The Masonic Trowel

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masonic matters

Masonic Musings

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

“Better to trust the man who is frequently in error than in the one who is never in doubt.”
Eric Sevareid

“What we learn with pleasure we never forget.” Alfred Mercier

Masonic Musings

The first account of a corner-stone ceremony appeared in Mist's Weekly on 26 May 1722, in conjunction with the building of St. Martin in the Field Church. The first stone was laid by the Bishop of Salisbury, and the official account was as follows:

“That it being a royal parish church, King George I sent his Lord Almoner and Surveyor General attended by Brother Gib, (the architect of that great pile), with many freemasons in solemn procession from the palace to level the foot stone of the southeast corner by giving it three great knocks with a mallet in the King's name, and laying upon it a purse of one hundred guineas. When the trumpeters sounded all joined in joyful acclimations and the Craftsmen went to the Tavern to drink a toast to the King and the Craft.”

Reference: History and Evolution of Freemasonry by D.D. Darrah

“The work of an unknown good man is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground greener.” Thomas Carlyle

From the Minneapolis Journal – reported in the Masonic Veteran’s Association in 1922

Masons belonging to the regiments stationed at Fort Snelling have formed the Fort Snelling Masonic Club, with 60 members.

Captain J. Bernays Lowry of the infantry is President; First Sergeant M. Davidson, First V.P.; First Sergeant Richard T. Clark, Second V.P.; Warrant Officer C.D. Fisher, Secretary; and First Sergeant Walter T. Aitken, Treasurer.

“How often misused words generate misleading thoughts.” Herbert Spenser

Masonry and Freemasonry – we use the words interchangeably in our fraternity. Sometimes we will say we are Masons, and sometimes we call ourselves Freemasons. According to Brother Albert Mackey and the general acceptation of the word masonry is an art founded on the principle of geometry; what we Freemasons would call Operative Masonry.

Freemasonry on the other hand embraces a wider range and has a nobler object, which is the cultivation and improvement of the human mind. Freemasonry may also be called a science in that it inculcates the principles of morality through the lessons it teaches which are veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.[i]

“We all know a fool when we see one – but not when we are one.” Arnold H. Glasow

In the last M.S.A. Short Talk Bulletin I received there was the most recent copy of “Your Masonic Hospital Visitor,” which is a newsletter about and for the MSA Veteran’s Hospital Visitation Program, and in it is a copy of a letter from Edward A Powell, President and CEO of the USO world headquarters. This letter is addressed to The Grand Masters of North America, and it is a very good letter. He says in part: “On behalf of the USO and our service members around the world, I would like to thank the Freemasons of North America for your tremendous support of USO Operation Phone Home. America’s Freemasons have a long history of association with the military, and many of your members have also served our country. We are proud to welcome such a well-known and such a widespread organization to join us in raising funds so that America’s finest may stay in touch with their loved ones.”

The M.S.A. is a fine organization that does a fine job in serving Freemasonry in many areas; education through the Short Talk bulletins; Masonic Veterans in Military Hospitals through the Hospital Visitation Program; Veterans currently serving in the military through Operation Phone Home; relief in the form of funds for victims of natural disaster, most recently in the current hurricane disasters in the southern United States; and also in the case of other disasters such as monetary relief to the survivors and surviving family members of those who died in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

If you do not receive the short talk bulletin, and would like to see the copy of the letter in “Your Masonic Hospital Visitor” just ask your Lodge Education Officer to see his copy, (our Grand Lodge pays for the L.E.O. to get a subscription,) and he will let you read it. Also you L.E.O. will be able to give you information on how you can subscribe to the Short Talk Bulletin if you would like to, (it is only 6 dollars a year in the U.S.)

If you are looking for a place to make a donation out of the goodness of your heart please consider a donation to the M.S.A. for one or more of their programs. The address is Masonic Service Association of North America – Silver Spring, Maryland 20910-4785 their web Site is:

“We need society, and we need solitude also, as we need summer and winter, day and night, exercise and rest.” Philip Gilbert Hamerton

A Lodge is filled with Brother Masons who promote each other’s welfare and rejoice in each other’s prosperity, or at least we’re told that’s what Masons do. I hope your Lodge is that kind of Lodge; I understand that there are some that aren’t.

One way for a Lodge to promote each other’s welfare is to feed the self esteem of our brethren. This can be done in various ways by every one of us by letting our brethren know we appreciate them and are glad that we’re associated with them through our Lodge. It can also be done in various ways as a Lodge by the Master giving awards when they are deserved, such as: Mason of the year Awards; awards for meritorious service to the Lodge in some respect; and Longevity Awards.

We’re all familiar with 50 year awards given by our Grand Lodge through the recipients individual Lodge and they are sure enjoyable to attend and be a part of. Unfortunately sometimes other Longevity awards are missed, overlooked, or just not thought of.

Recognizing Brethren with longevity awards when they hit successive 5 year marks not only on the 50 year mark go a long way to foster good feelings. Our Grand Lodge has longevity certificates for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, years and beyond. Presenting awards such as these lets the Brethren know we appreciate them.

In order for a Brother to get a 50 year award a couple of things are necessary: he needs to have joined at a young enough age where he is likely to be around 50 years later, and he needs to live for 50 years after receiving his third degree. Not all Masons were made Masons in their 20’s and unfortunately not all Masons live for 50 years after their third degree. However most Masons do remain Masons for the rest of their lives.

Having been one who has been involved with presenting longevity awards for a wide variety of years as a Mason I can tell you that the 25 year award and pin; the 40 year award; the 10 year award and all the rest mean as much to the Mason receiving it as the 50, 60 year and longer awards mean to those Brethren who receive those.

If you want to help a brother rejoice in his prosperity urge the Master of your Lodge to begin a program of recognizing the brethren with awards for genuine praise. The recipients will be thrilled with the thought and the award, and we will be very happy to join with them in their happy moment.

“Whatever a man’s age may be, he can reduce it several years by putting a bright-colored flower in his button hole.” Brother Mark Twain

For years I have heard it said, in various forms, that young men think of Freemasonry as an ‘old man’s’ organization, and that is why it has been difficult for our membership as a fraternity, to grow. This, to me, is interesting and I don’t really think it has much validity if and when we think about such a statement.

Over our lifetimes we will be members of many organizations. In some of them we will be very active members, maybe officers, and in others we will be participants or maybe just dues payers and newsletter readers. Over the years in the organizations I’ve belonged to I would be found in many of those member categories.

Many of the organizations I belonged to as a younger man I no longer am a member of. Some because I’m no longer in business; no longer working in a job to earn a living; so professional organizations or unions are no longer part of my life, unless you consider AARP a union.

My point is that we will join, pay dues, contribute, and actively promote and lead in many organizations over our lifetime, but some of them we outgrow because they are for specific ages; some are geared to working and careers; some we belong to because of a need to network for different reasons; and some we no longer belong to because we are no longer active or maybe don’t have an interest in an old hobby. There are very few organizations a man will join as a young man and remain a member of it for the rest of his life: Freemasonry is one of them.

So when I hear someone say something about a younger man not wanting to join because it has old men in it my answer is; “Sure it has old men in it, that’s the good news not the bad news.”

These old men who come to Lodge; participate in degree work; hold offices; and can be found doing umpteen things in and around the Blue Lodge, York and Scottish Rites, the Shrine, etc. for the most part were young men when they became members and they love Freemasonry as much or more today as they did then. So young man if you want to fall in love with something bigger than yourself that you can love and be active in for the rest of your life, don’t let the grey hair of the Freemasons you see dissuade you - look at it as a goal for you to achieve.

“I speak the truth, not so much as I would, but as much as I dare; and I dare a little more, as I grow older.” Montaigne

From the Great light of Masonry = “For your Love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.” Psalm 26:3 NIV

[i] Masonry Defined 1930 edition, edited by Johnstone #379 pages 241 & 242

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Last modified: March 22, 2014