Stopping By The Lodge On A Rainy Evening

by Wor. Brother Frederic L. Milliken

I left Tuesday’s Lodge Meeting on a high  not induced by alcohol nor anything swallowed internally but by the actions of my Lodge and what transpired within.  We have three candidates going through the degrees and they are now Fellowcrafts.  Now I have outlined before what transpires in my Lodge in bringing men through the degrees but a short repeat is in order as new visitors to this wonderful website are a frequent occurrence.

In my Lodge the average time for candidates to complete the three degrees is between 6 months and one year.  Now in many other PHA Lodges and in Mainstream Masonry it is usually three months.  I would say that is because most Lodges hand out a small book which requires candidates to know the answers to the questions therein and to recite their Obligation from memory.

But my Lodge is different. You see that little book that is given candidates is only concerned with the first section of each degree what many call the Obligation part. But in my Lodge the candidates are required to also answer questions on the second section of the first two degrees and the second and third sections of the third degree.  That means that they must know the lectures, what they say and what they mean and how they might be applied to daily life. But that’s not all.  They must also know what the Biblical references are to all parts of each degree. As an example every candidate who goes through the degrees in my Lodge knows the genealogical history of Boaz who we meet in the Book of Ruth. But that’s not all.  In addition candidates must know how politics, religion and community blend in the light of Masonic morality and responsibility.

There is no way that  this type of learning can be accomplished in one month for each degree.  In fact all candidates in my Lodge must after receiving a degree return to the Lodge for an hour or more of questioning, not once, not twice but three, four or even five times – FOR EACH DEGREE.  And candidates only proceed to the next degree when a vote of the Lodge deems them worthy to proceed.

Bearing all that in mind the Communication last Tuesday was a Business Meeting and Questioning of  three Fellowcraft  Brothers who had endured two previous Fellowcraft questioning sessions.  Here is what I heard.

The Worshipful Master asked them if they had learned Invictus.  Now stop right here and ask yourself if you have ever heard a Worshipful Master ask that question of any candidates you have witnessed in your Masonic life.  Then tell me if you know what Invictus is.

Invictus

by William Ernest Henley; 1849-1903

 
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeons of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,

 
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.

They recited the poem in unison, word for word without hesitation.  Then the Worshipful Master asked each of the three what the poem meant.  There followed a discussion of  what each thought and what the Worshipful Master and the rest of the Lodge could add as a lesson to be learned.

Next the worhipful Master asked the three if they they knew “If.”  While some of you may have by this time followed the way this post is going to pick up on what “If” is, I don’t  blame many who are still in the dark because I did not instantly recognize it myself………………until the first verse was read.  The key clue here is Rudyard Kipling.

IF
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream -
and not make dreams your master;
If you can think -
and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

The three Fellowcrafts stumbled and stopped, and resumned a few times but they got it all in. Then the Worshipful Master asked each of the three what the poem meant.     There followed a discussion of  what each thought and what the Worshipful Master and the rest of the Lodge could add as a lesson to be learned.

Then the Worshipful Master asked the three if they had learned  “The Bridge Builder.”  And they all said they had not.  They were then informed by the Worshipful Master that the Lodge would hear their recitition of that poem at the next meeting.  There followed a discussion of where the three were in their journey and they were asked if they had any questions.  When all was said and done the three Fellowcrafts gave their salutations and proceeded to retire from the Lodge.

THE BRIDGE BUILDER

An old man, going a lone highway,
Came at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast and deep and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim-
That sullen stream had no fears for him;
But he turned, when he reached the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting strength in building here.
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again must pass this way.
You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build you the bridge at the eventide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head.
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followeth after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him
.
 

The three Fellowcraft were on their way out of the Lodge when Past Master Walker played the best imitation of Columbo I have seen live.  “Just one more thing,” he chortled before they could reach the door.  “Who was Mary’s Father,” he asked.  Of course y’all know the answer to that question, don’t you?

 

         

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