Esse Quam Videri, Brethren

By Grand Master Shaun Bradshaw

As I sit here writing my final article for the NC Mason, I am reflecting on this past year and what I want my closing message to be. It certainly has not been the year I planned and I am confident few, if any of us, anticipated what 2020 had in store.

Yet, despite the many challenges we have faced, I am hopeful that our fraternity can come out stronger if we focus on being what we say we are.

I firmly believe that lodges can once again be a moral and spiritual center for the next generation of men in our communities – we simply need to return to our heritage and take seriously the idea that we are the custodians of symbols rich in moral, ethical, and spiritual teachings.

And here’s the thing, I know it can be done. I have seen lodges with the enthusiasm, desire, and passion (both before and after our pandemic-driven shutdown) to return to our social, charitable, and ritualistic labors. They have shown that the fraternity can thrive again, although maybe not in terms of number of members, but in our impact to ourselves, our charities, and our communities.

Yet I know many of our lodges struggle. The question is, “Why do they struggle?” As I mentioned in my last article, throughout the degree work we ask, “Who comes here?” And while each of us will need to answer that question for ourselves, I think it is equally important for lodges to consider that question as well.

How would your lodge answer the question, “Who comes here?”

Does your lodge practice meaningful ritual or do you struggle to make the candidate the center of attention?

Are your meetings focused on education centered on moral, ethical, or philosophical discussions or do you rush to get through the business so you can close and go home?

Is your lodge building one of the finest edifices in the community or has it fallen into disrepair?

Is your lodge a frequent promoter in the community or does your community even know you exist?

Think about this. When you petitioned your lodge did you expect the extraordinary or the ordinary? What did you get? What type of experience does your lodge give candidates today?

As I think about my experience with the Craft over the past year, I am reminded of our state’s motto, “Esse Quam Videri” – to be rather than to seem, which is taken from a longer quote in Cicero’s essay, On Friendship: “Virtute enim ipsa non tam multi praediti esse quam videri volunt” or "Few are those who wish to be endowed with virtue rather than to seem so.”

Brethren, what are our lodges if they are not a place where men can come together to learn to be endowed with truth and virtue? And yet, too often, these topics are only mentioned during the ritual work and even then, many of the members present have little understanding of the words spoken.

I have seen too many posts on social media, had too many conversations, read too many emails and letters that show many of my brethren leave our teachings in the lodge when they go home.

I recently spoke to a past DDGM who was upset because two young men who had shown interest in the fraternity are now unwilling to petition because of derisive comments and posts they saw from members of the lodge on social media. Their comment to the brother was, “Is this what you teach in Freemasonry?”

Brethren, we need to be what we say we are because the young men of today want and need what we say we are. Study after study confirms that these men are aching for a place to learn, to share, to discuss the values, philosophies and mysteries, which our symbols and rituals confer.

However, in order to attract these young men to our lodges we are going to have to shift how we do things today, how we interact with them, and how we interact with each other. I hate to call it out, but we are going to have to change the culture of lingering racism, ageism, and religious intolerance in some of our lodges. These ideas go against the ideals of Brotherly Love which we are taught in the First Degree and will not attract these young men.

Our Masonic forefathers gave us so much to be proud of. Our rituals and symbols, our reputation, our history, and our buildings. Freemasons were once known as protectors of the ideals of the Enlightenment – of science & philosophy, of moral & social understanding, but today many of our members want to commoditize the fraternity – cheapen it – and hold on to a past plagued with intolerance.

Rather we should denounce complacency and intolerance and actively restore our lodge experience to one aligned with our original Enlightenment values.

In short, to attract younger men to our fraternity we must be what we say we are – both inside and outside the lodge!

Before I go, I do want to publicly acknowledge a few important people. First, is my Masonic Father, Most Worshipful Dewey Preslar. I first met Brother Dewey when Brother Larry Thompson and I crashed Most Worshipful Billy Dill’s installation banquet. While we were helping ourselves to the buffet, I was asked

to come speak with Brother Dewey, who had just been appointed to oversee an Orient-wide fundraiser for the Scottish Rite.

Brother Stan Dodd thought I might be able to assist Brother Dewey by serving on the committee with him and wanted to introduce us. Through our years of working together on the Scottish Rite fundraisers and attending the GAP International training, we came to be close friends. I can only assume that Brother Dewey saw in me some traits he believed would be useful to our fraternity and I am grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to serve our Grand Lodge as Grand Master. Thank you, Dewey.

I also want to thank my family: Sharon, Graham, and Brantleigh. My desire to be a better husband and father is what inspired me to become a Freemason and I hope you trust I made the right decision when I joined. I realize I could not have made this journey without you and it has been even more special having your encouragement and support over the years. I love you all so much and I am deeply grateful to have you in my life.

Freemasonry has been invaluable in shaping me as a husband, father, businessman, and citizen. Without this fraternity – this organization dedicated to Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth – so many aspects of my life would be different. I cannot fathom where or who I would be without its influence on me, without YOUR influence on me.

So, to all my brethren, thank you for giving me this great and humbling opportunity to serve you. As I said before, it has not been the year I planned, but no matter the circumstance, I am grateful to have been able to serve as the 167th Grand Master of Masons in North Carolina.

Finally, brethren, keep the light and tell your story!