Thursday, December 31, 2009

Auld Lang Syne, My Friends!

When you sing that favorite song at midnight, remember its composer, Brother Robert Burns, who took it from an older Scottish folk song.

According to, Burns penned the poem in 1788. It became a traditional Scottish song, and came to the New World where bandleader Guy Lombardo heard it in his native Ontario. His band first played the song at midnight, New Year's Eve, 1929, at the Waldorf Astoria. He played it at that time every year at the Waldorf until 1976. Thus, the tradition was born...

Patty and I watched "When Harry Met Sally" last night, and Billy Crystal asks Meg Ryan what that song is all about... The literal meaning of “Auld Lang Syne” is “Old Long Since” or “Long, Long Ago”.

“Should old acquaintance be forgot / and never brought to mind? / Should old acquaintance be forgot / and days o' lang syne?” - These lines ask whether one can forget the days that have gone by and the friends with whom those days have been spent.

The lyrics talk about raising a toast to days gone by and all the festive adventures shared between friends. I would add, Masons use the song as a conclusion to table lodges, so we recall the days gone by and festive adventures shared by Brothers.

We'll take a cup of kindness yet / for Auld Lang Syne.

Happy New Year, brothers!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Challenge Accepted! Go Gophers!

I received this message from MWB Craig Hummel, Grand Master from Iowa:

Greetings Most Worshipful Tom,

It has been suggested to me (by a PGM -- go figure) that a friendly non-monetary wager might be fun for the above game and I wanted to solicit your thoughts. Any number of things could be done, but something kind of fun might be for the GM of the losing university to dress up in garb of the winning team and submit for photographs that would inevitably find their way onto each of our web sites and into our respective magazines.

What do you think? I realize it is short notice, what with the game being played tomorrow night, but what the heck, I'm game if you are.

I look forward to your response.



I replied, accepting the challenge:

I think you would look LOVELY in Maroon and Gold! Let’s go for it!

Winner to supply loser with appropriate shirt/hat/whatever for the photo. Or would you just like to wear it when you come to visit our annual communication in March?

(I must tell you that my grandson in Cedar Rapids is a Cyclones fan. He’s also a Bears fan. He couldn’t get that lucky twice in a week, could he???)

Happy New Year.


So, all you Minnesota Masons, cheer on our Golden Gophers so I don't have to don the chartreuse and pink of the Iowa State Cyclones (or whatever colors they wear!).

A Letter from the Sovereign Grand Commander Concerning Albert Pike's Birthday

I did not open this message until today, but the message was worth sending on.

House of the Temple
Washington D.C.
December 29, 2009

Dear Master of the Royal Secret,

Two hundred years ago today, our Illustrious Brother Albert Pike, 33°, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He was an explorer, a teacher, a lawyer, a general, and a Freemason. His accomplishments in any of these areas would make him worthy of respect, but it is as a Freemason that we in the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite most remember him.

In 1853 Ill. Albert G. Mackey, 33°, Grand Secretary General, conferred the 4° through 32° on Bro. Pike. Only two years later in 1855 the Supreme Council appointed him to serve on a committee to revise our rituals. His advancement in the Scottish Rite was nothing short of amazing: in 1857 he was coroneted an Inspector General Honorary; in 1858 he became an active member of the Supreme Council; and in 1859 he was electecd Sovereign Grand Commander.

While Bro. Pike is best known for revising our rituals and writing "Morals and Dogma," we cannot forget that the Southern Jurisdiction operates today under his administrative reorganization of the Supreme Council.

Ill. Pike's sublime command of language and his intricate layers of symbolism transformed Scottish Rite ritual in a way no one else has ever accomplished. Our Reverend Brother Joseph Fort Newton may have said it best:

"Albert Pike found Freemasonry in a log cabin and left it in a Temple."

However, when we think of our former Grand Commander and his many accomplishments, I believe we should consider his own words:

What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.

I ask that you take a moment today to pause and consider what Ill. Albert Pike, 33°, did for others and for the world. As his heirs, we continue to fulfill his legacy.

Sincerely and fraternally, Ronald A. Seale, 33°, Sovereign Grand Commander

For more information about Albert Pike, view our article HERE.

Please join our new social network for Freemasons at

Visit with Albert Pike

Albert Pike paid a visit to the Minneapolis Valley of the Scottish Rite last night on the 200th anniversary of his birth. That's me with him (aka Terry Rybarczk).

The other photo shows W.M. Carl Iliff (Hope Lodge in Glencoe) and P.M. Ross Arneson (Sibley Lodge in Winthrop) along with dozens of guests who attended the Pike lecture and enjoy pizza and pop after.

Ed Perlman, aka "The Black Crow", reports that 15 petitions for Scottish Rite were received at the social event last night. What a great result!

I am proud to be a Scottish Rite Mason. I find that it enhances my experience in the Blue Lodge. I look forward to visiting the class, which starts next Thursday, January 7.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tolerance Awareness Tuesday - Albert Pike

The Mason's creed goes further than that. No man, it holds, has any right in any way to interfere with the religious belief of another. It holds that each man is absolutely sovereign as to his own belief, and that belief is a matter absolutely foreign to all who do not entertain the same belief; and that, if there were any right of persecution at all, it would in all cases be a mutual right; because one party has the same right as the other to sit as judge in his own case; and God is the only magistrate that can rightfully decide between them. To that great Judge, Masonry refers the matter; and opening wide its portals, it invites to enter there and live in peace and harmony, the Protestant, the Catholic, the Jew, the Moslem; every man who will lead a truly virtuous and moral life, love his brethren, minister to the sick and distressed, and believe in the ONE, All-Powerful, All-Wise, everywhere-Present GOD, Architect, Creator, and Preserver of all things, by whose universal law of Harmony ever rolls on this universe, the great, vast, infinite circle of successive Death and Live: to whoe INEFFABLE NAME let all true Masons pay profoundest homage!

Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma

This day, December 29, 2009, is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Albert Pike. Pike is an interesting and enigmatic figure, but none can doubt his intellect or the influence his work in Morals and Dogma and in revising the ritual of the Scottish Rite has had on Masonry.

One of the magnets that draws me to Scottish Rite Masonry is that tolerance is a cornerstone of its philosophy. Tonight (Tuesday), I'll be attending a "birthday party" for Brother Pike at the Minneapolis Valley of the Scottish Rite. I expect to blog on that tomorrow!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holidays and Families

This has been a wonderful year, serving as Grand Master. It is not, however, without its drawbacks. One of which is that I have missed games, concerts and birthday parties of my grandsons.

Well, they (and their parents!) all made it to Grandma's house this snowy weekend. It made me reflect on just how blessed I am. Games of Risk, Left-Center-Right (thank you, Worshipful Brother Martz, for turning me on to this game!) and jigsaw puzzles were only part of the festivities. It was the first Christmas for Mason Thomas McCarthy, and his older cousins kept him well entertained!

Everyone arrived back home safely, and the piles made by the snowplow will have the sledding ramps clearly noted until spring, I hope, to serve as a reminder of great times.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Happy St John's Day

In a few words and short; we do not know just when, or just how, Freemasonry adopted the Sts. John. Their days are the Christian adaptation of pagan festivals of a time when man, knowing no better, worshiped the sun as the supreme God. So when we celebrate out festival days on June 24th and December 27th, we walk eye to eye and step by step with our ancient ancestors, worshiping as they worshiped, giving thanks as they did; they to the only God they knew for the glory of summer, the beginning of the period when days lengthened - we to the G.A.O.T.U. that our gentle Craft took for its own the austere but loving characters of two among the greatest of the saintly men who have taught of the Father of all mankind.

- Source: Short Talk Bulletin - Dec. 1933
Masonic Service Association of North America

This is another in the series of blogs considering the role of the shortest day of the year, and the return of light. We know that happens literally, as the days begin to become longer. It should happen figuratively for Masons as well. Our patron, St. John, wrote of themes of darkness and light in his gospel. Christian or no, these themes resonate with Masons.

Let us renew a commitment to find More Light in Masonry in the coming year.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas and Sol Invictus

According to Wikipedia the date set for Christmas may not have anything to do with the actual birth date of Jesus of Nazareth. There are many reasons to believe that this date was chosen to coincide with one or more pagan holidays – and with reasoning that is significant for Christians, and for Masons.

The Romans had a festival held on or about December 25 called “Dies Natalis Solis Invicti” – the birthday of the unconquered sun. In ancient times, the winter solstice was calculated to fall on December 25. In modern times, we recognize December 25 as the day when the lengthening days is first noticeable.

The Romans observed that the days became shorter and shorter, and without a modern appreciation of astronomy, they could not be sure that the days wouldn't continue to get shorter, until the sun disappeared completely and permanently.

So the ancients carefully observed and recorded the times of sunrise and sunset. And when, with their relatively crude measuring devices, they determined that the days were getting longer on December 25, a great celebration was in order! The sun would not die! The Light will return, and with it the promise of new crops and new life!

So Christians celebrate December 25 as the day the Light of the World was born. And Masons, Christian or no, can and should celebrate this date as representing the rebirth of Light in this troubled world.

Merry Christmas, my Brothers.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


On December 24, 1968, the photo here was taken by Astronaut Bill Anders as he and the crew of Apollo 8 orbited the moon.

I have heard him describe the earth as a fragile Christmas ornament – an insignificant planet on the edge of the Milky Way galaxy.

When I see the photo, I see that, plus a planet that is just far enough away from the sun so the water doesn’t boil away; just close enough to the sun that it’s not a frozen waste land; just enough atmosphere to protect the earth’s surface from the sun’s radiation, and to contain just enough gases of just the right proportion to support life.

When I see the photo, I see the Hand of God at work – still.

And I see more clearly our responsibility to take better care of our home.

Charles Dickens ended The Christmas Carol with this description of Scrooge: “[I]t was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”

May we all “keep Christmas well.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tolerance Awareness Tuesday - John Locke

If, like the Captain of our salvation, they sincerely desired the good of souls, they would tread in the steps and follow the perfect example of that Prince of Peace, who sent out His soldiers to the subduing of nations, and gathering them into His Church, not armed with the sword, or other instruments of force, but prepared with the Gospel of peace and with the exemplary holiness of their conversation. This was His method. ***

The toleration of those that differ from others in matters of religion is so agreeable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to the genuine reason of mankind, that it seems monstrous for men to be so blind as not to perceive the necessity and advantage of it in so clear a light
. John Locke, Letter Concerning Toleration.

John Locke (1632-1704) was an English philosopher. His ideas and theories on the state of nature and how it applies to government are used in many American historical documents. These documents, such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, are essential in the way that our government functions today. John Locke, a philosopher during the Age of Enlightenment, wrote the Second Treatise on Civil Government. This writing contained his theories and opinions on the reason there is a government, and how it should be run. John Locke's theories on natural rights of man, equality, and a properly functioning government are incorporated into our earliest historical documents, and lay a foundation for the government that exists today.

I’ve been writing the last couple of weeks about my perception of Jesus’ tolerance. Glad to find that a noted philosopher agrees.

Masons should take note, especially those of Christian belief, and emulate the invitation of Jesus as well as His acknowledgment that it is our free will that allows us to accept – or reject – that invitation.

(Click on the link above for the complete Letter.)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice is the shortest day (or longest night) of the year. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we celebrate the Winter Solstice this day, December 21.

For Masons, the passing of the Solstice marks the beginning of the return of Light. (See the entry coming on December 25 for musings on solstice festivals and Christmas.) For Masons, it also reminds us to consider the 6th Liberal Art and Science: Astronomy, the art by which the Wisdom, Strength and Beauty of our Creator is revealed. We learned that, by Astronomy, we can measure the distances, comprehend the magnitudes and calculate the periods and eclipses of the heavenly bodies – including the calculation of the Winter Solstice.

For many religions, the solstice is a time to consider life and death, birth and re-birth.

In Ireland, there is an ancient burial chamber, 500 years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza, and 2000 years older than Solomon’s Temple, called Newgrange. I visited there with my brother in 1998. It is a large earthen mound, with a small chamber in its middle. One has to duck one’s head to enter the doorway, beneath a transom (also called a “roof box”), and proceed down a narrow hallway that leads first a slight grade down and then a slight grade up to the burial chamber.

On the Winter Solstice, as the sun rises over the hills to the East, the first rays of sunlight enter the transom and penetrate to the innermost part of the burial chamber.

As I stood in the chamber, I marveled at what careful observations, calculations and construction must have happened over 5000 years ago to enable those prehistoric Celts to construct such a monument. Did they have a trestleboard upon which to draw their designs? Or was it a trial and error method – which would have taken decades to complete!

All men consciously and subconsciously marvel at the annual trip of the sun. It is well to contemplate the cycle of life and death, darkness and Light, and rebirth at this time of year.

For more information on Newgrange, including photos of the burial chamber, see

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sherburne Lodge Installation

On Tuesday, I acted as installing Master for Worshipful Master Stoffel Reitsma and the other officers of Sherburne Lodge No. 95.

I, along with Deputy Grand Master John Cook and District Representative Don Nolley, were welcomed to the lodge in due form. It is traditional that the most senior Past Master of the Lodge carry in the Book of Constitution right before the Grand Master. On Monday, I was honored to have Past Master Stan Wheaton precede me into the lodge room. Stan was Master of Sherburne Lodge one year before I was born! A seventy-year Mason, WB Stan is a true asset and treasure to Sherburne Lodge and Minnesota Masonry!

Congratulations to immediate Past Master Ken Martin on a job well done, and best wishes to WM Stoffel and the brothers of Sherburne Lodge!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tolerance Awareness Tuesday

Thanks to my brother, Mark McCarthy, from Cincinnati who forwarded this "Letter from Jesus" to me last week. Sometimes, it is we Christians who can be very intolerant. I appreciate the fictitious thoughts of Jesus here, and I can hear Him say those words...

Letter from Jesus about Christmas --

It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season.

How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Now, having said that let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn If all My followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1 - 8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it:

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of writing the President complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up... It will be nice hearing from you again.

4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.

5 Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.

7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there.. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn't make so much money on that day they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families

8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary-- especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.

9. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.

10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.

Don't forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest.

Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember :



Saturday, December 12, 2009

Metro East Third Degree

Today, 12 brothers were raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason at the St. Paul Masonic Center. It was a great day! The work was excellent, most especially the three lectures.

In my remarks, I reminded our new brothers that the end of the initiation is the start of their Masonic quest. I encouraged them to attend the next stated communication at their lodge, so all their brothers could welcome and congratulate them. They should receive an invitation from one or more brothers at their lodge, but sometimes that doesn't happen. Don't wait - show up!

Participate in the next lodge event. Continue with Masonic education.

New (and experienced) brothers will reap from Masonry (as in all worthwhile endeavors in this life) what they sow. No matter how much a brother gives to Masonry, he cannot help but receive much, much more.

Congratulations, my brothers! I'll see you in Lodge!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees after their defeat of the forces of Antiochus. One of my favorite songs by one of my favorite singers, Light One Candle by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary, celebrates the legacy of Hanukkah.

Light one candle for the Maccabee children
With thanks that their light didn't die
Light one candle for the pain they endured
When their right to exist was denied
Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice
Justice and freedom demand
But light one candle for the wisdom to know
When the peacemaker's time is at hand

Happy Hanukkah to all my Jewish Brothers and friends. Let's make the commitment of the final verse of Peter Yarrow's song:

We have come this far always believing
That justice would somehow prevail
This is the burden, this is the promise
This is why we will not fail!

For the complete lyrics, see For more information on Hanukkah, see The Jewish Outreach Institute information on this holiday.

A Little Optimism Can Go a Long Way

When the weather turns nasty cold, and the days get shorter, it's easier to be down. A little optimism, however, can pay huge dividends:

Psychologist Martin Segilman of the University of Pennsylvania advised the MetLife insurance company to hire a special groups of job applicants who tested high on optimism although they had failed the normal aptitude test. Compared with salesmen who passed the aptitude test but scored high in pessimism, this group made 21 percent more sales in their first year and 57 percent more in their second.

A pessimist is likely to interpret rejection as meaning “I’m a failure; I’ll never make a sale.” Optimists tell themselves, “I’m using the wrong approach,” or “That customer was in a bad mood.” By blaming failure on the situation, not themselves, optimists are motivated to make that next call. What’s Your Emotional I.Q.?, Reader’s Digest, January, 1996, from Emotional Intelligence, 1995, by Daniel Goleman, Bantam Books

There are many well-qualified leaders who do not do well for their lodges, just because they are pessimists. "We tried that before." "That will never work." ...You know the words.

In most instances, a slightly less-qualified leader with enthusiasm and optimism will have a much more successful year - and so will his lodge!

(From PrayND.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Many thanks to Brother Chuck Nettestad and his weekly Peace newsletter from Alexandria Minnesota for the following story:

An old farmer had plowed around a large rock in one of his fields for years.

He had broken several plowshares and a cultivator on it and had grown

rather morbid about the rock.

After breaking another plowshare one day, and remembering all the trouble

the rock had caused him through the years, he finally decided to do something about it.

When he put the crowbar under the rock, he was surprised to discover that it was

only about six inches thick and that he could break it up easily with a sledgehammer.

As he was carting the pieces away he had to smile, remembering all the trouble

that the rock had caused him over the years and how easy it would have been to get rid of it sooner.

Reminds me of making mountains out of molehills. We do this in our lives, and we do this in our Lodges. Life and Masonry would be so much more pleasant if brothers would step back from the minor piques that always pop up in life and realize that there is so very much more to worry about.

If you're interested in subscribing to Brother Nettestad's weekly message, contact him here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Red Wing Lodge Installation of Officers

Red Wing Lodge No. 8 had their annual Oyster Stew supper and installation of officers last night. It was another memorable evening for the Grand Master!

The Secretary of the Lodge, and also District Representative, Gary Thomas prepared the stew and a Christmas Pudding (shown with WB Gary in the photo) which were both just excellent.

A new brother by affiliation was welcomed to the lodge last night, and a petition for the one-day class was favorably balloted upon. Things are looking good for Red Wing Lodge!

I was most pleased to install Worshipful Master Ethan Seaberg and the rest of the officers for the ensuing year. The Master presented me with some mementos of my visit, which were very nice. Many thanks!

Tolerance Awareness Tuesday - I Believe ...

I have listened occasionally to a radio piece called "This I Believe." Inspired by the essays I have heard (including a very thoughtful one by MWB Harry S Truman), I wrote an essay on what I believe. It's a little longer than most that I post, so I hope you will forgive me for that:

Freemasonry accepts into its ranks all men of good character who have a belief in a Supreme Being. Tolerance and respect for a brother’s faith is a fundamental principle of our fraternity.

I was born and remain a Christian. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” I believe that the way to Heaven is only through Jesus, the Christ.

I also believe that my brothers who believe that Yahweh speaks to and saves them are not without hope. I believe that my brothers who call upon Allah have a God that hears them.

I believe that the Triune God can and does provide a way for all His children to be with him in Heaven. While I believe that the only way to Life is through Jesus the Christ, I also believe that somehow, the Lord God can and does accept his children into heaven.

How is this done? I don’t know. I believe that these are peculiar mysteries known only to Nature and Nature’s God, on whom we all rely for creation, preservation and every blessing we enjoy.

There is a story in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke about a rich man who asked what he must do to gain heaven. Jesus’ response ended with a recommendation that the man sell all that he had, give to the poor, and come and follow Him. The man went away crestfallen, as he was very wealthy.

Jesus said to his disciples, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples expressed astonishment at this statement, Jesus responded, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Who is a rich man?

In this country, the per capita gross national income is $41,500.

In order for a person to qualify for a court appointed public defender in this state, he must be indigent. That is defined as 125% of the poverty level. Today, a single person qualifies for a court-appointed public defender with an income of $13,538.

The average Social Security benefit for a retired worker in 2009 is $1,153 per month, or $13,836 annually.

In over 100 countries of the world, the per capital gross national income is less than one-half the indigency level or average social security benefit for a retire worker. In 142 countries of the world, the per capita gross national income is less than the average income of a retired worker relying solely on Social Security retirement benefits.

By that measure, most who are reading these words are “rich”, and thus are ineligible for Heaven, absent God’s good mercy.

I believe that rich men can and do go to heaven. I don’t know how. God’s mind is not man’s mind.

I believe that non-Christians go to heaven, too. I don’t know how. I cannot prove that they do any more than you can prove that they don’t.

But if God can get a camel through the eye of a needle, and he can admit a rich man into the Kingdom, then I believe that he can find a way for men of good will and spirituality to obtain eternal reward, even if they call Him by a different name.

I believe that God, through His Son, invites us, but does not command us to believe in Him. I believe we should follow the example of our Creator. If He can respect the decision of His creatures to worship in a way they deem proper, we should respect that, too.

Religious tolerance: I believe.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Plymouth Lodge Installation

Patty and I attended the installation ceremony for Worshipful Master Al Niederhaus and the other officers of Plymouth Lodge yesterday afternoon.

It was a family affair, with daughter Emily (Grand Bethel Honored Queen) bringing in the top hat and gavel, daughter Jackie (Past Honored Queen) the Holy Bible, and son Danny (Master Counselor) presenting our Nation's flag. DeMolay members presented the Arch of Steel and Job's Daughters the Living Cross. It was fun and moving to watch the pride in the eyes of WB Al as his children participated in the ceremony.

It looks like a good year in the making for Plymouth Lodge, starting with a celebration of 125 years of Minnesota Masonry on January 19. Good luck, Worshipful Brother Al, and the officers and members of Plymouth Lodge!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Red Cross of Constantine

The St. George Conclave of the Red Cross of Constantine held its annual meeting at the Kitchi Gami Club in Duluth. Members from the St. Paul and Minneapolis caucuses rode a motor coach to the event.

After a great lunch, two Duluth police officers talked about gangs and drugs in Duluth. It was a very good session.

The members were informed that the national conference has decided that the Conclaves around the country should decrease its membership by about 20%. That means that the St. George Conclave will not be able to induct new members for several years. Very sad.

However, five candidates had been invited before that decision was made, and they were inducted into the order yesterday. Brian Beerman, Norman Voigt, William Larson, Foster Solem and Roger Schmid were received in a very impressive ceremony.

The evening was topped off by a wonderful banquet.

It is a bit strange to attend a Masonic event for Christian Masons. I did address the group about my beliefs of being a Christian and being tolerant. I'll publish that essay on Tolerance Tuesday, December 8.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Selim Grotto Installs Officers

I have been invited many times to events of the Selim Grotto, but last night was the first one that worked into my schedule. And what a lovely event it was! The holiday dinner / officer installation was held at the Northland Inn. The food was wonderful, the entertainment by the Osseo Sr. High Mo-Tet just terrific, and the fellowship outstanding.

The Grotto is a fun organization for Masons and their families. From what I can tell, there are very, very few "stag" events. Wives and guests are invited just about every time. And these brothers know how to have fun! (See the photo of the newly-installed Monarch, Marv Schendel, for one of the more interesting traditions of this unit!)

Along with having lots of fun, they raise money for wonderful causes. (See the blog below.)

It was my first Grotto event, but I can say with a high degree of certainty, it will not be my last!

Grotto Donations Matched by Masonic Charities

At the installation dinner for the Selim Grotto officers last night, checks were presented to Courage Center and the RiteCare Language Clinic by Grotto officers Ed Perlman and Marv Schendel. I was invited to be part of the presentation to represent the Grand Lodge and Masonic Charities, which matched the funds raised by Selim.

A check for $2000 was presented to Courage Center and $5000 to the RiteCare Clinic. It is a real pleasure, as Grand Master, to be present for these special presentations.

Grand Secretary of Grand Lodge of Peru

I had the pleasure last evening to meet the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Peru, Juan Alcazar Vaccava, who was in Minnesota with his wife to visit his daughter, who teaches here.

With the translatation assistance of Brother Bob Davis of Lake Harriet Lodge, we had a very nice conversation.

RWB Juan is leaving today to return to Peru, where, he told me, he will not have to wear a coat!

Thank you, RWB Juan, for taking the time and making the effort to meet with me. It was an honor.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Grand Lodge of Minnesota on You Tube

Grand Chaplain Steve Johnson has established a presence of You Tube for the Grand Lodge of Minnesota. The initial postings include my message about cornerstones, a piece on the Masonic Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota, and a four-part segment of the Cornerstone ceremony at the Amplatz Children's Hospital at the University of Minnesota.

Plans are to add more videos as they become available.

Check them out at

Thank you, Worshipful Brother Steve, for another great asset to Minnesota Masonry!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Visit to Sibley Lodge

I visited my home lodge last night and it was nice to be back as a brother, not the guest of honor. I'm happy to report that we have two new entered apprentices, and a third scheduled for his First Degree on January 15. Things are looking up!

The brothers sold poinsettias as a fundraiser, and it looks like a very successful event. They will be delivered Thursday.
I'm confident my brothers will be in fine form to open the Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota on March 26, 2010.
Thanks, Brothers!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tolerance Awareness Tuesday

Religious factions will go on imposing their will on others unless the decent people connected to them recognize that religion has no place in public policy. They must learn to make their views known without trying to make their views the only alternative. - Barry Goldwater, 1909 - 1998

Religious Tolerance knows no political bounds. Liberal, conservative, in between, thinking men understand that the separation of Church and State, and respect and tolerance of others is essential for civilized societies. Brother Barry Goldwater expressed those sentiments in the quote above.

That's why Masonry is so important to our society. Brotherly love, relief and truth. Freedom, Integrity and Tolerance. Our country and our world would be a much better place with an increase in each...

Waldon Scholar Dinner - Detroit Lakes

Mt. Tabor Lodge in Detroit Lakes was the scene of the most recent recognition dinner for General Ed Waldon Scholars. Six veterans were present to receive the thanks of our Fraternity for their service, and to express their appreciation for the financial assistance we provided for their education.

I was very disappointed that I was not able to attend and greet these patriots myself. A special thanks to Area Deputy Darrell Richter and District Representative Ken Friese for putting this event together.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


"He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home." Johann Von Goethe

Happy Thanksgiving! The quote should remind us that thankfulness is an attitude - we can choose to be thankful, or we can choose to be envious of those who have more than we. For a piece that has gone around the net a few times on being thankful for things we often complain about, click on I am Grateful.

Tomorrow, especially, I will choose to be most grateful for the blessings I enjoy. I wish for you a happy day, with loved ones, and an appreciation for the wonderful opportunities we have in this fabulous country.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tolerance Awareness Tuesday

The Bill of Rights decoupled religion from the state, in part because so many religions were steeped in an absolutist frame of mind – each convinced that it alone had a monopoly on the truth and therefore eager for the state to impose this truth on others. Often, the leaders and practitioners of absolutist religions were unable to perceive any middle ground or recognize that the truth might draw upon and embrace apparently contradictory doctrines.

The framers of the Bill of Rights had before them the example of England, where the ecclesiastical crime of treason had become nearly indistinguishable [from the crime against the Crown]. Many of the early Colonists had come to America fleeing religious persecution, although some of them were perfectly happy to persecute other people for their beliefs. The Founders of our nation recognized that a close relation between the government and any of the quarrelsome religions would be fatal to freedom – and injurious to religion.

Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.

From Liberty magazine, November/December 2009. See,

Masons should be vigilant to protect our Freedom of Religion and the separation of Church and State. It benefits our religions as much as our country.

Retreat Reflections

My silent retreat started Thursday evening. Before the silence starts, the 71 men had supper. I thoroughly enjoyed the meal with my two brothers, who accompanied me on retreat.

As I was sitting down, a hand rested on my shoulder and a man said, "It's nice to see you here, Grand Master." It was Brother Dave Seitz, who has been making retreats with the Jesuits for many years. You just never know when or where you'll run into a brother!

The silence and rest and reflection were most welcome this year. Now, of course, the trick is to keep that sense of reverence as I go back to my family, work and fraternity.

Thank you to all the Brothers who remembered me and my brothers in prayer over the weekend. I knew you were with me.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Be Still and Know That I Am God

I won't be blogging for the rest of the weekend. My two brothers and I (Mark on the left and Mike in the middle) are going on a silent retreat.

I first went on this retreat in 1987, and have missed maybe a handful of years since then. For me, it is a time of reflection, rest and renewal - something I'm especially looking forward to in this busy year.

The blog immediately below this is a story from a retreat in 1997. It is a very personal story for me, and you may not find it meaningful at all. If you do read it, however, I think you'll understand why I posted it and hope you will excuse my digression.

During this weekend, I will have many opportunities to pray for my brothers in the Craft. I certainly would appreciate it if you would remember me in your applications to Deity this weekend, as well.

My Walk with Adam

On July 16, 1997, my first grandson, Adam Charles Kelsey, was born. He died a few hours later. We knew before his birth that he could not survive.

In November, 1997, I made a silent retreat with the Jesuits.

The retreat started after supper on Thursday night and ended with supper Sunday night.

Saturday afternoon. I have had profound moments of sorrow this weekend when I think of Adam and our loss. This morning, I decided not to fight it any more, but to make Adam, his brief life and death, the focus of my retreat. I decided that, this afternoon, I would go for a walk and imagine that Adam was with me. I imagined him about four years old. Whether it was my imagination, or Adam’s spirit, I leave for you to decide. We had a nice walk.

We start up a hill and through the woods. I showed him deer tracks and bird tracks in the snow. Black berries hanging on a bush. Trees now big that were small ten years ago, when I first walked this path on retreat. Adam asked how I met Grandma and where does snow come from. I told him, but I said his Dad could do a better job explaining about the snow.

We walked for over a half hour. I told Adam that his mom might be alone and lonely and maybe he should go visit her. He told me that he could be with his mom in an instant. We should finish our walk and he’d go to her then. That sounded reasonable to me, so on we went.

We came to the wildlife pond and I told Adam how I’d watched a muskrat sit on the ice and eat some years ago. A huge “V” of geese flew overhead, and I told Adam that I’d seen geese swimming in the lake by my room this morning. We walked to the pheasant pens and I showed him ring-necked pheasants and Chinese pheasants and told him how I’d gone pheasant hunting with my dog Sandy when I was a teenager.

It was getting late, and I needed to hurry a bit to make the next session in the chapel. We headed for my room and Adam said, “Let’s go down to the lake and see if the geese are swimming there.” Well, they had just flown over us a few minutes before, so I didn’t think they’d be in the lake, but OK, let’s go. I think that Adam tricked me.

We walked down to the lake and, as I suspected, there were no geese. There was, however, a bald eagle soaring over the trees across the bay. The moment I saw the eagle, Adam was gone from me. He was with the eagle -- he was the eagle -- flying lazy circles over the lake. I watched him for about five minutes. He then flew over my head and disappeared behind the trees.

Later. I’ve thought a lot about my retreat. I have told this story many times. I felt such peace. I believe there are no coincidences. I believe that Adam took a walk with his Grandpa that afternoon. I thank him and God for making it possible.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Minnehaha Lodge Hiram Award - Mark Hailer

I had the pleasure of attending the Hiram Award dinner for W.B. Mark Hailer last night.

Brother Mark has had a long association with Masonry dating back to starting as a DeMolay. His love for the craft, and for youth, led him to work with Minnesota DeMolay, for the benefit of all Masonry in Minnesota.

It is so very nice to be present when a good and humble Mason is recognized for the commitment to his principals.

Thank you, WM Matt Lundgren. You have many excellent brothers in your lodge to choose. Mark Hailer is one of the best.

Tolerance Awareness Tuesday - Bullying

Once a year, I join a group of police officers, victims advocates, social workers and school aides to visit the elementary schools in Sibley County to talk about bullying.

The first through fourth graders told me that bullying is more than pushing, hitting, pinching and biting. Bullying is calling names, not letting someone join the game, being mean.

Through skits (the one shown is a bus ride), the students watch a bullying situation and then talk about how it can be different - often if just one student says that the bully is "not nice".

Most of the schools have posters around that say bullying will not be permitted. These posters did not mention the word "tolerance", but they did say a lot about "respect".

When students respect their differences, they practice tolerance, in the true Masonic sense of the word.

We can learn a lot from fourth graders ...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Osman Potentate's Gala

Patty and I were able to stop by the Osman Shrine Potentate Gala late last night. The Russ Peterson band was playing great dance music, and we had a chance to take the dance floor for a couple of turns.

We ended up most disappointed to have missed the dinner and entertainment. Potentate Jim Berg held this festive event at Circus Juventas, and the guests were thrilled during the meal by the young acrobats and circus performers who put on a great show.

Thank you, Osman Shriners, for the kind invitation and the great time!

Waldon Scholars Recognition

On Saturday night, Patty and I enjoyed the Zuhrah Legion of Honor Veterans Day Dinner. Metro West Area Deputy Lee Dorholt arranged for an invitation to area Waldon Scholarship winners to attend and be recognized. Three, along with their guests, were able accept the invitation, though one needed to leave early for a previous commitment.

DGM John Cook and I were pleased to greet these brave men, and their ladies who stayed back home, and thank them for their service. They each were most greatful for the $1000 scholarship, which was most helpful in continuing their education.

Thank you, veterans! We truly can never repay the debt we owe you.

Planning for Next Year

This past Friday and Saturday, the progressive line of the Grand Lodge met for the bi-monthly corporate board meeting and, more significantly, the planning session for the upcoming year.

By tradition, the Deputy Grand Master plans and leads this retreat. RWB John Cook covered much ground with this session. Assignments for 2010, the future of the KidsID program and strengthening the committee structure were all on the agenda.

As Grand Master, it was a strange feeling to see next year's board come together - without me! It was strange to leave after the corporate board meeting and not be part of the planning session.

There is one thing I can say for sure: The Grand Lodge of Minnesota will be in good hands when, tradition prevailing, John Cook is elected Grand Master and the rest of the progressive line steps up in the ensuing year!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Corinthian Lodge Featured in Pioneer Press

The St Paul Pioneer Press has featured Corinthian Lodge in Farmington in today's paper. For the online version of the story, click here.

This is a very nice piece on a lodge that is bringing new life to Masonry in the south metro.

Congratulations to Worshipful Master Paul Harte and the brothers of Corinthian Lodge!

Nick Johnson, Sr. Warden of Corinthian and blogger "The Millennial Mason", has a blog about the story today, too. Click here for Nick's blog.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Congratulations, Ill.Bro. Glenn Howard Liljegren!

Through 2008, only four Minnesota Scottish Rite Masons have been honored by the Supreme Council for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States Scottish Rite Masonry with the Grand Cross of the Court of Honor: Duluth businessman T.W. Hugo about 100 years ago; Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen; renowned Minnesota Businessman Curtis Carlson; and, most recently, the "Mason for All Seasons", James Burlingame of Minneapolis.

Last night, a truly humble servant of Masonry in Minnesota was the fifth Minnesotan in history to receive this high honor: Ill. Bro. Glenn Howard Liljegren.

It was such a thrill for me to listen as Glenn's brothers, family and the director of the Duluth Rite Care Clinic told stories of Glenn's tireless energy on behalf of Scottish Rite Masonry and the Rite Care Clinic. I was honored to be seated next to Glenn's bride of 55 years, Alice, at dinner.

Glenn's remarks after being invested with this honor by Sovereign Grand Inspector General Jerry Oliver were so heartwarming. He talked about how much others contributed to the Clinic! Typical of Glenn, I'm told.

It wasn't large money contributions or political office that resulted in Glenn's nomination. It was a lifetime of Masonry, of benefiting his craft, his community and his world, that merit this recognition.

Congratulations, Glenn and Alice. Well done, our brother!

Duluth Scottish Rite Dinner

I had another memorable evening last night when I attended the Duluth Valley of Scottish Rite Fall Dinner, Guest Night and Awards Night. Over 170 brothers and guests were piped into the dining hall where we were served a sumptuous meal prepared by Euclid Chapter 56 of the Order of the Eastern Star and the Daughters of the Nile, and served by the brothers of Euclid Lodge No. 198 and the Duluth Chapter of DeMolay. During dinner, we were entertained by Nancy Elaine Anderson at the piano.

I was thrilled to be present when Ill. Bro. Glenn Liljegren was presented with the Grand Cross Court of Honor by Sovereign Grand Inspector General Jerry Oliver. (See related blog today.)

I was just as thrilled to learn that 12 Scottish Rite Masons had brought 17 prospective members to see what Scottish Rite Masonry is all about. (That did not include my guest, "Grand Pilot" Carl Iliff, who will complete his Scottish Rite petition for degrees next week!)

This was my first trip back to Duluth after the memorial service for W.B. Tony Keane. I was so pleased to see that Candace was able to join us for the evening. While I know I cannot miss Tony like his family and his Duluth Brothers, I do miss him a lot.

Congratulations to the Duluth Valley of Scottish Rite for a great evening!

The "Grand Pilot"

The problem: I needed to be at work yesterday, as I had a pretty full court calendar. I also needed to be in Duluth by 6:00 p.m. for the Scottish Rite Guest Night.

Can't be done? That's what I thought until Worshipful Master Carl Iliff, Hope Lodge No. 42 in Glencoe, stepped in and offered to fly me to Duluth. (That sort of sounds like a song title, doesn't it?)

With a strong south wind pushing us along on the way up, and hindering us on the way back, we flew to Duluth, where Roger Johnson and his wife picked us up and safely delivered us to the Scottish Rite Temple for the evening's festivities.

There is no Grand Lodge Officer designation for the Grand Pilot, but I'm thinking there should be! Thanks so much, Brother Carl!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

We pause today to thank the men and women who have served our country.

And we thank the volunteers of the Masonic Service Association, Hospital Visitor Program.

The Hospital Visitor Program is much more than merely "visitations" to the disabled and lonely patients in V.A. Hospitals, State Veterans Homes and Extended Care Facilities. It is the rendering of personal services to all our sons and brothers, Masons and Non-Masons alike, who now need someone to turn to for encouragement and to make life a little more pleasant.

Little things mean a lot. A friendly smile, a warm handclasp, an embrace and a kind word can do wonders for those who are lonely and depressed in a hospital or a nursing home.

Volunteers are at their stations every day in the V.A. Hospitals or State Veterans Homes. They man their stations

  • to pay a comforting visit in the name of Freemasonry;
  • to act as a "personal shopper" for bedridden patients;
  • to purchase items for patients recommended by the Hospital staff, but not obtainable through regular hospital facilities.
  • to assist in procuring "vital statistics" documents, such as birth or marriage certificates to provide notary public services, particularly for patients confined to their beds
  • to arrange or furnish emergency transportation to a patient's home
  • to secure clothing for a needy patient, sometimes for his family
  • to counsel with a patient and his family, if it doesn't conflict with hospital procedures
  • to help arrange religious, entertainment and recreational activities for all patents.

We give special thanks to our MSA Representatives: John McBride at the Minneapolis VA Hospital, Kenneth Smith at Silver Bay, Everett Brandenberg at Luverne and Peter Kloskowski in St. Cloud, and all the volunteers that work with them.

The representatives above can ALWAYS use another two or three volunteers. If you have the time and inclination to spend a day or so a month visiting our recovering servicemen and women and veterans, contact the Grand Lodge Office, who will put you in touch with the volunteer program.

Once again, Thank You, Veterans. We literally could not enjoy our Freedom without your service.