Monday, August 25, 2008

Bookmark on My Life

I started covering, full time, on July 3, 2008. I had been covering at home for about a month prior, and wearing a wide headband out in public.

This is something that I had been building up to for several months. I had, in my need to know everything been reading a Catholic message board and came across some very heated debates about whether or not women were still required, under the new canon laws, to wear veils to Mass. Both side of the debate can get very...agitated by the discussion, for reasons that I can't understand. However, as I sat there reading it, it just struck me that covering was, at least for me, the right thing to do. But I shook my head, and thought, no, no, it's an old fashioned tradition. The Church took that requirement out. We no longer have to wear them, most women don't, and you'll just look silly.

But the thought wouldn't leave me alone. So I started investigating. The first sites and blogs I found were all Muslim women, wearing the hijab, explaining how they were doing it not because they were forced, but because God had commanded it. And then they would list the reasons behind the command, but it came down to something as simple as that. God said so. And so, without knowing that there were other women, aside from the Amish and some of the Mennonite branches that covered all the time, at least in the Christian faith, I went looking for more arguments for the continued covering by women in their churches. Boy, did I ever find them. Some wonderful, well thought out, well researched posts and articles. There was this entire community of women out there who felt as I was beginning to feel, that God had called them to this, to covering.

I looked at the classic passage, 1 Corinthians 11, where St. Paul instructs that women should be veiled when they pray or prophesy. That the veil is a symbol of the authority that is over her, whether that authority is God, her father, her husband, or the priest. And she should cover her glory, her hair, on account of the angels. Out of respect. Okay. By St. Paul's direction, women should cover their hair in church. The Church, when they published the new canon laws, left out any mention of headcoverings, which means that it is not forbidden, nor is it commanded. But Paul did command it. So, I fall back to that original command. Paul did not say, "these particular women, right there, in the first row, must cover, but the rest of you, 2,000 years later, you don't have to anymore." No. He said that women should be veiled when they pray, out of respect for the authority of God, and for the angels. Why the angels? Who knows. I've seen some interesting arguments as to what "on account of the angels" might mean, but I'm undecided on why the angels care that I cover. The important fact is that that little phrase, "on account of the angels" shows that it does matter to them.

Right. So, covering in church was clearly (to me) commanded in the Bible. I would start doing that, but in a subtle way, so as not to distract the other parishioners from their worship. I was distracting enough, since I cannot take communion yet, and so there is some maneuvering when people come back to the pew after receiving. This is where the large headbands came in. But I felt, at least for me, that this was a cheat. It didn't cover my head, not at all. But for the time being, it was what I had. While I tried to work out what to do, the headbands were better than nothing.

And while I'm thinking of all this, it comes to me, that we are also instructed to pray unceasingly. Right. I can do that. Oh! But wait, I have to cover when I pray. So I found an old scarf of my sisters, green with purple polka dots, sheer, and quite long. And when it was time for me to pray at home, when I felt the need to pray, I would go into my room, lock the door, and wrap this scarf around my head to pray. But people would knock, they would interrupt me, and I would have to whip off this scarf (so I didn't look odd) and go answer the door. They eventually understood that if I was cloistered in my room, I was praying, and not to be disturbed, but this just came to feel silly. I was not praying unceasingly, because whenever the need struck, if I wasn't able to get to my room, I couldn't cover. This didn't mean that I didn't pray, but I felt wrong about it. Knowing that I should be covered, and not being. And so I didn't always pray when I felt that I should.

Then, one day, doing yard work, enjoying the sun and the weather and trimming our trees, the thought came: I am constantly surrounded by God, and His angels. If He is everywhere, and we are to cover in His Presence, then that means covering all the time. Everywhere. And it was that simple. I would cover all the time, and honor God and the angels, and then, whenever and where ever the need struck, I would be able to pray. So simple.

And so in June I took the plunge. I explained to my family that I was going to start covering, and why. Around the house I could wear large kerchiefs, which cover, at the moment, 99% of my hair, and all of my head. My hair is fairly short, so that when I put it up in a little miniature pony tail it disappears under the back of the kerchief. But I couldn't wear those in public, and certainly not to work. They just weren't appropriate, dress wise. So I ordered two snoods. Very basic, one in black, one in white. That way, they would go with anything, and I hadn't put a great deal of investment into this, should it not work out. You see, I was still nervous, still worried that I would feel like an idiot, or people would say something.

While I waited, and worried, I continued to wear the headbands, but all the time now, to get myself used to wearing something on my head, and to get the people I worked with used to seeing something on my head. And then the snoods arrived. Two days before I was supposed to go on vacation for a week. So I wore one to work the next day. I figured, that way, if it was too much, if it was difficult, then people would forget about it while I was out, and when I came back, everything could just go back to normal. I knew that I should cover, that it was right, but I was still nervous.

That morning, I slipped the white snood on, pinned it with some bobbi pins, tied the ties around my little pony tail, to make it a little bun, and hopped in my truck. I was nervous, but I still felt that it was right. And then, I turn off of my street, a turn that I've taken a million times, and I saw the cross. It was just a shadow, formed out of the pylons on the interstate overpass that I drive under every day on my way to and from work. I have driven past those pylons hundreds of times, and I have never seen the shadows form a cross before, and I have never seen them do it since. A trick of the light? Maybe. But my nervousness melted away. I was confident. I was obeying God. It didn't matter what people at work might think.

But you know what? All I heard, all day, were compliments. People thought that it was lovely, that it suited me, somehow. And all of those compliments were nice, were lovely, they made me feel good, but it wouldn't have mattered. I knew that I was going to cover for the rest of my life.

And I'll be the first to admit that I haven't been covering for a very long time. A little less than two months. But here's the thing: it feels like forever. It's so simple, so instinctive to get up in the morning, pull on the kerchief before I leave my room to walk the dogs. To change into a nicer scarf as I'm getting ready for work. (I still have the snoods, but I bought a few nice scarves that I prefer.)

People that I don't know are more polite, men tend to pause, to hold doors, to let me go first. A random twelve year old at the grocery store told me that I looked pretty. And since I know I haven't changed except for the scarves, I make the connection.

And I've noticed that I, personally, have started to change. I'm...adversarial with men on many levels. But that's a story for another time. The point is, I'm not nearly as respectful as I should be to men who deserve my respect. My stepfather, for one. A good man, a loving man, who married my mother and accepted the responsibility for two nearly grown girls who had been badly mistreated by the 'father' in their lives prior to him. And I obeyed him, when I thought that he was right. But when I thought that I knew better, or that his wishes were just stupid, well. As I said, adversarial. Now, though, I still have the thoughts, but not as many. I think, I pause, I take a second, and I remember that he is a good man, with many years of experience on me, and I think about what he is saying. And you know, he's still not always right. But I can have a conversation with him, and we can work to a solution. Which he was always willing to do, but I wasn't. And the scarf makes me more careful in how I speak about others, what I think. I've, apparently, got the vocabulary of a sailor. I don't use it as much anymore. I slip, but I'm working on it.

Now, that's not to say that I'm done. I would, personally, prefer to switch to all skirts and dresses. But that's a slower process, changing over my entire wardrobe, since I generally wear slacks to work and therefore don't own many skirts. But I wear a skirt or a dress as often as possible, and my other clothes are checked over to make certain that nothing is too tight, or shifts inappropriately when I move.

And that's that. My bookmark. I want to be able to look back when I've been covering for six months, a year, and more. And see how much I've grown, how much I've changed.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Philippians - Not Being Bound to the Past


So, on my very first post, my first comment was one of encouragement. Thank you! LisaM, who runs the blog Those Headcoverings, which I love, mentioned the letter to the Philippians. It just so happened that I was getting to that letter in my reading of the Bible. (No, I haven't read the entire Bible yet. I'm close though!)

I think that Philippians is a wonderful letter. I mean, they all are, but in most of the letters Paul is correcting some problem that the church he is addressing is having. We don't know the exact nature of the issues because we only have one piece of what I am certain was a more lengthy exchange. And all of it is useful, it helps guide us by showing us that these problems existed, and what the solution for them is. How the early church handled the questions and problems that arose.

But Philippians seems to be a letter of praise. Paul praises the Philippians for their generosity, their faithfulness to Christ's teachings which Paul brought to them. And he still offers advice, perhaps in a preemptive effort. He speaks against clinging to the past, to actions that offered nothing of spiritual value as they had been superceded by a newer, perfect covenant. He is speaking, it seems to me, specifically of the old laws, circumcision, keeping kosher, etc.

However, the lesson that I'm taking from this is that when taking the new path, when breaking from your old life, you have to evaluate the pieces of your old life and if they are of true value, or not. I, personally, know that there are habits, things that I enjoyed, that I would still enjoy if I let myself do them, that are of no true value. They are, in fact, harmful. And there are other things that aren't. It's figuring out which things are which, and how to phase everything over to the new way of life without a massive shock to my 'system' that is difficult.

For example, there are certain websites, certain things, that I know are harmful, that I know I need to not look at anymore. (I leave it to the imagination what the content of these might be.) And I deleted those links, and emptied the trash. Good. Done. Byebye, I won't be able to find them again, so the temptation is gone. However, the desire was still there. And I wished that I'd kept the links, and then I 'cleverly' realized that I hadn't cleared the cookies and the history of the computer, and there the links were. Yay! And I went right back to it.

I regretted it, afterward. I deleted the links again, and I wiped out the cookies and the history, and everything else. And then I did it all over again. So, delete, delete, delete. And this time I prayed, I asked God to help me, because it was perfectly clear that my simple determination to not do something that I know is bad was not going to be enough. Thankfully, God is listening, and I haven't had the desire to return to that habit, and I know that it's not through my efforts, but His grace and help.

So from Philippians, I take the lesson that we must break from the past, leave what is not just harmful, but also not of any help. It's painful sometimes, it really is. But the pain is a temporary thing. The goal, the end result will be so very, very worth it. And clearly, we can't forget our past, but, you know, that should just help us as well. We remember the past, but we see it through new eyes, with a new desire, and with the help of God to turn to, so that we can avoid falling back into our old mire pits.

It's probably a cliche, but I like this verse especially: 'Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.' - Philippians 4:8


Friday, August 1, 2008

Inaugural Post

Okay, first post. First blog, as a matter of fact.

I guess I have to admit that this blog is really for me, as I can't picture other people wanting to read it. It's an opportunity for me to put down the thoughts that I have, the things that I learn as I convert to Catholicism. There's so much to it, even though the decision, the moment when I knew that the Church was the true church and that I needed to be there was almost a non-moment. There wasn't anything flashy, no heart wrenching realization, just a moment when I knew that it was true. But after that comes the reality.

My life was not, and is not, what it should be. I know that, and I'm working to make the changes that need to be made. But it's hard, coming from the place where I was, to the place where I know that I need to be, that God wants me to be.

I try now to listen to the hints that have been there all along, but coming from someone who used to mock people who said that 'God told them' that they needed to do something, it's a bit of a bitter pill to swallow. Oddly enough, the easiest thing in the world has been something that most people don't get. While I know that it is not a requirement of the faith, and I know that the Church does not require women to cover when in the church any longer, it is something that I felt compelled to do. But not just in church. The explanation, to me, for why women would cover in church was to honor Christ as the head of the church, and His very real presence there. And to honor the angels, and God, who were all there, present. However, God is everywhere, all the time. Why should I just honor Him in one place? For me, I know that it is right to cover, all the time. And I have been, for about two months.

It is, as I said, the easiest thing in the world. I feel right about it, and I can't imagine not covering anymore. And, as I said, just in case someone does stumble over this, I know that it's not a requirement of the faith. Nor is it forbidden. I don't cover in the manner of another religion, and it is something that I truly feel that God has told me to do.

And I fully admit that I am a novice at this, I know so very little, but I yearn to learn and grow, and any mistakes, misconceptions that I have, I know that they will be corrected as I go.
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