"So, with that understood, is there more?" Well, as a matter of fact, this is only the beginning of Masonry 101. There are several core issues that every Mason should incorporate into his Masonic essence: of course, learning about the Masonic Craft has been discussed. Then, one should dedicate a certain amount of time to attendance at Masonic meetings and functions, maintain current dues status, learn to serve your brethren, learn your ritual, support appendant bodies, show respect, accept assignments and diligently fulfill those responsibilities, become a spokesman for Masonry in your community, constantly demonstrate the core morals and ethics of the Masonic fraternity, share the joy of fellowship with brother Masons and family, act with charity, live a life of honor, and incorporate these issues into your essence.
Learn about the Craft. From time immemorial Masons have worked to teach values of ethical behavior. In the earliest days of the Craft, Masons secretly taught the young men apprentices those values of strong belief in God, support of family, truthfulness, equality and relief and selfless caring for the less capable. These ideals evolved out of a time when the society had no charity for one another. Times were vicious and only the strong survived. Masonry began the concept of community charity and social interaction before it was even allowed. When men were bound to the land and not allowed to travel beyond the fences of their forced labor farms, they yet found means to meet and promulgate their system of values and skills. It was the evolution of caring for family and community that developed out of the early Masonic traditions the values of chivalry and which values were brought to the new country.
Participate at Lodge. Masonry gives me a focus for my personal inner being. It gives me a tie to my heritage and reminds me that my grandfather and his father before him, who were Masons, carried with them those same beliefs in what is right among men; the importance of independent caring for self, family and those who depend on us; of adhering to the principals that hold us together as a family, a community and a society. Masonry gives a focus on what is right. To the extent that one can, without imposing on the duties to God or family, always attend meetings to be among those good men who will continue to sustain and support these values.
Dues. Always maintain current dues status in any Masonic body. This is the first and easiest way to demonstrate dedication to the Craft. No organization can sustain or maintain itself without the financial support of its members. Dues in the Masonic fraternity are very low by comparison to other community service and social organizations. Be punctual and complete with your payments.
Serve your brethren. At the first chairs of leadership, the Stewards, one is expected to provide for the refreshment table for the Lodge. It is not by mistake that this responsibility is included at such an early stage. We have taken an oath to support and assist any distressed brother. However, service is not limited to a condition of distress. To support, assist, aid and help another brother is the essence of the Masonic attitude. We begin the practice with the �Knife and Fork Degree�, that is, physically serving meals and refreshment to our brethren. This is to extend to a general attitude of help and service to brothers of the Lodge, their families and the community. While toiling in these tasks it is expected that one will reflect upon the importance of these duties, not for their intrinsic values, but as a conditioning of the soul to always be of service. We are sworn to go on foot to the aid of a brother Mason, to selflessly lift him in times of need. That's Masonic. Service above Self is our code.
Masonry continues as a constant through ritual. The ceremonies and practices of the Masons have remained relatively unchanged for hundreds of years. No matter where a Lodge is located, its members share the common bond of having passed through the same degree work, rites and rituals and we can depend on it to remain the same, regardless of changes in fraternal government, history or current fads. Masonry is dependable; it is always the same. It demands that we learn the ritual, use the ritual, follow protocol and work toward that constancy and unity that is uniquely Masonic. It requires that we learn to operate in an ordered manner, to follow chain of command, to display respect to the officers and Master, to avoid interruption of others, to operate within the parameters of a prescribed form. In Masonry, it doesn't matter whether a man is a bricklayer or a physician, a waiter or the mayor of the city. All are on equal footing and on the level in the Lodge room. Masonry is constant.
Under the Masonic Umbrella. Depending on how you count, there are at least some 50 appendant bodies included in the Masonic family of organizations. Of course, there are those that are well known such as the Shriners, the Scottish Rite, the Knights Templar and others that are well advertised. There are many others that are not as well known but all of whom serve a purpose to the completeness of Freemasonry. Many of these bodies are petitioned, that is, one may submit a request to be accepted into same. Others are by invitation only with requirements varying from simply being a Master Mason to requirements that one be long in service to the Craft with a considerable history of achievement. Some are available within a Grand Lodge jurisdiction while others may require travel to a distant location to become associated. As a student of Masonry 101 it is incumbent on you to make every effort to research these organizations, to understand their purposes and their charities. One can only plan a life of Masonic achievement if these paths are known and understood. As for joining, although you may be "rushed" by enthusiastic members to do so, it is strongly recommend that one should withhold commitment until the requirements of Masonry 101 are satisfied.
Show of Masonic respect. One of the obscure responsibilities in Masonry is the show of respect that comes out of our Chivalric Order. As a matter of ancient chivalry, we are required to display due respect. One should always respect the Lodge and brethren by being present in proper attire, clean and fresh. To be or look otherwise is disrespectful and disdainful. As a Mason I can enjoy a life of contentment, joy and fellowship amongst my brother Masons. One of the principal tenants of Masonry is that we share brotherly love. It is knowing that that same concern is engrained deep in the operations and functional teachings of Masonry that I feel at home amongst my brethren. I know that I am and will always be accepted and respected among Masons so long as I continue to adhere to the basic teachings of the fraternity and pour out that same feeling of love and good will as I have come to expect when I am amongst my brethren. I am accepted into their hearts, their homes and families without condition, I am considered a friend and companion amongst my brethren and I am a fellow sojourner in this journey we travel from birth to that great temple in the heavens not built with the hands of men. I am so accepted among fellows and friends, my brethren.
Accept assignments. From time to time it may e necessary to assign duties to various members in the Lodge. This may vary from investigation of new petitions, to assist in fundraising activities. They may include help with the maintenance or janitorial requirements of the temple, visitations of widows or ill members or a number of other duties incumbent on Lodge operations. These should be considered opportunities to serve and one should always approach them with a positive attitude and should diligently fulfill those responsibilities. In fact, if one is interested in creating an attitude among brethren that you are the go to guy, someone who can always be depended upon to get it done, seek out these jobs. It can be fun.
Become a spokesman. There was a time in history when Masons needed to conceal their membership for fear of their lives. There were times when it was prudent to keep secret one's association for political or employment reasons. As a result, previous generations of Masons were restrained from discussing their membership. Such is no longer the case. While many in the community are aware of the Shriner's Hospital for Children, most are not aware that Shriners are Masons. In fact, there are a sorrowful few who are aware of the Masonic fraternity at all, and least of all the fact that we, collectively, are the greatest charity in the history of man. Be not afraid to mention that you are a Mason, to freely discuss the attributes of the fraternity among your associates and within your church group with the caveat to always remember never to invite any man to join or become a member. While you can give information about the fraternity, a man must himself knock at the door of Freemasonry; he must ask to join. Constantly demonstrate the core morals and ethics of the Masonic fraternity. Your job is to be that pillar in your community that others will come to for knowledge and information. Prepare yourself and become a respected and venerable spokesman.
Act with charity. Of all the cardinal virtues, none is more valued in Masonry than selfless giving. Examples of Masonic charity are legion. Although by comparison most of us personally contribute in an infinitesimal way, we do yet contribute to the great charities sponsored by the fraternity, the sum effect of which is the greatest charity ever known to mankind. In addition, we support those institutions within our community that makes our nation great. Through Masonry we are afforded the opportunity to contribute, both of our personal finances as well as with time spent in Masonry and in community service for the betterment of our widows, children, and members in the community and in support of an ideology of free community thinking that is important to our country's well being. Satisfaction derived from these endeavors cannot be measured in ordinary terms. We will say, however, that it is through helping others that man most helps himself.
Life of Honor. There is nothing in the teachings of the Craft that is anything but honorable and decent. And, it is the knowing that this is a constant in Masonry that drew us to the fraternity. It is because I can usually depend on my brethren to operate within these bounds that I enjoy dwelling in their presence. It is the knowledge that the same core values and ethics in which I believe and function abound throughout the fraternity that I am comfortable among Masons. This gives a certain continuity and strength to the act of living. So organize your life that these values and ethics permeate all dealings and personal interactions.
Being a Mason is being selfless. Masonry gives us a personal purpose in life. Through Masonry our desires to accomplish good among our fellow man is fulfilled. Masonry adds substance to the heart. It gives a fulfillment in closeness of friends and family with the many associations and real bonding made with the various members of the fraternity. It means becoming a better person while selflessly helping to improve the quality of life for others. It means forming deep and lasting friendships that transcend the boundaries of race, religion and culture, as well as those of geography. When these behaviors, which I refer to the essence of Masonry, are truly radiated from deep within one's soul, when these emerge automatically as the core of one's Masonic personality, then one can accept that one has begun to understand the meaning of Masonry 101.
Satisfied you are fulfilling the requirements of Masonry 101. Well, this is only the beginning. The practice of Masonry is a lifetime experience in which you will grow in many different directions. Once others recognize that Masonry is oozing from your heart and soul, you can proceed to Masonry 2.0. But that is another story.
Be well, have tons of fun and take real good care of one another.
I remain in your fraternal service
Sir Knight Robert Keller, PM
Reference: Certain passages and phrases are adopted in part from Six Feathers of Leadership, c2008, by Robert Keller, Macoy Publishing, from the chapter "Why Am I A Mason".