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I’m a Mason….So am I….Me Too……..SO WHAT!

23 September 2012 5 comments

The title sounds a little negative.  Not a very brotherly thing to say, right?  Well, think about how many times this has come up.  Odds are, if you are a Mason you have either said “I’m a Mason”, or have heard someone else say it.     It’s a phrase of pride and rightly so. It’s a wonderful thing to be proud of.

In Freemasonry, it is pretty simple; be a good person, pay your dues.  Don’t give us a reason to suspend you.  For the most part, it’s not very hard to retain membership.  ….With that said, it’s also not hard to maintain membership in a golf club, hunting club, the Moose, Elks, and any other “sign and you’re in” organization.

At one time, being a Freemason meant something more.  It actually was a way of life, and non-Masons were aware that there was something special, if not just different, about this organization.  It was a big deal to be a Mason.  You could love them or you could hate them, but you knew that when you met a Mason, they did, or knew, a few things that the general public did not.

One thing that crawls under my skin and annoys me more than a lot of things is the glory hound Mason.  Now, if you are educated and wish to spread the light and you have a forum and audience to do so, then by all means, have at it, but if you haven’t been to a meeting in 2 years, or have no clue what “so mote it be” means, then please, save the organization the embarrassment and keep your trap shut.

I think many times we find men who are joining the organization for all the wrong reasons.  To back up my claim, I can give at least 10 instances where a candidate I was interviewing had no clue who his second line signer was, and in some cases had no clue who his first line signer was.  This is embarrassing and causes so many problems.

In today’s Masonic fraternity, joining is probably easier now than ever before.  One day classes and dwindling numbers of active men have led to the flood gates being opened to many men who may have not joined for the right reasons.  In my own district I can see an influx of “Straight to Shrine” guys that give little or no thought to the foundation of Masonry.

Just two days ago I sat at an interview for a man joining our lodge who was given a petition by a Shriner friend, seconded by another Shriner friend, and passed on to the lodge for membership.  Upon closer inspection I discovered both signers were one day class Masons from previous years who had never even been into a blue lodge.

Was this candidate a good man?  You bet!  He was a nice guy? Yep!  He had a nice family.  He held a full time job.  What more could we ask for right?  Well, for starters, how about a desire to be connected with Freemasonry?   The only thing this guy knew about Freemasonry was that in order to be a Shriner and go to Virginia Beach in the Fall he had to also hold membership in a Masonic Lodge.

One can say, but the Shrine is a connection to Freemasonry.  Well, yes, it is, and landing on Mars has a connection to the Wright brothers too.  Without the basic building blocks of flight, we probably wouldn’t have robots crawling around extra terrestrial planets.

He had no idea what the Freemasons were.  He had no interest in Freemasonry in general.  Like most men he regurgitated something about George Washington, and then made a few references to the movie national treasure.  My reaction to this man, who was a good man, was more anger at his signers, and, in some regards, Grand Lodge, for allowing situations like this to even become possible.

After about a 45 minute education session, with questions and answers, I did feel this man to be an upstanding man.  He was very capable of doing well for the fraternity.  My point is, it should not have taken the investigation committee to tell this man what Freemasonry is.

So here we are, a fraternity of men, who, in some instances, have no clue what our fraternity means or symbolizes.  These same men are making more drone Masons who have no clue what our fraternity means or symbolizes.  Then these new men go forth and are suppose to “spread the cement.”  Am I the only person in the state that sees a major problem with this?

When I am out in public, or at my job for that matter, I meet tons of Masons.  I work in tourism and travel, so I meet Masons all the time.  I am astounded at the men who see my ring and start the conversation, “I see you’re a Mason, so am I.”  Many times, these are good conversations, but unfortunately, many times they are just what I’ve explained above.  Men, who have no clue what it really means to be a Mason, asking me basic questions like, “Did you know Georg e Washington was a Mason.”  And then asking me if I thought there is a map on the back of the declaration.   Face palm, shake head.

Usually you can tell right away what the conversation will be like.  If I am asked, “I see that you are a traveling man.”  Many times that means the fellow is at least educated enough to know what that means.   Likewise, if I say, “I see that you are a traveling man.”  And he responds with a blank face or gives me the last 3 places he was that morning then I pretty much can bet we have a card carrier.  Still, he’s a Mason, a brother, and for that matter, a friend.  It’s just a little irritating when all I am seeing is a pool on non-Mason, Masons.

I hope we can turn this around.

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Categories: Masonic, Shrine, Uncategorized

In Jesus Name

ImageHow often have we heard that phrase?
I use it, or phrases like it, daily at my own supper table.  My children will learn to live by it, and they will hopefully teach their children to do the same if I am lucky.  For me, that phrase is sacred and personal.  For me, I believe my savior died on the cross and by His Grace I have been washed of my sins.  I pray to the Creator in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

I have served 3 years on my Church council as Vice President from 2008-2011. My Lutheran Parish had, at the time, 3 churches and, as vice president of my Church’s Council I was also a member of the Joint Council board which governed the entire parish.  My main focus as a board member was to help keep the place running smoothly, help plan congregational and family events, take care of the Parsonage (which given the current preacher was a lost cause), and maintain a healthy relationship among the members of the three churches.

With that said, and to give a further disclaimer, I am not a super, bible pushing, in your face Christian who will stands on a soap box and screams about all your sins and tells you what you need to do to reach Heaven.  As a matter of fact, I hate that guy.  I can’t stand being in the same room as that guy.  I cannot stand being in the same building as that guy.

On my own, I am an inwardly religious person, and I keep my thoughts to myself, generally, unless asked.  On occasion I reach out to my old preacher or Aunt for religious guidance and comfort. I happen to be Lutheran, but I think I am pretty much like the majority of Church going Christians.  (Although at present I don’t attend regularly on account of my current preacher’s political and social ideology being shoved in my throat every Sunday, but that is a story for a different time.)

How does this relate to Masonry?
Well, it doesn’t.  OK, it does only in the sense that I am free to believe all of the above and more, and it does not interfere with anything inside the lodge.  When I am inside the lodge, my beliefs of the above are every bit as strong as when outside of the lodge.  When the prayer is given to The Great Architect of the Universe, in my head, I am praying to my creator God in the name of the Jesus Christ.  The same goes before a dinner prayer, a funeral prayer, and any Masonic event where we have a prayer.

However, if I had a friend named Muhammad (forgive the stereotype) odds are, he would sit beside me as a brother, listen to the same prayer, and utter the same phrase, “So Mote it Be” but be preying on a completely different level than me.  His God may not be the same Christian God that I pray to, but it is of no concern to me.  The message we both receive is that we are both asking our creators for blessings and safety, at the same time thanking them for what we have.  That, I think we can agree upon in lodge, is universal.  Inside the lodge, we are all the same regardless of who we are praying to or what we may call our specific Supreme Being.

Why is this important?
There are many arguments made by both Masons, non-Masons, and anti-Masons on the grounds of religion. I plan on offering up my opinions as to what I view as correct, incorrect, acceptable, or ridiculous, as I interpret Masonic law.

In my lodge, as with all lodges, we are given prayers approved by our Grand Lodge to say before the open of any meeting, at the close of any meeting, before the making of new Masons, for our Country and flag, and at the death of a brother.  There are other prayers, but from my own experience these are the most common.  These prayers are usually started by saying something like, “Oh Glorious Lord God, Thou Great Architect of Heaven and Earth who art the giver of all good gifts and graces.”  Now, I don’t know about you, but for me, that phrase pretty much covers my God.  I can’t say that I have worshipped with any many Muslims, but I bet that phrase also covers Allah as well.

The title of “Great Architect of the Universe” is simple a title that covers “creator” while also holding reference to building and masonry.  It is not different than one saying “The All Mighty” or “The Father.”  These commonly accepted phrases are used daily by many people of different faiths who congregate and offer praise.  “Great Architect” just happens to be strictly Masonic.

Anti-Masons and the profane will always accuse us of being a universal religion, or neglecting the teachings of our religion and substituting a strange religion.  This cannot be further from the truth.  If anything, what Masonry has taught me was how to be a better Christian.  Through Masonry I practice charity and virtue that I normally would not have been involved with.  I’ve learned and used organizational skills that have been an absolute addition to my role as a council member.   Meeting structure and networking skills gained in lodge constantly spill over into my personal life, a major portion of that being my religion.  Masonry is not a religion in any sense of the word, but in my opinion, and from my own experience, it is the ultimate side kick to religion.

What is acceptable?
This is where an educated Mason has to toe a fine line, both as a giver of prayers, and a teacher of Masonic conduct.  I live in a majority Christian area.  I know very few men of Jewish faith, and I have personal contact with almost no Muslims.  As a result, often times when standing for invocation at a Masonic meal or diner the person offering up the prayer will end with “In Jesus Name we pray” or some other similarly Christian phrase.

This has never been a problem where I come from.  This has never caused any hate or discontent where I come from, and even if there was a person of Jewish or other faith nearby, I think it would generally be glossed over and disregarded as a social norm of the area.  While that is all well and good, unfortunately it does not make it correct Masonic conduct to end a prayer that way.

In lodge, we are to be brother and all the same, or “On the Level” if you will.  While said most likely in ignorance and with no malicious intention, whatsoever, putting a Christian label in a Masonic prayer is not only assuming your entire population shares your religion, but also excludes those who do not share the same beliefs as you do.  As a Mason, and as a civilian, we just have to put ourselves in the other’s shoes I think we’d all be a little better off.   So although you probably won’t see many waves being made over it, and it does not offend me,  it does go against Masonic conduct.  Just some food for thought.

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An Overwhelming Opportunity

4 September 2012 1 comment

ImageFreemasonry in its current form is both an enlightening and an overwhelming opportunity for a man seeking to make himself better.  Is that a good thing or a bad thing?  Well, enlightening is definitely a good thing.  Overwhelming is a double edged sword.

In America today, and possibly all over the globe, you will hear different Grand Lodges say that Freemasonry is hurting for membership.  As a result of this we are seeing an increased watering down or qualified men being corralled like cattle into the ranks of the Craft.  For the most part it is not these individuals’ faults.  They had an interest in Masonry, most likely they knew a guy who was a Mason, got a petition and away they went.   That is the way it is suppose to work.

A few things here are troublesome.  Because of the pull to get more members there are increased one day classes, where a man can become a Mason in one long day instead of the standard process which generally takes about three months.

The one day classes are a blessing and a curse.  In my district I can say that we have gotten a lot of successful one day candidates come through our lodge.  In the past 4 years, every single Worshipful Master has been a one day classer.  There is no lack of commitment from the people who wanted to becoming Freemasons.  This is not the norm.  My argument is that these same folks would have become Freemasons regardless of the existence of the one day class.

I never like to admit it, but I too am a one day class Mason.  It is a decision I have regretted since about the first month after I was raised (which in the one day class really isn’t that special of an experience).  I knew I wanted to be a part of the Masonic family ever since I was young and saw the Shriners take care of a local girl who contracted Spinal Meningitis.  She lost most of her limbs and should have died several times, but the Shriners transported her, gave her care, and now she lives as an inspiration to many people.

When I found out about the one day class I was told I could become a Mason in one day, also a Shriner, and also join the Scottish Rite all in one day.  Being an outsider, and knowing nothing about the fraternity,  I jumped at the chance to take part in this “Man to Mason” journey.  In one day, not only did I join the Masons, but I now had a little red hat, and could put a 32 after my name.  To me that was a sweet deal, even though I had no clue what it all meant.

I assume that I am not unlike a lot of men.  They hear about this one day event and come up with a million reasons why it works for them.  At present my oldest brother is planning on joining in our next one day class despite my heavy suggestion that he resists and comes through traditional.  Yes, the one day class is beneficial for the fraternity because it gets many dues paying members very quickly. Yes, the one day class is beneficial to the candidate because he is immediately made a Mason in one day.  Outside of these benefits, the untold countless negatives sit in the shadows.

I titled this “An Overwhelming Experience” because that is exactly what has happened to me.  While I have every intention of being involved and active in my Masonic career as much as possible, I took on way too much way too fast.  I went from wanting to be a Mason to suddenly being in three separate fraternities.  I had no idea they were all separate when I was joining.  I just assumed, “oh, the masons, they are also Shriners, and you can be a 32nd degree mason too.”

While that is a correct statement, many men who have no experienced blue lodge do not realize they are committing themselves to not just blue lodge dues, (60 dollars for me) but also to Shrine dues (75 bucks) and Scottish Rite dues (100 bucks.)  I pay 235.00 a year to be a member of three organizations that offer me unlimited opportunity to be involved, and I do not participate in two of them.  Yes, I am proud of my membership, and I help out where and when I can, but because I am so heavily active in Blue Lodge with a wife and 3 kids, there is no time for anything else.

To add further, what I have seen from my own experience is an overwhelming lack of Masonic education making these other bodies less Masonic and more routine.  As I have chosen the path in Blue Lodge I have learned the essential principles of Masonry.  I have a deep understanding of the “working tools” and I can tell you exactly how to apply them to your life.   As a Mason, we should all have a basic understand of this.  Most members have no clue what the working tools are.   How is an uneducated member supposed to tell a potential leader of tomorrow anything useful about the Craft?

I fully understand the idea behind bringing as many men to the table as we can, but I also feel it could be the downfall of what once made our fraternity great if we are not careful.  My advice for any new member would be to please use caution and be educated when faced with one day classes.  You are choosing to join the Masons to better yourself and help the community through our actions.  If you are joining for ANY other reason than that then you have been grossly misinformed about the Masons and probably should seek membership in another fraternity.   If you join through a one day special dispensation then please educate yourself and read as much as you can.  Where once you were led from darkness to light it seems anymore you are just pulled from darkness and thrown into a superhighway with no signs of how you got there or where to go.  As with any journey or vacation, Freemasonry should be no different.  Do your homework, research the route, and consult a map (or a Past Master.)

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An Introduction

4 September 2012 1 comment

ImageFriends and Brothers,
Being new to the blog world, I cannot say for sure if my ramblings and writings will take off or be of any help in the Masonic world at large.  I can start off by tell you that I have a deep passion for the Craft of Freemasonry and strive to improve myself as a person and a Mason more and more every day.  Odds are, if you are reading this, you too are like me.  I am writing this as an attempt to hopefully help new members become acquainted with the Craft, and also to offer up my experiences and opinions on Freemasonry.

With that said, the views and opinions expressed here are my own, and you may feel free to decent or disagree with anything I write here.  If I am blatantly incorrect on anything I post here please feel free to correct me.  We are all rough stones striving to become that perfect building block.  I am no different.  Help me knock off my rough edges.

For now, I’d rather keep my identity and exact lodge location private, but who knows, if this takes off I may someday let you in.  What I can tell you is that I am a Master Mason in the Jurisdiction of Pennsylvania.  I was raised in 2004 while I was in college and have worked my way through the chairs being elected Worshipful Master for 2012.  I am also a Shriner and member of the Scottish Rite (Northern Jurisdiction) in my local valley.

My disclaimer: Although I am extremely active in Blue Lodge, I rarely attend Scottish rite meetings, and for the last couple of years since I have been moving through the blue lodge chairs I have drastically cut back on my Shrine meetings.   I will cover all of this in later writings, but in short, the most important thing to me is my family, not the Masonic fraternity, so if being a good husband and father means budgeting my time, then my first obligation will always go to my family, and my religion. Masonry and Blue Lodge secondary and other bodies when time allows.

I am also currently enrolled in the Academy of Masonic Knowledge though the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.  This program is an unbelievable eye opener for any Pennsylvania Mason seeking further light.  I intend to write extensively on this, so stay tuned on that subject. This is a free program through the Grand Lodge where the member can earn credits towards being a recognized Master Masonic Scholar.  At present I am a level two (of three) scholar.

What I hope to accomplish with this blog is education.  Education for you and education for me.  What I have come to find out about Masonry is that we are in serious need for education of our members.  Most Masons can give you a general background of the craft.  Some know a little history, some knows a little about the tools, some can recite the ritual word for word without missing a beat, but the overwhelming majority of the Masonic I personally know have little clue about anything dealing with Freemasonry other than they pay their dues each year and receive a dues card in the mail.

Sure, they are proud to be part of the fraternity, and sure they want to put on the allusion that we are this great and noble society, but in my opinion this can sometimes be more damaging than even the most ardent anti-mason.  After all, an anti-mason has no reason to be educated on the Craft.  They’ll say what they want to say no matter what evidence is presented to them.  A small bit of education can go a long way to improve the craft and educate a non-Mason in the face of ignorance.

For now I will stop, but please stay tuned and check back for more thoughts later.   Remember, if you faithfully observe our principles, the world will observe how Freemasons love one another.

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