Saturday 9 July 2011

Too Modern to Mantilla

One of the things that surprised me about attending Mass in the Extraordinary Form in France was that even in a busy church, not a single mantilla was to be seen, and I was planning on asking our priest (or Monsieur le Chanoine as he is known) about this at lunch a couple of days before we came back to the UK. 

As it happened, I didn't need to bring it up: he did. He was very happy, he said, to see me and the girls wearing our mantillas, and (gulp!) had apparently spoken about this in his sermon the Sunday we were away from his parish playing Cathedral dodge. He hoped that seeing ours might have encourage some of his French parishioners to consider wearing a mantilla. 

But why don't women wear them? I asked. Is there an association with la voile intégrale as the (banned) Islamic niquab is called? Not at all, he replied. French women simply don't like the idea of wearing a mantilla because they (French women) are modern.


He continued: there is an idea that being modern is good. That the mantilla is not modern. Therefore French women don't wear the mantilla.

Hang on, I protested. We're not talking about the average French woman in the queue at the boulangerie here. We're talking about women who attend the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Who are faithful to the Magisterium. Who are open to the gift of life and have large families. Who home-educate. Who nurture vocations. I've met these women. They're sound. Surely these women are not held back from wearing a mantilla simply because it's seen as being "unmodern".  

But his response was that apparently they are. Modernism has crept into all corners of the French church: this would explain why the EF Mass in France was a bit of a mélange - a dialogue Mass with more standing and less kneeling than I'm used to. And the tension between being a Traditional Catholic and a Modern French woman, means that, at the moment, the mantilla loses out. 

I know the whole subject is controversial -- Fr. Z's poll earlier this year showed as much. But to not see even one mantilla in a busy Traditional parish is, I think, very odd. I feel that the mantilla is part of our identity as traditional Catholic women, and to not even have it on your radar as an option feels wrong. It is, apparently, worn by all women in the SSPX Masses in France, but this hasn't helped its reputation within the EF community as it's linked with stories - whether apocryphal or not - of women at SSPX Masses being refused Holy Communion because they were wearing trousers / a skirt that was too short / no mantilla.  

That was the end of that part of the conversation and we moved onto other matters (and dessert), except to say that I suggested having a few mantillas available for purchase within the parish: supply may dictate demand. Stranger things have happened. 

(***Ok, ok so "mantilla" isn't a verb. Perhaps it should be. Repeat after me: I mantilla, you mantilla, she mantillas, they mantilla, we mantilla...)


  1. I'm veiling,sounds less like going to a bullfight dressed like Carmen and more like Our Lady. Or is that too pretentious a thing to say? Anyhow veiling sounds more British!

  2. Mantilla really doesn't work as a verb, it's too comedic, but "veil" wouldn't have made for as good a title!