On occasion, we see a bumper sticker that says “TO BE ONE, ASK ONE.” It is referring to what must be done to become a Mason but if we give it only a small amount of thought we know it just is not true. In fact, that statement cannot be any further from the truth. Nevertheless, to the non-Mason and some Masons alike it implies all that is required to gain membership in a Masonic Lodge is to ask a Mason and it will be done. It is true a man must ask to enter our Honorable Institution but that does not secure his place among us. It is sad to say that many within our Lodges believe this to be the truth.
First and foremost, the man asking should not receive a petition “unless you are convinced he will conform to our rules; that the honor, glory, and reputation of the Institution may be firmly established, and the world at large convinced of its good effects.” That is one of our first lessons learned as a Mason in the Charge of an Entered Apprentice. It is our duty to decide if he is worthy long before we ever give him a petition to our Lodge. I know of Masons who believe they must give a man a petition merely because he asks for one. The man must next find a second Mason who is a member of his Lodge of choice who knows him well and will also sign his petition. We should never be a second-signer unless we do indeed know the man. Hearing about him for the first time at the Secretary's desk is not knowing the man.
If he is found worthy to receive a petition from the two of you, he must complete it in his own handwriting and present it to the Lodge. His name and information is then read in Open Lodge and he must be able to pass an investigation of a committee composed of three Master Masons. These Brethren are to check into the life and character of the man. Interviews are to be conducted with his employer and fellow employees, his family and neighbors along with anyone else who may be able to shed light on the prospective member. Once all this is complete, the committee must next agree the man would still be worthy to be called a Mason. If he is, it is on to the next step.
The time has now arrived when the Lodge decides if he will join the Fraternity. His name is once more brought before the members and he must be approved at the ballot box by unanimous consent. Therefore, you see, one does not become a Mason simply by asking one. Much has to happen before that day may or in some cases may not come.
Our Institution of Freemasonry could be at jeopardy. Our Lodges today have many members who do not contribute of themselves to the Fraternity. They may have influence within our membership, be a member of many Masonic organizations, come to all the meetings and be some of our best ritualists but they have no concept of what it is to be a Master Mason. It never occurs to them that their daily life, the window for the world, is being looked at by the public every day and that the Fraternity at large judged by their public dealings, associations, actions and language. These Brethren through no fault of their own were allowed to enter through the West Gate without being properly investigated and we are now suffering from this deplorable mistake. Our once brilliant luster is now faded.
We must be jealous of our membership and hold it in highest regard. It must mean more to us than merely having a dues card in our pocket. We are members of an Honorable Institution. We have standards to live up to and obligations to keep and that is why “Our Focus is on Quality.” We have got to have quality with our candidates. Starting now, we must guard the entrance to Freemasonry much closer, which begins at the end of our hand. Be cautious to whom you give a petition, because the future but more especially the “honor, glory and reputation” of Freemasonry depends on it…one new member at a time.
May God continue to bless America and our great Fraternity and may the blessings of Heaven rest upon you and your families.
Barry A. Rickman