The following is an excerpt from:
Throughout history it has been common for women to wear head coverings. This is something that has precedent in St. Paul’s epistles (see 1 Cor. 11:2-16).
It was mandated in the 1917 Code of Canon Law. Canon 1262 states:
1. It is desirable that, consistent with ancient discipline, women be separated from men in church.
2. Men, in a church or outside a church, while they are assisting at sacred rites, shall be bare-headed, unless the approved mores of the people or peculiar circumstances of things determine otherwise; women, however, shall have a covered head and be modestly dressed, especially when they approach the table of the Lord.
This is something that fell gradually into disuse.
In the 1970s there was a judgment issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in a document titled Inter Insigniores that basically stated that since chapel veils were not a matter of faith, it was no longer mandatory for women to wear them. In paragraph 4 it states:
It must be noted that these ordinances, probably inspired by the customs of the period, concern scarcely more than disciplinary practices of minor importance, such as the obligation imposed upon women to wear a veil on their head (1 Cor. 11:2-16); such requirements no longer have a normative value.
You can read the whole document:
In the 1983 Code of Canon Law—the one in effect today—the canon about head veils was not re-issued. Now, you might be thinking, “Well, just because they didn’t reissue it doesn’t mean that it’s not still in effect, right?” Wrong.
Canon 6 of the current code states that all subsequent laws that are not reissued in the new code are abrogated:
Can. 61. When this Code goes into effect, the following are abrogated:
1. the Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1917;
2. other universal or particular laws contrary to the prescriptions of this Code, unless particular laws are otherwise expressly provided for;
3. any universal or particular penal laws whatsoever issued by the Apostolic See, unless they are contained in this Code;
4. other universal disciplinary laws dealing with a matter which is regulated ex integro by this Code.
While it is not obligatory for women to wear mantillas, I personally think they’re a beautiful and elegant way to show reverence for Christ. If you’re a woman contemplating wearing one, let me encourage you to go ahead and give it a try!—just my two cents.
To learn more about the mantilla, check out the site “Will You Mantilla With Me.” found at: http://www.mantillawithme.com/Why.html A woman’s perspective. Here’s an excerpt:
Why do Catholic women wear the mantilla?
Rejecting the “culture of cool”
On any given Sunday at any Catholic church in the US, UK, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, one is likely to see women and girls dressed in halter-necks, strapless dresses, shorts, super-tight jeans, and mini-skirts. Depending on the weather, one might also find flip-flops or ugg boots. In our parish, the extraordinary ministers sometimes choose to hand out communion in their sneakers, velour tracksuits and the occasional fanny-pack.
What does this say about the church? What does this say about our faith?
The reason we no longer dress well for mass is the same reason that 90% of US Catholics don’t bother to show up for mass at all: it just isn’t that important to us anymore.
Making an effort for love of God
Dressing well for mass is an external manifestation of the belief that what we are doing is important: it says that we care. It is representative of the respect we have for the other members of our parish. More importantly, however, it is also a sign of our respect for God in the Blessed Sacrament.
The same reasoning applies to the mantilla. It isn’t mandatory for us to veil. But we can if we want to. This applies to the novus ordo as much as it does to the extraordinary form. And if we truly believe that Christ is actually present before us in the Eucharist, then why wouldn’t we?
The importance of external acts of faith
External acts can orient as well as express our inner thoughts and disposition. This is why our mass (in both forms) is so rich in ritual and posture. These “externals” help keep our minds where they should be - on the mass and on Our Lord in the Eucharist. Veiling can do the same.
Ask yourself, why it is that brides still wear veils on their wedding day? One reason is that the veil indicates the solemnity of the occasion. It is a reminder that - for her - this day is unlike any other. It is also a physical sign of the gift of self that she intends to make through the Sacrament of Marriage. Both of these reasons (whether conscious or not) transform the bride’s veiling from being purely about the aesthetics into something else. Although she is the center of attention, her choice of garment, color and veil sends a message to those around her: “when you look at me and see my veil, remember that I am here to participate in something greater and bigger than myself.”
Some women choose to veil in church for the same reasons. The veil is a reminder that this place and moment in time is unlike any other and should be observed as such. It is also a sign of the spiritual gift of self that the woman intends to make to Our Lord during the mass and as she prays before the tabernacle.
In imitation of Mary
Other women choose to veil in imitation of the Blessed Virgin. They seek to follow her example of humility, modesty and purity - as well as the Jewish custom of covering one’s head - when they are near our Lord in the Tabernacle.
Why do I veil?
I veil because it matters to me that I am before God. I veil as an external manifestation of my belief that Christ is really present in the Eucharist. I veil because it helps me to be more reverent. I veil as an act of humility before God. I veil because I believe. I veil because I care.