From He Knows My Name:
About 10 years ago I wondered what change it would make to my prayer times if I wore a veil, so for a few months I would wrap a scarf around my head and neck before I began my pre-dawn ritual of Bible reading and prayer, never telling a soul. The change was felt that first morning. I cannot explain it but I felt very small…tiny in fact. It was as though the magnitude of God and who He is and what He can do was opened up to me as never before. It was exquisite. Months later I shared with some people from my church (I was Protestant pentecostal at the time) and they converged on me with every argument for stopping this ‘nonsense’. I caved and stowed that scarf away never to be worn again.
When I first began my journey of conversion to the Catholic Church I was moved by a small group of women who stood in Mass wearing what I thought were black mantillas – at the time I had never heard the term ‘chapel veil’. As I spread my gaze across the many heads in that hot and steamy church in Alice Springs I truly felt a sense of awe and reverence to the presence of Christ when my eyes stopped to rest on that row of women.
They were all members of one family, and a year later the mother of that family became godmother to two of my children when they made their first steps into communion with Catholicism. Getting to know Pam over the period of that year I was always impressed with how she balanced diligent homeschooling, caring for a large family, raising a new baby, serious commitment to the Scouts, and her adoration of Christ and His Church. Her faith oozed and seeped from and into every area of her life, she wore it over her life with calm vigour and yet it was not with contrived publicity, it was such a part of her that Christ was seamlessly carried into every moment of each day…she humbled me without ever knowing it.
And she wore the veil.
She received Christ on her tongue, kneeling in the knowledge of His greatness before her, and to my shame I was not ‘brave’ enough to follow her example, instead, when I was finally received into the church, I accepted the Host into my cupped hands as I had seen the rest of the congregation doing. I followed the crowd, those who had chosen to cast off the traditions and acts of worship that the Church had followed for almost 2,000 years, those who enjoyed ‘modernised’ worship.
But things happen as you gain confidence in your faith. The last three years have been a long and wide road of learning for me, a Protestant turned Catholic. The last 18 months I have been in a new Church, in a new town, and it is here that I have begun to wonder about the veil, though no woman here wears one, and it is here I have begun to desire with earnest to receive Christ on the tongue, though I have seen only a handful of others do so.
I also read in a children’s book of the Mass that when the Host is raised it was for the congregation to say, “My Lord and my God”, yet I have never heard it said. Now I say it, softly so only those close by can hear me, but I say it because it fills me with such love for my Lord to recognise His True Presence…most times I shed tears as I realise how close I am to His physical presence, how I am only minutes away from receiving Him into my body.
Why did we, as Christians, start to look to the world around us for our benchmarks, our models of what is ‘normal’? Why did we cast off the old and beautiful acts of devotion and worship the Church has followed for two thousand years?
I no longer see a pew of women in chapel veils, and that saddens me. May God help me to be the first in our little church to do so, and to bring with me many more.
I may seem naive and simple to you, and I thank you for that. May I, following the example of my patron St Therese the Little Flower, always be simple as Christ’s church is simple, remembering it is man who tends to make it hard when he tries to manipulate things to suit his own desires.
God bless you so very much,