“The issue is now quite clear. It is between light and darkness and every one must choose his side.” G. K. Chesterton

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Wifey Wednesday--The Secret Life of the Woman in the Mantilla, Part 2

Now, what you've all been waiting for...part 2 from Susan:

First, please allow me to apologize for not getting this finished in a more timely manner. I trust that the few women who are so gracious as to read this will understand what I mean when I say, “It been crazy around here.” I also hope that the extra time I’ve had to ponder all things head covering will make this post worth the wait.

Before I go on, I want you to understand that I am not trying to encourage or discourage any type of head covering. There is plenty of information on that already available. What I do hope to do is share something of the story of how my journey through various head covering experiences mirrors my journey into the Catholic Church.

I think it all began with the old movies I sometimes saw as a child. In these movies, usually set in the days before Vatican II, the women wearing mantillas was as much a symbol of being in a Catholic Church as priests, nuns or stained glass windows. But to my little Baptist eyes, the lace scarves that those ladies and even little girls wore symbolized something much greater. It symbolized holiness and a sort of hushed devotion to God that I just didn’t see around me in Protestant circles.

Later, around the time I graduated from high school, hats came back into fashion and I was content. However, while the fashion passed, my interest in mantillas did not. In fact, it grew to that point that, when our family moved to Maryland, I made the comment to James that I would love to find a church where the women wore some sort of head covering during the (Presbyterian) worship service. When we visited the first church of our list, I was delighted to see doilies springing up around the auditorium like mushrooms.

Over the next few years I often spoke with the pastor, and even more often with his wife, about how central wearing something on one’s head was to a woman’s proper worship. In fact, the hand full of women who wore doilies on Sunday were part of a sort of inner circle that also home-schooled, hosted people for Sunday dinners and even lived together in a certain neighborhood. They had large, but not too large families, never traveled on Sundays and would not think of making any decision without consulting the pastor, who was seen as the ultimate authority on all things spiritual and temporal.

When we eventually found ourselves on the wrong side of the pastor’s opinion, we had to leave. In doing so, we lost all our friends and most of our acquaintances. I also lost, briefly, my desired to wear a head covering, as I had come closely associate it with feeling superior and showing the church which clique I belonged to.

Fortunately, God in his mercy led us to an Anglican Catholic parish where the priest loved us back into feeling safe in God’s house. I soon discovered that, while some women did wear doilies and others didn’t, it wasn’t a big deal. No one cared, except of course the woman who made it her mission in life to care about every little detail in the church from the style of cassocks to the height of the candles. I soon figured out that she was the authority in this church and began to work very hard to keep in her good graces.

By this time I was also thoroughly immersed in the Internet and began to come across more and more information on women covering their heads during worship. In fact, it became almost an obsession for me as 

I read first one author, then another, then another. But the problem was that the more I read, the more confused I became, and the more it seemed that it was ultimately anyone’s guess. Eventually, I realized that the same was true for most of what I had learned in my life as a Protestant.

Well, the priest that we loved left and with him much most of the life of that little church. We knew we needed to make a change, and began to consider going to Rome. However, I still had reservations on certain practices and doctrines—you know, Mary, the Eucharist, all the usual suspects for a cradle Protestant. Then one day I was watching EWTN and I heard something that would change my life. When Christ left the earth and gave the Great Commission to the 11 Apostles, it wasn’t just about evangelism, though obviously that was a big part of it. It was also about authority. He had actually left someone in charge and laid out how they would continue to perpetuate his teachings on earth.

I was thrilled and astounded! Did this really mean that I could stop changing my mind every time I read something new on the Internet? Could I really stop trying to figure everything out on my own and rely on the collective wisdom of 2000 years? I mean, that would really leave me a lot more time for crocheting and maybe even praying. And if this applied to head covering (which, by the way, the Church teaches is optional), what else might it apply to? Capital punishment? Contraception? Ministering to the poor? Yes, yes and yes.

So that is my story of how a little Baptist girl who was enchanted by lace scarves became a grown woman finally resting in the bosom of knowing that she doesn’t have to figure it all out herself.

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