Deciding to Petition
I remember thinking that we needed to get “involved.” This was more than just going to every birthday party or going out to dinner with friends or barbecuing. That all seems to be part of what a typical suburban life would be. I just felt like we were not doing everything we could outside of our family life.
We simply needed something to drag us into the community, so I started looking around. In the end, as noble as the surrounding organizations may be, they all either seemed to create the community they served or served only their immediate locality. There was nothing about education, nothing about self-improvement, nothing about serving the global community.
Then I remembered: Freemasonry. My friend had recently been installed Master of his lodge, evidence to me that the Masons were a meritocracy. The time was now right. While reading late one night, I Googled a few things. I found the Grand Lodge of New York’s page and found several lodges within my vicinity.
I read through the entire Grand Lodge site, including the “Becoming a Mason” section. With the care and pride with which the “About” sections were written, the notes on how Masons should conduct themselves in social media, the information it presented effortlessly, I re-discovered my interest in Freemasonry and re-upped my decision to pursue membership. I deemed it kismet and started e-mailing the Grand Lodge and the lodge closest to my house inquiring about membership. I did not mention it to my friend.
The Master of my local lodge returned my e-mail asking about why I was interested and re-directing me to the Grand Lodge’s site for additional information. He also posed a question I was not expecting: what did I offer Masonry. I honestly had no idea how to respond, so I reflected for a few days, wrote and re-wrote. No response was adequate in my mind.
I went back and tried to figure out what I really thought Masonry was. Only a paradox seemed to describe it. I thought Masonry was a fraternity that was others-centric but self-focused. It reminded me very much of the Jesuits. In my studies under their tutelage I picked up a lot, including ideals by which I have always strived to live my life.
In his Freshman Address to my undergrad class, Rev. Joseph McShane, SJ, offered a simple phrase. “Those to whom much is given, much, in turn, is expected.” I thought this paraphrase of Luke and Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben was nice then, and a great way of reminding us that even though our school was beautiful and the professors are giving, we had to do the work. I was wrong; it was a call.
In my senior year, I attended a talk called “The Secret Power of the Jesuits” by Rev. John O’Malley, SJ. Whenever anyone asked Fr. O’Malley how he was doing, he would reply, “Better than I deserve to be.” He explained the reason behind this was that life is a gift, and if life is a gift, then everything in it is a gift. He also defined “gift” as something a person receives that he or she did not earn. The secret power of the Jesuits was this perspective – recognizing that everything was a gift, nothing was deserved, so take full advantage of our time, even the bad times, as we deserve nothing.
My response to the Master was that I wanted to learn and grow, improve the community while improving myself. I brought with me the notions that life is a tremendous gift and that everything we do should be conscious acts accepting and embracing that gift. I listed some of my gifts, namely my wife and children, my ability to learn, and this desire always to see each and every experience as a gift, as something I did not deserve. And since a gift the size of the world carries huge expectations, I also brought those and the efforts required to meet them.
I finally thought the response good enough, and so I clicked “send.” Since the exchange continued, and we made plans to meet to discuss my interest in person, I assumed that it was.