Monitor Lodge No. 197

A.F. & A.M.
212 E. Mellen Street
Hampton, VA 23663



Why Join?

The following is taken from the excellent book  Freemasons for Dummies by fellow Mason Christopher Hodapp:  It may look a little long, but I believe both Freemasons and prospective members will find it inspirational.

Why Men Become Masons:

Men become Freemasons for many reasons, yet there is a common thread that you hear over and over again.  It generally leads back to a relative, coworker, teacher, or friend they've admired --- a man whose conduct or philosophy stood out as especially kind, generous, or honorable.

What's in it for you?

When asked about the benefits of their membership in Freemasonry, most members speak of the friendships they make or the spiritual and philosophical growth it has stirred in them.  There are other benefits men receive from becoming Masons, including the following:

     --- A worldwide fraternity:  There are Masonic brothers in almost every country on Earth, from every social, religious, economic, and ethnic background.  There is prestige and honor in being a part of the biggest and the best society of gentlemen.

     --- Centuries of tradition:   The Masonic degree rituals connect you with 300 years of history;  1,100 years of tradition;  and 3,000 years of legend.

     --- A network of mutual friendship and aid:  Masons pledge to help, aid, and assist each other, in every walk of life.

     --- Help for your community:  The charities of Masonry are vast and can be as massive as the Shriners Hospital network, as local as a child identification program, or as simple as shoveling snow from a lodge widow's sidewalk.  It can mean the entire lodge raising money for a community cause, or one single Brother buying a winter coat for a poor child at the local school.  It can mean time or the simple act of human kindness.

     --- College scholarships:  Many Grand Lodges, and some local lodges as well, offer scholarships for college students.

     --- Retirement homes:  One of the most extensive Grand Lodge charities and benefits is the Masonic retirement homes.  These homes are designed for the members of the fraternity and their relatives.  Many of them provide everything from independent-living cottages to intensive-care nursing-home facilities.

     --- Social functions:  Masons also have a lot of fun, participating in social dinners, fish frys, sporting events, and just about any good way to experience fellowship you can imagine.

Hearing from Masons themselves:

"Freemasonry embraces the highest moral laws and will bear the test of any system of ethics or philosophy ever promulgated for the uplift of man."
                                                                  ---- General Douglas MacArthur

"We represent a fraternity which believes in justice and truth and honorable action in your community... men who are endeavoring to be better citizens... and to make a country greater.  This is the only institution in the world where we can meet on the level all sorts of people who want to live rightly."
                                                                  ---- Harry S Truman,  President of the United States  and Past Grand Master of Missouri             
"One of the things that attracted me so greatly to Masonry... was that it really did live up to what we, as a government, are pledged to ---of treating each man on his merits as a Man."
                                                                  ---- Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States

"The more I come in contact with the work of the Masonic Fraternity, the more impressed I am by the great charitable work and the great practical good which we are carrying out."
                                                                  ---- Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States

"There is no doubt in my mind that Masonry is the cornerstone of America"
                                                                  ---- Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's International

"When you go into our lodge, on the back of the Tyler's chair are the words 'Know Thyself.'   That is important.  That is the ultimate message to all Masons: truly know who you are."
                                                                  ---- Michael Richards, Actor    Seinfeld's  Kramer


Why I joined:

Every Mason has his own story, his own reasons for seeking membership in Freemasonry.  Let me share mine, and then I'll pester you no further.

When I was in my 20s, if someone had told me that, by the time I was 40, I'd be driving a Chrysler with two sets of golf clubs in the trunk and be a member of the Freemasons, I would have laughed in his face.  But people change.

I spent a lot of years studying the Freemasons, peripherally at first, in conjunction with research for a novel my wife was writing about modern-day Knights Templar (many years before Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, discovered them).  Later, my interest led me into the possible origins of Freemasonry, what they had been, and what their modern role has become.  But even then, Masons were a mere curiosity and struck me as nothing more than an aging, middle-class social club that wore funny aprons and exchanged comical handshakes--- no more meaningful in my mind than Fred Flintstone and his Water Buffalo Lodge.  Then my father-in-law died.

Bob Funcannon was what is known as a local personality.  For nearly 30 years, if you attended the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the month of May on any day but race day, you heard the deep, resonant tones of Bob over the P.A. system.  The rest of the year he was a candy salesman.  He was a veteran of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, a deacon in the local Presbyterian Church, and a Mason.  He never talked about it, but he had been raised in Social Lodge #86 in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1942.  He didn't go to lodge very often in his later years, but he paid his dues and stayed in touch.  He was a fixture around Lawrence, Indiana, assisting in the building of one VFW post and a member of yet another.  Bob and his wife Vera, were pretty regular visitors to the dance floor of the local Grotto.  He loved nothing more than to sit in a tavern or post, sip the same beer all afternoon, and tell stories; that deep booming voice coming out of that skinny little man, even when he tried to whisper, carried clear across a crowded room.

In later years, Bob retired to Dallas, Texas, but he still managed to drive back home to Indiana each year in May and announce at the track.  And he eventually received his 50-year Mason pin.  In Dallas, he never attended a lodge, but he was a mainstay at the VFW posts and was always setting up a library, spinning records at a dance, or just sipping an O'Doul's and passing the time with buddies.  He seemed to know everyone in the neighborhood and always knew how to make you smile.  No one was a stranger to Bob, and even as his health failed him, his wife passed away, and his private moods became less patient, in public he was always center stage and your instant friend.  He always treated me like one of his own sons.

So when he died, we were torn by a dilemma and decided to have his funeral in Texas where he had spent the last 15 years of his life.  We saw to it that the biggest funeral chapel was reserved so that his many friends could be accommodated.  At the last minute, my wife remembered that her dad had been a Mason, and we knew Masons performed a funeral service for departed Brothers.  So, late on the Sunday evening before the Monday funeral, we started madly calling every Masonic lodge in Dallas and Fort Worth.  At last we found a janitor working late, and he said he would try to contact some of the Brothers.  We didn't hold out much hope.

The next day, we discovered to our great dismay that virtually no one had come, and that we should have brought him home to Indiana after all.  That cavernous chapel was populated by the four of us in his family, a neighbor, and the three people he lived with.  And ten Masons.

Ten men who never knew him, called by a stranger on a Sunday night, dropped what they were doing that morning and came to say goodbye to a Brother they had never met and extend a helping hand to his family.  But not one was too tired or too busy to be there for a Brother.  They performed a memorial service far more moving, comforting, and final than the rented minister who mispronounced Bob's last name every time he said it.  And when it was all over, they stayed behind and made it clear that they would help us in any way they possibly could.  This was no empty gesture, no hollow recitation of platitudes from strangers.  Their offer of aid was sincere, the fulfillment of an obligation they had all sworn to abide by.

That's why I joined.

We, sadly, are surrounded by a society of increasingly cold indifference and isolation, populated by people who have become too afraid or busy or selfish or skeptical or bored to even leave their houses and simply find out the names of their next-door neighbors.  Yet, Freemasonry survives.  It teaches and celebrates commitment, honor, tradition, integrity, truth, responsibility--- words and ideas that have fallen out of fashion and become concepts that are foreign to far too many people in this world.  When you assist in the learning and passing of Masonic ritual, you become another link in a long, honorable, and ancient chain.  The heritage of the United States is populated by Masons who infused the foundations of the country with the intrinsic fundamentals and philosophies they learned from Freemasonry.

I am far from a perfect man, but the very act of putting on one of those aprons that I long ago made fun of, laying my hand on the Bible and the ancient tools of a Craft whose origins are shrouded in antiquity, and obligating myself to a world of Brothers who are as ready to stand up in a quiet, empty chapel for me and extend their hands in friendship and aid to my own family when I am gone as those ten Brothers did in Dallas that day for Bob, is a duty I feel honored and proud to shoulder.
"Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad company."
                              ---George Washington