This morning a woman in a veiling group I belong to on Facebook asked why veils were still required at First Communions, but not every time we attend Mass. I have to say it's a great question, and I've been pondering this all day.
First Communions, like weddings, are special occasions. While technically the Church no longer requires that women wear a veil, for First Communions and weddings, it's expected and strongly encouraged. What little girl doesn't dream of her wedding, the dress, the veil, the groom - Prince Charming? And for Catholic little girls, their First Holy Communion - when they also get to wear a beautiful dress and veil? To look like a mini-bride? Is there a Prince Charming at First Communion? Read on.
Let's first take a look at why wearing a veil went by the wayside. For almost 2000 years, Catholic women wore a veil any time they were in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Then, almost overnight, in the late 1960's, early 1970's, the veils were gone. This is key: the 1960's and 70's - a time of great social turmoil. Feminism became synonymous with doing away with anything that would show women are different from men. The veil (it oppresses women), chivalry (I can open my own door, thank you!), motherhood (who wants more than two children, it will ruin your career). To quote Dr. Alice von Hildebrand:
" Now the … feminists after Vatican II suddenly “discovered” that when women go to Church veiled, it is a sign of their inferiority. The man takes off his hat and the woman puts on a veil. My goodness, how they have lost the sense of the supernatural. Veiling indicates sacredness and it is a special privilege of the woman that she enters church veiled."
In analyzing further, we see that it's an attempt to undermine the Eucharist - Christ made present. How so?
Step 1: If wearing a veil oppresses you, you have to remove that yoke! "Don't let them oppress you, take off that veil and you will see!" Chilling parallel to the "eat the apple and you will see like God sees". Also parallel to the "gospel of prosperity" that certain Protestant pastors promote: "personal empowerment", "visualize what you want and declare it to be yours", and so on.
Step 2: If enough women do away with their veils, it shows that the Mass is nothing special. There is nothing there to make us do anything different. It's just another place that we go to for - what?
Step 3: Once we lose sight of why we attend Mass, we start finding other reasons for being there. The social interaction, the cute guys at Mass, the donuts afterwards - you get what I'm saying! And if Mass is nothing special, I can wear whatever I want. Except a veil, of course!
Step 4: Pretty soon we find ourselves thinking: "Why does Mass take so long? Thank God there are extraordinary ministers to speed things along! Come on, dude, I'm not sticking my tongue out, I'll look stupid. Right here, in my hand. Oops, I dropped it, can I have another one?"
Can you see what is happening here? ME, ME, ME. It's not about Jesus any more. Jesus, who died on the Cross to save us, is moved aside (quite literally in some parishes), because it's all about ME!
Let me share a true story with you. My family once attended Mass at a parish several miles away, for my nephew's baptism. When it came time for communion, Father distributed the host and wine vessels to the EMHCs and walked out of the sanctuary. People started going up for communion, and suddenly a screen was lowered above the altar and a video of Father's latest mission trip to El Salvador started playing, and the "band" started playing catchy soft rock music, electric guitars and drums and all! Father returned to the sanctuary and sat down, waiting for communion - and the video - to be over.
During the most important part of the Mass, during the time when we are to be in silent prayer, receiving the body and blood of Christ, the Holy Eucharist. Nope, Christ wasn't deemed that important - after all, helping others is Christ-like, right?
"My goodness, how they have lost the sense of the supernatural." Absolutely. What did Dr. Alice von Hildebrand mean by that sentence? Here is another quote from her:
"You see the Church recognises things so profoundly that in some way you can say she has always recognised the special dignity granted to women. You cannot be a Christian and not recognise the privilege that it is to be a woman, because the most perfect of all creatures, the only creature born without original sin, is a woman and therefore once again you understand the extraordinary privilege of being one and having this image of the Holy Virgin, who was both Virgin and Mother and the two go beautifully together.”
Did you get that? There is a special dignity granted to women. Women are special. Here is more:
"God creates a new human soul, totally new, which never existed before. Where? In the mystery of the female body. This is where the soul is conceived. It has nothing to do with the husband. The husband is out of the game at this point and the very moment that God creates a soul he implies that there is a special contact between God and the female body, so to speak, touching it in creating it. Once again, what an extraordinary privilege."
Women have privileges from God that men don't have. God touches a woman's body when He creates a new life. Let that sink in.
"And this is why the female body should be veiled because everything which is sacred calls for veiling. When Moses came down form Mount Sinai, he veiled his face. Why did he veil his face? Because he had spoken to God and at that very moment there was a sacredness that called for veiling."
"Veiling indicates sacredness and it is a special privilege of the woman that she enters church veiled."
So back to First Communions weddings, and veils. And the question: "Is there a Prince Charming at First Communion?" Of course there is! During communion, we receive Christ, and First Communion is the first time we receive Him! Why do we wear a veil for a wedding? Well, marriage is a sacrament and there are 3 persons present for it: bride, groom and Christ. A woman wearing a veil at her wedding underscores the supernatural nature of the sacrament. In 1 Cor 11:3, we see God's hierarchy spelled out for us:
But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and a husband the head of his wife, and God the head of Christ.
Notice it doesn't say "a man is the head of a woman." No, it specifically says "husband" and "wife". It says that "Christ is the head of every man" (emphasis mine), but then changes to "a husband the head of his wife" (emphasis mine). Notice it doesn't say that any man or every man is the head of all women, or of any woman. Husband and wife.
The feminists Dr. von Hildebrand spoke of would have us believe this is the hierarchy:
When in reality, it is this:
Pretty simple and straightforward. Let's also not forget that Ephesians 5: 25 says:
In other words, husbands should be ready to die for their wives. Hardly an oppressive move!
So to answer the question of why veils at First Communions and weddings are way more common than at Mass, the truth is I don't know why. Perhaps, in our fallen nature, when receiving these "once-in-a-lifetime" sacraments, we are able to subconsciously grasp their supernatural nature. Having allowed the Eucharist to become commonplace in our minds means we no longer see it as "special", when in reality:
CCC 1324: "The Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life."136 "The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch."137
"The other sacraments...are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it". In other words, the Eucharist is THE most important sacrament! The "source" and "summit", the "Alpha" and the "Omega". In other words, Christ. And it makes sense that if we veil for these "special occasions", we should have even more reason to veil anytime the Blessed Sacrament - our Prince Charming, Christ himself - is present.