A Reminder of a Freemason Duties and Responsibilities
Wor BroClive Herron, Marine Lodge 627 I.C.
In this paper it is my intention to deal with the first duties and responsibilities imposed upon a mason on entering the Craft. As he progresses through the degrees new responsibilities are placed upon his shoulders that encourage him to live an exemplary life. It is necessary to go over these first Duties however as they lay the foundation for all the Masonic responsibilities that follow.
There are some who may believe that a Masons responsibilities extend as far as attending lodge regularly, visiting, being present at Provincial and District functions, accepting office, being up to date with subscriptions, giving generously to the Benevolent Collection, Learning and practicing Ritual workings and even going out of their way to offer brethren a lift to swell the numbers at lodge. If this is what they believe is the extent of their Masonic responsibility Ė then they must think again for what I have outlined constitutes part a Masons of his duty to freemasonry and is only one element of the equation.
What is the meant of the word DUTY?
Websterís Family Dictionary describes it as; a moral or legal OBLIGATION a force which is MORALY RESPONSILE.
I like the definition given in;
The Catholic Dictionary; (Taken subjectively) DUTY is a MORAL OBLIGATION to do or omit something. (Understood objectively) Duty is a thing that must be done or omitted. The difference is expressed in these two statements "He has a duty" meaning that a person is morally obliged. "He does his duty" meaning that the person does the thing he is obliged to do.
WE can conclude therefore, that DUTY and RESPONSIBILITY go hand in glove
WHAT THEN ARE A MASONíS SPECIFIC DUTIES?
It is written in the Ancient Charges - There are three great duties, which as a Mason, you are charged
Having established these three points we can examine DUTY and RESPONSIBILITY in a little more detail;
YOUR DUTY TO GOD is:
To never mention his name but with that reverential awe which is due from a creature to his Creator; to implore his aid in all your laudable undertakings, and to esteem him as the chief good."
Masonry is not a religion, but a Mason is religious, is a man who believes in God. A Man must acknowledge his belief in God before he can be made a Mason. Everything in Masonry has reference to God. It implies God, it speaks of God, it points and leads us to God. There is not a degree, nor a symbol, nor a lecture, nor a charge that does not finds itís meaning and derives its beauty from God, the Great Architect of the Universe. Every Lodge is erected to God and dedicated to his Holy name. The lodge labours in God's name.
No initiate enters a Lodge without first kneeling and confessing his faith and trust in God. A true Mason is a Godly man.
A Mason is a man who believes in prayer. We are to implore His aid in all our laudable undertakings. We are taught never to begin any great or important undertaking without first invoking the blessings of The Deity.
One of the greatest privileges God ever gave to mortal man is the privilege of prayer, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." (Matt 7: 7)
On the other hand, one of the greatest unused powers in the world today is the power of prayer. Prayer is the key that unlocks the storehouse of God's bounty. One of the greatest tragedies is that men fail to exercise the privilege of prayer, "ye have not, because ye ask not." (James 4: 4)
Some 2000 years ago, a Jewish Rabbi Ben Bag-Bag wrote with reference to the parchment scrolls of the Holy Bible, he said: "Turn it and turn it again for everything is in it. And contemplate it and grow grey and old over it and stir not from it for you can have no better rule than it. " What this Rabbi said some 2000 years ago is what we believe in Masonry, for he described one of the Great Lights of Freemasonry-the Holy Bible which is our rule and guide of faith and responsibility to follow
RESPONSIBILITY TO NEIGHBOUR
Be especially careful to maintain in their fullest vigour those truly Masonic characteristics, Benevolence And Brotherly Love.
You must love and respect your brother, irrespective of his religion, race or creed
"To your neighbour, you must act upon the square, and do unto him as you wish he should do unto you."
Before I became a Mason, I had the idea that Freemasonry was a tight organization whose obligations did not go beyond the bounds of the Lodge, and that Masons were under an obligation to practice Masonry with Masons and no more. Then I discovered the real bounds of the Lodge and the fact that we are not a mutual aid society.
A Lodge is said, symbolically, to extend
A Lodge is said to be of these vast dimensions to denote the universality of Masonry. We can see that our responsibility goes beyond the Lodge room that we may have perceived in its narrowest sense, to our fellow man, and therein lays another of our great responsibilities.
RESPONSIBILITY TO YOURSELF AS AN INDIVIDUAL
Confucius said " Respect yourself and others will respect you
If you are expected to love your neighbour as you love yourself then we have a duty to respect ourselves for we cannot set an example to others unless we have inner peace and are able to hold ourselves in high esteem. We know that, the Great Architect observes all our actions and these should always be worthy of scrutiny.
As Freemasons we are called upon to practice every domestic as well as public virtue, the text goes. "Let prudence direct you; temperance chasten you; fortitude support you; and justice be the guide of all your actions. Bear constantly in mind the indispensable duties of Candour. Discretion, and Fidelity
As an Individual, I believe that it is my duty and your duty to take the life that God has given us and make the very best out of it.
THE MEASURE of MAN(this is a short verse by author Unknown)
Not- "How did he die?" but-"How did he live?"
Not-"What did he gain?" but-"What did he give?"
These are the things that measure the worth
Of a man as a man, regardless of his birth
Not -"What was his station?" but- "Had he a heart?"
"And-How did he play his God given part?"
"Was he ever ready with a word of good cheer,
To bring back a smile, to banish a tear?"
Not-"What was his church?" nor-"What was his creed?"
But-"Had he befriended those really in need?"
Not-"What did the sketch in the newspaper say?"
But-"How many were sorry when he passed away?"
These are the things that measure the worth
Of a man, regardless of his birth
In addition to these three great duties we have;
RESPONSIBILITY TO THE LODGE
Yes we have a responsibility to the lodge Ė it is put to us in the ancient charges.
Every member has a duty and responsibility to the Lodge to which he belongs. Sadly, there are Masons who receive the three degrees and then forget all about the Lodge. They seem to feel that it's somebody else's responsibility to keep the Lodge going.
For a Brother to forget the Lodge that gave him his Masonic birth is like a son who would forget his mother that gave him physical birth.
Suppose no one attended Lodge meetings any more than you do, nor took any more of an active part than you do, nor showed any more interest than you do, what would happened to your Lodge? Would it still be in existence?
I quote from the Charge given to the Entered Apprentice in the Scottish and English Constitutions,"Although your frequent appearance at our regular meetings is earnestly solicited, yet it is not meant that Masonry should interfere with your necessary vocations, for these are on no account to be neglected."
Pay special attention to this wording for it does not give brethren a licence to allow anything and everything to interfere with Masonry, On the contrary it gives an honest mason the opportunity to make an honest decision in the event that should it be necessary to miss a lodge meeting.
In the third paragraph of the Ancient charge published in 1730 and printed in the Laws and Constitutions of Irish Freemasonry. It reads Ďin ancient times no Master or Fellow could be absent from it (Lodge). Especially when warned to appear to at it, without incurring a severe censure, until it appeared to the Master and Wardens that pure necessity hindered him".
It is clear that Freemasonry places a firm responsibility on a brother to fulfil his duties to attend lodge meetings unless there is an honest and legitimate reason to stay away.
"UNTO THYSELF BE TRUE". If you cannot live up to this, requirement, being true to yourself, then you are stepping onto a ladder with its first rung broken and there is no hope for you reaching your Masonic goal.
One of the most tragic truths is that Masonry means so little to some who call themselves Masons. Can you imagine the resurgence Freemasonry would experience if suddenly every Lodge member would become a Mason once again in deed as well as in word; if suddenly every Lodge member would become what he professed to be; if suddenly every Lodge member would do what he is obligated himself to do; if suddenly he would practice what he preaches; if suddenly he should measure up to his Masonic Responsibilities or if he would attend more regularly or visit other lodges occasionly
The story is told of
A Minister's daughter said to her boy friend, "Dad's sermon tonight is on the text, LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Would you like to go to church and hear him? Her boy friend replied, "Iíd rather stay here and practice what your father's preaching."
Itís like some Brethren who believe that they can practice the art of Freemasonry without learning the rules.
Being a regular mason, an efficient Secretary, Treasurer or even Master of the Lodge, is what is expected of us when we take office and being men of honour we must give of our best. Freemasonry coerces no one Ė you should progress at your own pace, and if you accept office it is your duty as a man of honour to perform the task to the best of your ability.
A duty is a responsibility we undertake and according to the task that duty can vary. Our Masonic responsibilities are non negotiable and cannot be wavered.
Every man who entered Freemasonry did so of his own free will and accord. He was not invited to join the Fraternity. He had to knock at the door for admittance.
It should have been impressed upon him during the interview stages, that as in life, "nothing comes for nothing" and now with his admittance he would be taking on duties and be responsible to live a Masonic life.
RESPONSIBILITY TO OUR COUNTRY
"A Mason is to be a Peaceable subject to the Civil Powers wherever he resides or lives". We are charged "to be exemplary in the discharge of our civil duties, never proposing or countenancing anything which may disturb the peace and good order of society; by paying obedience to the laws of the land in which we reside, and by which we are protected; and never losing sight of the allegiances we owe to our sovereign native land"
"In the state, you are to be a quiet and peaceful subject, true to your government and just to your country; you are not to countenance disloyalty or rebellion, but patiently submit to legal authority, and conform with cheerfulness to the government of the country in which you live."
Turning to VSL for guidance on this responsibility
In reply to questions from the Pharisees as to whether they should they contribute to support of a distant, alien, pagan Roman government who were occupying Jerusalem at the time and whose legitimacy was somewhat dubious. The Bible quotes Jesus as saying; "Render unto Caesar what is Caesarís, and unto God what is Godís."
He does not tell them to cheat on their taxes, to undermine the occupying power. He does not advocate tax resistance, or any other form of disobedience, civil or otherwise?
So, "What can be described as Caesarís?"
This includes at the right to issue currency and collect taxes. Make laws, to control how people should live, protect the borders and regulate the safety and well being of persons within the country.
In St Paulís Letter to the Romans (Romans 13:1-)
It is the duty of every Christian to obey the laws of the land as long as they do not conflict with the law of God.. (This applies to ALL Freemasons)
Freemasonry does NOT tell us what political party or issue to support. We are free to choose according to our own conscience, but not discuss in lodge. On the side of duty we are instructed to be law-abiding citizens. And this is our responsibility as Masons.
From the ancient charges published in 1730 we read; "that a Mason is to be a peaceable Subject to the Civil Powers wherever he resides or works, and never to be concerned in Plots or conspiracies against the Peace and Welfare of the Nation nor to behave himself undutifully to inferior magistrates".
In a changing world and as true Freemasons, to find our "Real Masonic Responsibilities" from which we cannot excuse ourselves, we have to keep delving deeper and deeper
To sum up what could I say are our Masonic Responsibilities?
Our Masonic responsibilities can really be summed up in one word, "PRACTICE." We have the responsibility of living and practicing a Masonic life for the world to see.
Freemasonry needs to be exposed through the conduct of its members, who live and practice life according to those principles to which he obligated himself, whilst kneeling at the Altar.
If we say that it is un-Masonic to solicit members by asking someone to join Freemasonry, them we should use the lives we live to influence others to seek admission to our Fraternity.
Remember, it only takes 20 minutes to become a member, but a lifetime to become a Mason. Freemasonry is viewed by the way that every member conducts himself.
Honesty and living strictly by the rule of the square are not negotiable. Every Mason must realise and be conscious of these responsibilities and live them in his daily life. In short, "we should practice what we preach".
In closing I would like to tell you these two little stories
You may have heard the story of the doctor in a small French village who was about to retire. He had been on call day and night; the people could not afford to pay him much, but that had made no difference. He cared for them as best he was able. As the day of his retirement approached, the people wished to make a concrete expression of their gratitude and affection. It was proposed that on a given day (since they had so little money to give) they each bring a pitcher of wine from their own cellars and pour it in a large barrel. The day arrived and all day long the people were seen pouring their offerings into the barrel.
The evening came and the barrel was taken to the doctor's residence and presented with inevitable speeches.
The presentation over, the people went back to their homes and the doctor was left alone with the memory of their love. He went to the barrel and drew off a bit of wine and went into the house and there sat comfortably by the fire to enjoy it. The first sip was a shock. It tasted like water. He sipped again-it was water. He went back to the barrel and drew off some more, thinking that there must have been some mistake. But, no, the barrel was filled with water. He called the Mayor and the Mayor called the Councillors together and there were hurried consultations.
THE TRUTH WAS REVEALED. Everyone in town had reasoned: My little pitcher of wine won't be missed. I have so little for myself. The others will take care of it. The little water I substituted will not be noticed.
It is a tragic story. It may never have happened, but it is the kind of thing that can and does happen when people refuse to accept their responsibilities, and when they reason as the Frenchmen did ... "I have so little for myself, others will take care of it". This is the attitude of so many Masons concerning the Lodge. Often at times it is the dedication and devotion of a few in a Lodge that keep the Lodge alive and active.
An old timer whose income was from ferrying passengers across a river was asked, "How many times a day do you cross the river?" He replied, "I go as often as I can. The more I go the more I get. If I don't go, I don't get." So it is with attending Lodge meetings. The more we go, the more we get out of our Lodge membership. If we don't go, we don't get.
We are fortunate to be part of a Great Brotherhood donít keep it a secret Ė let your light shine
God said to the man - "Build a Better World"
The man answered - "How"? "The world is such a large vast place so complicated and I am so small and useless, there's nothing I can do."
But God in all His wisdom said-
"Just build A BETTER YOU."
OUR TASK IS - To build a better world and this is the scale by which we will be measured