Detailed answers to this question can be found at the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar Frequently Asked Questions page.
A commandery is a collection of Knights Templar who meet regularly to conduct business, confer orders, and enjoy fellowship. Commanderies typically meet in Masonic temples, like lodges and other York Rite bodies.
An order is a stage or level of membership. It's also the ceremony by which a man attains that level of membership. There are three in Knight Templarism, called the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross, the Mediterranean Pass and Order of Malta, and the Order of the Temple.
The orders are plays in which the candidate participates. Each order uses symbols to teach, just as plays did in the Middle Ages and as many theatrical productions do today.
The person who wants to join the Knights Templar must be a man (it's a fraternity), a Master Mason in good standing in a recognized lodge (which is to say, a lodge under the jurisdiction of a Grand Lodge recognized by the Grand Commandery of Illinois), and a Royal Arch Mason in good standing in a recognized Chapter (which is to say, a chapter under the jurisdiction of a Grand Chapter recognized by the Grand Chapter of Illinois).
Those are the only "formal" requirements. But there are others, not so formal. He should believe in helping others. He should believe there is more to life than pleasure and money. He should be willing to respect the opinions of others. And he should want to grow and develop as a human being.
Some men are surprised that no one has ever asked them to become a Mason. They may even feel that the Masons in their town don't think they are "good enough" to join. But it doesn't work that way. For hundreds of years, Masons have been forbidden to ask others to join the fraternity. We can talk to friends about Masonry. We can tell them about what Masonry does. We can tell them why we enjoy it. But we can't ask, much less pressure, anyone to join.
There's a good reason for that. It isn't that we're trying to be exclusive. But becoming a Mason is a very serious thing. Joining Masonry is making a permanent life commitment to live in certain ways. We've listed most of them above—to live with honor and integrity, to be willing to share with and care about others, to trust each other, and to place ultimate trust in God. No one should be "talked into" making such a decision.
So, when a man decides he wants to be a Mason, he asks a Mason for a petition or application. He fills it out and gives it to the Mason, and that Mason takes it to the local lodge. The Master of the lodge will appoint a committee to visit with the man and his family, find out a little about him and why he wants to be a Mason, tell him and his family about Masonry, and answer their questions. The committee reports to the lodge, and the lodge votes on the petition. If the vote is affirmative—and it usually is—the lodge will contact the man to set the date for the Entered Apprentice Degree. When the person has completed all three degrees, he is a Master Mason and a full member of the fraternity.
Once you are a Master Mason, just ask a brother who is a Royal Arch Mason for a petition to his chapter; he will be more than happy to give you one!
Copyright ©2002 Calvary Commandery No. 25