Masonic Service Association - Short Talk Bulletin - March
The Chaplain of a lodge can be to that body much what the
Pastor of a church is to his flock. Or he can be just a
lodge officer, concerned only with ritualistic prayers at
opening and closing. It depends, of course, upon the
brother, his sense of responsibility and his ability to
cause his brethren to look up to him as a source of
The Altars of their churches are to many those sacred places
before which they may confess sins and offer prayers for
forgiveness. The same may be true of the Masonic Altar. To
some men, who have not found for themselves, or been raised
in, a church home, the Altar of a Masonic lodge is the only
one they know, and the Chaplain of their lodge their only
Lucky the brother of that lodge which has a Man of God for a
Chaplain who is steeped both in Freemasonry and ministry. .
Dr. Blair had been Pastor of St. John's Church for forty
years and Chaplain of Adelphia Lodge for thirty summers and
Dr. Blair sat in his study reading a letter. The letter was
unsigned, but, unlike most anonymous letters, the recipient
knew well from whom it had come and was glad.
The letter read:
"Do you remember the wedding, a quarter of a century ago,
when only the bride and groom and you were in your church?
Oh, please remember! My daughter was married today and I
gave her a photograph of my marriage lines for a wedding
present. . .'
Dr. Blair remembered very well. The tiny wedding party was
dear in his mind; the girl with the frightened face; the boy
whose lips trembled.
The boy was Joe. Joe had been raised in Adelphia Lodge two
years before; he was twenty-three when Dr. Blair married
them. Joe was an orphan and had been brought up in an
asylum, but his father had been a Mason. Almost the first
money Joe earned after he was a man was laid aside to become
the fee for the degrees.
It was shortly after the first World War. Older people
remember the "letting down the bars" - the wildness of
people, the looseness of morals, the great prosperity, the
unusual spending; prohibition and its evils - a time when
laws were easily broken and morality seemed to have been
It was a winter night when Joe knocked on Dr. Blair's door.
Dr. Blair made him welcome in his study and waited patiently
for Joe to speak. Joe had great difficulty in saying what he
had come to say - what had to be said. But at long last it
Dr. Blair was not surprised, nor particularly shocked. He
was a wise man even then, when he was much younger.
"This - this is on the square, sir - no one must know!"
begged Joe. "But what - WHAT are we to do?"
"What do you want to do?" asked Dr. Blair.
"Marry her, of course!" answered Joe, passionately. "I love
her. She loves me. We - we didn't mean any harm - we planned
to marry. But -but. . ."
"Yes?" asked Dr. Blair.
"Her folks-up in New England" cried Joe. "They are - very
straight-laced. They - they wouldn't have anything to do
with her . . . with a six month baby. They'd throw her out .
. . they'd . . ."
"Bring her to me!" commanded Dr. Blair, gently.
Joe brought her. Dr. Blair talked to her. It was the old,
old story - youth and ardent bodies; love and little
background; desire and no well-formed character. They had
not meant harm; they were much in love and very young.. .
So the next day there was the tiny wedding in the empty
Dr. Blair made out the church wedding certificate with his
own hands. Even then his writing was a little shaky, but it
He "forgot" to date the certificate.
Six months after the baby was born, Joe and his wife went
back to New England. The wife's family accepted the
certificate at face value. If bride or groom had written in
an earlier date than the fact, Dr. Blair did not know it ...
he may have guessed!
That is why this lodge Chaplain cherishes the anonymous
letter which tells him that the baby who was legitimate in
the eyes of its family was married - with a photograph of
her mother's marriage lines as a wedding present ...
The reader knows now that Dr. Blair's name and the name of
his lodge are not the real names, for of course this was "on
The Reverend Dr. Fortescue has a church; is Chaplain of his
lodge, and conducts services once a month in the State
Penitentiary. Dr. Fortescue is a man rather on the jolly
side; he is stout, almost fat, and laughs often. If he cries
often, it is in secret. He hears many a sad tale from
prisoners in the Penitentiary. Few men know more of the
miseries of men to whom convictions of crimes have been far
more terrible than their worst imaginations had envisioned.
Jim was - is now - a trusted employee of the Cherrington
Wire Works. Jim is an adopted child, and, almost fanatically
grateful to his foster parents. There is now only one of
these left; Father George died when Jim was eighteen; Mother
Anna was left a widow when really too frail to bear up under
such a strain. But she managed, somehow. She managed so well
that Jim became a member of the local lodge as soon as he
was twentyone - Father George had been a Past Master and Jim
thought anything Father George did was perfect.
Then Mother Anna became more and more frail. Help was needed
in the house. Jim worked at all the overtime jobs he could
get to make more money. But the bills piled up. And then the
dread day when the doctor said Mother Anna must go to the
city hospital, to have an operation.
Mother Anna was sent.
Mother Anna lived through it and was home again, better. She
would probably get well. But there was a shadow on Jim's
face and in his life.
Then he went to Dr. Fortescue.
"I have to tell you", he began. "It is on the square. But I
don't suppose you can keep it so. . . I stole three hundred
dollars from the Wire Works. I'm a bookkeeper, you know. I
stole it to send Mother Anna to the hospital. I'd - I'd
rather go to jail than have her die. But - but I thought,
before it came out - before the auditor comes, day after
tomorrow and finds it out . . . I thought you ought to know.
I'm not really a thief . . . I mean, I wouldn't steal for
myself ... I ... the lodge will try me and expel me, I know.
But - I wanted you to know . . .
The Reverend Dr. Fortescue knew Mr. Cherrington, owner of
the wire works, very well. He went to see him.
"Cherrington, will you lend me three hundred dollars?"
"Why, of course. What for?" asked Mr. Cherrington.
"To keep a man out of jail."
"Can't tell it to you. Not my business to tell stories!"
cried the Chaplain of Acacia Lodge. "But if you lend it to
me, it makes it a very good story!" he laughed again. Dr.
Fortescue thought that borrowing the money from the man who
had been robbed, for the robber to pay back to the robbed
employer, made an excellent story.
"Am I lending it to you or you?" asked Mr. Cherrington.
"I know you are lending it to me. I think I am lending it to
the Great Architect" answered Dr. Fortescue.
"Oh, lodge business?"
"I did not say so . . . "
Mr. Cherrington made out his check.
Dr. Fortescue had it cashed.
When the auditors came to the Cherrington Wire Works there
was no shortage.
Dr. Fortescue paid Mr. Cherrington back ten dollars a week
for thirty-two weeks as Jim paid Dr. Fortescue ten dollars a
week for thirty-two weeks.
Jim never goes to bed without a silent prayer for the
welfare of the Chaplain of Acacia Lodge, which isn't its
It was twenty-nine minutes past eleven A.M. when Mrs. Allen
finished telling her story to Brother Charles Swormstead,
Chaplain of her husband's lodge, Doric.
"I know I have no business coming to you," she ended. "I am
not a church member - I suppose I ought to be. But, Mr.
Swormstead, what I tell you is the truth."
"Have you prayed?" asked Dr. Swormstead.
"No. God can't help me." said Mrs. Allen. "George has always
been very jealous of me. He studied medicine before he was
drafted and went away . . . and . . .
"He says he can prove my baby is a bastard and he won't have
a faithless wife and a bastard son . . . you see, the baby
was born ten months after George was drafted ...
"Did you ever read the Bible?" asked Dr. Swormstead.
"I - not very much . . .
"You both might read St. John, Chapter 8" mused Dr.
Swormstead. Then: "Of a woman taken in adultery, One said
`Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more . . ."
"But - but I didn't sin!" cried Mrs. Allen. "Our baby is his
"There are many kinds of prayers" said Dr. Swormstead.
"Silent prayers; prayers on one's knees; prayers from one's
lips only; prayers from one's heart . . .
"Prayer cannot help me or George. Only a change of heart in
George can help - unless you can make him believe . . ."
"I? I can do little. But George believes in a Great
Architect. Suppose you try my way. I want you to sit here
quietly for half an hour. Just pretend that God can help
you. Think it all through and then get on your knees and ask
him. Ask him aloud; prayers we say aloud are often plainer
than those we just think . . .
He did not wait for her answer but went to another room and
used the telephone. Then perhaps he prayed.
It was ten minutes of twelve when he telephoned, and a
quarter after twelve when the Master of Doric Lodge arrived
at the parsonage. Dr. Swormstead welcomed him gravely and
ushered him into his living room, not his study.
"I'm not sure I'm not being Jesuitical" said Dr. Swormstead
to himself. "No. I am not doing evil that good may come - I
am just hoping that good may come from good . . ."
Then he talked to the Master of Doric Lodge. It was a good
Masonic talk and a plain one, but it left the Master cold.
Not only cold, but indignant.
"I don't care what she told you!" he cried. "One baby in ten
thousand may be a ten month's baby. I'm accepting no such
odds. I won't have an adulteress for a wife and I won't
raise a bastard as my son and all the Freemasonry you want
to talk at me won't make me change my mind."
"Did you ever read the Great Light?" asked Dr. Swormstead.
"What has the Great Light got to do with it?"
"I was thinking of One who said `go and sin no more'. He did
not condemn . . ."
"That's two thousand years ago and it wasn't my wife!"
snapped the Master of the lodge. "I tell you, ."
"Hush!" Dr. Swormstead has keen ears. He laid his fingers on
his lips and pushed the door from the living room to his
study open an inch. "Hush, man . . ."
From the study came a small and agonized voice. It was
saying a prayer. It was a pitiful, broken prayer and there
were sobs in it. It told a story which sounded like a true
story. It was barely audible - but the Master of Doric Lodge
could hear it.
"Oh, God, make him believe ... the baby is an honest baby .
. . I am not - not - an adulteress . . . my baby is - is not
a bastard -George is his father . . . Oh, God, make him
believe, I love them so. . . ."
Dr. Swormstead closed the door to his study. "I tell you on
the square. She doesn't know you are here" he said, simply,
to the Master of Doric Lodge. "I told her to think it all
over for half an hour and then to pray."
Dr. Swormstead then left the Master of Doric Lodge alone.
Obviously, it was out of his hands.
Fifteen minutes later, watching from an upstairs window, the
Chaplain of Doric Lodge watched its Worshipful Master escort
his wife down the parsonage steps.
Everything which tends to combine men by stronger ties is useful to
humanity; in this point of view Masonry is entitled to respect. LALANDE.
George Helmer FPS
PM Norwood #90 GRA
PZ Norwood #18 RAM