Formed by Tradition: On Veils
by Fr. John Rickert, FSSP
Taking part in a Fraternity apostolate means having the Traditional Mass, yes, but it means much more than that; it means absorbing, internalizing, living, and transmitting Tradition in its fullness.
We receive Tradition as a holy gift, treasure it, and pass it on to those who come after us. We realize, in humility, that in the long run, Tradition will judge us and that it is really not for us to pass judgement on Tradition. Traditio sacra sacrorum tuitio. Sacred tradition is a safeguarding of sacred things, and more importantly, of being safeguarded by them.
For those who are still being formed by Tradition – a formation that can indeed fill a lifetime – it may be hard to understand why it is so important for women to wear veils in church.
Let me begin with an experience that occurred to me some years ago now. Once, when I stopped for gas at a roadside convenience store, the attendant at the cash register saw me in my cassock and asked, completely at a loss, “What’s with…???” and motioned up and down with her hands to indicate that she was referring to my garb. She didn’t even know what to call it. At that time I was still a seminarian, and I explained to her that I was hoping to become a priest.
When we see a policeman or a soldier or a nurse, for example, we know who they are by the way they are dressed. And I hope that when you get ready to come to church, you dress with church in mind: you realize a distinctiveness in being in church. It is not like going anywhere else.
Proper attire for a woman, according to the Tradition given to us clearly by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 and confirmed by Pope St. Linus, who was the second pope, right after St. Peter, is to wear a veil or head covering while in church. I have noticed that men tend to be good in observing the rule that applies to them, namely, that they should not wear a hat in church. I hope that if you saw someone wearing a baseball cap or a fishing hat in church, you would realize that this is not appropriate and indicate in some way to him that he needs to take it off.
Now, you might be wondering why a priest wears a biretta in church and could wear one even during the sermon. Some Fraternity priests do. The answer is that the biretta is a sign of office; a much more striking sign of a higher office is the bishop’s mitre, which he does wear when he preaches.
Dear faithful who are ladies, what I hope you will find in wearing the veil is that you have a particularly strong awareness of where you are, that you are focused completely on Our Lord and not worried about external appearance.
The glory cloud of the Lord covered Mount Sinai in the Old Testament and Mount Tabor at the Transfiguration. We cover the altar with three layers of linen cloths; we veil the tabernacle; we even, in a sense, veil the cassock by the surplice or the alb; we veil a ciborium that contains consecrated Hosts; and the priest uses a humeral veil to hold the monstrance. And Our Lady is veiled in her apparitions.
A veil indicates sacredness and dedication to God.
October 11, 2022