I recently received a letter in which the writer asked: “Why are you a Freemason?” The question caused me to think and reaffirm my feelings about Masonry.
At first I thought about my own forebears. My grandfather was a Mason for 50 years, my father for 50 years, and I have been a Mason for 60 years. This means that my tie with Freemasonry extends back to 1869 when my grandfather joined the Masons.
My feelings on my first entrance into a Masonic Lodge are very clear in memory. I was a young man and it was a great thrill to kneel before the altar of the Lodge to become a Freemason. This must have been the same feeling my father and grandfather experienced before me. And it must also have been identical to the one that many great leaders of America and the world felt as they became Masons. Prominent among this select group are George Washington, Harry Truman, and 12 other Presidents as well as countless statesmen and benefactors of humanity.
So I found myself thinking: “What does Freemasonry mean to me?” Of course Masons say that Freemasonry actually begins in each individual Mason’s heart. I take this to mean a response to brotherhood and the highest ideals. I recall the story of a man who came to me once and said: “I see that you are a Freemason. So am I.” As we talked, he told me of an experience he had years ago. It seems that he joined the Masonic Fraternity shortly after he became 21 years old. When he was stationed in the military, he decided to attend various Lodge meetings. On his first visit to a Lodge in a strange city, he was a bit nervous. One thought was constantly in his mind; could he pass the examination to show that he was a Mason? As the committee was carefully examining his credentials, one of the members looked him squarely in the eye and said: “Obviously you know the Ritual, so you can enter our Lodge as a Brother Mason. But I have one more question. Where were you made a Mason?” With that he told the young visitor to think about it because when he knew the answer the examiner would not have to hear it. He would see it in his eyes. My friend told me that after a couple of minutes a big smile came to his face and he looked at the examiner, who said: “That’s right, in your heart.”