“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is..."

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
SK Ernest (Ernie) Miranda

"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"
"It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life forevermore."

Brethren, I consider myself to be a "Traveling Man" in Masonry. In speculative Masonry, we as Master Masons may freely move from Lodge to Lodge (visiting) and, upon proper avouchment or by testing, be found worthy of attending a Lodge of Master Masons. My job takes me to many locations domestically and internationally, and I do take advantage of this opportunity and visit lodges when able.

The one thing that is a constant within all the lodges I have visited, regardless of location, is the concern the brethren have regarding low attendance at the stated meetings.

I started this message with the passage above, that we are all very familiar with. This message that I impart on you is a part of a larger masonic education piece I have put together, but I wanted to share some of it with you at this time. My rationale for this is because the passage above is a good reminder of why it is so essential for us to take time to attend Lodge whenever possible.

"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" – We each face daily challenges in our lives, and our body and mind require an opportunity to refresh and renew. What a blessing to have the opportunity that enables us to meet with others in an environment free of politics, personal status, issues of the outside world, etc.! Coming together to meet as equals for the common good.

"It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;" – The "ointment or oil" was used for setting one apart from, and for blessing them in preparation of an upcoming task. Unity and fellowship are like anointing oil in someone's life. The physical and mental renewal and recharge that is experienced by attending Lodge and being with your brethren are all-encompassing for your body and mind, head to toe!

"As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion" – Just as the dew provides moisture and reinvigorates life as it descends to the lower elevations, so does brotherly love, descending from the higher to the lower, the passing of knowledge and strength, refreshing and enlivening in the course of the gathering, and the sweet diffusiveness of brotherly unity.

"for there the Lord commanded the blessing,"– The Great Architect with these words gives strength to support to perform that which is commanded. It is good, for the Great Architect calls it a blessing.

Finally, "even life forevermore." – Regeneration, which will never cease.

Brethren, ask yourself, "Why is it that you are not regularly attending stated meetings?" If you think that the Lodge doesn't miss you or that the Lodge is doing fine in your absence, remember the quote by Aristotle, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." When we connected, when we all come together in unity, imagine what we could do, rather than as smaller parts trying to accomplish the same.

If you need assistance in getting to Lodge, please let a Lodge member know, and we will find a way to get you here. If you require anything, let a Lodge member know. Brethren, look around in Lodge and look for those missing and reach out to them. Ask them if they need any assistance and arrange for a visit.

May the Great Architects blessings be with you and yours.

~EM

SK Ernest (Ernie) Miranda is a Freemason under the Grand Lodge of Arizona, belonging to White Mountain Lodge #3, and a member of Prometheus Lodge #87. He is also a member of Castle Island Virtual Lodge #190, Grand Lodge of Manitoba, Canada, and a founding member of Endeavour Virtual Lodge #944, Grand Lodge of Victoria, Australia. He is a member of the York Rite bodies, as well as a member of the York Rite Sovereign College. Also, he is a member of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, S.J., U.S.A., Valley of Tucson, where he is also a Knight of St. Andrew. Not to be left out, Brother Ernie is also a member of El Zaribah Shrine in Phoenix.

Brother Ernie is a husband and father of three sons. A third-generation miner, he works full time in the mining industry, specifically mining health and safety, and has volunteered much of his free time as a firefighter, E.M.T., and Search and Rescue Commander. He serves on the Board of Directors for "Wings on Words," a Child Language Center located in Tucson, Arizona, a not-for-profit community outreach program for children with speech/language disorders, in partnership with the Valley of Tucson Scottish Rite and the University of Arizona. In his off time, he enjoys astrophotography, home remodeling, and fishing. He also enjoys being a "Traveler," visiting other masonic lodges and attending masonic education conferences.

A Matthew 18:20 Lesson

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR


I make a lot of Masonic presentations. A lot. It's always an honor that my Brethren think I can somehow enhance their Masonic experience with the things I talk about. I thoroughly enjoy researching Masonic topics of all kinds and condensing that material into something I can share.

Enjoyment aside, it's also a lot of work. Hard work. Putting a presentation together is much more than just researching facts and events and preparing to deliver them to the audience. Facts are facts, but facts in and of themselves can be mighty boring. So I am particularly aware of presenting those facts and events in an environment of graphics, color, action, music, and sometimes video. I try to hone each one to the point I think the audience, in spite of the speaker's shortcomings, will get something out of it, be able to remember what he saw and, yes, be entertained. Did I mention this is a lot of work? And time-consuming?

So imagine yourself putting in all that effort to speak at a gathering and walking in to find exactly six Brothers had shown up. It's happened to me and, take my word for it; it's discouraging. First, it makes a speaker wonder if all that hard work is worth it and, second, it terrifies me that membership and participation are sinking so fast that this is the best we can do.

At one point last year, it got so bad I was invited to speak at an open house to talk about Freemasonry in general. I had a hum-dinger of a talk ready to go and found I had prepared to speak to a crowd of… zero. Not one single person turned up to hear about the exciting world of Freemasonry.

To digress just a bit, Freemasons are good at a lot of things, but promotion, in general, is not one of them. Many times we go by the "if you build it, they will come" marketing philosophy. That worked in the movie "Field of Dreams," but it lays a big stink-bomb in real-world practice. In that particular open house, the full extent of the Master's promotion was to put a sign outside the Lodge announcing the event. And don't get me started on the guy who posts a single announcement on FaceBook and thinks he's a marketing genius.

Enough said about the highway of broken dreams that is Masonic promotion.

I know I'm not the only speaker who shows up to speak at a less than well-attended event. In fact, I've been in audiences where the Grand Master himself shows up to a disappointing turnout. In order to mitigate this kind of thing, I've considered saying I won't speak unless a Lodge can guarantee a certain number of attendees.

I've never done that, though. Even if the crowd is small, it doesn't change the importance of the message or the impact it will have on those present. We should take a lesson from Matthew 18:20, "whenever two or three are gathered…" in the name of our truth-seeking Craft, we should give it all we've got, just as if it was a crowd of two or three hundred.

Still, if you're putting an event together, put some effort into getting the word out. Here's an idea: I know of one group in my area that will plan an event, set a date, and get a commitment from 25 Brothers to attend before proceeding with the plans or inviting a speaker. I have spoken to this group. It's amazing how 25 guys can seem to fill a room, add to a discussion, and turn a disappointing evening into a meaningful one.

~SLH

Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° , is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is also a Fellow and Past Master of the Missouri Lodge of Research. Among his other Masonic memberships are the St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite bodies, and Moila Shrine. He is also a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. Brother Steve was Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine for a decade and is a regular contributor to the Whence Came You podcast. Born in Indiana, he has a Master's Degree from Indiana University and is retired from a 35 year career in information technology. Steve and his wife Carolyn reside in northwest Missouri. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and three books: Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, Freemasons — Tales From the Craft and Freemasons at Oak Island.

Is Freemasonry Essential?

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
RW Michael Jarzabek, Past Jr. Grand Warden


"Antifragility is a property of systems to thrive as a result of stressors, shocks, volatility, noise, mistakes, faults, attacks, or failures."
In an article in the SCRL Fraternal Review magazine, Brother Angel Millar asked whether Freemasonry was antifragile. If it is, this crisis will be perhaps the best test of its resiliency.

We often talk about great Masons. We often ask where the great Masons are today? When this is all over, will we have done our part? Is this the stage where those great men emerge? In this time of challenge, will we succumb to our base passions, rest on our laurels, or will we exemplify the values that we hold so dear?

General George Patton gave a speech to the Third Army, which may be extremely relevant to our current situation.

In the speech, he talked about all men doing their part, whether as truck drivers or telegraph maintenance specialists. Towards the end of the speech he said,
"Then there's one thing you men will be able to say when this war is over, and you get back home. Thirty years from now, when you're sitting by your fireside with your grandson on your knee, and he asks, 'What did you do in the great World War Two?' You won't have to cough and say, 'Well, your granddaddy shoveled shit in Louisiana.' No sir, you can look him straight in the eye and say 'Son, your granddaddy rode with the great Third Army and a son-of-a-goddamned-bitch named George Patton!'"
We are all proud to see RW Oscar Alleyne, Junior Grand Warden of NY, doing his part. We are aware of many others are doing their part as well. Many of us are deemed essential in one way or another.

The current global situation makes me wonder if Freemasonry is essential. By Freemasonry, I do not mean just the structure; I mean the way of life. I say it is essential, or at least that it should be.

Whether Freemasonry is essential or not isn't up to our elected leaders. It's up to us both individually and organizationally. What are we doing, or what can we do to make sure that we as Masons are doing our part?

Our state and federal leaders have provided us with lists of essential activities. "Freemasonry" isn't on them. Let that sink in for a minute. It may be the most important lesson we learn in our Masonic generation.

If we want to survive, we must stop being trivial. If we're going to thrive, we must do something essential. "Freemasonry" may not be on those lists, but there's plenty that is. Those lists aren't an imposition on our freedoms; they are an invitation to act. Make masks, host on-line fundraisers for foodbanks, help support those that are working overtime to provide essential services.

Whether we thrive is wholly dependent on whether we act. Thirty years from now, what will we be telling our grandsons as they sit on our knee? For me and I am sure many of you, it won't be that we shoveled shit in Louisiana. No sir, I want to look him straight in the eye and say I was a Freemason, and we did our part.

It is time to pick up our tools and get to work.

~MJ

R.W. Michael Jarzabek is a member of several Massachusetts lodges. He is a Past Master of Brigham Lodge in Ludlow. He is also a member of Ezekiel Bates Lodge in Attleboro, The Meadows Lodge in East Longmeadow, and The Massachusetts Lodge of Research. He is a Past Junior Grand Warden of The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts. He is currently serving as Chairman of the Lodges of Instruction for the same Grand Lodge. He is a Past Thrice Potent Master of Evening Star Lodge of Perfection in Holyoke, Massachusetts.  He lives with his lovely wife, Beth, and beautiful daughter, Amelia, in Ludlow, Massachusetts. He works as an electrician.

The Diamond in the Quarry

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Michael Laidlaw 32˚


In my travels in Freemasonry-- my first step to now, I have met men from all walks of life. Those who came for various reasons, but we all share a common bond of humanity. We are all drawn to the work of Freemasonry for a reason. Some find out why and some know right out of the gate.

For the sake of humility for the Lodge and man, I will refrain from using names. When I was invited to this particular Lodge, I was instantly put to work. The Lodge culture was drastically different than what I was used to. Prospective members, Entered Apprentice, and Fellowcrafts are buzzing away and Master Masons were providing guidance. I had, on one occasion, asked a potential Candidate how long he had been coming to this Lodge and seeking membership. He said, "Five months now. I just earned my signatures and will be voted on next month." I was stunned for a moment.

Previously I came from a Lodge that would give them out on the first or second day. Granted, I had my affiliation application in hand with two endorsements from Brothers I had known for some time. But I knew in my heart; it would be wrong for me to hand it in right away after seeing these candidates for the degrees--working so hard to gain admission. I worked a committee for one year before I was told, "The Brothers are asking when are you going to affiliate?" It was then I knew I had "earned" my place with these craftsmen.

That year I had worked closely with a Brother who had invited me over to the Lodge to learn the roles of the committee. It would be an understatement if I said this Brother helps in the Lodge. He is a vital pulse to the Lodge. And in my opinion, "The Diamond in The Quarry." We are builders and this man builds everything, from events to the men around him. "Some flex and some lift." This Brother is a powerlifter. No matter how far-fetched my idea or the ideas of others are, he will encourage you to go for it. But I have learned it cannot be half-hearted. It has to be all in. If you want education, he will ask, "What have you set up? What speakers or topics do you have in place?" If you want events, he will chip away at your thoughts then give you some of his own. Helping you build on your ideas.

It's men like this that challenge you mentally, that the Craft needs. Also, these kinds of men make a Lodge successful. We all have lifters in the Lodge when you fall, they brush you off and instill a sense of pride that makes you keep going. They are the ones who will sit back and watch you succeed and ask for nothing in return. Believe me when I say I've seen this first-hand from this man. 

Men like this, build temples. The men around them and ultimately, humanity is made better. Is this not the work of a Craftsman? Shouldn't we strive to build all around us? In this trying time, Masonry--her teachings and the guidance of these "diamonds" are needed, now more than ever. In the words of a great man, I will close with this: "Diamonds lay dormant, they hide from the profane (undeserving), you must dig for them."

~ML

Michael Laidlaw was raised to the Sublime degree in 2011 and is a plural Member of South Pasadena 290 and Southern California Research Lodge where he is Junior Warden and Pop Culture editor for The Fraternal Review Magazine. He is also serving as Senior Steward for Arcadia 278. Michael is an active council member for Jobs Daughters Bethel 210 Arcadia (where his daughter is serving as Honored Queen) and serves on the Grand Lodge of California Youth Orders Committee. He is a 32° Scottish Rite Mason from the Valley Of Pasadena Orient of California where he has completed all three Master Craftsman Courses. Michael is also a member of San Gabriel Valley Chapter No. 100 RAM, Alhambra Council No. 25 CM, and Foothill Commandery No. 63 KT. He also holds Membership in Cinema Grotto and Order of Eastern Star.