The word “brother” has had a special meaning for me ever since I turned 15 and joined the Order of DeMolay. It meant guys like Jonathan Marcus, Mike Paceleo, Charles and Clay Stewart and, yes, even, Travis Karlin. It meant friends you could count on, guys who would see you at your best and at your worst and still love you. People who would just sit next to you as your mourned and who would be the first to congratulate you when you celebrated. I’m somewhat older than 15, and those Brothers still have a place in my heart.
The word “brother” has become even more powerful to me as I have spent time as a Freemason. I have traveled many hours to help bury a brother. I have sat with a brother as he talked about the possibility of proposing marriage. I have congratulated a brother as his first child was born. I have helped a brother explore care options for his ailing father. I have attended funerals. I have celebrated anniversaries.
I’ve been a Mason long enough and have been active enough that I have several Masonic titles. The accompanying honorifics mean something to me when sometimes used, in recognition of my service and my efforts, by someone whose respect I have earned. For the longest time, being called “Worshipful” made me uncomfortable. Being called “Excellent” made me laugh. But with time, the titles have come to seem natural in the appropriate contexts and their power to make me cringe or amuse me has faded.
The power of the title “Brother” has never faded. There is something in me that lifts when one of my Brothers calls me Brother. There is something in me that rejoices when I see one of my Brothers.
And that it is, perhaps, why, of all the details that have been in the news about the recent tragedy in New Zealand, the one that stuck with me is that the last words spoken by the first victim of the shootings, Mohemmed Daoud Nabi, were, “Hello, Brother…” The shooter, may his name be forgotten and his memory erased from history, replied with three bullets.
I have been thinking a great deal about my Brothers. My lodge is very diverse, like the Cambridge community in which is situated. We have members from a wide variety of backgrounds, born in several countries, and of various races. And we have members who are Christian, Jewish, Muslim… and so on.
If you are the sort of man who cannot be in a room with others who do not share your faith and, with an open heart, pray with and for those men, then you have no business being a Mason and I would ask that you not seek admission to our Order. If, in a moment when we left our West Gate insufficiently guarded, you became a Mason but reject the idea of the Universal Brotherhood of Man under the Universal Fatherhood of G-d, I invite you to resign from Freemasonry — it cannot benefit you and you cannot benefit from Freemasonry.
My heart aches for my Brothers who have been targeted in this latest bigotry as it has ached before for other brothers. I do not know what I can do to help heal the hate that is in the world except by continuing to hold up the ideal I learned at that altar in the Scottish Rite Cathedral in San Antonio, Texas, in Albert Pike Chapter #58 of the Order of DeMolay — that ideal that says we are Brothers and that means something.