The night that I was initiated was the beginning of something Great. Not the beginning of something easy, nor the beginning of something to be pushed to the side afterward. And so with the beginning of something Great, Great work -- hard work -- must be done to accomplish Great goals. I stayed after the initiation and had a short pep talk from the Brother Instructors that would be guiding us through the catechisms throughout the next two degrees of Masonry. "Well, we should probably start right away," exclaimed Brother Nito. What did he mean by 'right away?'
"Meet me here tomorrow evening, and we'll begin memorizing the catechism." Brother Stuart has always been a busy man and Mason. For his part it took a lot of time for him to travel from Northern Maryland all the way into Baltimore County to teach us young Entered Apprentices. But he sure did it, out of the deepest brotherly love, to attend to our most immediate need as new Masons.
"After tomorrow night, we'll try to meet three or four times a week, depending on who's available. We'll email you on Sunday evening to let you know about the week's schedule," mentioned Brother Wendell. Wendell is the head of the instructors. More often than not it's him who meets us at lodge to teach us so thoroughly. And he's tough. Not one word can be wrong with him. And even more -- no joking around! Keep on moving, get it right, and we can move on with the work! "Go home, and put your new aprons in a safe place. You'll need them when you are Raised in the third degree. Alright Gentlemen, have a good evening and be careful on the drive home."
Wait a minute. Did Wendell just say three or four times a week? I surely didn't know about this. Amanda had no clue either, that's for sure. Had she known that during the investigative process, she would have told me I couldn't petition. There would be no way! And yet, here we were. Time to deliver some interesting news to my wonderful wife, hoping that some sort of forgiveness would happen over time.
So, I left Jephthah Lodge that evening full of hope and some serious, serious excitement. Did I look different, walk different, breathe different in any sort of way? Honestly, I can say that my demeanor was sure different, and the process of Masonic self-introspection and self-improvement had begun. I became infinitely more aware of my person than I had previously been. The next day at work -- a short five hours after I had arrived home from lodge for the night -- I was extremely tired. But the excitement of having become a part of Masonry kept me moving for the day. It is oftentimes difficult to leave work in time to get to catechism class for instruction, but by the grace of God Himself I made it to class that evening after heavy deliberations at work with the other technicians.
Mind you, if you leave after the second shift of patients you are leaving the clinic at 2:30 in the afternoon. Class wasn't until 6:00 pm. So, I drove down to the Dunkin Donuts and tried to remember what happened the night prior. Did they say this or that? Where did I then go? I couldn't remember any darn bit of the lectures given to us! And the Brethren SURE told me to keep my ears open that night. I had no clue what was happening before me and to me. I sat with my iced coffee and computer at the donut shop speaking to Bro. Bill Hosler and Bro. Robert Johnson until I was "blue" in the face. Those poor men finally had to excuse themselves. I had so many questions left unanswered. So much of a thirst for knowledge that I could hardly contain myself! I swore that I would be of such benefit to the Brothers that would be initiated after me. Generosity comes in many, many forms.
That evening as the other new Entered Apprentice and I arrived at class, Stuart came prepared…with absolutely nothing. Where were the books? I heard talk of the catechism being available in a book form somehow. Tonight was different as well in that we came in casual clothing. This seems like a small bit of it, but it was quite a huge point to myself. The dressing up was and still is a great part of it for me. There is a lot of dignity in the way we hold ourselves, and present ourselves to the public. To come to lodge in shorts and T-shirt felt…different. We shook hands, walked upstairs to the beautiful lodge room, and took a seat in the West. He asked the first question. All he got from us were blank stares. Bro. Stuart replied with the proper response, and we repeated it three times until we knew it.
We did this with the first five questions, and had to call it a night after an hour of work. Yes, that's right. Five questions and one hour of work. I really began to question how long it was going to take, and whether I would be able to memorize it or not. After all, I had trouble remembering the first paragraph of the US Constitution when it was taught to me by my 7th grade history teacher. "It'll get easier, Brothers, don't worry. Tonight is no indication of how you will do with the rest. This is the way it used to be done all of the time. There was no book, there was no abbreviated catechism. Only mouth to ear. Have a great evening, and we'll see you guys next week."
After a month and a half of rote memorization, of sitting in my car on breaks and talking to myself, of saying lines of catechism in my sleep, saying them in my dreams, it was time to stand proficiency in the First Degree. Lodge opened in the Third Degree, and we chatted with the Tyler for a few minutes. When they finally came down into the First Degree we came in and had a seat with the Brethren. I was not frightened in the least. I knew the work -- every line, word, punctuation. After a few long weeks it was an absolute cinch. The Worshipful Master indicated that it was time for the other Entered Apprentice and I to stand proficiency and my heart pounded. I literally thought that it would jump out of my chest. Dear Lord, what if they would have to use the new defibrillator they just acquired at lodge on me?
The first question was asked to myself. I responded and waited for my turn again. Brent was asked a question, responded and Nito turned his gaze back on me. After a very, very long fifteen minutes we were done. The vote was taken. We were to be Passed to the Degree of Fellowcraft. Time to ride that goat again…
Bro. Robert Walk is the creator and sole writer for On Freemasonry and Humble Pie: a Wordpress blog dedicated to his experiences and journey from being a petitioner, to Initiation, Passing, and to being Raised. A dialysis technician being his main work, he enjoys writing, rock climbing, drumming and craft beer in his free time. He is a Fellowcraft at Jephthah Lodge No. 222, A.F.&A.M. in Essex, MD, and is, at present, working on proficiency in the Second Degree. Bro. Walk is due to be Raised on the evening of February 18th, 2014.