Yesterday was Father’s Day. Unfortunately, I was unable to spend the day with my sons, because they are spending the summer at their mother’s. That’s okay though, because we spent a “Father’s Day” weekend together a few weeks before they left. My sons are 10 and 12 now, and I’m very proud to see them growing into fine young men. My youngest son, J.D., is a silly guy, constantly making up stories to entertain people and seeking their attention, although he shies away from it often when it’s received. He has a very creative mind, and he often comes across like an “old soul.” When he turns 12, he will likely follow in his brother’s footsteps to join DeMolay International.
My eldest son, Mason, loves learning (things he’s interested in learning about). He’s constantly reading and talking to us about what he’s discovered. He and I share many interests, and I’ve given him books that I’ve read on such topics. We especially share an interest in the middle ages, the crusades, knights, and specifically the Knights Templar. We had discussed at length about the Knights Templar and their unfortunate demise at the hands of Prince Philip the Fair and his pope Clement V. He knew the name of Jacques DeMolay, his arrest on October 13, 1307, and his death at the stake in 1314 before he even knew about DeMolay International.
As I described previously, Mason wanted to join DeMolay when he moved in with me, and I incorrectly believed at the time that I had to become a Freemason to make that happen. Not that I didn’t want to become a Freemason on my own volition or that his interest was my sole reason for joining, but it definitely provided a necessary push to get me into the lodge when I did. Mason turned 12 in October 2014, finally making him eligible to join DeMolay International, which was the same month I was initiated into Freemasonry. Unfortunately, the lodge I joined no longer had an active DeMolay chapter. Fortunately, there were two chapters equidistant from my lodge. I spoke with my lodge’s secretary concerning the matter and he recommended that I reach out to the Foothill Chapter at Upland/Mt.Baldy Lodge #419.
I took Mason by a Chapter meeting held the 1st and 3rd Mondays of the month, so he could meet his potential brethren and make sure it was something he really wanted to do. He was interviewed by several of the DeMolays before their meeting and then left. On the ride home, he was very excited and could not wait to be initiated. I’m not sure he fully understood what that meant, so I helped to explain to him what an initiatic system was. I really liked the idea of him interacting with upright boys from 12 to 21 of good character, acting as models for him. As hard as I try to be a model, I feel a child (especially a pubescent one) often looks to peers for modeling behavior over parents.
At the next meeting, he was initiated. My lodge secretary who was a DeMolay in his youth and a brother I consider a mentor to me who also had once been a DeMolay both attended it with me. I was only a recently made brother and here they were watching my son become a DeMolay. I caught them mouthing along to the ritual, smiling that they remembered what has long since been put away in the back of their minds. Like riding a bike, once learned it can always been brought back up. The initiation itself was very familiar to what I felt I experienced (I had not yet seen a 1st degree at that point from the sideline). I wished I had been able to join DeMolay when I was young, but I had no idea it even existed.
The experience seemed to have an impact on Mason. He began DeMolay with long-hair hanging well passed his shoulders and didn’t seem to take care of himself hygienically very well (no matter how much I badgered him). I’m not sure if was maturity, puberty, or the influence of DeMolay, but Mason decided he wanted to cut his hair into a style much easier to take care of and seemed to take more concern about his personal hygiene. He also seemed to be taking much more responsibility around the house. It’s still a work in progress, but he actually does things when I ask him to and doesn’t complain (too much) when asked to clean his room or take out the trash. If these positive changes were indeed an influence of DeMolay, I can’t wait for his younger brother, J.D., to be old enough to join.
On March 14, 2015, I took Mason to the Scottish Rite of Pasadena to see the 2nd and final degree of DeMolay exemplified on the stage. Unlike the degree work in the Masonic lodge, these degrees are open to non-Masons (albeit they must be parents and relatives of the DeMolay receiving the degree). The degree was a play, much more elaborate than the 1st degree that initiated him into the experience. As one would expect, the topic of the play was Jacques DeMolay, but that’s as much as I will reveal about the material. I sat proudly, watching my son receive his degree among the 50 or so other boys who received theirs along with him.
Recently, I have heard Masons discuss the youth orders (in person, online, and on podcasts like TMR. The discussion seems to be whether such orders are necessary in today’s day and age, whether they need or deserve the support of Master Masons, and if those youth orders strengthen the Masonic family at all. I have to say that I am in full support of these orders and that they need our support. I’m disappointed that the programs begin so late in a child’s life. If they’re lucky, they might be able to start around 10 with Squires for DeMolay, Jobies to Bee, or Rainbow Pledges, but otherwise they’re waiting until 12. These programs are designed as moral, ethical, and leadership development. These are likely areas that are not learned in the schools. Further, they become involved in service work and charity, which helps to curb their self-centeredness that develops at a young age.
These youth orders help children learn and understand the world around them. It is the first exposure to those lessons of tolerance and love of people regardless of their individual differences. They develop some necessary skills that have been entirely lost in the standardized way children are taught today. It is on us to teach them the necessity of being a good citizen and what that truly means. As Whitney Houston once sang:
I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside