(Editor’s Note:  This is a short speech given by the guest speaker, RW Bro Walter H. Scott, District Grand Master, Jamaica & the Cayman Islands,  at the Royal Lodge’s Annual Breakfast, held at King’s House, on 16th December, 2010, under the distinguished patronage of Sir Patrick Allen, Governor General of Jamaica.  We are grateful to the DGM for his kind permission to publsh.

*Royal Lodge was warranted as an English Lodge [English Constitution] in 1794, having transferred from the Irish Constitution [I.C] where it was first warranted in 1789)

It is axiomatic that we men, who are Freemasons, enjoy our Freemasonry. Hence, English Freemasonry has not only survived but has thrived. This lodge, The Royal Lodge No. 207 has been around since 1794*. You, the present members, and your illustrious predecessors have spent countless hours enjoying it.

Rule 157 of the Book of Constitutions of the United Grand Lodge of England, under whose banner the District Grand Lodge of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands ranges is as follows:

“no person shall be made a Mason while under the age of twenty-one years unless by dispensation of the Grand Master or Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Master.  Every candidate must be a free man and in reputable circumstances”

In other words we must be men, not slaves and be fit and proper. Despite its maleness, it has long been recognized that as English Freemasons we owe duties to the Society in which we live.  We exist neither  in splendid isolation, nor are we constituted into an Island unto ourselves. Even the most committed bachelor amongst us has a family. It was Thomas Jefferson that great American revolutionary hero, patriot, President and Freemason who said:

“The happiest moments of my life have  been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family.”

At its meeting on 10 June 1987 Grand Lodge adopted the Report of the Board of General Purposes which contained the following:

“it must be clearly understood by every member of the Craft that this membership does not in any way exempt him from his duty to meet his responsibilities to the society in which he lives.  The Charge to the new Initiate calls on him to be exemplary in the discharge of his civil duties; this duty extends throughout his private, public, business or professional life.  The principles of the Craft make it clear to him that his duty as a Freemason does not conflict with his duty as a citizen, but reinforces it.

Simply, as much as we, as Masons may love the Craft, its tenets, its principles, its fellowship and its capacity to do good, we are not in any way exempt from our duties to our wives, children, families, professions, businesses and to the wider society.

How then can we balance all of these acts?  One answer I suggest is to be found in the topic of this talk; we have to enable our families along with ourselves to enjoy our Freemasonry.  If both our families and ourselves are enjoying it,  the richness of our Masonic experience will be increased. 

How is this to be achieved?

I suggest that this, which at first view appears to be a paradox, may be achieved by the application of four (4) principles and education.  These principles are selflessness, happiness, moderation and honesty (both to oneself and to others).

Selflessness, in my view requires us not only to give of ourselves to our Brethren, wives, children and families before ourselves, but to gladly embrace the opportunity of doing so.  Thus, for example, we will first think about our wives at home without our companionship, our children without our guidance, our other allotted tasks uncompleted before spending that third  (3rd) consecutive night out with the Brethren.  And having thought about it, we will stay home and attend to those nearest and dearest to us.

Selflessness involves giving due, full and proper regard to those nearest and dearest to us before ourselves.  If Freemasonry is demonstrably the cause of this increased selflessness, will it not engender itself to our families?

Selflessness leads to generosity, participation and integration.  Generosity of that most valuable of all things, our time and our talent, to our families and our Brethren.  It will compel us to seek to have our families participate in the way of life which we so treasure. It will lead us to seek meaningful ways to integrate our families into our Masonic existence.  If our families participate, not out of a presumed familial duty to us, but because of the happiness which it brings to them and, which they experience from it, will they not enjoy our Freemasonry?

Do we actively, in a sharing manner, seek the participation of our families in our masonry?  

The foregoing leads to a consideration of the principle of happiness.

Firstly, if we are not happy, perhaps even deliriously happy with our freemasonry, then maybe we ought to consider giving it up, for all that we will end up doing is making others around us inclusive of our Brethren and our families unhappy with it.

Secondly, if we are genuinely happy with it, happy by it and happy in it, our happiness will not only give us a sunny disposition and make us generally more pleasant to be around, but it will become contagious.   The only good contagion that I know is happiness.  If we are happy and communicate happiness by our freemasonry, our families and those nearest and dearest to us will not only themselves be happy, whether for us, or because of us or because we are so much less crotchety.

After all, our primary role as husbands and fathers is the happiness and welfare of our families.

It was Cicero, who said,

“never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide”

Moderation requires that we give consideration to our families.  As much as it might pain us to say it, excessive nights out with the Brethren and away from our families will not engender enjoyment of the Craft by our families. It will lead to resentment of the Craft or at best complete indifference to it.

Balance is the key not only to life, but to the enjoyment of life.

Honesty with ourselves and others is important as it permits us realistically to make wise decisions for the benefit of our families.

Are we honest with our families about our love of the Craft, our dreams and aspirations in so far as they relate to the Craft and the demands on our and their time?

As William Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet I (iii) 75

“this above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man”

Are we honest with ourselves?  Do we honestly share our masonry with our families rather than imposing it on them? 

In essence, simply, we must love our families. Love them  unreservedly, passionately, and completely. It was Buddha who is reported to have said that:

“A family is a place where minds come in contact with one another. If these minds love one another the home will be as beautiful as a flower garden.”  

 And what of education?

We all as Masons know that it is by education “that we are rendered fit members of regularly organized society”

But, do we educate our families in Freemasonry and the tremendous good it does for millions of persons around the world? 

Do we educate our families on the tremendous benevolent and charitable work carried out by English Freemasonry in this District and by the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE)? Do we explain that last year the Lodges in our District made charitable donations in the form of grants, gifts and scholarships totaling J$6,214,853.00 and that the District Board of Benevolence made donations of approximately J$3.0million. Do we communicate that thus far this year, the Grand Charity, one of the four (4) central charities of UGLE, has made Masonic grants of £1,389,907.00 and non-Masonic grants of £384,000.00? That the Masonic Samaritan Fund has so far this year disbursed millions to needy brethren and their families inclusive of sums to brethren in Jamaica for medical and non-medical purposes? Have we educated them on the tremendous benevolent assistance which may be accessed through the freemasonry cares website at www.freemasonrycares.org

And, more importantly do we educate ourselves on the needs, desires, dreams and aspirations of our families? 

Perhaps if we did, perhaps if we communicated and educated better, perhaps if we shared more and conveyed our happiness, then our families and ourselves would all be happier.

This brief talk aims more than anything else to stimulate thought, and then, hopefully, action on how to make our beloved Freemasonry more enjoyable to our families and ourselves.

“Finally, Brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever thing are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things”. Philippians 4

16 December 2010