In the Gospel of John, Chapter 12 we read:
“Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.”
This story is recounted in each of the Gospels. Sometimes she is given a name, as she is here in the Gospel of John, and in others she is simply, a woman.
What I love about this story and so admire about this woman is how she did not care what the others thought of her extravagant worship of Jesus. She wanted Him to know how much He meant to her and ridicule and criticism were not going to stop her from showing her love and appreciation for the Man who healed her.
In my journey from cradle Catholic to fallen away Catholic to re-converted Catholic to practicing Catholic, I too have grown into a desire to extravagantly worship our merciful God who also has healed me.
It starts as a tug of the heart. Would it be more reverent to take Communion on the tongue instead of in the hand? Our Catholic faith teaches either way is perfectly appropriate and I love how we are given the freedom to choose. I decide to try the tongue after years of the hand and have come to love this way of worship.
Another tug. Should I wear a veil? I have been reading the debates of veiling vs. not and am completely comfortable with those (interestingly, the young women) who choose to veil, and others who do not. Again, our Catholic faith teaches either way is respectfully reverent and left up to the individual woman. I contemplate and decide it would draw too much attention to me, others would think I was now ‘one of those’ and besides, I am too much a product of the 1970s.
One of the pilgrim women who recently traveled to the Holy Land with the Pilgrim Center of Hope had a private revelation during Mass in Bethlehem. Again, our faith teaches that we can choose to consider a private revelation or not, but when I heard this story, it pulled on the ‘little tugs’ I was already feeling in my contemplation.
This woman said she heard our Blessed Mother cry out for her persecuted children in the Middle East. She asked this pilgrim, “Could not the women of the West wear veils during Mass in solidarity with my suffering children in the Middle East?”
Of all the stories from this pilgrimage, why I was hearing this one? What was it about this woman’s story that inspired all the other women on the pilgrimage to buy veils that very day? I took this all to prayer. I wondered what would happen if thousands of women choose to veil. Would thousands of women, men and children forced from their homes, living in caves be lifted up in spirit, consoled and healed? Would thousands of persecutors drop their guns and fall to their knees?
What bountiful grace would God pour down from this simple act of humility, reverence and obedience by His daughters?
I decide if just one spirit is lifted, just one gun dropped, then I should just get over myself and the fear of ridicule and criticism. I also realize, I am not the one being persecuted, or forced from my home and having my city and Church demolished. I am just being asked to wear a veil for those who are.
Still I confess, I am not comfortable with the lacy veils. So instead, I go to a retail store and purchase a plain, sheer white scarf. The first time was difficult. I felt self-conscious, I felt silly and so I thought of that woman who crashed the dinner party and asked for her intercession to give me courage. In the span of just one week, I wore the veil in front of strangers, family, friends and those I assume will criticize.
Each time it has gotten easier and I am now growing to love this way of worship.
When asked why, which is not often, I respond, “Two reasons: I have the desire to more extravagantly worship Jesus and I do it in solidarity with our persecuted sisters and brothers in the Middle East.”
The usual response is an affirming nod of the head and a, “Hmm, that’s interesting.”
Should you veil or not? Trust the ‘tug’ and find comfort that our Catholic faith says the choice is yours.