Guidelines for wearing the Maltese cross
When you display the cross, you are taking on board quite a bit of responsibility — and it should not be taken lightly
They say not to judge a book by its cover, but that is exactly what we do. We look at the picture, read the synopsis on the jacket, maybe a review or two on the back and try to decide if the hundreds of pages inside are worth our time. The same can be said for people.
We look at their dress, the way they carry themselves, how well they speak and their overall physical appearance. All these factors allow us to determine if the person would be a match to our own principles, beliefs and ideals. By judging their outside, we make assumptions about their inside and determine if we're ready to commit to learning more about them.
Often times seeing a religious icon, band logo or similar outward symbols can indicate a higher likelihood of a successful friendship or, at least, conversation.
When I see a Maltese cross on someone's shirt, hat or jacket, I know they're a part of the fire service and I'll often take a moment to introduce myself to one of my brethren.
The Maltese cross is the modern version of the cross worn by the Knights of Malta, a group of soldiers charged with protecting crusaders and people on their religious pilgrimage to the Holy Land long, long ago. They built hospitals and protected the caravans of travelers. When the local peoples developed what can now be called firebombs, it was the Knights of Malta who, legend tells us, dropped their swords to rescue the travelers from the flames.
Skip ahead a few thousand years and now the cross proudly worn by those men can be embroidered onto a thong bikini. Why not? Right?
When you display the cross, you are taking on board quite a bit of responsibility and it should not be taken lightly. When you pull on your firefighter hoodie and head for the bar, you're not just showing off for you and your community, but each and every one of us who wear the cross as well.
With that in mind, follow these simple guidelines on when, and how, to wear the cross.
The cross should not accompany vulgar language or profanity at any times, nor should it accompany you on any activity that will bring ill will toward the fire service. Show respect to those who wore it before you. If you have any doubt about your activities, reconsider your choice of garment and leave the cross and what it stands for at home. (We'll skip over the part where you're doing something not worthy of displaying the cross.)
You can call me old fashioned, or say that this is all overkill. “It's just a symbol, Justin. Who cares?”
When someone looks at you and your activities, they see that cross. They may not understand the history behind it or the tradition it represents, but they know it means fire department. Now everything you do says to them, “This is how firefighters are.” They've seen your cover and are making a judgment on not just you, but on all of us who wear that cross. Who cares?
I care. And so should you.
This article, originally published on January 3, 2015, has been updated.