Tuesday, November 8, 2011

There Is a Season

Greetings once again Brethren.  I have been absent from the blog lately and for that I apologize.  Over the next few weeks, I will post those addresses I gave at this year's visitations with little change.  I ask you, therefore, to forgive such references as may be slightly out of date.  A good example may be found in the opening sentence below.
This address was given at Infinity Lodge No. 546 on April 13th

There Is a Season

Harshness gone. All at once caring spreads over
the naked gray of the meadows.
Tiny rivulets sing in different voices.
A softness, as if from everywhere,

is touching the earth.
Paths appear across the land and beckon.
Surprised once again you sense
its coming in the empty tree. – Rilke

Though the air certainly doesn’t feel like it, the calendar tells us that it is spring.  Most of you know that I’m a runner.  I’m usually out five or six days a week, regardless of the weather, training for the marathon.
I’ve been a running and cycling enthusiast for almost ten years now.  Conservatively, I have logged more than 7,000 miles on foot and probably the same distance on the bike, the vast portion of both being outdoors.   For me, one of the unexpected benefits of exercise has been to be in tune with the cycles of nature.
There is something about every season of the year that I love.
The summer brings warmth and a total greening of the world around me.  Everything seems to be alive.  In the fall, I love the gold and red glow given off by the trees as the first light of morning hits the tops of them.  The smell of the fallen leaves and the damp fall air make every run seem special.  In the winter, I love making the first set of tracks as I wind my through the woods; the skeletal trees standing in dark contrast to the yet-to-be trodden snow.
Spring, more than any season, is always special to me.  As the days begin to get longer, the crocuses and iris start to poke their heads out of the ground and awaken.  The birds return and the once silent trails are noisy early in the morning.  The earth and almost everything on it seems to be poised for rebirth.
As I ran this week and marveled at all that was being born again around me, my thoughts turned toward our Fraternity and the rebirth it is experiencing.
When we think about spring, we seem to think that everything happens on its own – that the plants just go to sleep in the fall and wake up again in April.  But that’s not quite true.  Plants spend the summer storing much-needed nutrients to help them survive the winter and re-emerge when the climate is more inviting.  Animals, in the same way, either spend the summer gathering what they need to survive the harsher months, or leave the area and use great amounts of energy to return with spring.
We as Masons must recognize that every year for us must bring with it a renewed focus, an expending of our energies and a time to plan for our future.  There is a tendency to think of what we do in and for our Lodge as linear; we learn a Degree, get certified and then confer it.  After that we move on to the next.  Or we move through the chairs of the Lodge, learning the work of each station.  We continue to advance until we reach the East.  After that we relax and watch others do it.  There always seems to be a beginning, a middle and an end.
If we viewed our Masonic duties as cyclical, how much better off would our Fraternity be?  What if every summer meant we spent the time learning our work for the next station we are to hold or reading a Masonic book?  Every fall could be a time to shed one bad habit or improve one thing about ourselves as men.  We could spend each winter volunteering in our communities and helping those in need at a very hard time of the year.
Spring then could be our time for rebirth.  We could talk to the people we know and love about how special Freemasonry is to us - and I know that if you are here tonight, Freemasonry is special to you.
I would be willing to wager that each and every one of you knows at least one great man who is not a Mason.  He may be a neighbor, a co-worker, an acquaintance from your house of worship or even a relative.  He may or may not even know you are a Mason, but that doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that you know he would be a good Mason and it is your duty – to yourself, to your Lodge and to your friend – to let him know how much more full his life could be by joining this great band of men.
My maternal grandfather was one of the best men I ever knew.  He worked most of his life as a brakeman for the Union Railroad.  He was simple man with a gentle soul and lived his life with a quiet dignity.  My understanding is that he attended Lodge – even if it was a little sporadically.  I have no recollection of him every wearing a Masonic ring or seeing anything Masonic in his house.  It wasn't until he went into the hospital in 1997, where he eventually died, that I found out he was a Mason.
The Friend to Friend video arrived in his mail.  I asked my mom what it was.  She said "I don't know, but Pap's a Mason.  Ask him."  I asked him if I could watch it and he said yes.  I never had the chance to watch it while he was alive since I was spending so much time with him.  But after I saw his Masonic funeral and was so touched by its words, I relayed that story to the Worshipful Master.  He told me to watch the video and to contact him if I was interested in what it had to say.   The rest is history obviously, but I can't help thinking that if he could have asked me to join back then, he would have.  I am thankful that he is chiefly responsible for me being a Mason, but I would be lying if I did not say I have some regret that we missed out on years of sitting in Lodge together and growing closer as brothers, not just as grandfather and grandson.
I have brought petitions with me for this year’s One Day Journey.  It will be held at the Greater Pittsburgh Masonic Center on November 5th.  After the meeting is over, come ask me for one.  Give it to someone who you KNOW will be a good Mason.  If you would rather, he can also advance the traditional way.  How he comes to be a Mason is not important.  What is important is that you will help a good man become a great one through his participation here.
Brethren, as I close, I implore you to let this time of year reawaken your spirit.  Let the Masonic Renaissance be a rekindling for you of the fire that burns deep within your heart and the heart of every Freemason.  Commit yourselves unequivocally to the ideals of our Fraternity and remember that your commitment does not end with the setting of the sun or the change of the season.  It must continue always, being born anew every year so that you are forever worthy of the title Freemason!