I had the honor Saturday of attending a special Master Mason degree. What made it a little extra special was that the new Master Mason, Brother Mark Gordon, is in the Navy. All brethren in attendance who were servicemen were encouraged to wear their uniforms.
At the conclusion of the lectures, the presiding WM - my friend and brother Harley Caldwell - sat the new Master Mason next to him in the East for the closing. I strongly feel this is a wonderful thing to do, and is the final touch that denotes the specialness of the event for the newest Master Mason. In keeping with that notion, it was a tiny thing, but PGM Richard Elman closed in ample form, and at the conclusion, he had Brother Mark ascend the steps to the East to whack the closing gavel. The grin on Mark's face said it all.
What was especially outstanding about the degree was that almost every participant was under the age of 25. They were excited, they were enthusiastic, and they left a lasting impression on the new MM.
Brother Joe Angli wrote a very special optional military charge that he presented to Mark at the end of the degree. It was moving and dignified and did a masterful job uniting the conduct of a Mason with the duties of a soldier. airman or sailor. I'd like to post it here.
"My brother, you stand before your peers clothed in the badge of a Mason. Thrice have you been obligated, divested, reinvested, and instructed on the customs, traditions, and lessons of our great fraternity. While this course of instruction and its steadfast application to your life would be enough to distinguish you from the rest of the community. Simply recognizing you as a Master Mason on this occasion would be incomplete because, while you wear the white apron, you also bear a uniform of the great United States of America.
As you have been instructed, the internal and not the external qualifications of man are what Freemasonry regards. The honors upon your breast, the shine of your shoes, and the appearance of your uniform, though worthy of respect, are of little consideration to our Craft. Your mind, conscience, and heart rendered you worthy and well qualified, ensured you were duly and truly prepared, and fortified your recommendation. Your work amongst the craft has and, I am certain, will remain honorable.
It is at this critical juncture in your Masonic journey, when you spend your first few moments standing erect as a Master Mason, that I admonish you to reflect on your chosen profession and its relationship to our Order.
Liberty, equality, and fraternity are the principles upon which our Republic is founded. Our founding fathers took these lessons from our ancient brethren and gave them life in the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. As you bind your life to the ideals contained in these documents as well as to the fraternity you see that, in both cases, there is only one course of moral instruction that prevails. There is only one doctrine that, with the aid of the Great Architect of the Universe, guarantees that the people of this country are able to stand fast as a free and independent nation. Yet as similar as these stations may seem – the one fraternal, the other professional – there is a very important difference.
Just as there has been a need for defenders of faith, so there is a need for those who will defend our ideals and carry them to the far corners of the Earth. It is necessary for someone to sacrifice his life so that others might live free, to carry the scepter of light to those in darkness, and to proudly and defiantly say “I am an American and Freemason” to all those who would deny the universality of our ideas.
You have chosen to carry this mantle through your generation. I bid you carry it high as you would your most prized possession. Honor it as your most solemn engagement. Treat it tenderly as you would a young woman so that when the sun sets on your life she may look on your earthly remains with respect. That she may feel the experience of your presence, and gaze daringly into the future as the sun rises yet again on another generation of men bound as brothers – loyal to the flag.
Godspeed Brother Gordon."
The lodge that this degree was performed at is on the outskirts of a large college town in Indiana. Literally tens of thousands of students pass within blocks of this lodge every day and never give it a second glance. These young men, many of whom are members of other lodges, are taking on the project of raising the awareness of Freemasonry among college students, and I am confident that they are on the verge of very great thibgs. The older men at this lodge are grateful and open to changes that will keep their lodge open and bring the message of Masonry to a new generation.
Masonic Darwinism is at work across the land, and lodges like these will grow and prosper. I am truly excited to see it happen right in front of my eyes.