Yesterday, August 15, 2020, was Masonic Visibility and Pride Day here in Illinois. The event was sponsored by the Grand Lodge of Illinois and Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Illinois. The Grand Lodges asked that all Brethren help them “celebrate by wearing clothing (e.g. t-shirts, polo shirts, hats, etc.) that prominently displays our Masonic Square and Compasses insignia as they enjoy their various activities during the day. It is our collective way to “Let Our Light Shine” in our local communities across the state. Also, it shows our personal pride for the unique Masonic Membership Experience of being a Brother of our ancient and honorable fraternity.” While I understand and support the concept that the Grand Lodges are putting forward with this activity, I can’t help but ask: "Shouldn’t every day be Masonic Visibility and Pride Day?"
If the Grand Lodges here in Illinois have to organize an event to promote Masonic Visibility that tells me that we’ve got a larger issue. Some of our visibility issues stem from the fact that a lot of lodges aren’t doing anything in the community that might attract other men to join. Pre-covid, I’m talking about things that are fun, or at least will draw attention to themselves, like running a dunk tank at a local community event, or riding bikes around town with their lodge shirts on, or even having a festive board with some good education at a popular restaurant. If we want to be visible, then we need to be doing things that are going to draw attraction to ourselves in a positive way.
I understand Covid has made most of the above impossible. How else do you draw attention to yourself? How do you stick out? Sure, wearing clothing with the Square and Compass helps, but you should already be doing this as much as possible, not just one day per year. Here’s how I try to stick out in my little community of St. Joseph. Every St. Joseph lodge night I dress up in a suit. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the Dog Days of Summer, or the coldest days of Winter. I wear a suit and try to meet other brothers for a meal at a local restaurant prior to our meeting. Why? Because if you’re dressed up, it usually brings attention, and when I get asked about why I’m dressed up, it gives me the opportunity to talk about how I’m currently the Worshipful Master of the Masonic Lodge and give a description of what Freemasonry is.
We need to stop being afraid of talking about Freemasonry. Here in Illinois, the Monitor of our Standard Work is uncyphered. The only thing that is omitted are the modes of recognition. I’ve seen these Monitors for sale in local antique stores. If someone asks me a question about Freemasonry, as long as they’re not asking for the modes of recognition, I will answer them to the best of my ability. However, I will say that I recently came across a definition of Freemasonry which in my mind really sums up what we are about. It’s gotten rid of the cliché’s like: “We make good men, better.” The definition is co-authored by T.S. Akers and Robert Davis in Oklahoma. It is as follows:
“Freemasonry is an initatic rite for men that teaches a system of ethics and morality aimed at putting them on the path to mature masculinity. This system of morality is presented to initiates through degrees which are ritualistic plays. The intent is to awaken initiates to the highest ideas of manhood so that can become good role models for their family, their community and their friends.”
I think that perfectly encompasses what our fraternity does. What I like most about it, is that it doesn’t state that it puts men on the path to mature masculinity, but rather that it aims to do that. The difference being that the choice is yours. I compare the ideal of Mature Masculinity to the idea of the perfect ashlar. It’s something that requires work, every day for the rest of your life. So you can choose to work to improve yourself, using the tools of Freemasonry, or you can choose not to. I would like to think that every man that enters the Fraternity is working to improve themselves, but I know that isn’t the case.
In my opinion, there are many Freemasons that seem to forget that being a Freemason is a 24 hour, 365 day a year occupation. It doesn’t start when you enter a lodge room, and it doesn’t end when you exit it. You represent our fraternity at all times. How you act towards others in everyday life or even on social media, should be based upon the lessons we’ve been taught in our degrees. You should be meeting on the level and parting upon the square, not only with other Freemasons, but with the community as a whole. If you are acting like the village idiot, you’re tarnishing Freemasonry.
Your actions are the greatest recruitment tool that we have, or the greatest determent to recruitment that we have. If you’re always getting on your community Facebook page and getting into arguments with the rest of your community, are you really helping to recruit more members? If you’re known to be a Freemason, you absolutely are not doing your lodge or the fraternity any favors. Creating more of a negative image of Freemasonry, on top of all the conspiracy theories that we’re already battling, is the opposite of what Masonic Visibility and Pride Day is trying to accomplish. If you’re doing this, do the rest of the fraternity a favor and demit. We don’t want you and we don’t need you.
We need to stress that every day is Masonic Visibility and Pride Day, especially if you’re wearing a square and compass or otherwise representing the fraternity in the general public. Remember that you’re a direct representation of the Fraternity, and act accordingly. If we want to be visible, we need to let our actions speak louder than words. We need to show our community, through our recognition of important community leaders, support of local charities, and support of community efforts to improve the community, but most importantly through our positive interactions with the public in general, that we are an organization made up of mature men working to make the world a better place. In my mind, that is what makes me most proud to be a Freemason, because if you’re doing it correctly, you’re shining our light at all times.