Thursday, 14 June 2012

What would Our Lady wear to Mass?

There has been some debate recently (again) regarding the wearing of the mantilla. Mary O'Regan of
 The Path Less Taken has a sound and well reasoned post on the subject as does Dorothy B of
An Honour and a Responsibility, Annie of the Arundel & Brighton blog and Joe Shaw of LMS Chairman. - so I feel quite safe at throwing my two penn'orth into the ring.

I think that all of the bloggers who have commented so far have been at pains to point out that there is no obsessive disorder involved here; if women wish to go to Mass bare headed, sobeit. That is their decision.

So, I would like to take you back in time, not so very long ago, maybe seventy or eighty years or so.
To the age when both men and women wore hats as part of their everyday headwear.
No male over the age of ten would have walked the streets without a cap of some kind on their head and every female from pram stage onwards would have done likewise.

Off to Mass? Where's your hat Albert?

So what happened when the Catholics among them entered a church?

Well, of course, the men would remove their hats and the women would keep them on; it was the custom, the culture, if you like.

And today, the custom has not changed for men; we still remove our knotted handkerchiefs, bowlers or derbys when we enter where God Himself is present.

Would it cause dissent if I strolled in wearing a rather natty (if frayed) Panama? I rather think so.


  1. I have a limited experience of Youth 2000 where I have seen older teenagers wear the Mantilla. There is also a quarter of the teenagers that will kneel for communion. I'm not saying there is a revolution going on but, there are signs of life. This is one of the reasons I support Youth 2000 events over the other 'secularised' Catholic Youth events e.g. the flame congress.

  2. Well, your natty panama mightn't cause much of a stir at Westminster Cathedral. I've seen baseball caps and woolly hats go unchallenged (as well as tourists drinking from cartons of coffee and eating snacks during Mass).
    I can remember a time when Catholic men would raise their hats just passing a Catholic church. Some 21st century parents seem to think it's okay for their young sons to retain their head gear in church. I tried a low-key approach once or twice and was met with a hostile reaction so don't bother now.
    The nuns at my school had an excellent and memorable mantra: "You are there to worship God, not to draw attention to yourself."
    If we Catholics can't display good manners towards God, we've lost the plot.

  3. OPN - good news indeed.
    Genty - horrifying tales. I also recall doffing my schoolboy cap when I walked past a church and, when not wearing a cap, making the sign of the cross.

  4. I appreciate your reference to the other (male) side of the equation. It goes by so unquestioned, that we sometimes overlook that half of Western society is following the direction of St. Paul, (though perhaps unawares), as a matter of course.

    As you know, it is fashionable among Protestants, thanks to a footnote in the NIV that reflects the bias of its author(s), to suggest that the "covering" spoken of in 1 Cor. 11 is a woman's hair. My husband's favorite response, to this assertion, is question why, then, men do not shave their heads to pray.

    Thanks for a delightful post.

  5. I do a lot of travel around the world, and attend mass in many different cultures. I think Genty has the right approach - you're not there to draw attention to yourself. So if leaving your head uncovered would be scandalous in your community, then cover your head. If covering your head would cause a stir and distraction, then don't.

    My mother once dug up a story somewhere about a church in Europe, where the women started competing with each other to see who wore the fanciest hat to church. They became so large and elaborate that they blocked the views of people and caused a lot of distraction. So the priest banned the women from wearing their hats in the church.

    And then the women started competing with fancy hairstyles.

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