Veiling

In August of 2012 I finally answered the call to veil.  I say it was a calling because for the three previous years I felt this inner voice gently suggesting that I veil.  It began with a small question of why some women veil.  I was born in 1970 and do not remember the time when women were required to don a head covering.  I witnessed older women veiling, but not the women of my mother’s generation and certainly not my peers, the exception being for First Communions and weddings–until my niece (my nephew’s wife) came into the Church and began veiling.  Twelve years my junior, her wearing of the veil stirred an awareness in me.  I scoured the internet and scriptures looking for an absolute rule about veiling.  I found nothing that convinced me that it was a requirement and quickly brushed the thought of veiling to the corners of my mind.  I did not want to veil, but I would do it if I was “supposed” to.  But the thought of veiling kept coming back to me and it evolved from a question about veiling to an openness to understand why some women chose to veil.  Finally, on that evening in August I stumbled across a blog post by Lily of Veils by Lily.  As I read her words I suddenly understood my call, but I was still fearful to follow it.  I called my two teen girls into the room and asked them if they had ever considered veiling.  Allison was quick to say “yes” and Lauren was equally quick to answer “no”.  Once I spoke my thoughts aloud I knew it was something I needed to do because God was calling me to do it.  It was not a demand, not a requirement, not a law, not a threat of eternal damnation or even a venial sin; but it was a request from my beloved Lord and Savior.  It was a question to my soul asking if I would reverence and honor Him in this simple act of veiling in His presence.  Please understand that it was not this clear at the time.  God  is gentle and He led me slowly along this path to a deeper understanding of His desires. 

It was not easy to veil in the beginning, even with the desire to reverence God.  My first veil arrived in November and that first Sunday was uncomfortable to say the least.  I already feel lots of eyes upon me as my husband and I walk in to church with seven children in tow.  We intentionally sit in the first few pews where the children have a direct view of the priest and altar, thus increasing the odds that they will pay attention and be less of a distraction during Mass.  We try to sit in the side pews in order to be less noticeable and have easier supervision with half of the children sitting directly in front of us.  But, the first Sunday I veiled that was not the case.  We ended up in the first long pew front and center.  My heart was pounding and I wanted to crawl under the pew.  I felt so awkward and different and I flashed back to sixth grade:

 It was the days of big hair and I had just had a perm.  My hair was thick and long and the perm made it frizzy.  I had woken up late and was running behind for church.  My mom liked to get there 30 minutes early and I was at the awkward age of sometimes caring about my personal hygiene, but not always.  My mother gave me ample warning that we were leaving whether I was ready or not and I had called her bluff.  With unkempt bozo the clown hair I climbed into the car and went off to church.  Once in our pew, 4th pew on the right side, I became painfully aware of how I must look to other people and, like a typical adolescent, I thought everyone was looking at me.  Someone a few rows back snickered and I was sure it was aimed at me.  I began to cry as I was so ashamed and embarrassed.  My mother took pity on me and took me out to the car to wait for the rest of the family until Mass was over.  She didn’t lecture me.  In fact, I don’t remember that she said anything.  I will say that since that time I can put on makeup and fix my hair in under 5 minutes if necessary.

After this memory ran through my mind, I realized that veiling was not about me.  It really didn’t matter what other people thought about me.  The veil was a personal connection to the sacredness of the space in which I was worshipping.  It was a sign of holiness:  my holiness, the holiness of the Church and the reverence of the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  So, I relaxed as much as I could and tried to be more aware of the mystery that I was witnessing at Mass.  At one point, Father’s eyes met mine and I saw a change.  He seemed to become bolder, stood straighter and folded his hands in obvious reverence.  I don’t think it was because of me.  I think it was the Holy Spirit working through me and my family at that moment.  I glanced to my left and right and saw my husband standing reverently, I saw my children standing in reverence with their little hands folded—“good prayer hands” we like to call it.  Our witness had inspired and encouraged our priest, and his response ennobled us and others in the congregation as well.  And that is how the fire of the Holy Spirit is spread if we only allow ourselves to be conduits by our faith and actions.

Now, all of my daughters veil with me.  It is not something I require of them.  They have each expressed a desire in their own time, and Patrick and I responded by getting them their first veil.  One of the biggest compliments I have ever received was a few months back.  I was commentating for Mass, greeting everyone before Mass begins and saying the Prayers of the Faithful during Mass.  My two-year old was especially clingy and refused to go anyone else.  There was no nursery that day.  When we went back for prayers before Mass I asked the Liturgical Director if it would be a problem for me to hold my son while commentating.  As long as I am holding him, he is quiet and content.  So, I walked up to the podium with my little son in my arms and my veil on my head and greeted everyone before Mass.  At the Prayers of the Faithful, he was still in my arms.  After Mass, several people came up to Patrick or me and told us that I reminded them of the Holy Mother!  You see, I was standing directly in front of the statue of Mary with the child Jesus in her arms.  Jesus is holding the veil of his mother with one hand as she stands in prayerful reverence.

Mary and Jesus draped now for Lent

Mary and Jesus draped now for Lent

  And so I am inspired to be more like her, to weed out my sinfulness, to become more holy and reverent and prayerful, and to hold onto Jesus knowing he is my salvation, my God, my all.

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The New Evangelization

In Catholic circles the phrase “New Evangelization” has been popping up ever since our beloved Pope John Paul II spoke of a Springtime of Evangelization. I have read a few criticisms of the phrase asking what is wrong with the “old” evangelization. As I was preparing for Mass today several thoughts popped into my head. First of all we were attending a different Mass than usual, so my sensitivity to attracting attention was on high alert. Seven children in the front pew is enough to garnish attention, but last year I started veiling and my daughters followed suit (on their own accord, I might add). To put this in perspective I have been attending the same parish for most of the last 35 years and until last year I had only donned a veil for my First Communion and wedding. I quickly put the thoughts behind me and tried to focus on my prayers. I’m not really concerned with what others’ think, at least I try not to be. My next thoughts drifted to how I got here, to this particular place in my spiritual journey. I’ve got a long way to go, mind you; but, man how far I have come in the past 20 years!

The biggest impact on learning about my faith, the Catholic faith, has come from teaching it. When I began to home school my two older girls twelve years ago, I did not even know the Mysteries of the Rosary by heart–and there were only 15 back then. Maybe, you don’t know them now either. It was part peer pressure and pride and part longing that motivated me to memorize them. I still forget and have to think about it when I’m under the gun; but, I can do it in the end. You see, I belong to a really great homeschooling support group of strong Catholic families. These families aren’t perfect, but they live their faith and reciting the Rosary at gatherings is a fairly common occurence. Hence, the peer pressure. Since my daughter was only in First grade when I started homeschooling, I began teaching Religion at the First Grade level. I had books and lesson plans and an answer key to work with so I quickly gained confidence and knowledge. There is nothing quite as humbling as reading from a second grade catechism book to your child. Suddenly, I realized just how ignorant I was (am) and how far I had drifted from living out God’s will every day.

I don’t feel guilty or bitter for not knowing my faith. I feel sad. I am part of a whole generation that got caught in a gap after Vatican II. Prior to this council, it was standard procedure for young children to memorize the St. Joseph’s Baltimore Catechism. The memorization just didn’t seem to be enough when the baby boomers wanted to know why? where? when? how? and who gave you the authority? In response, it seems that most parishes just stopped using the Baltimore Catechism and taught more about love and peace. For whatever the reason that it was done this way, the result has been more than 30 years of lost and ignorant sheep. I’ve seen family and school peers all drift away from the Church. When I was younger I thought it was no big deal because they were still worshipping the same God, just in a different way. Some have stopped attending Church altogether, but most have a strong relationship with our Lord Jesus in a Protestant community. So, why am I sad? Because they are missing out on the Sacraments, on the richness of our faith traditions and from lots and lots of graces that they most likely don’t understand or even know exist. Now, as adults we all have to find our own way and I trust that the Lord in his Goodness is leading them closer to Himself just as He is leading me. Don’t get me wrong. I do not believe, nor does the Church teach that our Protestant brothers and sisters are not “saved”. It’s just that there is so much more!

Anyway, I don’t think the New Evangelization is only about conversion of others. It is about converting ourselves. We have to learn our faith and teach our faith to our children. My children are learning the Baltimore Catechism and I am learning it right along side of them. It is so inspiring to me to see these innocent children living out their faith every day. They ask to go to Mass and Confession and Adoration. They are naturally drawn to the spiritual realm and seeking Christ’s grace and presence. Their desires prompt my action and involvement and help me to become a better Christian, a better mom, a better wife. I don’t worry anymore about what I don’t know because I know that I can find the answer and learn as I go. I see all of my flaws and weaknesses, but I don’t worry about that either because I know that God’s mercy and grace await me in the Sacraments and Scripture. I look at how far I have come on this journey and the mountain ahead that I still need to scale. My heart has been reshaped by God’s love and grace throughout this journey: Mass and the Sacraments, The Catholic Family Conferences in Wichita, friends who shared their love and knowledge and numerous books and websites. It has been a journey of falling head-over-heels in love with my faith which has lead to this incredibly deep and personal encounter with Christ. After Confession the other night, I approached Christ in Adoration. I gazed upon Him! I lay prostrate before Him! and I poured out my heart to Him! What an incredible feeling to be forgiven and absolved and then encounter Jesus in such a personal way. And then to attend Mass and receive Him in the Eucharist! All these gifts and for the better part of 40 years it has all been taken for granted–a whole generation was just supposed to know it without being taught. Don’t make the same mistake with the next generation. Don’t deprive them of the greatest miracle in our midst. Don’t deprive yourself either.