The Master's Book 10
Carl H. Claudy
An ideal is the perfection towards which we stretch eager hands — but never grasp.
The ideal Master has never presided in any East, for the ideal Master would be perfect and perfection is not given to human beings.
But the clearer and more attractive is the ideal before us, the more strenuously we may strive towards it, and the nearer we may approach it.
The ideal Master knows his Masonry. He has spent many years with many books. To, him the romance, the history, the high lights of adventure, the great men who are Masons, the great Masons who have led the Craft are familiar. In spirit he has stood beside the king's Master Mason at the construction of one of the great cathedrals of Europe. He has supped with Ashmole and breakfasted with Sir Christopher Wren. He has sat in Lodge with Preston, Desaugliers, Hutchinson, Jeremy Cross, a thousand others. He has assisted at the initiation, passing and raising of Washington, and knelt with him at Valley Forge. He has learned Masonic wisdom at Ben Franklin's feet. He has traveled westward with Freemasonry, from its first beginnings in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, to the Pacific coast. Through Revolution, War of 1812, the Mexican campaigns, the Civil War, the Spanish War, the World War, he has seen Masonry work her gentle miracles.
He knows something of Masonic literature, what books to recommend to his brethren, where to find the answer to the questions which will be asked him the ideal Master has had a Masonic book in his pocket or at his bedside for years before he attained the East.
The ideal Master looks at his Lodge and sees it wholly harmonious. No rifts or schisms develop under him; peace and harmony prevail. He soothes the unhappy and brings together the parted friends. He caters to the cranky and makes them content; he avoids all jealousies. He is friends with every Past Master, every officer, every brother.
The ideal Master leaves his Lodge better off financially than he found it; he spends less than the income and for what he spends the Lodge receives full value.
The ideal Master pays great attention to the duties which are his in Grand Lodge; he faithfully attends, intelligently takes part in the deliberations, votes with the interests of his Jurisdiction at heart, is a constructive force in the governing body of Freemasonry.
The ideal Master has interesting meetings. He is willing to work, and work hard, ar-ranging programs, planning events, which will not only interest but instruct the brethren. They are better Masons and therefore better men because of the hours they spend within the tiled doors of the Lodge, over which he presides.
To the Craft the ideal Master gives "good and wholesome instruction." No brother goes from one of his meetings without something done or said which leaves a higher thought of Masonry in his heart. His degrees are dignified, well put on. His candidates have not only ritualistic instruction, but are told something of "what it is all about" that they, too, may "become good and faithful brethren among us." His officers are given a mark at which to shoot when the slow wheel of time turns them, too, into the Oriental Chair.
The ideal Master considers the ill and the sorrowing as his personal care, as well as that of the Lodge. No brother takes to his bed or calls the doctor but the Master sees him to bring what cheer he may. No widow or fatherless child grieves for one gone to the Great White Lodge but has the comfort of a word, a tear, from the leader of his brethren. As much as a man may do, he does for those bound to him and to his Lodge by the Mystic Tie.
No brother or family of a brother in want but is helped, so far as the Lodge may help. It may be that the only help is suggestion, advice, counsel-but it is a friendly touch in the hour of need. If it is food, clothing, medicine for those too poor to buy for themselves, the ideal Master makes it his business to know the facts and to bring a sympathetic report to his Lodge.
The ideal Master has no trouble preserving the dignity of his office, because brethren respect Masters who respect the East. He hands on the gavel of authority unsullied by defiance to the brother who succeeds him in the East.
The ideal Master counts not his personal pleasure, his social engagements, his hours of rest, recreation, aye, even his sleep, when his Lodge calls. He puts his Lodge and its needs before anything and everything in his life for this year, save only his family and his God. He is Master of the Lodge, but, in a very real sense, is servant of his brethren, and takes pleasure in his service, knowing it to be honorable before all men.
The ideal Master carries a watch and uses it. If fifty brethren wait ten minutes past the hour for a late Master, he wastes more than eight hours of fraternal time — which he has no more right to do than to waste Lodge money. His degrees start at a reasonable hour that they may be conducted unhurriedly, and he requires promptness of his officers as he himself is prompt.
The traditions of his Lodge and of the Fraternity are hallowed in his mind and practice. The Ancient Landmarks are preserved, the laws, resolutions and edicts of Grand Lodge lived up to, the by-laws meticulously observed. The records of his Lodge are kept so as to draw commendation from authority.
The ideal Master is guide, philosopher and friend to many brethren for many troubles; friend to many brethren for many troubles; brethren turn to a Master, at times, when they will go to no one else. He is, perhaps, mediator in a domestic trouble, he counsels -with a father over a wayward boy, he helps a widow invest her money wisely, he obtains employment for those without work; he does almost everything for every one, aye, even to washing a child's face and painting a porch, one Master's contribution to the household of a sick brother!
The ideal Master keeps constantly before him the need for seeing his problems through a tolerant smile of understanding. If he ever had a temper, he lost it for the year before he entered the East. He has constantly before him the thought that many men have many minds, and that two brethren of directly opposite views may both be honest and sincere. He does not take sides but is a balance wheel; he rules firmly and justly, but the firmness is tempered with kindness and the justice with mercy.
The ideal Master is enthusiastic about his work, and prayerfully conscious of his own limitations; hence he is quick to seek counsel and advice, and as slow to take it until he has thought it through.
The ideal Master is eager for suggestions — but he does not follow those which seem to him unwise, no matter how important the brother who makes them. His is the responsibility, therefore his must the decision be, but he knows that two heads are usually better than one, and welcomes counsel when it is offered, seeks it when it is shy.
The ideal Master is primarily concerned with policies rather than details, and delegates the latter to carefully chosen committees. But he keeps ever before him his responsibilities, and knows what is going on. Too many Masters have become bogged in details, and thus lost the path to success. The ideal Master does not lose his way!
The ideal Master is an ideal Mason; Masonry is a part of him, as he is a part of Masonry. With all his heart and soul and strength he strives to live the Masonic life that the brethren may see that here is no mere figurehead, but a vital force.
Finally, the ideal Master is humble minded. Not for him the arrogant pride of place and power, though he has both power and place. Not for him the big stick, though it is his to wield, but the silken string which leads where ropes may not haul. The ideal Master keeps ever before him the knowledge that although elevated to the most honorable position within the gift of his Lodge, he can really fill the Oriental Chair only if he thinks first, last and all the time of the Lodge and brethren, never of self.
High? Of course it is high! All real ideals are too high to reach until we can reach out and touch the stars. But we can make the effort to reach. . . .
Uneasy the Past Master's head, which lies on a sleepless pillow, thinking sad thoughts of opportunities missed, of duties undone, of work which now can never be his to do. Happy the Master who lays down his gavel at the end of his year knowing he has done all that in him lies; mortal man may do no more. He it is who may stand in the East for the last time, just before he installs his successor, wearing a sprig of rosemary in his lapel.
"Rosemary — that's for remembrance."