Thursday, January 27, 2011

‘Masonic Week 2010: Society of Blue Friars’

This edition of The Magpie Mason is the fifth attempt to catch up on 2010 events I haven’t told you about. Every time I post one of these, I remember yet another, so this may take a while. In fact, this one dates to Masonic Week 2010, nearly a year ago, and I want to finish catching up before this Masonic Week arrives in only two weeks!

Blue Friar No. 93 Thomas W. Jackson, left, and the newest Blue Friar, No. 99, Pierre “Pete” Normand, Jr. react to a funny remark from Blue Friar 95, Mark A. Tabbert (not shown) at the 66th Annual Consistory of The Society of Blue Friars February 12 during Masonic Week 2010 in Alexandria, Virginia.

Friday, February 12, 2010

After the dual meetings of the Knight Masons, it was time for the 66th Annual Consistory of The Society of Blue Friars. The likelihood of cronyism is much lower here because, while it is not stated as such in the rules, it evidently is a longstanding tradition that those tapped to join the Consistory be published authors or otherwise reputable writers and educators. I’d rather hang out with these guys any day.

The perils of the snowy weather affected this meeting also. It was said, but I still don’t know if in jest, that Grand Abbot S. Brent Morris would not be able to attend, for although the major roads had been cleared of the record snowfall by Friday morning, he wasn’t about to shovel his driveway! Well, he’s earned that right.

So, the lovely and talented Tom Jackson of Pennsylvania – the mere mention of whom induces agita in some grand officers I know – assumed the presiding officer’s duties, and did a fine job of welcoming the 2010 Blue Friar – that’s No. 99, for those keeping score: Pierre “Pete” Normand, Jr. of Texas!

I’ll admit from the start that I cannot do justice to Bro. Pete’s Masonic resume, but here are the obvious highlights:

  • Past Master of Sul Ross Lodge No. 1300, Texas;
  • Past Master of St. Alban’s Lodge No. 1455, Texas;
  • editor, (the former) American Masonic Review;
  • Past Master and Fellow of Texas Lodge of Research;
  • author, The Texas Masons: The Fraternity of Ancient Free & Accepted Masons in the History of Texas;
  • editor, The Plumbline, the newsletter of the Scottish Rite Research Society;
  • Honorary SGIG (33°), A&ASR-SJ; and
  • Founding Fellow of The Masonic Society.

After 11-and-a-half months, my notes are among That Which Was Lost, but Pete’s address concerned something near and dear to the Magpie Mason’s heart: the origins and successes of what now is called European Concept and Traditional Observance practices. His presentation followed the outline sketched by someone else I’m fond of: Bro. John Mauk Hilliard. In brief, and with my own editorializing:

Excellence in ritual: Before thinking that phrase speaks for itself, please understand that the excellence involves more than perfect memorization and flawless recitation, because artistic ability is equally vital. You see, the benefit ought to belong to the aspirant, in the form of his comprehension and enlightenment. It is not about the ritualist and his next gold pin.

Masonic education: Lodges must teach the meaning of Masonry by instructing the brethren in the meanings of our rituals and symbols, as well as in overall philosophy, history, jurisprudence, and other aspects of Masonic culture. Why does this need to be pointed out?

Table Lodge/Festive Board: Is there a better way to spread the cement than to dine together, sharing a convivial ritual experience? Great food, great company, great conversation. We aspire to these in our other walks of life, so why not in the lodge?

Charity: The real thing, and not just having the treasurer cut a check to this or that or the other, but having the brethren sink their hands into the mortar of their community, giving their own time, talent, and toil to benefit others.

Attire: Proper dress for the Speculative Mason really should be black tie, plus regalia that is equally resplendent. It is often said in Masonry that it is the inner qualities of the man, and not his outer characteristics, that make him suitable to the Craft, but it is forgotten how that message originally was directed to wealthy Masons, and now it is commonly misinterpreted as an excuse for the less motivated among us (I’m as guilty as anyone) to not go the sartorial extra mile.

Exclusivity in membership: There is no reason to initiate every man with a pulse. In my jurisdiction, if you can fog a mirror, pay the paltry petition fee, and pass a criminal background check, you’re in. Consequently we are well stocked with men who really should have joined the Elks or Kiwanis. Those are worthy organizations that need good people too. Instead, they are Masons, and they are the reason why so many lodge events and projects are incongruent with the sophistication of our Order’s teachings and ethos.

Commitment: Whether a brother sits on the sidelines or labors his way to the East, every Mason needs to support his lodge in tangible ways. Attendance and participation are required. Lodges that do not demand these do not get them. My lodge has about 500 members, 450 of whom exist only in a database.

It’s a short list, and it is irrefutable. Amazingly, in 2011 these guidelines still are heretical to many.

I can’t wait for the 67th Annual Consistory next month on Friday the 11th.

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