Wednesday, January 20, 2010

New Year's Resolutions Revisited

Last year, prior to starting The Point Within a Circle, I posted a note about New Year's Resolutions on the District Website.  When viewed in the light of the 21st Century Masonic Renaissance, I think it bears both repeating. . . and maybe just a little revision.

I’ve never really been one for New Year’s Resolutions – always assuming that anything worth doing is worth doing immediately, not delaying until some arbitrary point in the calendar. If, however, taking down the 2009 calendar from the wall and hanging a 2010 calendar gives one reason to reflect on past behaviors with an eye toward improving them, then perhaps they serve a purpose.

As Masons, what can we resolve to do differently for ourselves or our Lodge? This list will of course be different for each of us, but allow me to humbly make a few suggestions:

Learn a part of the ritual that you don’t already know. Let’s face it, there are few among us who know every piece of the ritual. Commit to learning a new chair, a new degree, some portion of the funeral service or the mechanics that have always confounded you. If you’re one of the few who knows all the work, pick a portion to hone to perfection.  The new ritual books will be of assistance to you at times that it is just too inconvient to meet with another Brother.

Do something with a Brother outside of a Lodge event. Ask a Brother to go golfing or bowling. Take him to breakfast or dinner. (Your Lodge’s spaghetti dinner or pancake breakfast does not count.) The bonds of Brotherhood should stretch beyond the outer doors of the Lodge.

Invite a worthy man to join.  Your Worshipful Master or Secretary has brochures that you can use to break the ice.  If you truly believe what we do to be worthwhile and of interest to a friend, then invite him to be a part of it.  All too often, men wait their entire lives to be asked to join this Fraternity thinking that that is the only way.  Help someone worthy start that journey this year.
Attend more Lodge meetings in 2010 than you did in 2009. I probably don’t need to elaborate here.
Call a Brother from your Lodge that hasn’t attended recently just to introduce yourself. Both of you will be better for it. He will feel loved and remembered by his Fraternity and you will have met another man you can call Brother. And if you can do it once, you can do it once a month.
Visit one Lodge you’ve never been to before. You’ll meet new people, see new places and have a chance to hone those skills necessary to visit unfamiliar Lodges.
Read a Masonic book. If you think esoteric Masonry may be too deep or beyond your ability, start with fiction. It may pique your interest and give you the courage to tackle a more academic tome. Just remember to keep the fact separate from the fiction.
Visit another Grand Jurisdiction. Though our Landmarks are the same, Masonry is practiced differently in different jurisdictions.
Visit the Grand Lodge in Philadelphia. It is truly one of the Crown Jewels of Masonic architecture in the world and it’s less than six hours away by car. It can be toured by Masons and nonMasons alike. Don’t like to travel alone? See number 2 above. (If you time it right, you may be able to scratch number 3 off your list as well.)
Force me to cook and serve a meal at the School of Instruction.  I mentioned in a previous post what it would take for that to happen.  Let's get to the end of the visitation schedule and say we sat with fifteen hundred, or better yet, two thousand Brothers this year.

Lastly, read the Ancient Charges. Dedicate yourself to living true to the high ideals set forth in the opening and closing charges. Being the good citizen, the educated man and morally unassailable individual that we are, as Freemasons, charged to be.

I know this sounds like work. It is. But those things that we don’t work for don’t have value and we esteem them accordingly.
This list isn’t meant to be all-inclusive. If you have some resolutions I’ve missed, please feel free to share them with me. If you find successes or struggles, I’d love to hear about those as well. Drop me a note at I plan on working toward each and every one of these. It won’t be easy, but I know I’ll be better for it.

I am happy to say that I did almost every one of these things last year.  Each of them took time and effort for sure, but the dividend paid to me in the thanks of a Brother, the deepening of a relationship or the broadening of my horizion made it worth every bit. . .

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Masonic Renaissance

As we in Pennsylvania take the first steps of a Masonic Renaissance, most do so with their minds and hearts wide open.  There are a few, however, who meet the idea with icy stares and an attitude that it will most assuredly fail.  Having spoken at lenght last year about change,  I know that the Brethren of the 54th District have fully embraced the concept and are willing to do whatever it takes to keep this Fraternity great.

As I visit the Lodges this year, I will be spending some time talking about the 21st Century Masonic Renaissance, but I will also be gearing many of my remarks toward our own self-improvement.  Whether it is our attitude toward change, our willingness to help others or our commitment to personal growth, the ability to make our Fraternity better by necessity must begin with making ourselves better.

While you ponder the points of the Renaissance, I will close with this thought regarding the printing of our ritual.  It seems to me that many Brothers are getting bogged down in the semantics of the EA oath; the common thought being that were not to reveal the ritual of Freemasonry.  Nowhere do we say that we won’t write the ritual. In fact, the word ritual never appears in our ritual.

I would submit that the secret Art and Mystery of the Craft is not the ritual, but rather it comes from the feeling a man gets and the transformation he undergoes during a beautiful initiatiory experience. It is the desire for self improvement that comes by simply reflecting on the moral lessons of a few Stonemason's tools. That is the secret Mystery and it can never be revealed because it cannot be explained.