Wednesday, 26 January 2011

To Mantilla or not to Mantilla?

There was a recent report regarding a Cathedral in Sri Lanka whose authorities, in an attempt to encourage women to dress more modestly, imposed a requirement for all women to wear a head covering or veil.
Mulier Fortis has covered the subject very succinctly and from a woman's point of view. So, perhaps it is unwise of me to enter the debate.
However, despite being remarkably youthful and agile etc I do remember what life was like for a Catholic in the 1950s. With respect to a head covering, every woman complied either with mantilla, hat or scarf. If a group of school girls went into a church on an unplanned visit, say whilst passing en route to wheresoever, they would place handkerchiefs on their heads and not think anything amiss.
I believe that was all well and good. We did not stop to analyse it, it was just what propriety demanded just as men would remove their hats and caps upon entering church (and, even when passing a church).
This introduces a fine point to the situation; think what scandal and outrage it would cause if a male went up to Communion wearing a hat of some kind.And quite rightly so. Wearing hats indoors is for the Jewish male - my father, if catching me out wearing a school cap in the house would exclaim: "Is thy father a Jew?" I don't know where that phrase came from but as he grew up in London's East End, I guess it originated from there.
The point is, it just ain't done and if you commence removing the rituals of courtesy and reverence (like genuflecting, crossing oneself and remaining silent in church), you begin to dismantle the more important things such as regard for the sacred species.
I agree with Mulier Fortis, an imposition would not be helpful but encouragement would. It should be taught again in Catholic Schools for both boys and girls. Priests might like to remind parishioners that it is a good practice and piety stalls might like to stock up on a few mantillas.

Add dignity and style - wear a  mantilla!
And please, please, do not equate the mantilla with the niqab, the Muslim veil that conceals the face. That's a discussion I will save for another occasion.

1 comment:

  1. I would really LIKE to wear a mantilla. I recently stayed at a convent where the postulants wear mantillas every time they enter the chapel... this of course changes when they receive the habit because they wear a veil then.

    But I really grew to love the practice, I thought it a beautiful sign of reverence. I truly wish that the local churches would encourage young women to wear them.

    I can't wait to be able to wear one myself as a postulant!

    As a side note - a mantilla is not an imposition, nor is it impractical. I'm ex-military, and I can say first-hand that it is second nature to military personnel to remove their 'cover' (whichever hat is appropriate to the uniform of the day) upon entering a building and to put it on when heading outside. Why is it such a hard thing to expect men and women to exercise reverence with head coverings when entering/leaving a church?