Thirty-Day Ritual Challenge

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RWB Michael H. Shirley

I remember going to a degree not long after I was raised, and being amazed at the Master’s proficiency at ritual. He didn’t need a prompt, he knew it all, and I left thinking, “I’ll never be able to do that.” I was wrong. I’m now a Certified Lodge Instructor working toward becoming a Grand Lecturer, and it’s a lot of fun, no more so than when I can contribute in Degree Work.

We had a Third Degree at my lodge recently, for a gentleman who began his Masonic journey over a year ago. He had no problem with demonstrating his proficiency, but various practical problems prevented his being raised until now. It was a real delight to take part in his degree: he was excited, we were excited, and it was overall a joyous time. I felt especially honored, as I got to obligate him and do the Charge to the Candidate. A I returned to the West, our Marshall, a dedicated Mason, said, “I don’t know how you guys do it. You didn’t miss a word.” I said, “We work at it. There aren’t any shortcuts.” And that’s it, really. You don’t know what it takes until you try. 

Too many of my Brethren quote Dr. Seuss when presented with the challenge of learning ritual: 

“And this mess is so big 
And so deep and so tall, 
We cannot pick it up. 
There is no way at all!”

My grandfather used to say that when he had to clean the refrigerator. And then he’d start with one small thing, and before too long he’d finished his task. Ritual is like that: learn one word, one phrase, one sentence at a time, and before too long you know a lecture.

So I offer a challenge to my Brethren who look at people who are proficient in ritual, and wonder, “How do they do that?” Try. Learn something you don’t know. Start small. But work on it every day for a month, and I’ll bet you’ll do something you didn’t know you could do. If you devote ten to twenty minutes of concentrated effort every day for thirty days, you’ll surprise yourself. If you accept my challenge, please let me know how it goes. I want to hear from you. 


R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois, A.F. & A.M, as Leadership Development Chairman and Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master of the Eastern Area. A Certified Lodge Instructor, he is a Past Master and Life Member of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and a plural member of Island City Lodge No. 330, F & AM, in Minocqua, Wisconsin. He currently serves the Valley of Danville, AASR, as Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix; he is also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the York Rite, Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Eastern Star, Illini High Twelve, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. The author of several article on British and American history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.You can contact him at:

A Unique and Important History

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

A recent episode of The Masonic Roundtable (it's Must-See-TV*) discussed Lodge history.  Saying Lodge history — or Grand Lodge history, or even Masonic history — is a good thing is about as bold as being for Mom and apple pie but cataloging it and keeping it up to date is a difficult process.

First of all, I have to mention my state, Missouri, has done a great job preserving its history with a large Masonic Museum and an extensive library.  If you're ever in Columbia, both are worth the trip — but there is more.

Beginning in 1999, the Missouri Lodge of Research, under the direction of its Editor Ronald E. Wood, Jr., published a complete history of existing Missouri Lodges.  The monstrous eight-volume set included one volume of Grand Master biographies and took seven years to complete.  As a reference library it's a masterpiece and, in my opinion, hasn't gotten the recognition it deserves.

In order to get it written, Brother Wood asked each Lodge to submit its own history with a picture of the current building.  He then compiled it into what may be the most comprehensive history of the local Lodges in any jurisdiction.

The project had some rough spots.  First, different authors made for differences in writing styles and inconsistencies in the individual histories.  Some Lodges submitted extensive reports requiring as much as 20 pages.   Others contributed only a paragraph.  One such Lodge's only item of significance, for example, was that at one time it moved from 111½ Vermont Street to 111 Vermont Street... an earthshaking piece of Masonic history thankfully never to be lost.

The second issue related to the fact that the Missouri Lodge of Research selected each of these eight volumes to be its "book of the year" — the premium distributed to each member.  While cataloging this history was important, members became impatient with receiving similar books over the seven-year period.  More than that, Ronald Miller, then Secretary of the Missouri Lodge of Research, reported there was a significant drop in membership from those outside the Grand Lodge of Missouri, who saw the books as not being relevant to their interests.

Still, even with its foibles, this is a unique and important history.  As Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, I found the set invaluable.  

It would have been more valuable were it on the Internet in searchable, usable form.  In fact, groups contemplating such projects should consider — as the Roundtable pointed out — publishing them on the Internet, followed by hard-copy publication, a step that may not even be necessary.  This kind of project is an enormous undertaking but, for the purposes of Masonic research and history, well worth the work.

*Well, technically, its a podcast most listen to, so it's Must-See-TV that most don't see and it isn't TV.


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33°, is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and 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. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft & Freemasons at Oak Island. Both are available on

Freemasonry IS NOT For Everyone

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
Todd E. Creason, 33°

Taken at the Washington Monument, Washington, D.C. (photo by Greg Knott)
Believe it or not, I don't carry petitions in my pocket. I don't walk around handing out petitions the same way banks walk around college campuses handing out credit card applications to students. I'm a quality over quantity guy. I'm looking for specific characteristics. I'm looking for men of good character. I'm looking for men with a desire and a capacity to learn. I'm looking for men who are trustworthy and personable. When I find that guy, that's when I might be inclined to bring up the subject of Freemasonry. I was told recently that makes me an elitist. I disagree. It makes me selective. 

Freemasonry has always been selective. Sometimes we forget that. We get all wrapped up in bringing in numbers, we forget there is a larger purpose. We're supposed to make good men better. Good men. The Fraternity has always looked for men of good report and well recommended. We're not looking for warm bodies, we're looking for men who want to grow--men who possess certain desirable traits.  We want a man that will not only benefit from Freemasonry, but will be a benefit to Freemasonry. 

I have an old friend who is angry with me. I've known him for decades--since we were kids. He was angry that a couple of our mutual friends have joined the Fraternity at my suggestion, but that I've never invited him to join. I decided to spare him my full reasoning and focus on the one thing that makes that impossible--he's an atheist. He just laughed and said that was no problem at all--he said he had no problem saying he believed in the existence of God. 

And that's exactly why I could never recommend him. 

So don't look for warm bodies to fill your rosters--that benefits nobody. What you should be looking for are men who would make good Masons.  When you start looking for those men, you might just be surprised at how many you'll find.


Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and continues to be a regular contributor. He is also the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog, where he posts on a regular schedule on topics relating to Freemasonry.  He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and currently serves as Secretary, and is also a member of Homer Lodge No. 199.  He is a member the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, the York Rite Bodies of Champaign/Urbana (IL), the Ansar Shrine (IL), Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Charter President of the Illini High Twelve in Champaign-Urbana (IL), and a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research.  He was recently awarded the 2014 Illinois Secretary of the Year Award by the Illinois Masonic Secretaries Association.  You can contact him at:

50 Years at Grand Lodge

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
RWB Michael H. Shirley

One of the benefits of paging through old copies of the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Illinois is running across remarkable moments. In the 1927 edition of the Proceedings, reporting on the eighty-eighth annual meeting, the Grand Secretary announced that Brother Owen Scott was attending his fiftieth consecutive Grand Communication, an announcement, it was recorded, that “was received with great applause.” Nothing more was recorded, which is odd, since Brother Owen Scott was the Grand Secretary, and was also a Past Grand Master.

Owen Scott was born on July 6, 1848, on a farm in Effingham County, Illinois, and remained a central Illinois resident for the rest of his life. A teacher, attorney, and newspaperman, he served as superintendent of schools for Effingham County from 1873 to 1881, published the Effingham Democrat, and served as Mayor of Effingham in 1882, and City Attorney in 1883 and 1884. After moving to Bloomington, Illinois, in 1884, he continued in the newspaper trade, publishing the Bloomington Daily and Weekly Bulletins. Elected to Congress in 1890, he served one term, and in 1899 moved to Decatur, Illinois, where he managed the Decatur Herald, before going into the insurance business in 1904, from which he retired in 1921.

His Masonic career was equally peripatetic and even more distinguished. He was initiated on December 17, 1870, passed on January 21, 1871, and raised on February 28, 1871, at Watson Lodge No. 602, in Watson, Illinois. He affiliated by demit to Effingham Lodge No. 149 in 1873, then by demit to Wade Barney Lodge no. 512 in 1885, and then by demit to Macon Lodge No. 8, in Decatur, in 1903; he remained a member of Macon No. 8 for the rest of his life. He was elected Junior Grand Warden in 1889, and Grand Master in 1895.  After his time in the Grand East, he continued to serve the Grand Lodge on several committees, before being elected Grand Secretary in 1921. He died in office on December 21, 1928, having attended fifty-one consecutive Grand Communications.

Which brings us back to his announcement in 1927. Becoming a Grand Officer of any kind is a remarkable achievement, and to be both Grand Master and Grand Secretary is truly notable, but Brother Owen Scott thought it important to announce his fifty years at Grand Lodge, as if it were more worthy of special mention than his other accomplishments. And perhaps it was. His fidelity to his trust, his constancy, and his willingness to serve were all inherent in his traveling year after year to Chicago in service the Fraternity. And he was not—is not—alone. Perhaps he was more distinguished than most Brethren who continue to serve Freemasonry, and perhaps he was fortunate in being able to attend without fail, but there have been and still are other Brethren who make the trek year after year, serving Freemasonry with their time and fidelity. Like Most Worshipful Brother Owen Scott, they are worthy of admiration and emulation, not just for their work, but for their constancy. They are the Masons who continue to show up to degrees, to work the pancake breakfasts, to help with roadside cleanup, who attend schools of instruction, and who cycle through the chairs over a long Masonic life. They’re the ones who can be counted on. Like Brother Owen Scott, they serve. Like him, they deserve our thanks. 


R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois, A.F. & A.M, as Leadership Development Chairman and Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master of the Eastern Area. A Certified Lodge Instructor, he is a Past Master and Life Member of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and a plural member of Island City Lodge No. 330, F & AM, in Minocqua, Wisconsin. A Scottish Rite Mason, he is past Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix in the Valley of Danville, AASR-NMJ; he is also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the York Rite, Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Eastern Star, Illini High Twelve, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon.The author of several articles on British history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.You can contact him at:

The Secret Society Pin

Masonic Antiques

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Robert H. Johnson

Postcard of the Masonic temple in Chicago.
At one time, tallest structure in the world.
As a kid, my mom would drag me to antique stores, craft stores and fabric stores looking for whatever it was she was looking for. I hated it. I'd get hot, bored and eventually find myself hiding in clothing racks or just plain old sitting on the floor, leaned back on a wall with a bottle of coke and a comic book. 

As I got older, I started to not mind the antique stores as much. Sure, the cat and fabric stores still drove me to the brink of, well, whatever you can be driven to the brink of as a 12 year old. I mostly just sat in the car and read my comic books. But when we went to antique stores or malls, I found myself looking at interesting things, historical things and just plain cool things.

The first thing I developed an interest for and something I started collecting was little wooden boxes, like small treasure chests. I had probably five or six of them at the height of my collection, which doesn't sound like a lot, but remember, they were antique, so they weren't cheap.

Commemorative plate of the 1963 World Fair's
Masonic Center.
One day, while browsing an antique store I ran across something I really hadn't before. A box of old comic books. I sifted through them and started cherry picking certain ones that met my criteria; good condition, interesting stories, poly bagged and most of all, cheap. I did still have to ask my mom if she would buy them for me. Over the years, I amassed quite the collection. My favorites were always by Gold Key, they published some neat Disney books as well as Star Trek. I was never a fan so much of superheroes, I stuck to science fiction and the like. As I grew older, I transitioned to Tales from the Crypt and other neat horror comics of the time. Looking back, it was fantastic. I still read comics to this day, not much has changed.

After becoming a Freemason, antique stores held yet another thing for me to look out for. Every once in a while (once a month) I will stop by the local mall for a walk around. It usually takes me about an hour. You'll always find certain Masonic things e.g. pins, fezzes and pocket knives. But many of the items are actually new or just a couple years old. They get passed off as antiques because most people think we don't exist anymore and hence, it must be an antique. But every once in a while, I find a gem. Something that is truly remarkable. Again, things must meet the criteria; affordable, authentic and intriguing.
"Secret Society" pin which I recently bought. 

My most recent trip was just last week, where I found myself looking at a set of bronze Masonic bookends. The price was right, $45 for the set, but, I thought "Where am I going to put those?" And then I continued my browsing. I was at the end of the antique walkabout when I spotted a peculiar pin. The tag said "Secret Society Pin" and was marked $10. Needless to say, I bought it. I can't call it exclusively Masonic because, well, who knows. But it is certainly applicable to the craft. Pictured here in this post are just a few of the finds which I have been lucky enough to have found.

If you're like me, and enjoy a kind of "treasure hunt" then I hope the hunt is good to you. Have fun and share your finds with me, after all...


Bro. Robert Johnson, 32° is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the First North-East District of Illinois. He is the Master of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 and Education officer for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois as well as a member on the Grand Lodge Education Committee. He is also a member of the York Rite bodies, AMD, The Illinois Lodge of Research and a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago as well as a charter member of the Society of King Solomon, a charity organization run by the Grand Lodge of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre which focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. In addition, he produces video shorts focusing on driving interest in the Fraternity and writes original Masonic papers from time to time. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of three. He works full time in the safety industry and is also a photographer on the side as well as an avid home brewer. He is currently working on a book of Masonic essays.

My Journey Through the Craft Pt. 1

Introduction and What Brought Me In

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Aaron R. Gardner, 32°, MPS.

A lot of my articles for both The Midnight Freemasons and Celestial Brotherhood focuses on the negativity that I find with our Fraternity, what we can change, what we can do to change things and how it all affects our Fraternity. I have also focussed on our personal relationships and other aspects of our daily lives. However, there are many things that are amazing about the Craft that I sometimes fail to mention. I don’t always talk about what the Fraternity has done for myself and the many reasons I love being a Freemason. Today, I would like to address some frequently asked question by those interested in joining the Fraternity and those who have no idea what Freemasonry is. 

Freemasonry is an individual journey, so the answers in the following questions will vary from person to person. It is important to be prepared to answer these questions in case a potential candidate answers them. The responses to these questions are my personal experiences, I encourage everyone reading this to begin thinking of their own responses. 

What brought you to Freemasonry?

I was a Soldier in the United States Army when I decided to petition a lodge. While stationed overseas in Italy in a commonly shared recreation room I was watching the movie National Treasure. I found myself in a conversation about the differences between the truth and what was Hollywood fabrication in regards to Freemasonry. The man I was speaking with asked me what I truly knew and understood— I told him enough to know what is real and what is just a good story. As a history buff I already knew a lot of history surrounding the Freemasons, specifically, American History. He told me if I ever want to know more to contact him. It wasn’t until he shook my hand that I found his ring. 

Prior to this.I had had encounters with Freemasonry as well, but it was different. It wasn’t through my family, instead it was before I left for the Army. I had a going away party at the local lodge in Flushing, Michigan. My younger cousin and I were inquisitive from all the conspiracy stories we had heard about the Freemasons, their rituals and how they controlled the world. We were left alone to help set the hall up for my going away party, while alone our curiosity got the best of us. We found an unlocked door that led to the upstairs and we wandered around. 

The shadows danced across the lodge room with strange symbols and unlit candles, feeding our imaginations. A sudden noise startled us and we scurried down the stairway afraid to be left alone in the lodge hall again. Little did I know that wouldn’t be the last time I saw the that room in darkness. 

Later down the road, after my conversation with the Freemason in Italy, I started to research what Freemasonry really was. Again, I already knew a lot of the history, but what I really wanted to know about, was that dark room I saw as a young man. I wanted to know what was so special about this organization to have lasted so many years. I wanted to know the secrets. I petitioned the lodge in my hometown, which was so nice to allow my going away party in their hall— the lodge that did nothing more than shroud itself in even more mystery and lore with it’s shadows still dancing through my mind. 

I found some of the secrets, and I search for more constantly. At least, now, I have the right people to surround myself with and tools to answer all my questions when the time is right and I ask the right ones. 


Bro. Aaron Gardner , an American Soldier who just recently transitioned into the Reserves after 8 years serving the Active Duty Army. He dedicates the majority of his free time to Freemasonry with his constant studies, writing and traveling from lodge to lodge to learn as much as he can regarding Freemasonry. He likes to relate his everyday life to the Craft and anything he finds he wants to spread to the world. It is his passion to study people, religion, history and Freemasonry. When he isn't working as a Soldier he is dedicating his time to the amazing and supportive Emily, writing about Freemasonry and writing his very own novel. His blog page is Celestial Brotherhood.

American Agriculture

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott

I recently visited the 2015 Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois.  This is premier agricultural show in the United States.  Though the official attendance isn’t released, estimates are that in excess of 200,000 person visit the show over the three days.

Modern American agriculture is nothing short of spectacular.  Science and technology are now imbedded in every facet of farming and agricultural production.  Today’s farmers are using precision farming techniques to reduce the amount of inputs applied to their fields, thereby reducing the environmental impact and significantly improving production efficiencies. 

Farm machinery is increasingly sophisticated, larger in size and equipped with the latest in digital technologies such as GPS, auto-steer and computer driven

My family has a long heritage of farming and involvement with agriculture.  My children are the eighth generation of our family to live in Champaign County, Illinois and we are still involved with agriculture.  

So what do agriculture and freemasonry have in common?  Freemasonry, like agriculture, has played a vital role in the development of many of our small towns across America.  The lodge was typically the place of social activities and many times was the largest building in the downtown area.   Its membership roles were populated with many farmers of the community.

I remember speaking with one of our older members of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL) one evening and he told the story that on the lodge meeting night, all the farmers would come in out of the field, park the tractor, change into their “good clothes” and to go lodge.

There was something important that the farmers felt, even though they had much work to do, that they wanted to be in the lodge with their brethren.   

Despite all the technological changes in agriculture, like Freemasonry, its core values have not changed.  Farmers use the tools of the trade to continue to till the soil, plant the seeds and harvest the crops that feed a nation and world.  Freemasonry continues to nurture men who strive to grow and become better individuals, citizens, husbands, fathers and brothers.

Brother George Washington once said “I had rather be on my farm than emperor of the world.” 


WB Gregory J. Knott is the Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 in St. Joseph (IL) and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC.  He’s a member of the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star and is the Charter Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign-Urbana.  He is also a member of ANSAR Shrine (IL) and the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  Greg serves on the Board of Directors of The Masonic Society and is a member of the Scottish Rite Research Society and The Philathes Society.  Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts—an Eagle Scout himself, he is a member of the National Association of Masonic Scouters. 

We Brought the A-Team

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

A few months back I was surfing through FaceBook when I came upon this post from Midnight Freemasons Managing Editor Robert Johnson:

"So I heard a Lodge recently bragging that they do all their own degree work. I didn't know it was a thing to have other Lodges come do your work. So for the record, The Lodges in Waukegan also do all their own work."

While my Lodge also does its own degree work, in my area it's not uncommon to have other Lodges do "courtesy work," especially for the smaller Lodges.  It may not be the ideal situation, but it's sometimes necessary.  

Brother Robert's observation brought to mind an evening when another Lodge in my area asked my own Lodge, Liberty 31, to perform a Third Degree.  We couldn't fit it into our schedule, so we punted it over to the local Study Club, which had an upcoming meeting at Liberty.

So instead of Study Club, we held a Called Meeting. As we were preparing to begin, a Brother from out of state walked in, said he had seen our outside light was on and decided to attend.  

With the study club members present we had the luxury of putting the "best of the best" in each position. I was the Chaplain that evening.  I suppose I belonged in that esteemed group only because the Chaplain's job is to watch the entire degree and then, near the end, not screw things up.

Fact is, with that team in place, we simply performed the most amazing degree I have ever seen.  Everyone knew their parts; everyone hit their marks; it went off like clockwork.  

At the end of the evening we went around the room for the requisite introductions and remarks.  When our out-of-town visitor stood up, he let us know he was, in no uncertain terms, astounded by the quality of the work.  He went so far as to say it put his own jurisdiction's work "to shame." 

I don't know if anyone ever told him our little secret.  We brought the A-Team that night and hit one out of the park.


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33°, is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and 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. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft & Freemasons at Oak Island. Both are available on

September 11

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RWB Michael H. Shirley

“[T]o love is better than to hate, and Forgiveness is wiser than Revenge or Punishment.” –Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 859.

Like everyone else I know, I remember exactly where I was when I heard about the World Trade Center attack. I was teaching an early class that morning, and was in mid lecture when the planes hit. When class ended, I started to walk down the hall and was waylaid by students who wanted to know if I’d heard. In bits and pieces, we found out that it was a deliberate act, then that one tower had fallen, and then another. Then came the news that the Pentagon had been hit. I was standing there, trying to comprehend it all, when one of my students said, “Dr. Shirley, what does it mean?” “It means we’re at war,” I said, with no real thought beyond that simple statement. As more information came out over the next several days, it became clear that things had changed beyond recovery. I did what so many others did: stayed glued to the television, tried to buy an American flag from stores that couldn’t keep them in stock, thought about what I could do to serve my country. But I kept coming back to the realization that these terrorists had killed innocents, including children, because they believed their cause was more important than people made in the image of God. And I had a choice: to hate them or not. 

I wasn’t a Mason then; I didn’t petition my Lodge until 2006. But my time in Masonry has taught me that hate is never the answer to any question worth asking. If I am committed to Masonry, love has to be my only response to everything, both large and small, because if I hate, I become what I hate. I have to see the fundamental humanity, the image of God, in everyone I encounter. Otherwise, I’m not practicing Masonry to the best of my ability.

My sister, an Episcopal priest and Air Force Chaplain, has said that she has to recognize that everyone is equally deserving of God’s love, which is to say, not at all, so acting high and mighty has no place in the world. My mother says regularly that the hardest word to accept in the Lord’s Prayer is “Our.” We all want to be special, but we can only do that if we reject what makes us human. We all need to meet on the level and acknowledge one another as fully human, undeserving of the gifts we’ve received, and just love one another.

So now I pray that I will be enabled to act as if all people are my Brothers and Sisters. For the simple truth is, they are. I don’t have to like them, and if they mean harm to others, I certainly have to stop them, but I can’t hate them without losing the best part of myself. Love, I would argue, is the answer to every question, both in Masonry and in the profane world. Every day, I am presented with the choice of whether to act with love or not. Every day, I can choose to hate, to be indifferent, or to love. I don’t always choose well, but I find that if I pay attention to Masonry’s teachings, I make the right choice more often than not. 
Fourteen years ago I chose, briefly, to hate. It was nearly impossible not to do so. But hate kills the hater, and I could not continue. Since 2006 I have cast my lot with Freemasonry, and have been grateful for its work in my life every day since. Lord knows, I don’t always choose well, but I’ve found that if I remember that Love drives away darkness, I don’t make that darkness my home. I’ve found that I prefer a well-lit room. And so I pray for light for everyone, especially for those who have shut it out of their lives and have chosen to live in darkness. I pray—today of all days—to let the Light of Love illumine our world.


R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois, A.F. & A.M, as Leadership Development Chairman and Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master of the Eastern Area. A Certified Lodge Instructor, he is a Past Master and Life Member of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and a plural member of Island City Lodge No. 330, F & AM, in Minocqua, Wisconsin. A Scottish Rite Mason, he is past Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix in the Valley of Danville, AASR-NMJ; he is also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the York Rite, Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Eastern Star, Illini High Twelve, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon.The author of several articles on British history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.You can contact him at:

Are You Duly and Truly Prepared?

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Ira Gilbert, PM, PDGM

My Brothers, you became my brothers as soon as you took upon yourself the obligation of the Entered Apprentice degree. When you entered the door of your Lodge for the first time two questions were asked of you. The first was whether your entry into the Lodge was of your own free will and accord. The second was asked of the Junior Deacon, who was conducting you on your admission into the Lodge, was whether you were duly and truly prepared. These two questions are inter-related.

Was your entry into our fraternity of your own free will and accord? Did any one entice you into becoming a Freemason? When the Investigating Committee spoke to you and your significant other were you asked the reasons for your desire to become a Freemason? Were you offered a copy of “On The Threshold” a pamphlet that explains the journey that you are now undertaking or some other material given by your Grand Lodge?

As an extension of the query of your free will for entry into Freemasonry, you should have been informed that being a Freemason grants you entry into an elite fraternity of brothers. A Masonic Lodge is far more than being merely a social or charitable organization. The social and charitable activities of your lodge are important. You may be attracted to the social and charitable endeavors of the lodge. These are certainly laudable activities for every lodge to undertake. However, a Masonic lodge is also a place for moral and philosophical enlightenment.

As experienced Masons, we envy the path that lies ahead for you in our brotherhood of Freemasonry. After taking your obligation in the Entered Apprentice Degree, you heard an explanatory lecture on the symbolism and meaning of the ritual that you had just completed. In the ritual for each of the three degrees in Blue Lodge Masonry there are some ninety items that require symbolic explanation. The explanations presented to you in the degrees are only a start in understanding what Freemasonry really means.

Bro. Rollin C. Blackmer edited and produced a series of lectures about our fraternity. His book was entitled, “The Lodge and the Craft”. It was first published in the year 1923. In the first lecture Bro. Blacker remarked that in the year 1923 there were approximately 100,000 brethren in the State of Missouri. Of these 100,000 brethren only about 75 men had made a significant study of the symbolism, philosophy, and history of this Brotherhood to which they belonged.
He went on to state that it was a lamentable state of affairs that the majority of its members were ignorant of most everything connected with Freemasonry. There are many reasons for this regrettable state of affairs.

The first of these reasons lies in the fact that our fraternity is now approaching the 300th year of its existence. Much has transpired in the past 300 years. The fraternity cries out for its new brethren to take upon themselves a study of what the principles of our brotherhood really are and mean.

You have joined a group of men who are the elite of society. You should consider yourself a Masonic brother to George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, John Hancock, thirteen signers of our United States Constitution, and nine signers of the Declaration of Independence. You are a brother to a myriad of other Freemasons, such as Gene Autry, Ernest Borgnine, W. C. Fields, Clark Gable, Roy Rogers, Davy Crocket, George M. Cohan, Irving Berlin, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, General Douglas MacArthur and General Leonard Wood. I can go on and on listing the brethren who you can now call your brothers. You are fortunate, indeed, for having been welcomed into this great fraternity.

Were you duly and truly prepared to enter the Lodge hall to take upon yourself the obligations of Freemasonry. This query can be considered on two levels.

First of all, you were asked to divest yourself of all metals and wear a suit suitable to your degree. You were hoodwinked (blindfolded) and a rope (cable-tow) was placed about you. The meaning of these preparation and symbols were explained to you. In this context you were undoubtedly duly and truly prepared to enter to lodge hall.

However, were you also duly and truly prepared in your mind and ready to start your journey in Freemasonry? In Freemasonry, it is true that your family and means of earning a living are predominant. And, I do not mean to imply that you are expected to become a Masonic scholar, while this would certainly be a laudable accomplishment. But, it is important that you understand what it really means to become a Mason. Are you duly and truly prepared to attend the meetings of your lodge, to the best of your ability? A Masonic Lodge is only as good as the brethren that are active in its affairs.

Are you duly and truly prepared to learn what it means to be a Mason and live according to Masonic precepts? Freemasonry is an organization dedicated to making good men better. You are already thought to be a good man or you would not have passed the test of the ballot box and been admitted to your Lodge. A study of Freemasonry will give you the tools to become a better man. Properly implemented, your family and society, in general, will applaud your dedication to Masonic principles.

So, my Brother, I welcome you into our fraternity. There are many in your Lodge who will aid your quest into the philosophy, symbolism, and history of our Order. You should find something that piques your interest in our Brotherhood. There are five basic areas of interest in studying Freemasonry. These are history, philosophy, symbolism, law, and ritual (its memorization and meaning). Find an area that is of interest to you and pursue it. There are dedicated brothers who will help you as you take upon yourself the journey to learn what it really means to be a Mason.

My Brothers, I will close this presentation with a saying by the noted Masonic author, H. L. Haywood. His words may indicate to you the basic premise of Freemasonry, “Not More Men In Masonry, But More Masonry In Men”.


Bro. Ira Gilbert was raised on January 8, 1968 in Isaac Cutter Lodge #1073 and was Master in 1972. Isaac Cutter Lodge merged with Chicago Lodge #437 and he is now now a member of Chicago Lodge. Bro Gilbert is a member of A. O. Fay Lodge #676 as well. He is also a member of the Valley of Chicago Scottish rite. Bro. Ira's dedication to Masonic Education has afforded him the ability to serve on the Grand Lodge Committee on Masonic Education and the Grand Lodge Committee on Jurisprudence. Bro. Ira comes from a Masonic family, his father being Master of Universal Lodge #985, now a part of Decalogue Lodge through a series of mergers. His father was also a Grand Lecturer. His main interest in our fraternity lies in the philosophy and history of our ritual and in Masonic Jurisprudence. Bro. Ira was a DDGM twice, once in the 1980's and once four years ago. He is also a fellow of the Illinois Lodge of Research and the ILOR awarded him the Andrew Torok Medal as well.