A very enlightening essay about Petitioners written by a Petitioner for the Petitioners. This was written in 2004 when Bro. Harvey was still petitioning for the degrees of Freemasonry.
by Bro. Harvey N. Dychiao
Time and again, it has been said that Freemasonry is the oldest and grandest Fraternity in the world. History is dotted with shining exemplars of men who have defined the landscape of their times and who were, not coincidentally, Freemasons. To this day, within every lodge in the world, one will encounter Freemasons who give life to the enduring quality of Freemasonry that is “making good men better”.
Therefore, it is no wonder that for hundreds of years, men have set aside their worldly ranks and positions to come “knocking” at the doors of a Masonic lodge. In such a lodge, it is intimated that one’s rank, fame, fortune and position in the outside world mean nothing. What is important is one’s dedication to and practice of the Craft as well as one’s charity and love for his Brethren. Thus, “petitioners” are tested in a manner which they have not known before.
Before delving into the “plight of a petitioner”, it is well to inquire about their motives for joining this ancient brotherhood. Indeed, a Petitioner’s motives is usually the first thing inquired about. Each and every petitioner must not only exhibit and express free assent but must also bear a motive which is consistent with the purpose and values of Freemasonry.
One petitioner in the current batch shared that his reason for knocking is basically “for brotherhood.” This petitioner explained that he expected that the Freemasons will enable him to partake of “good camaraderie” as “a mason is a helping hand and a good Samaritan” all at once. “Fellowship but not with mercenary motives” is what he had in mind. Another Petitioner shared that he was already a Demolay (a member of the Order of Demolay – a Masonic youth-oriented brotherhood) and wanted to take things another step further into full Freemasonry. Meanwhile, another Petitioner explained that a nagging feeling of emptiness had pervaded his life and he has faith that Freemasonry and the brotherhood it calls forth were the missing keys to his life.
And thus, with noble reasons in heart and mind, Petitioners embark upon a lengthy journey for a glimpse of the world of Freemasons, or “a journey to the East” as Freemasons themselves would say. Petitioners are thrown into a world of service to the lodge. They attend to the Brethren at every Stated Meeting, every Conferral Rite and every activity in which Freemasons are involved. During these events, they are busy serving drinks, filling up plates, washing dishes and cleaning up the tables. Very mundane tasks, some would say, but for a Petitioner, it opens up a horizon that has not been noticed before.
For once, Petitioners gain a first hand lesson in humility. They learn that all prior achievements or awards, while salutary in themselves, come to naught in the presence of Freemasons and that the old set of values and virtues become passé while a new set of ideals and aspirations come into focus. During their service, Petitioners are able to observe the respect with which Freemasons regard each other. They see the “mystic ties” at work. Most of all, Petitioners learn to set aside their pride and embrace humility and the low station with which they arrive. Through time and good advice, they learn the things which are expected of them as Petitioners. This cathartic process helps Petitioners to cleanse themselves of the impurities and excesses of a past life and to embrace the Ancient Craft in all its glory.
Through this enlightening and time-tested process, not only are Petitioners introduced to the members of the lodge for balloting purposes, but they are placed in a mindset to readily absorb and face the teachings and challenges of the series of tests which they will be required to face. In essence, this initial hardship is what transforms the “plight of the petitioner” into the “flight of the petitioner” to Freemasonry.