(Photo l to r: WB Patrick M. Connor, Jr. and Bro. Michael T. Arce)
Even the best-made plans are subject to change. Instead of finishing my degree, I moved from Tucson to Albany, New York, to begin my life. Pat's journey eventually led him to Rhode Island. Pat was the best man at my wedding, and I was honored to be his. With miles between us, we stayed connected through our new lives. When I share my Masonic story, I say with a smile that Pat is why I petitioned a Lodge. "Mike, I know how much you like history. I remember all of our late night talks about life. You would get so much out of this," he would tell me about Freemasonry. I eventually discovered the calling in my heart to visit the Lodge building I would stare at during red lights. Pat was the first person I called after my first visit.
There is a five-year difference in the start of our Masonic journeys. When I was struggling to make time to study the degree proficiencies, Pat was the Master Mason with the calm voice of reason that encouraged me to keep pressing on. I was excited when he was elected a Junior Warden of his Lodge; he congratulated me years later when I took my place in the South. I circled the year he would be elected Master in my calendar; nothing would keep me from visiting his Lodge. That year was 2020.
Like everything else this year, my visit was in doubt as Lodge meetings moved to computer screens during the shutdown. There was a glimmer of hope in July that his jurisdiction would be reopening Lodges for meetings. The same day that I reached out to my Grand Lodge to arrange for my visit to Harmony Lodge #9 in Cranston, Rhode Island --- New York Governor Mario Cuomo put Rhode Island on our state's quarantine list. Another delay in a year of postponements, I thought. By mid-August, Rhode Island was off the list, and my visit was cleared!
Harmony Lodge was having their first meeting since the pandemic the evening I attended. I was warmly welcomed by the Brothers and sat in awe of the top-notch ritual work in Opening and Closing their Lodge. What made the evening truly memorable was when my best friend, the Worshipful Master, invited me to a seat in the East. During my introduction, he said, "Michael was like my brother before you, my Brothers." I sat next to him that evening, thinking of the magnitude of the moment. Just over twenty years ago, two strangers became best friends and now shared a unique bond as Freemasons.
I'd like to say that the evening's highpoint was visiting Harmony Lodge #9; it has been beautifully restored. Meeting the Brethern was also notable. I hope to travel again as a speaker one evening! The most precious memory of my trip happened after the meeting. Instead of staying up into the early hours of the morning discussing the future and life, we spoke of ritual and Masonry. We shared those parts of degree work and Masonic teachings that can only be communicated with another Brother Mason. Knowing that I will always have my best friend as a Brother for life that I can share this experience brought new meaning to The Tyler's Toast.
"Happy to meet, sorry to part, happy to meet again."
Brother Michael Arce is a member of Mt. Vernon Lodge #3 in Albany, New York. When not in Lodge, Bro. Arce is the Marketing Manager for Capital Cardiology Associates in Albany, New York. He enjoys meeting new Brothers and hearing how the Craft has enriched their lives. He can be reached at email@example.com