According to ancient Christian tradition, Saint Veronica was moved with pity when she saw Jesus carrying His cross to Golgotha. She gave Him her veil so He might wipe His Face.
Jesus accepted Veronica’s offering, held it to His face, and then handed it back to her—the image of His face miraculously impressed upon it.
This piece of cloth became known as the ‘Veil of Veronica’ — the first time in the Gospels we hear of a veiled woman.
The name “Veronica” comes from the Latin ‘vera,’ meaning “true” or “Truthful”, and the Greek ‘eikon,’ meaning “image.”
The Veil of Veronica was regarded in medieval times as the “true image” — a true representation of Jesus.
Veronica’s compassionate act is is commemorated in the Sixth Station of the Stations of the Cross.
Angels in ancient art are almost never depicted wearing veils.
Traditional art and the veiling by Christian women in the Presence on the Altar are strongly interconnected in Christian history.
Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Jesus of Nazareth, present in a Catholic tabernacle — in the consecrated bread and wine, which becomes the Body and Blood of Christ.
In millions of Catholic churches around the world, Christ’s Presence is denoted by a Tabernacle enshrined in the very heart of the Church.
For two thousand years, Christian women veiled in Church as a sign of their acknowledgement of the Real Presence in the Tabernacle.
Veiling was also a tribute to the veiled ancient Christian female saints and to the great Mother of God, Mary Most Holy.
Veiling went out of fashion in the West in response to societal pressures — 1960s-era rebellion, feminism and a desire by many Catholics to ‘fit in’ with their Protestant brethren.
Today, this is changing. A new generation of Catholic women, unintimidated by the disapproval of their elders, are once again veiling in the Real Presence.
The Church has always been the center of Christian concern about Beauty. But what does our tradition have to say about questions of feminine artifice — veils, cosmetics, fashion? Are these mere vanities?
To be clear, Catholic thought is distinct from the puritanism of both Protestantism and Islam, where women’s beauty is feared for its power to influence men.
In fact, Saint Lily (‘Liliana’ in Spanish) was an 8th century Christian woman who was martyred in Moorish Spain for showing her face on the street on her way to church. She was wearing a veil.
In the 1200s, Saint Thomas Aquinas, the famed Angelic Doctor of the Church, was asked — some say by his sister — about feminine adornment.
Aquinas gives the question a great deal of thought in his Summa Theologica: “..we are given to understand that women are not forbidden to adorn themselves soberly and moderately but to do so excessively, shamelessly, and immodestly.”
In response to those who would condemn women using cosmetics, Aquinas says: “…such painting does not always involve a mortal sin, but only when it is done for the sake of sensuous pleasure or in contempt of God.”
In all the years of our 2000 year history, Catholics have always celebrated real life from the cradle to the grave — and beyond. This includes the God-given beauty of women, and of our Catholic tradition.