Editor's Note: Today we bring you another wonderful piece from Erin Daly. You can follow her on Twitter @ErinD90 and on the web at erinmdaly.com.
A few weeks ago I went to Eucharistic adoration at my parish. I pulled into the parking lot outside the perpetual adoration chapel and before I left my car, I reached into the glove compartment and took out my chapel veil. I locked my car and as I crossed the parking lot I found myself a few steps behind a woman who was also going to adoration. She was middle-aged and wearing conservative garb that is fairly typical mass-wear for women at my parish—a skirt that fell to mid-calf, short heels, and a cardigan. Like me, she was arranging a veil on her head as she approached the chapel.
I laughed to myself a little as I realized the difference in how we were dressed: she was wearing what I would call “Sunday best,” and since I had just come from my job as a youth retreat minister, where my coworkers and I are allowed to dress casually, I was wearing jeans, booties, a Star Wars graphic tee, and my favorite thrifted flannel shirt (because I take this whole “Catholic hipster” thing a bit too seriously sometimes). I can only imagine what an odd sight it must have been for anyone who happened to see the two of us walking to the chapel: one looked ready for mass, the other looked ready for a walk through the park on a brisk autumn day (or, if we’re continuing with this hipster theme, a day of browsing record stores and sampling local coffee shops). On top of that, both of us were wearing veils, which probably made the contrast between our outfits that much more apparent.
For a moment I felt strange, donning a veil atop such a casual outfit. Honestly, I often feel the same way whenever I put on my veil, even though what I wear for mass is a few steps above what I was wearing that day. Veils are “feminine” in appearance: soft, flowing, delicate, elegant. In my mind they pair best with dresses and skirts, which are also all of the above adjectives. Many women wear veils to mass at my parish, and they usually come to mass dressed like the woman I followed into adoration a few weeks ago. I’ve never been a dress and skirt gal, though. I own a few and I usually just wear them for special occasions, and sometimes for mass. But they’re definitely not an everyday (or even an every Sunday) thing for me. It’s another item on my list of things that make me wonder if I’m a “feminine enough” Catholic woman: I’ve never been dainty and “girly,” I keep my hair short, and I’ve never really felt called to be a wife and mother, among other things.
I’ve been thinking about that incident a lot lately, and since then, I’ve been learning that it is not how I present myself that makes me “feminine.” What makes me feminine is also why I wear a veil in the presence of the Eucharist: it is my recognition that I am a human expression of the Church, and that just as the Church is Jesus’ bride, I am His beloved. Edith Stein said that “The deepest longing of a woman’s heart is to give herself lovingly, to belong to another, and to possess this other being completely.” A woman wears a veil on her wedding day as a sign of this reality. Women religious have veils as part of their habits for the same reason. And it is why I, and many other women, wear the veil: I belong to Christ and long to possess Him completely. Femininity isn’t about what I wear or what I do. It is recognizing the unique capacity that God has given me to give and receive love, and the spousal relationship that Jesus wishes to have with me. Any woman can accept and live this call, and one way of showing that is by veiling. The veil transcends all other expressions of womanhood because it is THE expression of womanhood, of woman’s unique sacredness and beloved-ness.
Different as me and that woman I followed into adoration may have been, different as we looked, our veils showed that we were the same in the truth of our femininity, of Jesus’ special love for and gaze upon us, of our ability to love Him and others in ways that only women can.
Femininity. It’s a cool, beautiful thing.