Music by Brother J. L. F. Mendelssohn.
LIVING A ROLE
Bro. Robert G. "Bob" Hardy
Bro. Hardy is a popular newscaster, President of
the St. Louis Press Club, and Director for Special
Events for Radio Station KMOX of St. Louis. He is
a member of Marine Lodge #355 of Marine, Illinois.
This Short Talk Bulletin is adapted from Bro. Hardy's remarks at the Grand Master's Breakfast in
Belleville, 111. on May 20, 1984.
Our Fraternity reflects our society in
general--in that what society is, we are also. If
society suffers a failure of conscience, morality,
responsibility, dedication, effort; then it is not
surprising that we, as members of society, bring
those failures to our fraternity. And, it should
not be unexpected that as society succumbs to
those weaknesses, we too succumb. AND WE
Our membership is diminishing, aging, and
overall, less involved. To be sure, there are a
few bright spots where Masonry is healthy at
Lodge, Valley and Shrine levels. But, for the
most part, it is a struggle at all levels to acquire
new members, and for that matter, simply keep
what we've got. With dues most assuredly on
the increase, and other costs going up, things
will not--by themselves--get better. NOT BY
Ours is a society that has spent the last 15
years tearing itself apart. We have seen our
traditions, morality, spirituality, patriotism,
and fabric of life questioned, trampled and
shattered--our pride of self and country all but
destroyed. But one bulwark remains. One thing
has managed to come through intact. Bruised
somewhat, but unsullied.
Where prayers or pledges of allegiance have
been changed, or eliminated totally, what
words are the same now as they were 20, 50, 100
years ago? In an ocean of so-called free expressions, immorality, filth, pornography, lewd-
ness, and bad taste, what island of discipline
remains, if not to inhabit, then at least to
Masonry. It may be all we have, and if so,
then the time has come to merchandise it that
way. To sell the patriotism, the religious faith,
the belief in self that Masonry offers. And sell it
not as just another club membership, but as we
know it--A WAY OF LIFE. Given the society
of today, a way of life just might be a most
How best to accomplish this? That's the
overriding question, and prompts the following considerations.
It should be remembered that Masonry is a
family--a family of building blocks, each aligned by degree, each a step to "more light in
Masonry," each a greater understanding of a
way of life.
It should be remembered that you don't
"lose" a Mason to another body. Contrary to a
widely-held but parochial view, Masons remain
Masons no matter how or where they choose to
participate and contribute.
It should be remembered that Masonry is
not "just another club" in which a man holds
membership and pays dues. It is vastly more
rewarding than that, for it does indeed guide a
It should be remembered that Blue Lodges
across the state and nation are going out of
business, that debits are increasing in all bodies,
and that we are at fault. Our action, or inaction, is the cause. The effect is widely published. The resolution rests with us.
We can no longer afford the luxury of
separatism. We must stop telling each other
what we cannot do, and concentrate instead on
areas of acceptable cooperation. We must not
adopt, as some have already, a policy of protectionism, i.e., one full year's membership
before being allowed to petition the next body.
In an attempt to protect our few real secrets,
we have become over-zealous and created an
identity crisis. Brethren, we do not deserve that
anonymity! Especially given our charities, our
history, the role our members have played in
the development of the nation, every state, city
We have plenty to talk about. And we're
only starting to do it! There is no reason large
segments of the population should be ignorant
of what Freemasonry is, what it stands for and
what it does. To many, only Shrine Masonry is
recognized. You know why! EXPOSURE!
Because of its colorful parades, fezzes and
philanthropies for crippled and burned
children, the Shrine is known! And publicly accepted!
But what about the stabilizing influence of
the Blue Lodges to our communities
throughout the land? Our dedication to youth
groups? The loyalty and contributions of
Masonically-oriented women's groups? The
patriotic dedication of so many more Masonic
It is time for our candles to be brought out
from beneath the blankets. It is time for our
lodges and appendant bodies to emerge from
the role of mutual admiration societies and
begin communicating to the press--and to the
public. We spend a lot of time talking to
ourselves. Let's talk to the world. With all of
it's troubles, it could use a little help. Let's
make ourselves known. Let's tell others what
we believe in. Let's show ourselves for what we
are--upright Free Masons. And, let's be out-
wardly proud of the fact. Let's stop being
hypocrites--about what we say and what we
really do in the recruitment of new members.
Masonry is a family. We are all brothers,
and as such owe ourselves allegiance to one
another. To that end, may I recommend a joint
meeting with the presiding officers of all other
Masonic bodies in the State--to openly discuss
areas of fragmentations, a method to restore
the familial relationship of one body to
another, a return to basics, and a rededication
to principles. Not singly as Lodge Brothers or
York Rite companions or Scottish Rite
Brothers or Shriners--but as good and upright
And let's look . . . really look . . . at Blue
Lodge Masonry. What is supposed to happen
after the conferral of that magnificant Third
Degree? We are admonished to return, to learn,
to seek more light.
But frankly, how many times can you learn
the same lesson--the same lesson you've
already learned a hundred times--before it
becomes, pardon the blasphemy, A BORE.
Yes, you heard me, A BORE.
We are admonished to return, to learn, to
take part . . . IN THE RITUAL. And that's
great. But--and somebody has to say
this--ritual is not for everybody. We have
150,000 Masons in Illinois and only 300 grand
lecturers. The should tell you something. AND
BEING A MASON IS NOT ONLY BEING A
Being a Mason has to do with LIVING a
role--not ACTING a role once a month in
lodge. We can't all be ritualists or floor men.
I'm lousy at acting, and totally clumsy with a
pole in my hand. A lot of us are. Is there
NOTHING at Lodge for US? Except hearing
the same words and watching the same floor
work month after month, year after year. Is
THAT what Blue Lodge offers? In the words of
the song: "Is that all there is?"
It would be like renting "Rocky 111" and
playing it over and over on your VCR the third
Wednesday of every month for the rest of your
life. Sooner or later, you'd get bored with it. Is
THAT why Masons don't come back often?
They've become BORED with it all? Might be.
Even the preacher doesn't give us the same
sermon every Sunday. Maybe we can learn
from him. I appreciate the purists among us
who say Masonry survives because it is unchanged down through the centuries. But
understand, I'm not suggesting we change
anything about Masonry--it's ritual, it's floorwork. I am suggesting we supplement it to appeal to those who are not actors, scriptlearners,
potential officers of the Lodge. Something for
those who petitioned and were raised because
they believed in the life teachings of
Masonry--not necessarily the roles to be played
in those teachings.
Walk into any Blue Lodge anywhere and
watch, as the degrees are underway. Watch not
the candidate, but the brothers on the sidelines.
You'll see many silently forming the words of
the ritual as it plays out. They know the ritual.
But many others have not memorized, for all
eternity, the sacred words. Are they, therefore,
lesser Masons? I think not. For them, Masonry
is not the WORDS, but the TRUTHS. Not the
PHRASES, but the Meanings. Not the Acting,
but the LIVING of the lessons. Are they, as a
Past Grand Master of Indiana describes some
of us, "unable to comprehend the message?" I
don't believe that. I do believe that Masonry
can and should be the ultimate source of
review, renewal, revival. But it can be more,
too, for those who find it the SAME OLD
STUFF--the rut of ritual.
There are so many demands on our time.
Know now, there's a whole world out there
pledged to take time from you. Cable TV, computers, colleges, universities, libraries--all
hustling for your spare time. Books,
magazines, articles, cassettes, all vie for your
And you are forced, yes, forced, to set
priorities. Do the same old boring thing? Or experience something new? You know the answer
to that, don't you?
Look, ritual doesn't make a man a Mason.
Living the Masonic way makes a man a Mason.
And to that end, may I suggest the Blue Lodge
consider the living Mason, not just the
Why can't the Blue Lodge develop supplemental programs of teaching? Review the
test oath, study Masonic history, Masonic
paraphanalia. We have a wealth of learned men
who can talk on those points alone. MSA has a
library of films that I'd bet most of us haven't
seen. Why not utilize, instead of simply talking
about, our youth groups. Bring a DeMolay
team in to present one of their degrees. Bring in
the Job's Daughters, Rainbows--let them show
their stuff. Masons can learn from them.
Review the George Washington Museum, the
tools and jewels of the craft. Let your minds
run. A wealth of supplemental Masonic
material is out there, just waiting to be tapped.
Let's get off our well-padded couches and use
it--before even our well-padded couches are
The perfect opportunity is present. The
precepts of Masonry can answer the doomsayers of our time. Our positive action now can
result in a stronger fraternity--more attractive
to our brothers within, as well as the general
Modern Masonry presents a source of integrity and moral courage where little exists
elsewhere in the world. It's traditional influence, properly tailored to today's society,
can serve well. And in that service, rededicate
our own to the principles in which we
believe--the Brotherhood of Man, under the
Fatherhood of God.
It is too precious to let slip by with the rest
of our traditions. It may be our last, best hope.
It deserves our best efforts, this Masonic family. For it has survived, where some among us
Bro. Hardy resides at: R.R. #1, Box 94A,
Highland, Illinois, 62249