by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners
One of the most beautiful things about Freemasonry is the mystic tie that unites us. I recently found myself scrambling to find a lodge putting on a Third Degree for a candidate, Tommy Justison, who was initiated into St. Joseph #970 in 2017 as an Entered Apprentice. Tommy was a student at the University of Illinois at the time, and due to his internships along with studies, was passed to the degree of Fellowcraft in 2019, and subsequently graduated from the University of Illinois, while the Covid pandemic took hold and stopped all Masonic work in the State of Illinois. Tommy had recently reached out to Senior Midnight Freemason contributor, Illus. Bro. Greg Knott, about finishing his degree. The issue was that Tommy lived in Hillsboro, Illinois, a two-hour journey from St. Joseph. Our hope was to find a lodge somewhere halfway between both cities, but sometimes opportunity knocks and you have to answer the door.
I found out through my good friend and fellow Area Education Officer, Jordan Kelly, that Pawnee Lodge #675 was having a Third Degree on November 18. He gave me the name and number of their Worshipful Master, Josh Meach, whom I contacted. After consulting with his lodge, they allowed me to bring Tommy. I am usually not in favor of having multiple candidates at a Third Degree, however, in this case, I felt desperate times called for desperate measures. Tommy was only going to be available to do his third degree for a short window of time, and Pawnee was only about a 40-minute drive from Tommy's home.
I hit the road for Tommy's degree and arrived at Pawnee around 5:30 PM. I was greeted by Josh and some other brethren and it was that mystic tie that united us that made me feel welcome. Thirty-seven brothers came out last night to help make sure that two men become Master Masons. The dinner was excellent, Fellowship was had and the degree was masterfully put on. I can't thank the brethren enough for the excellent work.
Every time I witness the Third Degree, I can't help but end up seeing it from a new perspective. Last night's degree was no exception. I couldn't help think about the symbolism of time that pervades our degrees. The Twenty-Four Inch Gauge, The weeping virgin standing at the broken column with Father Time unfurling the ringlets of her hair, the three steps, the Anchor and the Ark, the hourglass, and scythe all have different lessons to teach us about time. But of these, the one that resonated with me was that of the weeping virgin. While it is such a melancholy scene, we are taught from it that time, patience and perseverance will accomplish all things.
Using Tommy as an example, it took him over four years from his initiation to his raising to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason. However, did it really impact his Masonic Journey? The journey is about the destination. Tommy displayed patience and perseverance, and he finished his journey. So I ask you, are we pushing candidates through our degrees too quickly? Should we not slow down and allow time, patience, and perseverance to guide us? Maybe we can judge the true character of our candidates by seeing those that continue their journey slowly and methodically. It is my belief that the ones that want to take their time and keep showing up will be the ones that stick around. So while many lodges will continue to be Master Mason factories with varying levels of success in retention, let us try to use the lesson taught by that weeping virgin to slow down and persevere. Engage our candidates, bring them slowly along and teach them that it's okay to go at that pace. Let them savor the journey. That will make the destination so much sweeter.
WB Darin A. Lahners is our Co-Managing Editor. He is a host and producer of the "Meet, Act and Part" podcast. He is currently serving the Grand Lodge of Illinois Ancient Free and Accepted Masons as the Area Education Officer for the Eastern Masonic Area. He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, and a member of the Salt Fork Shrine Club under the Ansar Shrine. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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