WHEN I RAISE MY SON

MASONRY IN MANITOBA -  1954

by Carl H. Claudy

Soon I am to raise my son to the Sublime Degree of Master
Mason. I have gone over and over the ritual. It must be well-
learned, second-nature. Instructing him in the work of the
first two degrees, I have tried to impress on him that ritual is
important, its truths far more so than its words. Yet even if
the spirit giveth life, still there must be a body - and the body
of good ritual I want him to regard highly. So I must not fail
him.

I have prepared him, insofar as is right, for what he will
experience tonight. I have tried to make him see that this is a
solemn and a beautiful thing he does; that it is a great
responsibility we take.

In imagination I see him, kneeling as we all have knelt,
saying the dear old words we have all said, taking upon his
heart and conscience the obligations of brotherhood we
have all assumed. But the picture blurs; is it my grown son
who thus travels the way of initiation? If so, whose is that
curly head that marches beside him? What are golden
ringlets doing in a Masonic lodge?

The first time he ever met me at the garden gate; long, long
journey for little feet just learning to walk. How proud he was
that he had toddled all of twenty feet without falling! Many
times since he has met me; now with a wooly lamb, then
with a tin fire engine, later with a resigned kitten clutched
tightly to small breast. When real knickers replaced the
rompers of baby days he came running with a dog barking at
his heels-and always with the joyous shout of "Daddy, my
Daddy!".

Tonight he learns to approach the East as a Master Mason -
will that cry still be on his lips? My little lad is all grown up ....

I think again of the ritual and the Five Points of Fellowship.

All his life a father goes on foot to serve his son's small
whims as his essential needs. Tonight I am to go with him on
foot once more, to guide and show the way. But he is a man,
now, to find his own road.

Many times upon my knees I have petitioned the Great
Architect for him; selfless prayers for his welfare, and for my
own guidance that his groping feet might find the way.
Tonight he must pray for himself.

I have kept his secrets; aye, from the day he confessed to
the stolen jam, unknowing that it was spread large across his
lips, through the years when pranks less innocent brought
boyish trouble, to that hour when he introduced me to his
girl. Soon it will be others who must keep his secrets.

To support one's children is the duty of all parents; let me
make no claim for credit there. Yet the symbolism of the Five
Points is so carried out. Do all fathers, I wonder, feel a sense
of loss when they need no longer stretch forth a hand to
support a child?

How often have I given him good counsel! Too often,
perhaps - one makes no headway lecturing. They must all
learn for themselves, these young men. Tonight I will tell him
what it means, Masonically, to counsel and to warn of
impending danger. But will it mean much to him who has had
always counsel and warning from me?

I will raise him from a dead level to a living perpendicular. As
I picture the brethren standing, the room still, that none miss
a word of the dramatic moment, I see another raising. That
room is hushed, too, as will be the lodge room. He lies at
length, his eyes closed, and pale, as he may be tonight.
There is a crowd present, too, an unseen gathering with
rustling wings. We do not know, his mother, the nurse, the
doctor and I, whether he will go with them or not.

Oh, terrible hour! Hour which almost every parent has
known, dread minutes which teach him the relative value of
his own life and that of his boy - moment when a father's
soul is sicker than the wasted body which lies before him.

The doctor raised him, literally, from death to life. The
dreaded membranes were cut - the breath whistled in his
lungs again, and the ultimate Gethsemane of fatherhood
receded.

I will not think of that tonight. I would raise my son as
impersonally as the Worshipful Master will raise another
candidate.

They will tell my boy many things tonight; he will learn of the
Three Steps, of the All Seeing Eye; the meaning of the Hour
Glass and the Scythe. I must keep my mind on what I am to
do and to say , not upon what I will think.

The brethren who will crowd the room will not wholly
understand. To them it is but another good young man
becoming a member of the Ancient Craft. To me it is my son
becoming my brother - Oh, strange relationship!

And yet, how dear to the heart, this sonship of a brother,
how queer, this brotherhood of a son. As if positions were
reversed and I the son and he the father! As I say over and
over the words so familiar they have lost their meaning and
become but sounds which do not interfere with thoughts, I
know that he has taught me more than I have taught him.

We learn only by experience, not by precept. I have been
only precept to him-he has been a long and lovely
experience to me. From my son I learned the meaning of life,
the reason for existence; in the slang of the day, he has
taught me "what it is all about."

What have I taught him?

I do not know. I know what he is, but doubtless he would
have become that without me. But I could not have become
myself without him. He has taught me self-control, the joy of
unselfish effort, the meaning of hope and fear. Through him I
have learned a new conception of religion, a higher idea of
brotherhood, a greater knowledge of Freemasonry.

"My brother, I am happy to meet you . . . ." How strange it
will be to greet him thus, as if we were strangers.
Masonically we are; he is yet but a Fellowcraft who tonight
must travel the road over which we all have gone. My heart
will beat faster but I shall not let my voice tremble.

Tonight my son graduates from boyhood into manhood, from
a Fellowcraft into a Master Mason. I see him as he
graduated before; first, from his grade school to High School.
President of his little class, he was; so serious, so important,
so impressed with the solemnity of the occasion! His diploma
hangs on the wall of his room, its ribbons a little faded, its ink
a little pale with the years. Next to it, is that newer, fresher
diploma, certifying that he has completed four years in High
School. He was not president of that class, just one of the
large group. But the applause when he passed across the
platform was loud and long. I could hear it, though I could
not see ....

Tonight he joins another class; he was twenty-one last year.
I smile at the memory of that birthday party; the brave little
knot of young fellows who gathered around him and took me
in with them, bless their hearts. Together we made merry
until the small hours. Tonight it is we who are older who
must take him in with us, celebrate his Masonic birthday, not
just tonight but all his life and ours - celebrate with the quiet
satisfaction of fraternity, the peace of friendship, the
benediction of brotherly love.

A small and golden procession passes before me; my little
boy with yellow curls, in rompers; a larger lad, but still a wee
one, in new "real" trousers, going alone the first time to
school, so independent; a boy whose eyes shone like stars
when he found his first bicycle under a Christmas tree; a
proud but bashful boy with his first athletic prize; a lad grown
broad of shoulder and stout of limb, staggering up the beach
with the baby he had pulled from water too deep for her; the
first long trousers and the sly blush when he first spoke of
her ....

At the head of the procession strides the man I will tonight
raise a Mason. All that the dear old Fraternity has meant to
me, may it mean to him. May he, too, find in its secluded
halls the friends of his heart. May he, also, draw from its
teachings and learn from its truths those principles which
make life better worth living. If he can give to it, he will get
from it, but only if he loves it will he want to give to it.
Therefore does it behoove me to make this ceremony as
dignified and as impressive as I may, that his first
impressions of the Light may be beautiful and not too
blinding.

In the old lodge lies friendship, waiting - many will accept
him for my sake at first, who later, I hope and pray, will
cleave to him for his own. In the old lodge is sanctuary from
care and worry, the brotherly hand in time of need, the
comfort of sympathy and affection-he has but to stretch forth
his hand to take.

But he must stretch forth that hand.

Thus, a great responsibility is mine, that he be taught aright
to love our Institution.



         

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