The Masonic Trowel

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masonic matters

Masonic Memorial Service

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

“Men’s evil manners live in brass; their virtues we write in water.”

“He was a man (then boldly dare to say) in whose rich soul the virtues well did suit, in whom so mixed the elements all lay, that none to one could sovereignty impute, as all did govern yet all did obey; he of a temper was so absolute, as that it seemed when Nature him began, she meant to shew all, that might be in man.”
Michael Drayton 1563-1631

“The Greatest offence against virtue is to speak ill of it.” William Hazlitt 1778-1830

Many years ago when I was a young Mason I attended a Masonic Memorial service that was being conducted for a Brother. I didn’t know the Brother, but I knew he was a Mason and my Mentor told me that even if I hadn’t met him I should attend, because he was my Lodge Brother. Over the years since then I have had occasion to attend many Masonic Memorial Services, and also to conduct some of them. Sometimes I knew the Brother sometimes I didn’t. However, I knew each one was my Masonic Brother, and I’m glad I took the time to attend, because it seems I always get something out of the Masonic Memorial Service.

I went there with my Mentor, and I learned something at that service that I will always remember: I learned that Freemasonry is a fraternity that honors work. We are a fraternity of workers. At the service my Mentor wanted me to attend, our deceased Brother, or his family, selected a poem by John Oxenham to put in the funeral booklet, and I have liked it ever since I first read it. To me it says what Masonry is about:

“Lord, when thou seeist that my work is done,
Let me not linger on, with failing powers,
Adown the weary hours – a workless worker
In a world of work.
But, with a word, just bid me home,
And I will come – right gladly -
Yea, right gladly I will come.”

I don’t know if John Oxenham was a Mason or not, but I do think his poem is Masonic in nature.

When I think of the Masonic Memorial Service my Mentor made sure I attended, because it was a service for my Masonic Brother, I think of the meaning of the word and title each of us has – Brother.

Recently in a conversation with a Brother, who is young in Masonry, as I was back then when my Mentor told me what I needed to hear, my Brother mentioned to me about how he’s noticed that many Masons seem to clamor for the titles Masonry has to bestow on some Masons. I asked what titles he meant, and he told me. However, what he listed were not titles to me, they were job names. I can’t say I’ve noticed too many Masons clamoring to do things for Masonry, but I have noticed many Masons who are willing to help, willing to take on jobs, and handle responsibility.

When a Mason takes on some kind of responsibility that means he assumes a job, and usually that job has a name. It might be Committee Chairman or member, Junior or Senior Steward, or Master, but it is a job name not a title. There is one exception, at least here in Minnesota, and that is the title of ‘Most Worshipful Brother’ given to a Grand Master, which he retains as a Past Grand Master. The members of our Grand Lodge, who knows how long ago, decided the Grand Master’s title should from then on be ‘Most Worshipful Brother’, and for all that our Grand Masters do for Masonry they deserve it. However, having said that, the one title that each and every one of us was given when we were made a Mason is the only one we ever need in Freemasonry and that title is Brother. I still remember it; that sacred appellation by which I was addressed by the Master of my Lodge, who as it turned out became my friend and my mentor. Mentor – another important job in a Masonic Lodge.

Some of us over the years will help our Brethren and our Lodges by doing jobs in our Lodge and maybe in our Grand Lodge, and maybe in an affiliated body, but even in these affiliated bodies we are referred to as Brother, the only title a Mason needs.

The jobs we hold at one time or another is not our title, it is the name of the job we have. The job may be Master of the Lodge, and we can then and forever be referred to as worshipful Brother. The word worshipful may be added to Brother if the Brother speaking wishes to recognize that we held the job of Master of a Lodge, it is an honorific term a Brother may use to show respect for the job a Brother has done for his Lodge, but he addresses us as Brother. Whether addressed as Worshipful Brother, or not, most Past Masters I know are pleased to be called brother, and they are equally proud of being your Brother. At present I hold the job of Grand Lodge Education Officer – that is not my title, it is the name of job I hold, it describes what I do for our Grand Lodge; there were other Grand Lodge Education Officers before me, and there will be more after me, the same is true when I was Master of my Lodge, I was one of many who held the job, more followed me into that job, and there will be many more Masters in the future.

When we think of the many positions, or jobs, Masons may hold in Lodge, Grand Lodge, and the Rites, the Order of the Eastern Star, or the Shrine, we are Brother Masons. There are exceptions I can think of such as the Grotto and the Shrine, where they call each other Prophets or Nobles. However, in the Shrine they also say, and are very proud or being, Shrine Masons, and the best title a Shriner can have is Brother, because he is a Mason.

So whether our jobs are Grand Lodge Education Officer, Master, Potentate, Grand Patron, Grand Master, Senior Warden, Deacon, Steward, Sovereign Grand Inspector General, Marshal, or any number of jobs you might care to list, they are job names and the Masons who hold them for the time being are still your Lodge Brothers. There is no higher degree than Master Mason.

“The virtue which requires to be ever guarded is scarcely worth the sentinel.”
Oliver Goldsmith 1728-1774

From the Great light of Masonry = “For you were once darkness, but you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth) and to find out what pleases the Lord.” Ephesians 5:8-10

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Last modified: March 22, 2014