written by Matthew T. Szramoski, 33°, Associate Director of Development
That Charity which relieves the necessities and distresses of man, and with open hand gives the suffering and destitute solace and comfort; and which forgives and utters merciful judgment upon the faults and shortcomings of others; believes them better than they seem, and teaches us to judge and to do unto others as we should wish them, and think it right for them to judge and do unto us. —Albert Pike
We first learn about the importance of charity in the symbolic lodge where we are taught that as a Master Mason we ought to be charitable toward our fellow brethren, their widows and orphans. In the Scottish Rite we expand on this concept through the 8th, 18th, 26th, 29th, 30th and 32nd Degrees in particular. If we are to take the role as the “University of Freemasonry” then perhaps we should build our living temples upon a strong foundation of Masonic charity.
Two of the questions I frequently get asked by individuals who are not a member of the Masonic fraternity are: “Is Freemasonry a charity?” and “Is it a service organization?” My response to both is no. Freemasonry is a fraternal organization that is philanthropic due to the teachings found in our ritual and philosophy.
Albert Pike said that “charity flows in all directions like the light.” I think Pike had two thoughts when he made this statement. First, that charity should be everywhere and bring relief as the sun brings light and hope to each day. Second and in a more symbolic manner, that like all Masonic education, we should receive light or instruction on the importance and need for being charitable.
In providing light on charity to a new Scottish Rite Mason we should emphasize several points.
- All charity should first come from the heart.
- Charity is the responsibility of each member.
- Charity can be made through financial, volunteer, and other methods.
- All contributions are important.
- Why we give is as important as what we give.
- None of us know if we may one day need charitable assistance.
- We need to know our Supreme Council, Orient and Valley charities.
The Almoner’s Fund is a great example of how to make these points. When we bring in a new member, do we explain why the box of fraternal assistance is passed around after each Valley meeting? Do brethren know how to make a request for assistance if their situation dictates it? Do we handle these requests in a compassionate and discreet manner? Too often we ask for charitable support without really giving our brethren light (education) on why they should give. Each brother contributes what he thinks is appropriate with a common goal-to help a member in need. He won’t know which member received assistance or why, but he will realize that his contribution is a part of fulfilling his Masonic obligations.
If Freemasonry in general and the Scottish Rite in particular are going to succeed in the 21st century we must continue to provide Masonic education on our charitable endeavors. Each member needs to understand the importance and role of the House of the Temple Historic Preservation Foundation and the Scottish Rite Foundation. He needs to learn about his Orient and local Valley programs. Does the valley ever invite a scholarship recipient or a RiteCare beneficiary to a valley meeting to explain how their support made a difference? Part of the education process should include seeing the positive results of well-spent charity. If a member never sees where his money (or labor) goes, he will not feel a strong reason for continuing to support these philanthropies.
A house is only as strong as the foundation on which it is built. How strong our charitable endeavors will be in the future will depend on what kind of foundation we build today. We need to educate our brethren that all work is important and that we must always practice the rules of benevolence and charity. Will you share the light?
To make a gift, please contact Earl Ihle, 33°, Grand Cross, Director of Development, at 1-866-448-3773, firstname.lastname@example.org; Matt Szramoski, 33°, Associate Director of Development, at 1-866-748-3227, email@example.com; or Jeri Walker, Development Coordinator, at 202-777-3198, firstname.lastname@example.org.