Veiling at Mass: What are the rules?

Dear Katrina,

A few Sundays ago an elderly woman told me that the black veil I was wearing at Mass was what you were supposed to wear for a funeral and that white or ivory ones were what you were supposed to wear at Mass. At least that was the tradition when she was a young woman, she said. I had always heard that single women wear white and married, widowed, or divorced women wear black. I only own two black mantillas and now I wonder if I should be wearing them to Mass if they’re supposed to be only worn at funerals. I would say less than a quarter of the women at my church wear veils, but I’ve seen all kinds of colors – brown, purple, beige, green, and even red. I’m relatively new to the practice, about four months now, so I wasn’t entirely sure and didn’t want to be doing something wrong. Do the colors have a special meaning? I had never heard that black mantillas were reserved for funeral masses before but now I look at my veils and think of mourning. What do you think?

Lynda F.

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Dear Lynda,

I think you should continue to wear your black mantillas to Mass and not worry about one woman’s opinion. In all honesty, I have never heard that you weren’t supposed to wear a black mantilla to anything other than a funeral Mass. The more popular opinion is that white is for unmarried women and black is for married, as you stated, but even that’s not a rule, per se. My grandmother used to say that wearing a white veil helped the fellas spot the eligible women and the black veils warded off unwelcome flirtation.

Different cultures have their own traditions about colors. In China white is worn at funerals and is the color of mourning and red is the “lucky” color. Some women in my own parish like to wear mantilla colors associated with a particular feast day or church celebration. An example would be blue for Marian days, white for Easter, green for Saints Joseph and Patrick, and red for Pentecost. Some women color coordinate their mantilla with their outfit, some wear white in the spring and darker colors in the fall and winter. Some women wear hats and others wear scarves.

Here’s a fun fact: women wear black when having an audience with the pope – married or not. Only on rare occasions can a woman wear white when meeting privately with the pontiff. Called le privilége du blanc in French or il privilegio del bianco in Italian, the special tradition is extended solely to designated Catholic queens and princesses and is usually reserved for important events at the Vatican, such as private audiences, canonizations, beatifications and special Masses.

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In other words, even when veiling was more of the norm, the “rules” still varied by a bit by location and situation. Traditionally, the colors were white for single women and black for married one, but now there is no real hard and fast rule.

I encourage you to continue to wear your mantillas and not put another thought in your mind about what negativity you hear. Let her comment go. However, if it really makes you feel self-conscious and becomes a source of distraction from the Mass then consider purchasing another color. A brown or beige one might be a happy medium. There are many Catholic suppliers who sell all varieties of head covering in every cost, material, style, and color imaginable.

Just remember the reason why you chose to veil to begin with when you feel yourself shrinking from unwanted attention. Your decision was probably based on honoring and pleasing God, not pleasing the congregation.

Read more….Dear Katrina, Will wearing a veil keep me better focused on the Mass?

How to pray the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Mary

“As Christ was the ‘man of sorrows’ (Is 53, 3) through whom it pleased God to have ‘reconciled all things through him and for him, everything in heaven and everything on earth, when he made peace by his death on the cross’ (Col 1, 20), so too, Mary is ‘the woman of sorrows’ whom God associated with his Son as mother and participant in his Passion (socia passionis).” (Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy)

Devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows is very ancient and over time pious customs have been developed to enter into the heart of Mary that was pierced so “thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:35). One such custom owes its origin to the Servite Order founded by a group called the Seven Holy Founders in 1233. From the very beginning they sought to live a life dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows.

Through their spirituality they developed what has been called the “Servite Rosary,” also known as the “Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Mary.” It recalls seven events in the life of Mary when she experienced great sorrow. They are as follows:

  1. The Prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:34–35)
  2. The Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13)
  3. The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem (Luke 2:43–45)
  4. The Meeting of Mary and Jesus on his Way to Calvary (traditional)
  5. Standing at the Foot of the Cross (John 19:25)
  6. Jesus Being Taken Down from the Cross (Matthew 27:57–59)
  7. The Burial of Jesus (John 19:40–42)

How to Pray the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Mary

To pray this chaplet in memory of Our Lady’s Seven Sorrows, the custom is to pray the Our Father once and then the Hail Mary seven times at each division. At the very end, three Hail Marys should be prayed in honor of Our Lady’s tears.

It is suggested when praying the chaplet to say an Act of Contrition at the very beginning, recognizing the role our sins had in Our Lady’s sufferings.

One method that helps facilitate the meditation on Mary’s sorrows is to announce each sorrow before praying the seven Hail Marys. Here is the text given by the Church in the 1910 version of the Raccolta:

With this confidence in my heart, I meditate on the First Sorrow, when Mary, Virgin Mother of my GOD, presented JESUS her only Son in the Temple, laid Him in the arms of holy and aged Simeon, and heard his prophetic word, “The sword of grief shall pierce thy soul,” foretelling thereby the Passion and Death of her Son JESUS.

The Second Sorrow of the Blessed Virgin was when she was obliged to fly into Egypt by reason of the persecution of cruel Herod, who impiously sought to slay her well beloved Son.

The Third Sorrow of the Blessed Virgin was when, after having gone up to Jerusalem at the Paschal Feast with Joseph her spouse and JESUS her beloved Son, she lost Him on the way back to her poor house, and for three days bewailed the loss of her only Love.

The Fourth Sorrow of the Blessed Virgin was when she met her dear Son JESUS carrying to Mount Calvary on his tender shoulders the heavy Cross whereon He was to be crucified for our salvation.

The Fifth Sorrow of the Blessed Virgin was when she saw her Son JESUS raised upon the hard tree of the Cross, and blood flowing from every part of his sacred Body, and then beheld Him die after three hours agony.

The Sixth Sorrow of the Blessed Virgin was when she saw the lance pierce the sacred Side of JESUS, her beloved Son, the nails withdrawn, and his holy Body laid in her purest bosom.

The Seventh and last Sorrow of the Blessed Virgin, Queen and Advocate of us, her servants, miserable sinners, was when she saw the Holy Body of her Son buried in the grave.

V/. Pray for us, Virgin most sorrowful.

R/. That we may be made worthy of the promises of CHRIST.

Let us pray.

GRANT, we beseech Thee, O LORD JESUS CHRIST, that the most blessed Virgin Mary, thy Mother, may intercede for us before the throne of thy mercy, now and at the hour of our death, whose most holy soul was transfixed with the sword of sorrow in the hour of thine own Passion. Through Thee, JESUS CHRIST, SAVIOR of the world, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen. 

The Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows is a beautiful tradition in the Church and allows a soul to walk the via matris, following Mary who kept all of these sorrows in her heart.