I’ve seen this story several places and wish I knew who wrote it. An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house-building business to live a more leisurely life with his wife and enjoy his extended family. He would miss the paycheck each week, but he…
Note from Mike: This is part of a continuing story of Jack as he learns to Become Masonry. See previous blog posts to catch up.
Jack was running a little late but managed to get to his Lodge’s parking lot just as John was pulling in. Jack had been looking forward to tonight and learning more about Masonry from the EA ritual. In the last two weeks he had been trying to read the strange words and had managed to decipher the more common ones but was still a long way off. He knew John would take care of that tonight.
“Hey Jack, good to see you,” John said as he approached Jack’s car, “Any more strange comments from your boss?”
“No, not really, He’s been absorbed in looking his best the last couple of weeks; annual evaluations are coming up.”
“Oh is that right? Does this include yours as well?”
“Yes it does.”
“Let’s talk about that later. We need to get you started on learning your EA exam first.”
Jack and John found a quiet place inside the Lodge building and John began reading the EA examination ritual to Jack. He read a page and then Jack repeated. John continued through the book in that manner until they reached the end. He then had Jack begin reading from the beginning and when Jack got stuck he prompted him. By the end of the 45 minutes they had allotted, Jack was beginning to catch on and was doing well on his own.
“Well Jack do you have any questions?”
“Yeah, what’s the Lodge of the Holy Saint John of Jerusalem?”
“Good question and one that a lot of Masons don’t even bother to ask.” John continued, “The Masonic tradition is that the primitive or Mother Lodge was held at Jerusalem, and dedicated to Saint John, first the Baptist, then the Evangelist, and finally to both. Hence this Lodge was called “The Lodge of the Holy Saint John of Jerusalem. This is the Lodge, according to tradition, from which all Lodges have descended.”
“Is there anything else from the degree or the exam you have a question about Jack?
“Well, I don’t know. I guess it’s all pretty new and I’ll have to think about it. I’m sure I’ll have some questions as time goes on.”
“Jack I want to make sure that you understand the importance of the working tools of an Entered Apprentice. Do you remember what they are?”
“No, I don’t think I do,” replied Jack.
“Turn to the next to last page in your examination ritual and read it again.”
Jack found the page and the line where the tools were described. He thought a minute and finally remembered what was said when they were introduced to him during the degree. John purposely waited a few minutes; he knew Jack was thinking.
Finally John said, “Jack, can you think of some ways these tools can be useful to you?”
“Well, I suppose so, but nothing jumps to mind immediately.”
“Let me ask you a question then. How do you keep track of all your activities in life and how do you decide what things should be priorities?”
“I guess I really never thought about it. There are things that just have to be done. You know, like work, pay the bills, and stuff like that. Other things I guess just happen when they happen.”
John could see Jack was starting to get confused so he said, “Jack the first tool of an EA is reminding us that there are priorities in life. The degree outlines some basic responsibilities and some basic divisions of our time, but intends that each of us should fill in the details. We should each think about what is important and then devise a plan to ensure these important items are given priority. By doing so, we have outlined a plan to live our life in a manner that strives to reflect the values of Masonry and honors our god, our family, and ourselves.”
“What about the second tool?” Jack asked.
“Well to me it is there to remind us that once we have determined our priorities, we should constantly find ways to improve ourselves so we can accomplish our life plan. Remember when we first met you told me you had some dreams for your life; the second tool is there to shape you so you will continually work to realize your dreams.”
“Wow, that’s pretty powerful John, I didn’t know Masonry would do that.”
“It’s almost time for Lodge to start so I want to leave you with this thought. You mentioned your annual review at work is coming up. How powerful would it be if during that review, you outlined to your boss your plan to achieve your dreams? I think you would truly impress him and I want you to do that. The working tools in the EA degree are there to be used. Use them Jack.”
On the drive home after Lodge Jack could only think about John’s final words about using the tools of Masonry. Once home he pulled out his laptop and begin to write.
Next: Jack’s annual review.
Have a Great Masonic Day!
As Jack pulled into his company’s parking lot at 7:00am he noticed a number of co-workers were already at work. The previous night’s experience at Lodge was still on his mind as he reached his desk and began to unload his backpack. It was not uncommon for him to take home reports so he could read and absorb the content in the quiet of his apartment. He pulled out several he had taken home yesterday and put them on his desk.
Jack works for a company that develops and markets software for financial services firms; financial planners, investment advisors and accounting firms make up the majority of their customer base. Jack had been lucky. He immediately began work after his college graduation last year. A great number of his friends are still interviewing hoping to find jobs. If they are working, they are doing whatever they can find until the right opportunity comes along.
Jack’s degree is in marketing and when hired he began work in the sales department as was assigned to making calls to potential customers. The company has a management training program in which Jack is enrolled and this job is where everyone starts. Jack really didn’t think of himself as a salesman so he looks at this job as just a stepping stone to what he really would like to do; owning a marketing design firm that produces promotional campaigns.
Jack really hadn’t thought of this dream when John had asked him if he a plan for his life. Jack pulled out his phone and added an entry in his Masonry folder. It was a reminder to add this as a goal in his personal development plan.
Jack had turned away from his desk and hadn’t noticed his immediate boss, Jeff Sevren, had walked up to his desk. When Jack turned around Jeff was flipping through something he had picked up from Jack’s desk. Jack’s surprise turned to horror when he realized Jeff had his EA ritual book. It must have been on top of the reports Jack had pulled out of his backpack.
“Good Morning Jack, what’s this?” he said waving the ritual book at Jack.
Jack was immediately at a loss for words. His mind flashed back to the degree and he remembered the oath about not disclosing any of Masonry’s secrets and now here was his boss asking about his ritual book. Jack wasn’t sure what Jeff’s reaction would be when he told him that he had joined the Masons. After a year, Jack had not quite decided how to react to Jeff. He was a nice enough guy but always seemed to be looking out for himself, loved to cut corners and was always joking about ways to fool his boss, except of course when his boss showed up and then he pretended to be the ultimate, super-hero employee.
“It’s nothing, “Jack finally said, I meant to leave it at home.”
“Nothing, it looks like some super- secret code. Come on Jack, level with me, you’re not a spy working for the CIA are you?”
“Ok, it’s my Masonic ritual book and I wasn’t supposed to let anyone see it unless they are a Mason.”
“So you are a member of a secret organization. I’ve heard about those guys, don’t they do weird crap in the meetings with skulls and bones and they’ll kill you if tell the secrets? At least that’s what I’ve seen on TV.”
“It’s not like that at all. Look, I’m just learning about the Masons and I really don’t think I should be talking to you about it. My father was a Mason and my Uncle Ted helped me become a member. My father was a great man and so is my Uncle Ted, so I don’t think they would have been involved if it hadn’t of been worthwhile.”
Jeff was not about to let up. “Well they may not have known what truly is happening. The TV show I saw said that there is a higher level of degrees that only a very few have received. The average guy like your Dad and Uncle don’t even know it’s going on. These elite guys want to take over the world and their using the other Masons to help them and the Masons don’t even know it. I’d watch myself if I were you.”
Jack was really starting to get irritated at his boss. When he had asked his Uncle Ted about joining Jack had brought up to his Uncle some of the things he had seen and read on the internet. Some of them were even worse than what Jeff was chiding him about. His Uncle explained that Masonry has some very vocal critics but most of them, even when provided the truth, continued their incessant rants. Ted told him that a Mason, even though they may want to defend Masonry, shouldn’t waste their time arguing with such people. Jack then remembered that at the end of the EA degree there was a statement made which said pretty much that.
Jack wanted desperately to change the subject and his head was spinning trying to think of something, anything to get Jeff off his Masonic conspiracy lecture. Finally he said, “Jeff, do you have a plan for your life?” Immediately after the words came out of his mouth, Jack almost gasped in horror that he had just asked his boss that question. It must have still been on his mind from when John asked him.
“Plan for my life? Buddy-boy you’re looking at the plan. Jeffrey David Seffren, that’s all I need, don’t I have success written all over me? Pretty soon I’ll make regional sales manager, then division manager and if I keep my nose clean and my numbers up, I’ll be a shoo-in for VP of sales. And then someday I’ll be running this place and on easy street.”
“Wow, that’s impressive,” said Jack, “you must really like this place and what you do.”
“Hey, it’s a job. You don’t have to really like what you do. Haven’t you figured that out? The corporate world is a game and if you play the game right, kiss some butts, and smile all the time, you get noticed. So you have to cut some corners and run over a few smucks along the way, that’s life. By the way, are you now some kind of guidance counselor along with being involved in this secret Masonic stuff?”
Luckily Jacks phone rang. “Jeff I have to take this, it could mean a sale for me.”
Jeff walked away and Jeff answered his phone, “Hello this is Jack Stephen.”
“Jack, this is John Grogan, sorry to bother you at work but I just wanted to thank you for coming last night and wondered if you had any further questions.”
“John, it’s great to hear your voice so soon. Matter of fact I was going to call you because I just had a conversation with my boss about Masonry. He saw my ritual on my desk had picked it up and was leafing through it. Then he started this whole thing about how some elite Masons are trying to take over the world and how you and I don’t even know about it. I was really starting to get mad and was about to lay into him about it but didn’t.”
“What stopped you Jack?”
“Uncle Ted told me that I might run into people who thought some strange things about Masonry and it really wasn’t worth my time to argue with them. I think I also remembered at the end of the degree last night that advice was in the EA Charge, wasn’t it?”
“You’re exactly right, it was. I’m proud of you. You remember we talked that Masonry’s ritual is not just words. The ritual presents lessons that each Mason is to think about and then apply to his life. You have taken an important step in becoming Masonry. You applied Masonry and it worked for you.”
“It sure did and this will give me a great story to put in my journal this evening. I started one last night. I’m also going to write about the question I asked my boss.”
“What did you ask him Jack?”
“If he had a plan for his life.”
“What did he say?”
“He told me how he had it all figured out and someday he was going to run the place. The sad part was he said that it was just a job and you just have to play the game to get ahead. It doesn’t sound like the plan you and I talked about. Jeff’s an OK guy, maybe he just needs some guidance, like Masonry.”
“Maybe someday that will happen Jack. Well, I’ll let you go; talk to you soon.”
Jack wrote in his journal that evening about the encounter with Jeff. He wanted to make sure he understood the two Masonic lessons he learned today. The first he had talked with John about on the phone; don’t let your love of Masonry get you in arguments with people you don’t know anything about it. The second John remembered was that Masons were reminded by the compasses that they were to be careful about their passions.
Jack was sure there were other lessons to be learned from the EA degree but would have to wait until his session with John who will teach him to read the ritual. It was something to look forward to.
Next: More Masonic lessons are revealed to Jack
Have a Great Masonic Day!
Jack was a little apprehensive as he approached the restaurant on Tuesday. He was not sure what to expect and was worried because he wouldn’t know anyone. When he pulled into the parking lot he felt a little relieved because there was John standing at the entrance waiting on him.
As John and Jack shook hands John said, “Well Jack are you ready for some more Masonic education?”
“This gathering before Lodge is just as much a part of the Masonic experience as the degree work. You may not remember, but there was a recitation going on as you were conducted around the Lodge for the first time. It began, Behold! How good and pleasant it is for Brethren to dwell together in unity. This is to remind us that we should always find opportunity to gather with our Brothers. The more often we get together the better we know one another and it also becomes a time that we may share knowledge, offer aid and support to our Brothers and their families and most importantly; just enjoy each other’s company.”
They entered the dining room and the room was full of men talking, laughing and just generally having a good time. They had not been in the room very long when a Brother with a big smile began walking toward them. He went right by John and grabbed Jack’s hand.
“You must be Jack; I’m Carl Sanders Master of the Lodge. John called me and said you would be joining us, thanks so much John for bringing our newest Brother. Come with me Jack, I would like to introduce you to some of your Brothers.”
Carl proceeded to introduce Jack to as many as possible as John tagged along. The Master of Ceremonies stepped up front and asked the Brethren to take their seats. Carl, Jack and John found seats, the dinner preceded, as well as the lively conversations. Jack enjoyed the dinner immensely and wondered why his Lodge didn’t have one.
As Jack and John walked the two blocks to the Lodge building, John began to prepare Jack for the experience of the degree.
“Jack, the EA degree should be still fresh in your mind so as you watch try to remember what you were feeling and thinking during the degree. The lessons conveyed are only useful if you determine their meaning to you and your life. So many times Brothers just “watch” the degree and make no attempt to translate what they see into meaningful thought. The questions on the sheet I gave you last week are designed to help you to do just that.”
They were almost to the door of the Lodge as John continued. “When we get inside we will gather in the anteroom and put on our aprons and white gloves. We go into the Lodge in a procession; Brothers first led by the Stewards, followed by the officers. Once the procession begins no one is to speak. The Lodge room will be dimly lit and there will be soft music playing.”
“Why wasn’t this done at my Lodge?” Jack asked.
“All Lodges in our state use the same ritual to confer the degrees but the “atmosphere” a Lodge may wish to create is their choice. Our Lodge wants to convey to the Brothers that attending Lodge is a unique experience. To us, entering Lodge is symbolic. We are leaving everything else in our lives behind and entering a special place that allows a free exchange of thoughts and ideas without fear of petty arguments or bickering. We want our Lodge room to be a sanctuary of peace, harmony and accord. Entering in silence allows each Brother time to his own thoughts, to think about Masonry and its value and meaning to him.”
Jack thought about what John had just said. He had been to meetings at other organizations and they all started about the same. People wandered into the room, talked, laughed and usually the person in charge had to ask several times for people to settle down so the meeting could be started. Masonry is special so it makes sense that the manner in which a meeting is started should be special. Otherwise, Masonry would be like any other organization.
As Jack entered the Lodge room his first thought was that this did feel very special. The soft lights and the classical music just made you feel that something, maybe magical, was about to happen. Jack then thought about his father who died last year at the age of 48. He had been a Mason and although he really never discussed Masonry, Jack started to think maybe he didn’t have to.
Jack learned some great lessons from his father just by watching him, being around his father’s friends and his father allowing Jack to think and even fail on his own. Jack smiled as he thought about the time his father came home from work and Jack, at age 10, had taken the lawn mower apart. Rather than scold Jack he put down his briefcase, took off his tie and taught Jack how to put it back together. All the while asking Jack about what he had learned at school, what interested him the most or just laughing and having a good time. Anytime Jack did something he shouldn’t, his father would calmly talk to him about it rather than yelling at him. He was such a calm man, Jack wondered if being a Mason had something to do with that. He would ask John.
Jack and John reached their seats and the Master proceeded to open Lodge in a very solemn manner. Jack listened intently to the words and right from the beginning he heard something he wasn’t sure what it meant. When the Master asked the Senior Warden, “whence came you,” he replied, “from the Holy Saints John of Jerusalem.” Then Jack remembered seeing these phrases on the sheet John had given his last week. He would find out their meaning when they discussed them later.
As the degree began Jack continued to be awed at the silence in the room. Glancing around at the Brothers he noted how intently each seemed to be watching what was occurring. By the age of some of them he knew that a great number of them had seen this degree many, many times. Yet they each seemed to be watching as if this was their very first time. It was as if they were making sure they hadn’t missed something or maybe it was just to reaffirm what they already knew. John had said that Masons are always learning, evaluating and striving for improvement; that was sure being demonstrated here.
Jack continued to watch and listen intently as the degree progressed knowing that John would be asking him later what he had learned. John wished he could pull out his phone and make notes in his Masonry folder, but knew that would not be the thing to do. He knew he would have to rely on his memory so he decided once he reached home he would put his thoughts to paper while they were still fresh in his mind.
At the conclusion of the degree, after the Master had congratulated the new Brother, the Lodge Education Officer made a presentation to him while he was still at the altar. He first went through some procedural items such as the raps of the gavel and the ballot box. But then he summarized the lessons in the degree and then introduced him to his mentor. Jack thought about how grateful he was that John had volunteered to be his mentor.
“Wow”, exclaimed Jack, “I’m not sure what to say. I do know this; tonight had a whole different feel to it than when I received the EA degree in my Lodge.”
“Well, to begin with, I enjoyed the dinner before the meeting and the chance to meet many of my Brother Masons. The way your Lodge enters the Lodge room was something that was very special to me. I thought about my father and how he treated and raised me. I was thinking it was probably because he was Mason.”
“Jack, I can tell you most certainly it was. He not only practiced Masonry in the Lodge room but Masonry became who he was. Remember me telling you that my job as your mentor was to help you become Masonry?”
“Sure I do, but I’m still not entirely sure what that means.”
“Your father began helping you “become Masonry” way before you were old enough to petition Lodge. By the manner in which he conducted himself and how he raised you, he was demonstrating how Masons act. He displayed to you the love and devotion a Mason has for his family and by doing so prepared you to become a Mason. Even though he couldn’t be with you when you received your first degree, he was the one responsible for you being there.”
John could see that Jack’s eyes were welling up so he waited a few moments before he continued.
“Jack, when does your Lodge meet next?” Jack told him their stated meeting was in two weeks. His Uncle Ted had already told him that the meeting would be opened in the Entered Apprentice degree so he could participate.
“If it’s OK with you let’s meet there about 45 minutes before the meeting. Make sure you bring your EA ritual book. I want to get you started on learning the EA exam. Also, think about the questions I gave you at our last meeting and we’ll start a dialogue on those.”
When Jack got home he knew it would be a while before he settled down. The thoughts and discussion about his father were still on his mind as well as the rest of the evening. He grabbed his laptop and began to write about the whole experience that evening. When he finally looked at the clock he had been writing for over an hour. He realized he was exhausted but he felt good. He promised himself he would begin to write every day, not just about Masonry, but about what he was thinking. John told him that Masons should find time to reflect and think. Jack put a daily reminder on his phone so it would become a normal part of his day.
Next: Jack encounters some questions about Masonry.
Have a Great Masonic Day!
It has been two weeks since John attended Jack’s EA degree and asked permission to mentor him. John has been busy with work but set aside time to assemble the materials that he will use to begin Jack’s Masonic education.
John will use his Lodge’s Masonic personal development template and manual entitled Becoming Masonry.This manual was developed to be used after the Entered Apprentice degree to help a Brother affirm and assess his beliefs, write a personal values and mission statement and then develop a comprehensive personal development plan that the Brother will follow. This plan will include goals, strategies, and specific action plans for five areas of his life; personal, relationships, Masonic, professional and community.
As Jack progresses through the Fellowcraft and Mason Mason degrees, John will provide assistance in understanding the lessons presented and then integrate them into Jack’s life plan.
Jack had agreed to meet John for breakfast at a local restaurant to map out a plan for Jack’s Masonic education. Jack wasn’t too sure what all they would discuss so he had asked his Uncle Ted what to expect. Ted told him that all they were going to do was begin working on the Entered Apprentice exam that Jack would have to present in Lodge.
John was waiting when Jack arrived at the restaurant. Jack saw him sitting in a booth in the back corner of the dining room. At first Jack thought it odd that he was the only person in that area, then he remembered what his Uncle told him the purpose of the meeting was, so he assumed that John was there so no one could hear their conversation about the “Masonic Secrets” he was about to hear.
They both greeted each other, the waitress came and took their breakfast orders and then John looked at Jack and said, “Jack, what is your plan for your life?” Jack didn’t know what to say. He hadn’t been expecting that question at all. Matter of fact no one had ever asked him that.
Finally Jack was able to mumble, “well, ugh, I don’t know what you mean.”
John knew from his experiences with other new Brothers that this was a typical response. So he said, “Jack, I know you’re just 23, but I’m sure you’ve thought something about your future; haven’t you?”
“Well sure,” Jack said, “I hope to have a lot of friends, be married someday, and have a successful career doing something I love to do.”
“So you do have plan,” said John.
“Well sure, I guess I do; maybe right now I would call it a few dreams,” Jack replied.
“You are right Jack, because that’s just what they are; dreams, just dreams,” mused John. John let his words sink in a bit with Jack and then asked, “Jack why do think we are meeting here today?”
“Well, I wasn’t sure what we would talk about so I asked Uncle Ted and he told me we were going to work on the EA exam I have to take; that’s right isn’t it?”
“That’s right, it’s partly the reason,” replied John. “Jack have you heard the phrase Masonry takes good men and makes them better?”
“Sure, my Uncle Ted told me that’s Masonry’s purpose.”
“Did Ted tell you how Masonry makes you a better man?”
“Sure, he said that Masonry consists of three degrees and each one teaches different lessons that a Mason can use in his life,” Jack was proud of himself that he remembered but beyond knowing what his Uncle told him he didn’t have a clue how he would use the lessons in his life. Matter of fact, thinking back to the Entered Apprentice degree he just experienced, he didn’t have a clue what the lessons were he had just been taught.
“So, let me recap our conversation so you can get to work. You have some dreams for your life but not a definite plan to accomplish them, you know that Masonry is supposed to make you a better man, and it does that by teaching you lessons in three degrees you can use in your life. Does that pretty much sum it up?” Jack nodded that it did.
“Let me ask you one final question Jack; what lessons did you learn in the Entered Apprentice degree?”
Just like the first question John had asked, Jack had no immediate answer. He remembered some things about the degree but not enough to understand what happened, let alone know what lessons had been conveyed. John knew what Jack was thinking because he had asked the question many times to new Brothers and recognized the somewhat panicked look he generally received.
“Look Jack, I know you’re probably thinking that you just flunked your first test as an Entered Apprentice. Don’t worry that’s not the case at all. I wanted to impress upon you that the degrees of Masonry are presented to you and then to understand their meaning you need to study them. That’s where I come in; my job is to help you do that.”
“Are you busy next Tuesday evening?” asked John. Jack said he wasn’t and John went on, “Good. I want you to experience the Entered Apprentice degree again; this time at my Lodge with my guidance. Here is a fact sheet with some of the key lessons presented in the degree and a series of questions that I will be asking you to answer once you have seen the degree again.”
“Our Lodge begins here in the banquet room at 6:00pm. I want you to be my guest for dinner, meet some of the Brethren of my Lodge and then we will move to the Lodge and witness the bringing first light to a candidate. After the degree we will talk briefly about a meeting time for your next step in your Masonic education. Oh, by the way, the dress is coat and tie.”
Jack left the restaurant wondering if he could concentrate on work now. John’s questions had surprised him. A plan for his life; what did Masonry have to do with that? As he walked to his car he glanced at the sheet John had given him. A lot of probing questions, many of them Jack had never asked himself before. Then he remembered that John had never said a word about the stuff he had to memorize. Jack pulled out his mobile phone and made a note in the folder he created called “Masonry.” He would ask John Tuesday.
Next: Jack learns the lessons of the EA degree