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Monday, April 17, 2006

Why I didn't wear a kilt for Easter

Today is Easter Monday (the day after Easter Sunday for those of you without a calendar). I've noticed a lot of posts on X Marks the Scot are about people who wore their kilts to various Easter services. For example:

http://www.xmarksthescot.com/forum/showthread.php?t=17259
(I happened to have made the kilt shown in the picture on this post -- it's always gratifying to see a kilt I've made "in action" and getting good use!)

And there is this one:
http://www.xmarksthescot.com/forum/showthread.php?t=17257

Well, I'm writing to tell you that I did not wear a kilt for Easter.

Why not? I am certainly what you'd call a "regular kilt wearer." I wear a kilt normally four or five days a week. The nicest clothes I own are Highland outfits. I have worn kilts everywhere from the Highland Games to grocery stores. I'm certainly not shy about it. So why didn't I wear one for Easter?

Simply put, I don't wear kilts to church at all, under normal circumstances.

A little background, just so you know where I am coming from: I am a devout Roman Catholic. I say "devout" because I am not an "attends Mass only on Easter and Christmas" nominal Catholic. My family and I are in the pews every Sunday. I sing in the choir. I teach an adult ed religion class at my parish. And I have a web site devoted to Catholic Apologetics. I'm also currently earning a Masters Degree in Theology from a Catholic college & seminary. So yes, you could say I take my faith seriously. It's a huge part of my life.

So, getting back to why I don't wear a kilt to Mass... I certainly have very nice, formal kilt outfits. That's not the issue. And I'm most certainly not embarassed to be wearing the kilt in public -- heavens no! That's not it either.

I'm not worried about getting a negative reaction. In fact, quite the opposite. To put it simply, a man in a kilt is going to draw a certain amount of attention. Anyone who has worn a kilt knows what I mean. Even if all comments are positive (and they usually are), there will nonetheless be comments. "Oh, neat! Are you a bagpiper? It's so great to see a kilted man. You look so nice! My grandfather was from Scotland. Is that your family tartan? What are you wearing under there?"

This is not that big a deal under normal circumstances. A lot of men like the attention! It is great for the ego. But frankly, when I am at Mass, it is simply not about me. It is the memorial celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is the focus. And if I were to wear a kilt, whether I intended to or not, I would be competing for that focus of attention.

I hope I don't sound egotistical here. I am in no way implying that I cut such a striking figure in the kilt that people would not be able to take their eyes from me! Not by any means! But it would make me stand out, and it would distract people from the worship they are there to give. Not to mention the fact that all the attention would no doubt be a distraction for me, as well! Therefore out of respect for my fellow worshippers and myself, I choose to dress in a manner that blends in a bit more with the general norm.

I suppose one way around this would be to habitually wear the kilt every Sunday to Mass until it became a non-issue. "Ho, hum, there is Matt in his kilt again..." If people got so used to me wearing the kilt in church, it wouldn't draw any attention one way or the other. But how long would I have to wear the kilt to church before this happened? And why would I want to go through that great effort? What would I really stand to gain?

This is certainly not about asserting my "right" to wear a kilt. I'm not out to prove a point here. Frankly, my regular wearing of the kilt has never been about proving a point. I have the right to wear a kilt, and I have the right to choose not to wear one. And I also have the duty to prudently choose when and when Highland attire is appropriate.

I am reminded of an article I read in a Catholic journal some time back, about the necessity of dressing appropriately during Mass. The author was male, and the specific issue was the problem of women who come to Mass wearing low cut blouses and short skirts. The author was speaking on behalf of many men (and women) who find such dress distracting. To those who say that women have a right to dress how they choose, he asks what the reaction would be if he were to wear a helmet with a full rack of deer antlers to Mass. He has a "right" to wear any kind of hat he wants, right? But wouldn't such a spectacle be distracting to many people at Mass? Certainly. So out of respect for others, so as not to distract them from their proper focus, he refrains from wearing deer antlers.

And likewise, under most circumstances, I refrain from wearing the kilt.

I say, "under most circumstances." Like most things, there are exceptions. For instance, I was certainly kilted at my wedding! And both my sons wore a wee kilt at their baptism. So, what makes the difference?

Well, if I don't wear a kilt most Sundays because I don't want the attention to be on myself, that certainly does not apply at a wedding. At a wedding, the attention is guaranteed to be on the couple, no matter what they wear. My bride was in a glorious white gown, and I wore my finest, as well -- a kilt. What else!?

Likewise at my boys' baptisms, the focus was going to be centered on them, and so we wanted to dress them especially nice -- and making little tartan kilts for them has become a fun family tradition.

I even wore my kilt to my brother-in-law's wedding, as a guest. I sat in the back of the church, and hardly a soul noticed (again, because all the attention was up front on the happy couple). And my brother-in-law was especially honored that I would wear my kilt to celebrate his wedding.

Special occasions like the above are exceptions. I cannot speak for other sects, but for me as a Catholic, Sunday Mass is no less special. It is a great mystery of the Church that the sacrifice that Christ made at Calvary is brought forward in time, for us to participate in today, enacted upon the altar at Mass. But it is a human weakness that we don't recognize this like we should. We need help -- which is why our churches are filled with beautiful things like stained glass, crucifixes, statues and the like, meant to lift our hearts and souls to heaven. I don't want to be a distraction from that.

This doesn't mean that wearing the kilt is negative in any way, or not "dignified" enough for church. I think my reputation as a kilt wearer is solid enough that people will not confuse my message here.

I'm simply saying that -- as much as I love the kilt -- it is perfectly fine to choose not to wear it under some circumstances. And you shouldn't feel that you are any less dedicated to wearing the kilt for doing so.

7 comments:

Fr. John said...

Well said!

My sons went kilted to our Pascha (Orthodox Christian 'easter') Vigil, and often to Church for that matter. They don't even get noticed much by parishioners, only by visitors, but they don't always wear them.

For my boys and the celebration of Pascha, it was the dressiest thing they have, and most appropriate for the celebration of the Feast of Feasts.

However, it seems just as well to wear whatever one finds most appropriate. I'm sorry if you got flak over "not" going kilted. I'm sure you wore what was tasteful and fine for the feast. I don't think Easter means quite the same thing as Pascha, though. Christmas is the big feast in Western Christianity. Pascha in Orthodoxy.

Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!

Illinois Douglas said...

Thanks! This has also been my thinking in refraining from wearing a kilt to mass.

It's just not about me, even when I'm the one up there doing the reading!

William Conway said...

I was really happy you wore a kilt to my wedding! I think I've seen you kilted more than I've seen you with pants, and somehow having you in trousers at celebration wouldn't seem right!

My favorite part was when the DJ announced to the crowd that the final song was their "last chance to dance with the guy in the kilt".

I think for celebratory services, a kilt is more than appropriate.

William said...

Indeed! Well said!

Mark MacDonald said...

What a truly interesting viewpoint! Recently I have had the utmost pleasure of showing my pride of Scottish heritage. I wore a kilt (rented,as I cannot yet afford my clan tartan of Flora MacDonald just yet). I long for the day I can reclaim my Scottish citizenship, lost over 100 years ago. But I did wear the kilt at midnight Mass this last Christmas. Of course I was noticed but no one said anything until the following Sunday. I was not there to "show off". I thought wearing a Highland kilt showed more respect than a suit and tie, which I love wearing as well. I intend to don a kilt this Easter. I get plenty of compliments which I did not expect the very first time. My "compatriots" are not always kind but much to my surprise I was well received and told I was the best dressed, also quite unexpected. That said, as a devout Catholic as well (I attend church every Sunday, spent this evening for mid-week vespers for Lent) I feel wearing a kilt, in my opinion is the most respected form of dress as it puts me in a vulnerable position for unkind and perhaps violent responses. My countrymen are not always nice. So, I either rest confident or fear an unwelcome response. Either way, I celebrate my heritage no matter what.

Mark MacDonald said...

What a truly interesting viewpoint! Recently I have had the utmost pleasure of showing my pride of Scottish heritage. I wore a kilt (rented,as I cannot yet afford my clan tartan of Flora MacDonald just yet). I long for the day I can reclaim my Scottish citizenship, lost over 100 years ago. But I did wear the kilt at midnight Mass this last Christmas. Of course I was noticed but no one said anything until the following Sunday. I was not there to "show off". I thought wearing a Highland kilt showed more respect than a suit and tie, which I love wearing as well. I intend to don a kilt this Easter. I get plenty of compliments which I did not expect the very first time. My "compatriots" are not always kind but much to my surprise I was well received and told I was the best dressed, also quite unexpected. That said, as a devout Catholic as well (I attend church every Sunday, spent this evening for mid-week vespers for Lent) I feel wearing a kilt, in my opinion is the most respected form of dress as it puts me in a vulnerable position for unkind and perhaps violent responses. My countrymen are not always nice. So, I either rest confident or fear an unwelcome response. Either way, I celebrate my heritage no matter what.

Mark MacDonald said...

What a truly interesting viewpoint! Recently I have had the utmost pleasure of showing my pride of Scottish heritage. I wore a kilt (rented,as I cannot yet afford my clan tartan of Flora MacDonald just yet). I long for the day I can reclaim my Scottish citizenship, lost over 100 years ago. But I did wear the kilt at midnight Mass this last Christmas. Of course I was noticed but no one said anything until the following Sunday. I was not there to "show off". I thought wearing a Highland kilt showed more respect than a suit and tie, which I love wearing as well. I intend to don a kilt this Easter. I get plenty of compliments which I did not expect the very first time. My "compatriots" are not always kind but much to my surprise I was well received and told I was the best dressed, also quite unexpected. That said, as a devout Catholic as well (I attend church every Sunday, spent this evening for mid-week vespers for Lent) I feel wearing a kilt, in my opinion is the most respected form of dress as it puts me in a vulnerable position for unkind and perhaps violent responses. My countrymen are not always nice. So, I either rest confident or fear an unwelcome response. Either way, I celebrate my heritage no matter what.