Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Putting It All Together

I was sitting in church last week listening to Father preach his homily when he began to outline how all of us congregants could obtain a better understanding of our faith. It wasn't enough to come to Mass and try to get all the meanings and nuances of our faith in lessons and worship of one hour. Furthermore, he said, there was no interaction of the faith, not enough participation and communal community.

He announced the coming formation of a men's group and a women's group which the church lacks now. He emphasized the adult (as well as child) Christian education programs now in place. He prodded us to get involved in the missionary and charitible work of the church. He asked us to share our talents of speaking or singing or organizing or teaching or whatever our talent might be with the rest of the church.

In short what he was prescribing was living our faith inside a community, a caring and sharing community that seeks to understand through study and sharing and participation and involvement in community thereby reaching an understanding of meaning, a developing of a relationship with Christ with live application. What he was talking about in four words or less was "Putting It All Together."

Of course almost immediately my mind jumped into an analogy with Lodge. I have a Canadain friend and Brother who insists that all that is necessary for the education of a Mason is for him to learn and continuously experience the ritual of the Craft. Learn the ritual and come to Lodge and you have all the tools necessary. And that's what a good number of us do.

But it's not enough. Just going to Lodge only is like just going to church service only. A twenty minute sermon or a twenty minute Masonic lesson is not enough. There has to be more for Freemasons to understand Freemasonry.

Freemasonry is a way of life not a twice monthly experience. It doesn't start or finish just within the confines of a tyled Lodge Meeting. You have to live Freemasonry. And in order to live it within the concept of Masonic community you need to do things together as Brothers. You study together. Just like churches have Bible study, Lodges need esoteric Masonic study groups. You need to bond together by participating as a community in helping the world outside the Lodge room. You also need to celebrate your Freemasonry in special events of Masonic expression. And you need to come together in refreshment, relaxation and social good times. Your Lodge needs to be a family that lives Freemasonry together just as a family lives life together.

If your Lodge doesn't try to create a sense of Masonic community it is missing putting together all the ingredients that make not only a Mason a better man but makes the group as a whole have a unique identity. A way of life if that is what Freemasonry is has to be actively participated in, in all the different facets that help create a true Lodge family. What you need to do is put it all together.


Wayfaring Man said...

An insightful post; thank you.

I'm curious, however, how you reconcile Masonry with Catholicism? As a recovering Catholic myself, I find the two incompatible. Curious about your take on it.

Squire Bentley said...

I don't. And let me say I was a Mason before I was a Catholic ( a convert).

I think many in church and in Lodge are too hung up on the literal interpretation of the message and a strict adherence to the rules and regulations.

Rather for me it is the experience. I have a lot of quarrels with some of the positions of the Catholic Church including its anti Masonry. But for me the relationship with my Creator is more important than an argument about catechisms. And I get closest to my God in the ceremony of the Mass. The mysteries of the Mass are like the mysteries of Freemasonry.

Like I said with me its all about the experience.

In church it's experienceing a closeness to God through ceremonies that bring joy and peace to my heart. The creeds and the dogma are not my strong point. Connecting with the Almighty is where it is at for me and I connect best at Mass. It's as simple as that. So I have to let all the other stuff play second fiddle.

And in Freemasonry it is for me about making good men better within the experience of bonding tightly with other men. It's about the Brotherhood not about the by-laws, rules and regulations of my jurisdiction.

Ultimately the way I want to live my life is to live in the moment experiencing the journey and not worrying about all the other crap.

Jose Ruah said...

I do agree with you. A lodge must in fact be as a family. This gives another dimension to "being a Mason". I can vouch for this, once it's exactly what happens in my lodge.

A small true story that happened a few years ago in my lodge.
The Lodge had a lot of members and the temple was to little, meaning that sometimes brethren had to stand during all thevsession. Somebody suggested that maybe it was a good idea to split and have two lodges and this way the space problem was solved. Everybody said it was a good idea. So the question arouse, who is going away to create the new lodge ? Well nobody volunteered, because that was the lodge that was the family.
Never more the issue of space appeared, and bretheren didn't mind standing.

On the issue catholicism, and living in a Roman Catholic Majority Country - although not beeing catholic myself - a big majority of the bretheren of my Grand Lodge are catholics, and a lot of them very religious, and they manage to conciliate both positions, as far as I could understand in the multiple conversations about this subject.

Gingerman said...


Any chance of a back channel chat?


Wayfaring Man said...

Unfortunately, I cannot get past the dogma of Rome.

Essa é uma história engraçada, Irmao.

The Burning Temper said...

So, basically you're saying that you have no use for the rules of your Church, and simply choose to ignore what you don't agree with.

Just as you advocate with Masonic obligations.

You never have answered the question as to whether you demitted from your Massachusetts grand lodge when you joined a Texas PHA lodge, because the GLofM wasn't in amity with the PHGLofTexas. Or was that just one more pesky rule you didn't agree with, and so, ignored?

Squire Bentley said...


What I am saying and being honest about it, is that anything I join will be something in which I personally accept or believe in only partially. I would have to start my own religion or my own Freemasonry or my own political party or my own school to have it match my philosophy and take on life 100%.

Realizing that I join making the appropriate accomadations that I have to, obeying the rules but not necesaariuly changing my heart - which should answer your last question.

Wayfaring Man said...

This is not meant as a jab, but I have noticed that you are a vocal critic of the top-down leadership philosophy, and the entrenched "medieval" mindset, of some of the Grand Lodges, GL WV in particular. Does not the same monolithic, control-freak, mania of Rome also elicit your hostility? And, I guess I am curious - if not, why not?

I agree with your earlier answer about connecting with things, but for me, I connect with my lodge experience, not in church. My oath acts as a binding agent that further cements that connection. I am therefore loathe to attack my GL, and those GLs which are in amity with it because I swore to cheerfully conform to it and the usages of the Order.

I swore nothing to Rome, however, and were I so inclined, I suppose I could make a career out of criticizing that institution. Life, however, is too short for such things....

Gingerman said...

Bro. Wayfaring Man,

We all have agreements and commitments that we have tacitly made. Our vote on them was cast long ago. When we accept the benefits of an institution, we take on these agreements.

For example, I have an agreement with the Governor of Maryland that I will obey the speed limit, and I try to do it. I didn't specifically vote my approval of it, and any number of protests of it have done no good. I enjoy the benefits of safe driving, enforced by the Governor, and so I try to keep this agreement. Many do not.

I don't know if you are a R.Catholic, and don't want to know, but if you are, then at baptism certain agreements were made in your name, which you reaffirmed in confirmation, and weekly re-assume at Mass. This applies in most Christian denominations as well. My particular church has active oaths, much like those taken in Freemasonry, which all adults are expected to take on, and abide by.

This question of what is the nature of our obligation is one which has puzzled me for a while, and I have asked brethren over and over to explore with me.

Usually, people want to talk about the words, and not the meaning of the words, generally or specifically. To what extent are we limited, or liberated by our obligation? What is the duration of it? Can we abandon it? What circumstances mitigate it?

Ah, just one of my bug-bears, but I like it.


Wayfaring Man said...

I appreciate your thoughtful comments; and by this I reply.

Formerly RC, I am now un-affiliated with any church, in part because of the nature of the expectations of Rome. Although I would agree that baptism and confirmation in the RC faith are of the same tenor of the obligation taken by Freemasons, those "obligations" are taken before the age of majority (at least in my case), and if they were put to the test in court (which they aren't), the defense to them would be the common-law concept known as dissaffirmance.

Legal mumbo-jumbo aside, the cost-benefit analysis of my association with Rome just didn't pay out, I'm sad to say.

Squire Bentley said...

1) You can't write into the by-laws and Constitutions of an organization that members must obey whatever the leadership decides. After WWII they asked the German people why they committed such atrocities. Why did they go along with the gassing of millions of Jews and others. They replied they were ordered to do so and they always obeyed orders. Enforced blind obedience makes Freemasonry a cult. Putting that in the obligation releives Grand Lodge from having any responsibility to the individual Mason. Freemasonry has always stood for liberty not tyranny.

2) You can't write bad law into the by-laws, rules and regulations and then demand obedience - like a law that prohibits championing reforms or programs or a law that prohibts any Mason in the jurisdiction from speaking or writing on internet websites about Masonry or owning an Masonic website. Filtering out bad law is what ther Supreme Court of our civil governemnt does.

3) Most of my complaints are not with the message or dogma but with the infrastructure. I don't have much of a quarrel with Christian doctrine nor any with the message of Freemasonry. It is the structure used in Masonry to initiate, to practice Freemasonry that I would like to see improved. It is the structure of the RC church and its pronouncements and rules outside theology that I would like to change. But changing infrastructure without touching the message is not heretical - in church or Lodge.

Wayfaring Man said...

...Pius XII's acquiescence to the Nazis is also an interesting subject, but more to the point is the similarity of Rome to the Grand Lodge structure here in the US.

And there are some examples of that medieval authoritarianism that I am certain must strike you as unjust. For instance, the the prohibition on women in the clergy. It is difficult for me to see any difference, on a conceptual level, of the bar on women in the clergy to the prohibition against PHA in the 11 hold-out states. Just as we feel that all Masons are Masons regardless of color, certainly there is nothing in the Gospel that prohibits women from the priesthood? Is there?

Additionally, the prohibition, affirmed by Benedict, on Freemasons taking communion is equally outrageous. May I assume that you agree with me on those points?

As for writing bad law into the books - it's done all the time from the Inquisition to Plessy v. Ferguson. It's not cricket, but it is hardly surprising.

I do agree with you that it is the structure of the church - and to some extent Lodge - that displeases me. I am quite comfortable with the underlying philosophy of both institutions; the only disquieting notes have to do organizational authority.

Jose Ruah said...

Wayfaring Man

You must not forget that Benedict XVI,the actual Pope, was as Cardinal Ratzinger the Cheif of The Congregation for the Faith Doctrine, actual name for the Holy Inquisition Court.

A Few Years ago when John Paul II opened a bit the door to Fremasonry, changing the Canon Law, immediately Cardinal Ratzinger published a document against that opening.

In my blog there's a post on "The Origin of the conflicts beetween Roman Church and Freemasonry" it's in portuguese, but I might have the time to translate it into English.

In My opinion, there's no faith question beetween Rome and Fremasonry, there's a political question.
Only the church as such can not admit that there's a political issue, and covered it as a religious problem

Squire Bentley said...

Yes, Wayfaring Man I do agree with you and you bring up isues which are hot buttons with me. But again we are really only talking abvout infrastructure here.

I would like to see my church not only make women equals but to involve laity more and invest laity with some additional power.

In Freemasonry I would like to see more of a Legislature concept, where all individual Brothers are represented by Legislatures who have the power to make law and invest programs. Of course I would also like the Grand Master to have veteo power with a 75% majority needed to over ride the veteo.

I belive power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Wayfaring Man said...

I cannot but agree with you.