So the girls and I have started to wear mantillas or hats to church this year. I was initially quite resistant to doing so because I saw it as a distraction (for both me and others), and I didn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable. It’s been my personal experience that mantillas are an outward sign of an interior “holier-than-thou” attitude. I’ve known women who wear their mantillas militantly to “set a good example” to others, which has always struck me as terribly prideful and self-righteous… not to mention an unnecessary distraction, calling attention to themselves instead of Our Lord during Sacred Liturgy. And then there were the reasons they gave for wearing mantillas, which never made sense to me.
1.) A woman’s hair is her beauty and it distracts from the Mass.
I never found this a convincing argument because there are a lot of things more distracting in the Mass than a woman’s hair (i.e., cute babies, some guy with a really long unusual beard, graphic T-shirts, excessive sneezing/coughing, playing children, fussing children, etc.). Also, as I mentioned earlier, sometimes the lady wearing the mantilla is actually the distraction. This argument led to an inside joke in our family anytime we encountered any distraction inside or outside of Mass: “Putza mantilla on it!”
2.) The mantilla is a woman’s bridal veil
St. Paul tells us that women should cover their heads before the Lord and when praying.
1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. 2 I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head–it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6 For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil. 7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 (For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.) 10 That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head, because of the angels. 11 (Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.) 13 Judge for yourselves; is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that for a man to wear long hair is degrading to him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her pride? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 If any one is disposed to be contentious, we recognize no other practice, nor do the churches of God. (1 Corinthians 11:1-16)
One interpretation of this is that it equalized women. The prostitutes were known by their shaved heads. Even if they tried to leave town and go someplace else, they would be recognized. But, in the Church, with heads covered, all women are equal before the Lord.