By Emily Drooby
Have you ever walked into a church during Lent and seen purple veils on their statues? No? Well, you’re not alone.
The practice isn’t a requirement, so not all churches do it. That is why it might not look familiar to some Catholics. They do partake in veiling statues at Holy Child Jesus Church and St. Benedict Joseph Labre Church in Richmond Hill, Queens. Both are run by the same administrator, Father Christopher Heanue.
“The foundation is from the quote in scripture, where it says Jesus went and hid himself from them” he told Currents News, “so we in turn hide or veil the statues as a way of relating to that.”
He explained that in 2001, a decision from the U.S. bishops was made to let each parish choose if they want to take part in the veiling of statues. That decision breathed new life into the tradition.
“Since 2001, you’ve kind of seen a little bit more and more growing movement to veil the statues again,” Father Heanue said.
The bright purple cloths are put up on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, in time for the last two weeks, which used to be called the “Passiontide.”
Some parishes just remove the statues all together.
The practice is a way to heighten the focus on the passion and suffering of Jesus Christ during that time, when Lent is intensified.
Parishioners of St. Benedict Joseph Labre Church tell Currents News that it’s working.
The veils remain up until the Easter Vigil when they’re uncovered, during the part of Mass where they sing “Gloria,” if possible.
“And the Gloria is just a time of great excitement,” explained Father Heanue. “We are singing for the first time after 40 days, ‘Glory to God in the highest,’ the bells are ringing, the lights are turning on in the church.”
He brought the practice back to these churches and he finds it prayerful.
“We miss it when they’re gone,” he said. “I miss looking at the statue of our Blessed Mother. I miss looking at the cross. We veil it all. So in that emotion, I think we can unite ourselves even more to the journey of Lent.”
It’s a special way to remind parishioners all that Christ has done for them.