12 November 2010

"I was born in this church, and for as long as I can remember, women had their heads covered. That's what you do in the house of the Lord."

These words were not spoken by a Catholic woman, but by a member of one of the Pentecostal sects called the "Church of God in Christ", who are having their annual convocation in St. Louis.

The Post-Dispatch
has a story today on the scriptural basis that women cover their heads in church. This requirement, though observed more often in the breach in the typical Catholic parish, is still legally binding upon Catholics today. The excerpts from the article which I post below provide an interesting perspective on the issue by a group that, without recourse to the Canonical arguments, takes its cue from the scriptural mandate--and, ironically enough, as a woman in the article points out, from "tradition", or as I would rephrase it for a Catholic audience, "immemorial custom".

As an aside, high-quality mantillas are generally much less expensive than a high quality hat. It doesn't matter what type of respectful head covering one wears.

If, after reading the two linked articles above, you ask why it matters, check out the follow-up posts to my original "truth unveiled" piece, and the comboxes on all of them.

From the full story by Tim Townsend:

When the apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the Christian church in Corinth 20 years or so after the death of Christ, it's unlikely he had the $599 Satin Ivory & Black Crystal Tower from Shellie McDowell Millinery in mind.

"Any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head," Paul wrote to the Corinthians. "It is one and the same thing as having her head shaved."

It's a fragment of Scripture that Christians have variously ignored and revered in the 2,000 years since it was written. On display this week in St. Louis — as 40,000 members of the Church of God in Christ gather downtown for their Holy Convocation — is an exuberant reverence for Paul's words.


"When you come before the Lord, we think you should be as well-dressed as when you come before the president or any dignitary," Blake said, adding later that the hats are part of a celebration "of what God has done for us, and who God is in our lives."


But it's not only Protestant African-American churches that adhere to a head-covering ritual.

Some streams of Judaism believe that wearing a head covering in a synagogue signals a reverence for God above. Traditionalist Catholic women sometimes wear lace veils on top of their heads during Mass. Head coverings are a well-known practice for some Muslim women. A Sikh's turban is a reminder of his connection with God.

The hats on display in St. Louis this week are about adhering to biblical principals, but they're also about tradition in the century-old Christian denomination.

"I was born in this church, and for as long as I can remember, women had their heads covered," said Delores Peterson, 55, of Houston. "That's what you do when you're in the house of the Lord."

Diane Johnson, minding her daughter's booth, "Diane's Hats," said she had been wearing hats to church since she was 18.

"I remember being a little girl, and seeing my grandma wearing a hat and thinking, 'I can't wait until I'm old enough to wear a hat,'" Johnson said. "An important part of this church for women is to educate younger women. We're supposed to train the next generation of women, and passing on this tradition is part of that."



B.J. said...

Random thought..."tradition in the century-old Christian denomination."...I remember walking around historic Williamsburg, VA one time with someone from England, who said "my high school was older than these buildings". I think as Americans, our understanding of what is historic, traditional, or that a religious denomination must be worth following if it has lasted 100 years is based on a relatively short time period as a country.

Anonymous said...

You're right, of course, B.J. As Americans our understanding of concepts like "old" and "traditional" is quite limited compared to many other parts of the world. But our experience is what it is and it's what we have to work with. We do our best. Our President is trying to take all that away from us right now, but we are trying to hold on as well as we can to our traditions, religious, moral, cultural and otherwise. Meanwhile, I'm unclear about the point you are attempting to make with your comment.

Anonymous said...

You're preaching to the choir here, I think. What eveyone needs to do is have some courasge and do something we have never been allowed to do. Approach whatever catholic Sisters you know, they will all be in lay clothes of course, and ask them to begin the return to modesty at worship by setting s good example and resuming their use of the nun's veil for everyday wear. Although the beloved person we knew as the active (teaching or nursing) Sister in the past was really an 18th-19th and early 20th Century development in the Church, prior to that, many cloistered nuns weren't always so completely cloistered as today's cloistered nuns are, and they had caring access in limited ways to the laity. Throughout Catholic history, the habited anbd veiled nun has been a symbol of motherly love and care, self-sacrifice and protection in the Church. (I don't want to hear carryings-on about the very rare exception to this that one or another wounded reader has experienced.) The mid-twentieth-century Sister has practically ruined all of this beautiful tradition. The Sisters need to be held accountable for what they have wrecked! Urge them to admit the mistakes of how they implemented the reforms of Vatican II and to do so first by returning their veils to their heads, not for skateboarding and fishing and playing basketball, but for teaching, nursing, shopping, being seen in public and for creating a serious, prayerful and studious tone within the convent.

Latinmassgirl said...

I used to wear hats with my eldest girls when they were little to the N.O. mass but prefer veils since going to the Latin Mass. Some hats are pretty and can look fashionable, and even distracting if very beautiful.

Blessed mother always veiled her head and they are modest and humbling rather than fashionable.

We Catholics have more of a reason to cover our heads out of respect for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Real nuns rock! said...


Forget about those old nuns in polyester pants! Their orders are literally drying up because young ladies don't want to bother being an unrecognizable, liberal nun. If you look at the web site for the Institute of Christ the King, you can see how beautiful their sisters are in full habit. You will notice that they are ALL young and they have plenty of new vocations, many new ones from the US.

All of the convents that are the most conservative in dress and strictest in prayer life are not suffering for postulants!

Anonymous said...

Please... We’ve been to St. Francis (a few times) and you wish the women there dressed this good!

The men dress very well, but most of the women my wife and I have seen are dressed like farm hands.

NONE of them looked as good as this lady in the photo.

They look Amish! No makeup, ugly homemade looking clothes, dresses down to the floor. It looks like some of them had bed sheets tied under their chins.

Shameful! It’s very unbecoming, almost cultish looking.

Please don’t say its modesty, cause “this”, what we have seen is creepy, and has nothing to do with modesty.

Maybe, if the ladies in your parish would take some time to look nice, your whole "head covering" obsession would stick.

My wife certainly doesn’t want to look like she just got out of bed, and I as her husband don’t want that either.

Rick J.