Past Master

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley

Last week the Master of my lodge, Worshipful Brother Dave McCrory, texted me to ask when he could come by. He wanted to make sure he had a chance to say goodbye before I left town for good. We settled on the following Thursday. This evening the doorbell rang, as expected, but it wasn’t just Dave who was at the door. Several other Brothers were there with him to present me with a Past Master’s apron. It was both unexpected and humbling. We chatted a bit about my plans, and then they took their leave. And so I was left to contemplate the past ten years, represented in that wonderful gesture and welcome gift.

Being Master of a lodge is a great responsibility. During my tenure, I learned to run meetings, to deal with our Grand Lodge, to confer degrees, and generally how to set an example to my newer Brethren. I had a wonderful time, and then, too soon, it was over. I was a Past Master, with the title “Worshipful Brother” in perpetuity, but with no power at all. And that’s as it should be. Masonry requires humility, and being a Past Master requires it even more. Humility—right-sizedness—for a Past Master requires not saying, “I didn’t do it that way,” or, “that’s the wrong way to handle things.” It requires silence when not asked for advice and prudence when given the chance to contribute. Wearing a Past Master’s apron is not an exercise in ego: it is a reminder that all things pass, that Masonry is eternal, and that every award given is an honor, not one’s just due. I’m truly grateful to my Brethren for their gift, and not just because I won’t have to search out the aprons with the long strings when I go to a lodge meeting. They’ve given me something that will remind me, whenever I put it on, that the chance to serve my lodge and my Craft are blessings. It is the internal and not the external qualifications of a man that recommend him to be a Mason, and that doesn’t change with fancy aprons or titles. My new apron is a continued admonishment to me to act as a Past Master should: with humility, reverence, and fraternity.

~MHS

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 is Past Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix in the Valley of Danville, IL; 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: m.h.shirley@gmail.com

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