Warning: Missing argument 2 for wpdb::prepare(), called in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/25090/domains/catholic.nowealthbutlife.com/html/wp-content/themes/canvas/functions/admin-functions.php on line 692 and defined in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/25090/domains/catholic.nowealthbutlife.com/html/wp-includes/wp-db.php on line 1210
Tonsure: Question for the Trads (or anyone who knows) | Catholic Life

Tonsure: Question for the Trads (or anyone who knows)

Do those who want to bring back veiling for women also care about tonsures for priests? I had no idea that it was required until 1973. 1973 folks! I thought this was some medieval monastic thing and never caught the fact that it was required of secular clergy until 1973. ::sigh:: Shame on me and my ignorance.

Anyway, the point of this post was not to once again reveal my ignorance, though I suppose that is always good. What I want to know is whether my more traditionally inclined friends (and no, I don’t mean those who think of Paul VI as an anti-pope) care about tonsures and I just somehow always missed it.

If not, why not?

Do people care more about veiling because it is something which they can personally do/require their wives to do? Or because it is an older tradition? Or something else?

Please enlighten me!

Tags: , , ,

21 Responses to “Tonsure: Question for the Trads (or anyone who knows)”

  1. alison 30. Jul, 2010 at 4:25 pm #

    this is why i love reading your blog. right here.

    • Rae 02. Aug, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

      Thanks. :-)

  2. Joy 30. Jul, 2010 at 6:38 pm #

    This one is new to me, but I did know that prior to Vatican II may churches still practiced the custom of “churching” or blessing woman when they returned to mass having been considered ‘unclean’ for 2-6 weeks following giving birth and therefore unable to attend church including potentially their babies baptisms.

    • Rae 02. Aug, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

      It really bothers me to think of women having to miss their own children’s baptism!

    • Philippus 21. Sep, 2010 at 4:14 pm #

      I think personally, it must have been a way for God to commune to the Jews that women should not engage in marital relations so soon after birth and allow for the healing of their “inside” etc. Perhaps this was akin to not eating pork or even jewish circumcision after 8 days. Eight days is the amount of time it takes for a newly born child to produce enough vitamin K which helps blood coagulate.

      In today’s world, churching is more an act of thanksgiving and practically speaking, as a way for the women to recover fully…and lastly, it is done most usually after the child is baptized.

      Now, today, if a newly born child where to get circumcised, the doctor advises that the child be given a shot of vitamin K for this purpose (since they would rather circumcise the child right after birth). The Jews only knew part of the truth in those regards. It’s interesting that God chose to tell the Jews to not do certain things without thoroughly explaining himself.

      Article on Churching:


  3. practicinghuman 31. Jul, 2010 at 7:04 am #

    It’s always funny to me when people assume one thing about a practice of the church where my lived experience is something quite different.

    The tonsure is a self-offering to God that takes generally what we part with easily in a humbling way. We can’t even offer to God the hair off our own head without Him providing that gift to us. We must bow before Him even as we patiently await for the priest (or for the bishop) to select an appropriate offering from the top of our head. We find ourselves in powerful submission as the magnitude of offering ourselves fully to God sinks in and we wait. It’s a sign of one of the gentlest initiations that welcomes us into the new life stage, granting God power and authority over anything He seeks to crown us with, whether that be a marriage crown, the priestly vestments, a monastic habit, or a head covering amongst lay women.

    The prayers after childbirth welcome a woman back into the family of the local parish community who has been praying for her while she endured labor and bonded with her new infant. She is not “unclean” for engaging in the sacred act of childbearing, but she is a person who has been held apart from the local parish community for a season to engage in the majestic mystery of bringing forth another child of God. As such, the order of prayers for the churching of an infant include a rite of short rite of reconciliation for the mother that her sins may be forgiven her. Some priests require a woman come to confession before the churching; others allow this rite of reconciliation and welcome to be sufficient for a woman to receive the Holy Gifts at the same service where the infant is churched. [Generally speaking, if you are absented from divine services for 3 weeks even for entirely appropriate reasons, then you should partake of Confession before approaching the chalice… the 40 days allotted to women goes often into 6 weeks of being absented from divine services.] Also, the churching welcomes both the mother and the infant and should be completed before a child is baptized.

    Some thoughts from an Orthodox observer….

    • Joy 31. Jul, 2010 at 3:43 pm #

      If she is not considered ‘unclean’ than why the prohibition against entering a church for 2-6 weeks ( I’ve seen both quoted)?

      BTW thank you for your comments, I feel as if I’m getting closer to understanding this practice.

      • practicinghuman 01. Aug, 2010 at 5:13 am #

        The “prohibition” is better understood as an “encouragement.” The 2-6 weeks is meant to give the woman time to heal from childbirth and bond with her infant. Generally, most priests I know encourage the woman to come back to church before the 40 days, especially if the woman has already returned to work.

        Additionally, if the texts about feminine uncleanliness were strictly interpreted, women should not come to church on their period. While there is a canon in the Orthodox Church that speaks to not receiving the Mysteries while menstruating, I appreciate a particular pastoral interpretation of this canon that a woman does not have to attend divine services when she is on her period… much like people do not need to attend divine services if they are bed-ridden.

        For a much better source on some of these topics, I recommend Dr Jeannie Constantinou’s discussion on Orthodox interpretations of Leviticus. These talks are available at http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/searchthescriptures/leviticus_-_part_five and http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/searchthescriptures/leviticus_-_part_six

      • MelanieB 08. Aug, 2010 at 9:27 am #

        I just wanted to add that my understanding is the same as practicinghuman’s it’s not so much a “prohibition” because a woman is “unclean” so much as a profoundly compassionate understanding of the need for new mothers to rest and bond with their babies. Newborns want to nurse all the time. If you’ve got a liturgy longer than the standard 1 hour Mass, there is very little chance for mother and baby to get through without having to take a break for baby to eat, which may of may not be feasible during said liturgy. And especially when there is no sitting during the liturgy, as in Orthodox churches, telling a new mother she can stay home seems like a loving way of looking out for her interests and those of her child.

        Also, I’ve always found it interesting that the 40 days time between birth and “churching” almost exactly equals the 6 weeks length of time after birth that physicians tell a woman to refrain from intercourse.

        Frankly, I’ve kind of envied my Orthodox friends who are absolved of all duty to attend liturgy for 40 days. I’ve always stayed home for the first couple of weeks after birth; but then gone back to church and yet (having had c-sections) didn’t really feel 100% like I was really ready to be back on my feet.

    • Rae 02. Aug, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

      Thanks for adding your view.

  4. catholicmutt 31. Jul, 2010 at 7:54 am #

    Wow! 1973… Didn’t realize that!

  5. Sarah 31. Jul, 2010 at 12:30 pm #

    Ha, I didn’t even know what a tonsure was until I clicked the link in your post. I am a veiling woman, but I don’t do it because I think *all* Catholic women should be required to do it. I do it (in a nutshell) because I think it’s a beautiful devotion and it helps me be closer to God during Mass. It’s funny, because my husband doesn’t actually have an opinion about veiling; he thinks its fine that I do it, but if I stopped tomorrow, he wouldn’t be bothered either.

    I’d guess though, that most of the rad-trads who are veiling advocates ( I don’t count myself as one of them), they’d be more interested in veiling than tonsures, but thats just my guess! :)

    • Rae 02. Aug, 2010 at 1:36 pm #

      That is a great reason for veiling. :-) And I didn’t in any way mean to imply that all women who veil are rad-trads!

    • Aurentnita 31. Jul, 2014 at 8:14 am #

      I hear you RT. My husband and I are coantnsty getting mail from Layton – which is promptly placed in my blue recycling bag. Do your children get separate mailings? I often wonder why my husband and I get a joint letter, since our surnames are different and there is no way to know we are a couple unless you look at land titles to see the house in both our names.The liberals, by the way, send me environmentally friendly emails.Rahim Jaffer, who is my MP, sends me nothing…which is exactly what he does for our riding so I am not surprised.

  6. Melody 01. Aug, 2010 at 3:14 pm #

    I was born in 1951, so I well remember the pre-Vatican II church. And I am going “Huh???” about the tonsure of non-monastic priests, veiling of women, and any teaching (or at least any that was observed ) about “uncleanness” of women following childbirth. None of the diocesan priests I knew from that time were tonsured, though some of the older ones had ordinary baldness! There was a rule about women covering their heads in church, but my mom and grandmother wore rather dressy hats. Mantillas were in use by Latina women, but didn’t came into general fashion until the 1960’s. I can remember going to school Masses in the late 50’s and 60’s and putting a hanky or Kleenex on my head if I had forgotten a scarf or chapel doily. My mom received “churching” following the birth of my younger sister (she said it was not done following my birth or that or my brothers). It was more in the nature of a blessing and thanksgiving for safe delivery. My kids were born in the 70’s and they made their first appearance at church within a couple of weeks after birth. I was also given a blessing at their Baptism. I guess it just goes to show that everything which is on the books doesn’t play out that way on the ground.

    • Rae 02. Aug, 2010 at 1:36 pm #

      So true! Thanks for adding in the pre-Vatican II reality view!

  7. Deacon Todd Carter 31. Aug, 2010 at 7:56 pm #


    Some mentioned that they have never seen a tonsured priest before even though they lived in the pre-Vatican II period. I think the reason for this is that the tonsure among secular clergy was really just a trimming of the hair. It wasn’t the bowel cut as seen in the picture Rae posted. Even today, priests of the FSSP and SPX are tonsured and from the people I met from those groups, none of them had artificial bald spots. It reminds (to bring up another oddity in pre-Vatican II practices) me how in the old rite, the rubrics say that the bishop has to hit the person he’s confirming. But, this does not mean bishops were beating people on the altar since it was really practiced as a little pat on the side of the face.

    Today, tonsure is replaced with candidacy which holds the same theological meaning as the tonsure. So, I’m not particularly missing it. :)

    God bless.

    • Rae 01. Sep, 2010 at 7:28 am #

      Well the picture wouldn’t really work if it didn’t show anything. 😉 Thanks for your comment. It is very helpful.

  8. john burger 01. Sep, 2010 at 5:06 am #

    Well, I was in one of the last batch of our community to go through this ceremony.

    I hate to disappoint you, but I did not look like the illustration you have posted of a tonsure.
    The Bishop took four little snips of hair, signifying a cross. It was hardly noticeable, but I did go through it. One of those ‘sacramentals’ of which our Church has so many.

    It did no harm, may have done some good since it reminded me that I was inching closer to the big commitments that would follow: minor orders, sub-diaconate, priesthood. But I do not regret its being done away with.

    • Rae 01. Sep, 2010 at 7:29 am #

      That actually sounds great. Thank you for clarifying and sharing your experience!

  9. Philippus 21. Sep, 2010 at 4:19 pm #

    By the way, I do love tonsures on religious, for the very reason that it shows them to be consecrated to God and allows them to make that offering with the full understanding of it as St. Paul describes in his writings.

    And yes, my wife wears the veil in Church.

Leave a Reply