in my life were veiling. How sad is that? Last Lent, my (then) coworker announced that she was going to veil during Lent. It made me take pause. I did some more reading on veiling and decided to give it a try.
There are many wonderful reasons different women give for veiling and others who struggle with it or don't get as much out of it. I respect a woman's choice in regards to veiling and do not think it is helpful for all. Many Catholic men find it very respectful and value it too, which came as a surprise to me. Here are links to some opinions and personal witnesses which I found helpful in discerning, even if I didn't fully agree with/relate to each of them:
I'm not what some would call a "rad trad". I receive Eucharist in the hand. I attend a Novus Ordo parish and (likely) always will since I don't feel particularly called to the Tridentine Mass. I do enjoy a good Byzantine Liturgy now and then, but that's a whole separate post! Veiling is not for a specific type of person or type of Catholic. I am confident this is the biggest misconception in veiling.
The first time I veiled, I was downright petrified. After a while, I forgot about it and found I liked how it felt on my head. It was like Catholic blinders. I'd start to get sidetracked at Mass, see that piece of lace out of the corner of my eye, and return my focus to the Blessed Sacrament. I veiled for about 2 months and then grew weary of it. It was too much work to remember a veil and bobby pins. It drew too much attention to me. I felt odd if I dressed more casually for Mass and still veiled. And I was being judged by coworkers at the parish where I worked. Notice how all of these reasons are about me, not my relationship with Christ. Hmmm...
Fast forward to the Thursday prior to Palm Sunday. I was at daily Mass and something just struck me during the Eucharistic Prayer. I knew I needed to start veiling again. I went home and texted Amy, asking prayer for the courage to start wearing my veil. Amy promised to pray and then informed me she had stopped veiling as her toddler son was pulling it off and it had become too much of a challenge. That did it for me. I assured her I would begin veiling again for not just myself, but for her as well.
Having moved a few months ago, things are not always easily located. Palm Sunday came and went and I still hadn't located my veils. (Yes. Plural. Veils. I have many. More on that in a minute.) I finally found them and decided I would wear a traditional, black mantilla the rest of Holy Week.For the first few days, I was doing it more for Amy than myself. Somewhere during the Mass of the Lord's Supper, it hit me like a bolt of lightening. God reminded me of a few sins I have been particularly struggling with lately. I felt in my heart that by the humble act of veiling, God was going to help me. I needed to do this to remind myself of submitting to God, not myself. I won't say anymore, but let's just say I had the feeling of, "Through veiling, God will show me how to stay on a better path."
Getting dressed up for all the special Masses and prayer services, veiling was easy. God was going to help me and life was great. At the Easter Vigil, I was so eager to bust out my beautiful, white mantilla with a lovely cross on the back. My mom's friend approached and introduced herself before Mass and complimented me on the practice of veiling. It was something she had pondered doing but hadn't make a regular habit of it. It validated my decision to veil. Maybe other people needed me to set the example so they could find the courage to veil too. Woo hoo! Veiling felt awesome!
Amy was in town visiting. I caught up with her briefly after Mass. She said, "You look so beautiful." I knew she didn't mean my hair, make up, or dress. I knew she didn't mean I had a beautiful face. I knew she meant I looked humble and prayerful. God's light was shining through me in a different way because I was veiling. (At least, I think this is what she meant.) It warmed my heart and I felt beautiful in the core of my soul. Sure, my soul is stained with sin, but I am showing God, myself, and others that I want to keep trying to do better.
I had trouble sleeping all week and didn't get up for Mass Monday-Thursday, even though my alarm is set each morning. This morning, I awoke 10 minutes before my alarm went off. I thanked God for helping me to wake refreshed and ready for Mass. Then, my stomach dropped. I haven't veiled at daily Mass yet. Shoot. My students will be there. They will all see me. What will my co-workers think? I wavered back and forth about going to Mass or, if I did go, wearing my veil.
"God, help me to do this. I know I need to go to Mass and I know I need to veil. Give me the courage." And God did. I went to Mass, sat in the front pew (I'm like a 5 year-old. I need to see EVERYTHING.) with my veil on. And you know what? I didn't burst into flames. I didn't die of embarrassment. The priest didn't point and say, "Take that off you silly girl." What did happen was I got more out of the Eucharist. I felt more reverent. It also encourages delightful conversations with people about veiling after Mass. That is always worth it.
The Communion hymn at Mass was Twila Paris' "How Beautiful". During the verse:
And as He laid down His life
We offer this sacrifice
That we will live just as he died
Willing to pay the price
Willing to pay the price
it hit me that it was important for me to make this simple sacrifice of veiling. It was a way to show God my gratitude.
There are plenty of pros and cons each person will face with choosing to veil. Right now, my reasons for veiling are this:
- It helps me focus more on the Holy Eucharist.
- Taking an extra step of reverence when entering Mass or approaching the Blessed Sacrament makes me feel like I'm giving something small back to God.
- It helps unite me to our Holy Mother who would have always warn a head covering.
- It makes me less vain about my hair and make-up at Mass.
- I feel confident God will help me with some struggles in my life as I continue to do this.
- I veil for those who cannot or will not (but want to) veil right now.
- It makes me so very humble when I enter church.
- It's old fashioned.
- People might stare, laugh, judge, etc.
- People will think I am trying to be super pious.
- I will embarrass my parents, siblings, and niece when we go to Mass.
- The priest will think I am trying too hard.
I am not saying veiling is for everyone. It helps me, but it may not benefit you (or your wife, daughter, etc.). You need to experiment with prayer and Catholicism to find something new and different that helps you. If you have older children (ages 10+), help them experiment with their faith through praying the rosary, saying a novena, memorizing a new prayer, or attending Eucharistic Adoration... whatever it might be that is new to them. Whether it's a chapel veil, saying a rosary, attending daily Mass, or going to Confession more often, take time to discern how an extra step in your spiritual life can help you and your family members. Like me, I am sure you'll be pleasantly surprised.