There has always been a great lack of knowledge among the Craft of the
availability of the Masonic Funeral Service. I have never known of an instance
in which Masonic funeral services have been formally (meaning within the lodge
setting) introduced, explained and their availability described to new or old
brothers. Most of us have gained what little knowledge we have from more or
less random attendance at the funeral of a brother for whom we had a special
fondness and/or respect.
In the litany of the Masonic service
this phrase occurs: “At the request of our deceased brother, we have
assembled…”, etc. Too often we have failed, through our ignorance of its
availability, to communicate our desires to those who will be left in charge
of our remains. It is a certainty that when lodge secretaries (or Masters)
contact the families of a deceased brother, they are more often than not
confronted by a family with a nearly total lack of knowledge of the service
itself or of the true desire of the brother regarding its use.
Masonic funeral services are available
to any and all Master Masons in good standing. The desire for such services
must be communicated to the Worshipful Master of the lodge of which the
brother was a member prior to his death, or by his next of kin. In the case of
a sojourning brother, the lodge having jurisdiction in the area where the
deceased brother resided, can and will perform Masonic services as a courtesy
to that deceased brother and his family. Details of confirming the deceased
good standing are generally handled by lodge secretaries, thereby imposing no
undue burden on the party making the request. Masonic services are completely
non-sectarian in nature, just as are the ceremonies of the various degrees.
They may stand alone, as a complete service, or be used in addition to the
regular services of whatever church may have been the deceased brother's
General instructions for the conduct
of Masonic funeral services may be found in the Florida Masonic Monitor (Blue
book) or the Official Florida Monitor (tan pocket edition). These are
considered guidelines only.
The Worshipful Master (or the brother
so designated for the occasion) is given a measure of discretion, as the
physical limitations, weather and other factors may make strict adherence to
the rules an impossibility. Common sense and the dignity and solemnity of the
occasion should govern.
Masonic funeral services may be
performed in a chapel, in a home, in a church or in a lodge room, as well as
at the grave site, though the latter is much preferred. A form of service is
also available in the case of a brother’s cremation. In each case, certain
modifications are made to the litany in order to fit the circumstances. To
repeat however, the grave site service is much to be preferred, and should be
recommended whenever possible.
Not too many years ago in this
jurisdiction (Florida) it was necessary to assemble (for each funeral) in the
lodge room, open a lodge (in the Master Mason Degree), recess to the cemetery
for the service, then return to the lodge room for the closing ceremony. This
proved to be a considerable hardship on many brothers who needed extra time
off from their work, had great distances to travel or were otherwise
inconvenienced. So today we open a Funeral Lodge on January 1st (or as soon
thereafter as practical), and close that lodge on December 31st, recessing
between assemblies and keeping minutes of each service.
Need you be reminded, Brethren, that
the legend (if such it be) of Blue Lodge Masonry culminates in the death of a
great and good man who lived his life in such a manner that his spirit might
dwell forever in “that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens”? How
appropriate it is then that Masonry should provide for us, the living, an
opportunity to pay our respects to the memory of a deceased friend and
Brother, and to reflect on the necessity of preparing ourselves for that final
journey to the land where our fathers have gone before us.
Finally, remember that a Masonic
Funeral Service is one of the very few times that we, as Freemasons, have the
opportunity to present ourselves before the public. How important it is then
that we present ourselves in the most favorable light and in a manner that
will elicit a very positive opinion of our Order, the men who comprise its
membership, and the principles on which they stand.