This Short Talk Bulletin has been adapted from excerpts of
a paper presented by John T Freeman, Secretary-Treasurer, Vancouver Masonic
Service Bureau, at The 33rd biennial meeting of the Masonic Relief Association
of The United States and Canada in Louisville, KY, September, 1959
How often do we hear the phrase,
"The Masons will take care of everything?"
Those of us who are in contact
with the relief problems of the Craft probably have this statement, or its
implications, thrust at us more often than any other Masonic group.
With us lies the task of making
explanations, in detail, of the obligations of a Lodge to the survivors of a
deceased member, or to such other persons who are acting on behalf of
distressed members or their families. Therefore, with us would seem to lie the
responsibility of encouraging Lodges to properly educate their Brethren on
such matters so that they, in turn, will not misinform their families and
friends regarding the obligations of the Fraternity.
To do this effectively it is
necessary to search for the origin of such a misleading statement, as well as
other similar phrases having the same import. Enquiries are constantly
received as to the procedure for collecting Masonic insurance, paying funeral
expenses, paying doctor's and hospital bills, and other similar requests, all
apparently made in good faith.
Unfortunately, many of these
requests do not come directly from the family concerned. More often than not a
well-meaning friend, a family lawyer, and sometimes a trust company will
approach a Lodge or Board of Relief for such information. In all cases a long
and detailed explanation is required to insure that the applicant does not
gain the impression that the Masonic Order is evading a responsibility or
breaking a contract.
In many cases such assistance is
demanded, rather than requested, which would indicate that the applicants have
a firm conviction that the Fraternity has entered into a contract with its
members to provide financial aid when requested.
The fact that such enquiries
emanate from so many varied sources denotes that somehow, and somewhere, the
families and friends of many Brethren are given the definite impression that
such benefits are automatic with membership in the Order.
Even when an explanation has been
made, an argument will quite often be put forward by the applicant to the
effect that the distressed or deceased Brother has paid Lodge dues for so many
years that a substantial sum must have accrued. Such persons fail to realize
that a considerable portion of Lodge dues is always required to operate the
Lodge in such general expenses as rental of premises, taxes, flowers, postage,
insurance, stationary, refreshments, printing and other administrative costs,
usually leaving very little for extensive financial assistance. Coupled with
this seems to be the general idea that the Masonic Order has unlimited
This erroneous idea of the wealth
of the Fraternity is probably gained by non-members, and very often by
members, when they see, or hear of the many charitable acts carried out be the
Lodges, other Masonic bodies, and individual members. Those of us in active
participation in relief work know that the widow and the orphan, and also the
member in distress, is dealt with most generously if an actual need is seen to
exist. It is doubtful if any estimate of the combined efforts of Lodges and
Brethren in this direction could be made, inasmuch as such charitable acts are
not publicized by the benefactors thereof.
In the Bureaus which we represent,
for example, there are records of many cases where the assistance given in
individual instances has, over a period of years, passed the ten thousand
dollar mark. We have one such case where a small rural Lodge assisted an
ailing Brother, then his widow, and now his incapacitated daughter, over a
twenty year period.
Thus it is that the charitable
activities of our organization are interpreted as being the discharge of a
rightful financial obligation, rather than a voluntary expression of Masonic
The Brother who assures his
family, either by inference or direct statement, that the Masonic Order will
take care of everything, is shelving his responsibility as a husband and a
father. Individual members go to make up the Fraternity as a whole, and the
dissemination of such half truths casts a reflection on the Craft in general.
It is a very unpleasant duty, more
especially when emotional stress is present, to convey the information to the
distressed that they have been misinformed. It must come as a rude shock to a
widow for her to find that she has no entitlement to automatic financial
assistance such as she has been led to believe is forthcoming. Our experience
has been that many widows have contracted for funerals at an expense far
beyond their means, on the supposition that the cost would be borne by the
In our ceremonies of initiation
the candidate is impressed with the necessity of secrecy but this seems to be
carried so far in some cases that he, under the questioning of family or
friends, will impart information that is interpreted as implying that the
Order extends all the benefits of life insurance, social security, free legal
and medical advice, unlimited financial assistance, and excep- tional
Based on pure supposition, and
rarely corrected, he implies that his acceptance into the Order, following a
thorough investigation into his qualifications, is an assurance that all his
security worries and problems have been solved. This type of new member rarely
extols the virtues of membership to the extent that he may be more susceptible
to giving than receiving.
Such statements from a newly-made
member can be condoned, especially if the true facts have not been impressed
upon him during the investigation and subsequent ceremonies. The member of
long standing, however, has no excuse, for, if he is an active member of his
Lodge and takes an average interest in its affairs, he would realize the folly
of giving such impression to his loved ones. Before a Brother boasts to his
family and his friends of the extensive benefits of membership he should ask
himself these questions:
Do I contribute as liberally
toward distress as I have promised my Brethren I will do?
Do l go out of my way to make life
easier for Masonic widows and orphans?
Have I, with the exception of
paying dues, contributed financially to the benevolent fund of my Lodge to the
extent that it is as wealthy as I would imply?
Do I go out of my way to assist a
Brother in gaining employment? Such self-examination would bring a realization
of the actual facts to any Brother so that he could not, with a clear
conscience, assure his potential survivors that the "Masons will take care of
everything." If he persists in disseminating such information he is not honest
with his family, his friends, or his Lodge.
Why do they do it?
There is sufficient in Freemasonry
to make a man proud of membership, without necessity of boasting of premiums,
bonuses, or financial benefits. Such advertising will attract to our
Fraternity many whose only incentive would be financial gain.
It would be well for every Lodge
to ensure, from now on, that each and every Brother gains a complete
understanding of Masonic charity so that, in the years to come, our successors
will not continue to reap a harvest of misinformed widows and orphans.
The Masonic Relief Association of
the United States and Canada is designed to help coordinate work of the
Masonic Boards of Relief of the United States and Canada and assist with their
problems in helping the sojourning Mason and his family. Functioning in that
capacity since their organization in 1886, they provide a valuable and