(a) A disposition to do good.
(b) An act of kindness.
(c) A generous gift.
Before any Master Mason can understand the true meaning of benevolence there is one great and primary lesson we must all learn. It is set out quite clearly by William Shakespeare in the play "Hamlet", where in Scene 3 of Act 1 he has Polonius, the Lord Chamberlain to the King of Denmark, give some fatherly advice to his son Laertes on the eve of his departure for France. He gives him his blessing plus a few precepts for him to remember - to be of good character; not to carry on loose or idle conversation; not to act in haste; to be pleasant but not too forward; to cherish his old friends and not be in a hurry to make new ones; not to quarrel but when it is unavoidable to give a good account of himself; to listen to everyone but to make up his own mind; not to judge people hastily; and finally above all others "to thine own self be true, and it follows as the night the day, thou cans't not be false to any man".
Yes if there is going to be benevolence it must come from each of us personally - We must be true to ourselves. The Ritual tells us that "the most important of all human studies is the Knowledge of ourselves". Once we learn to believe in ourselves we will then believe in what Masonry teaches us. In my quick review of the Ritual I find at least 32 instances referring to our responsibilities as to Charity to our fellow creatures. In the majority of these the universality of our charitable obligations is st ressed - to the whole of mankind.
The term Benevolence and Charity must be broad in it's interpretation, and I think the interpretation of love taught by the Anglican Church has great meaning to us as Masons Let us review for a few moments some of the Charges imposed on us by the Ritual.
If a man comes under the tongue of good report, he must be a man who has the disposition to do good.
The third question asked of every candidate before Initiation - "Do you believe the Supreme Being has revealed his will to man?"
The presentation of the Apron "To work together with that Love and Harmony which should at all times characterize Freemasons". Is it possible to love one's neighbour and at the same time be indifferent to his needs?
The North East Angle
"I shall immediately put your principles in some measure to the test, by calling upon you to exercise that virtue which may justly be denominated the distinguishing characteristic of a Freemason's heart - I mean Charity.
It has the approbation of Heaven and of earth, and like it's sister Mercy, blesses him who gives, as well as him who receives."
Stress is placed on those who are daily sinking into the sere and yellow leaf of old age, and those who perhaps who are suffering through unforseen circumstances of misfortune and calamity.
IT IS OUR USUAL CUSTOM to awaken the feelings of every newly initiated Brother, by making such a claim upon his charity as his circumstances as his circumstances in life may fairly warrant.
NO MATIER HOW SMALL THE AMOUNT, IT WILL BE THANKFULLY RECEIVED AND FAITHFULLY APPLIED.
THESE ARE NOT IDLE WORDS BRETHREN, TO BE LISTENED TO AND FORGOTTEN AFTER THE CEREMONY - THEY ARE A VITAL PART OF THE CREED BY WHICH WE LIVE AS MASONS.
5. Let us further reinforce our dedication to this, the greatest of all Masonic attributes by referring to the words of the Canadian Rite lecture in the Entered Apprentice Degree.
"We hope to arrive at the summit by the assistance of a Ladder - in scripture called Jacob's Ladder - the three principal rounds - FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY. Faith in the Great Architect of the Universe, Hope in Salvation, AND CHARITY TOWARDS ALL MEN. but the Third and last comprehends the whole, and the Mason who is in possession of this Virtue in it's most ample sense, may justly be deemed to have arrived at the Summit of Freemasonry"
This lecture also refers to the Mosaic pavement and calls on us to "act as the dictates of right reason prompts us, to cultivate harmony, PRACTISE CHARITY, and live at Peace with all men.
It concludes with the words that "the tenets and fundamental principles of Ancient Freemasonry are Brotherly Love, RELIEF, and Truth.
No one knows the true meaning of Brotherly Love until he has been involved in his brother's tribulations and distress, and likewise, no brother feels or understands until he has so contracted it.
6. The working tools of the 2 degree.
The Square - Our conduct must be acceptable to the Divine Being - the true symbol of all goodness.
The Level - We are all Brothers with all the implications that this brings.
The Plumb - We must give up every selfish propensity which may tend to injure others.
7. The Third Degree.
The Five points of Fellowship.
To stand beside a Brother - a column of mutual defence and support.
To be reminded of a Brother's wants to soothe his afflictions and relieve his necessities.
To uphold his honour.
We are also taught in the third degree to Teach by our actions.
- the lesson of natural equality and mutual dependence.
- to seek the solace of our own distress by extending relief and consolation to our fellow creatures in their afflictions.
- We are created in the image of God to show forth his glory and contribute to the happiness of mankind.
- to teach sincere affection, lawful support, relief, fidelity and truth.
9. The Charges.
First Degree. Be especially careful to maintain in their fullest splendour those truly Masonic ornaments of BENEVOLENCE and CHARITY.
Second Degree. You are to encourage industry and reward merit, supply the wants, and relieve the necessities of your Brethren and fellows to the utmost of your power and ability, but to apprize them of approaching danger and to view their interests as inseparable from their own.
Third Degree. You are to inculcate universal benevolence and by the regularity of your own behaviour afford the best example for the conduct of others.
Also the Volume of the Sacred Law is the means by which the Almighty reveals more of his Divine will than by any other means. It is the Great Light of Masonry and should be the source of study of all Masons to expand their understanding and knowledge of Benevolence. We are all created in the image of the Divine Being and we must live by His teachings. It is therefore essential that every Mason should stop and meditate on these teachings until he fully understands them and they become a vital part of his being.
JnI. 19 to 21. If a man say, I love God and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother who he hath seen, how can he love God who he hath not seen? And this Commandment have we from Him, that he who loveth God, love his brother also.
Lev. 19 - 18. Thou shall not avenge, or bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
John 13 - 35. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another.
Isaiah 16 - 17. Learn to do well, seek judgement, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
Psalms 82. 3 - 4. Defend the poor and the fatherless, do Justice to the afflicted and the needy.
John 15 - 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Romans 12. 18. He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity, he that ruleth, let him do it with diligence, he that showeth mercy, let him do it with cheerfulness.
Cor.I. 19 - 7. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity. For God loveth a cheerful giver.
Cor.II. 8-12. For if there be first a willing mind, his gift shall be accepted according to that which a man hath and not according to what he hath not.
Matt. 6. - 1. Take heed that ye give not your alms before men in order to be seen by them, otherwise ye shall receive no reward from your Father which is in Heaven. Cor.I. 13 - 3. Although I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity it profiteth me nothing.
Cor.I. 16 - 14. Let all your things be done with charity.
Coll.3. 14. And above all things put on charity which is the bond of Perfection.
Tim.I. 4 - 17. Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith and in purity.
Peter II. 5-7. In all things be diligent - add to your faith - virtue, to your virtue - knowledge, and to your knowledge - temperance, to your temperance - patience; and to your patience - godliness, and to your godliness - brotherly kindness and charity. For if these things be in you and abound ye shall be neither barren for unfruitful in the knowledge of your Lord. He that lacketh in these things is blind and cannot see afar off.
Now we understand the term of benevolence, and our responsibilities as Masons, what programmes and activities should be evident in our Lodges?
What form and activities should these philosophies of Benevolence lead us as Masons, and our Lodges into?
Let us first of all look at those benevolent activities which we can all, and should all be involved in on a daily basis.
Our benevolence or charity, if you will can be divided into two separate parts. One - A financial commitment.
Two - A practical or non financial commitment.
We will deal with the financial or monetary commitment in a few moments. Let us now look at the areas of charity or benevolence which are available to every Mason, whether he is a man of affluence or not.
Let us now look at Charity in it's most ample sense.
How many of us in this room today have been present at a Masonic meeting, and afterwards have heard mild criticism of one or more of the Officers or the degree team for not having portrayed the ritual according to the standards which your Lodge has become accustomed to accept. Surely here is an opportunity to display this great Masonic attribute - Charity.
To illustrate this Masonic charity, which we should all embrace, I would like to read a small poem, extracted from an old Ritual, which recently came to my attention:
This poem is almost 100 years old
"Though hard's our task, we fearless tread this ground. Hope whispers us, "No work is perfect found" Has any mortal eye a perfect work e'er seen? Look not from us, for what has never been! How can imperfect man expect to find, That which is not within the human mind! That being the case, our work we humbly trust T' the Brothers candour - Masons will be just".
Now a few words regarding the benevolence which does necessitate monetary assistance And it is essential that all Masons accept their part in this assistance. There is also a definite order and level of responsibility involved.
1. The individual Mason should be prepared to provide all assistance within his means.
2. He should then bring the matter to his Lodge - should the needs be beyond his means. The Lodge, after thorough investigation by a very responsible Committee should be prepared to extend all assistance within it's means - from current funds, from collection, or by a levy against the membership.
3. The Lodge, by majority vote, may then refer the matter to the District and to Grand Lodge for further assistance.
4. In making any representation to Grand Lodge, it is necessary for the Lodge to complete, in detail, to the best of their ability, the requiree forms. You cannot provide the Grand Lodge Board of Benevolence with too much information. The report of the Lodge Committee and all other pertinent or extenuating circumstances which will enable the Board of Benevolence to make timely, fair, and equitable decisions.
5. Any grants given by the Board of Benevolence, will be given to the Lodge, and it is the responsibility of the Lodge to supervise the grants given, and to keep Grand Lodge up to date on future developments.
In closing this Seminar, we would like to leave you with the words of M.W.Bro. John Melymick P.G.M. Grand Lodge of Saskatchewan and an Honourary Grand Master of this Jurisdiction. These words are quoted from the opening address given to the Banff Conference on August 30, 1983.
"Masonry was designed to minister. What seems needed now is to intensify the worth and the usefulness of this great Brotherhood, and to deepen it's understanding of it's own system; to educate it's members in the deeper meaning and true purpose of it's rites and it's philosophy.
The future development and the value of the Order as a moral force in society depends therefore, upon the view it's members take of their system. Note well, if they do not spiritualize it, they will increasingly materialize it. If they fail to interpret it's veiled purport, to enter into the understanding of it's underlying philosophy, and to translate it's symbolism into what is signified thereby, they will be mistaking shadow for substance, a husk for a kernel, and secularizing what was designed as a mean s of spiritual instruction and grace. We cannot emphasize too strongly that it is from lack of instruction, rather than the desire to learn the meaning of Masonry, that the Craft suffers today. For many members of the Craft, to be a Mason implies merely connection with a body which seems to be something combining the nature of a club and a Benefit Society".
My Brethren, if we can understand, teach and practise, as Masons and constituent Lodges, Benevolence - a disposition to do good, an act of kindness, and a generous gift, then each and every one of us will have truly attained the summit of FreeMasonry, and our beloved fraternity will flourish not only in out time, but also for future generations.
But now, why all of this in a Chaplain's Corner? Oh there is quite a teaching here. All around us are men, women, and children who have problems ranging all the way from a monetary disappointment to tragedy. A lower grade in an examination, a financial problem, devastating MD, impending surgery, the death of a mate. Any one of these and more can be dramatically significant all the way from worry to suicide.
But if they have you, it can make all the difference in the world. A hand on the shoulder, a smile, a kind word, a note of encouragement, a rose bud, a prayer - just to know you are standing by, caring, loving, You can be mightily instrumental until the lost has been bund and joy can replace the burden-some unhappiness.
So, just look around you - and seeing - come on - get into the act - and cause the joy of the rediscovery of happiness. And remember the words of our Lord - "Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these, you have done it unto Me."
The Rev. Robert S. Nagle, Supreme Chaplain