The Petitioner’s Handbook

Welcome to our Lodge, those who sought Freemasonry freely without our personal invitation, for they express truth in their desire to further themselves as men of God and brothers of men. “Seek and you shall find. Knock and it shall be opened unto you.” But woe unto them who come to us with mercenary motives, for they shall find it hard to enter our opened doors.

 

This is for you, the Petitioner of the Craft. We intended this article to be your guide throughout your entire stay with us as a Petitioner. Note that the information you will be getting here may not necessarily be how things should be, but how things are. This is the naked truth, my dear Petitioner. This is the reality. We are laying all the cards on the table, if you will. After reading this article, it is hoped that you will get an idea of the culture you are entering.

We will not be discussing about Freemasonry here. It is assumed that, by wanting to join us, you already have a small idea of what you are getting yourself into. Instead, we will orient you on the many different aspects of your application, both the good and the not-so-good. Everything you ever wanted to know about being a Petitioner, but were afraid to ask, will be answered here.

We have thought long and hard whether to publish this article or not, for reasons that might be considered by some as incriminating. But we also argued that we should be transparent in everything – to prove that we have nothing to hide and that we are doing nothing wrong. In fact, we firmly believe that, after reading this article, you will have an even deeper desire to join the Craft, that is, if your intentions are true. However, if you have come here for personal gain, you will find that reading this article would discourage you from pursuing your application. Indeed, you will learn that you have come to the wrong place.

So, let us begin. The first thing that we should discuss is your qualification. Exactly, who can apply for the degrees of Masonry? What are the requirements needed in order to apply?

Profile of the Petitioner

A Petitioner is someone desiring to gain admission to the Fraternity. He is sometimes referred to as a “knocker” because, ideally, he has to find his way into the doors of Freemasonry on his own, devoid of invitations or peer pressures. As in all serious undertakings, he should have it in his heart to truly become part of the brotherhood. That is why Masons do not directly recruit. But all those who wish to join are more than welcome and can even seek recommendations from present Masons.

There are physical, moral and spiritual qualifications of a Petitioner.  He must be a man of at least 21 years of age. He must be free of any previous felonious criminal convictions and must be of good moral character. He must also believe in a Supreme Being and the immortality of the soul.

The physical qualifications are necessary because the person must be free to make his own life decisions and be responsible for himself. The moral qualifications are self-evident for the viability of any brotherhood and the lofty ideals of society. The two spiritual qualifications not only inform the entire structure of Freemasonry but also align the Fraternity with the great Mystery Schools and religions of the world. It is the transition from belief to knowledge that seals the mark of true spiritual initiation.

Before Proceeding Any Further

It goes without saying that a Petitioner should know what he is getting himself into. As one, you should know what Freemasonry is, at the very least. There are many publications, books, articles, and Internet websites where such information can be gathered. However, there are still certain, more concrete, things that you should know before truly considering on joining.

Firstly, your family must know you are joining the Fraternity. It is your obligation, therefore, to let them know what Freemasonry is and that you are applying for membership. Should there be any member of your family who is against your petition, you yourself must reconsider your position. We do not want to be a cause of friction between you and your family in the long run.

You may ask yourself, “Why should any member of my family object to Freemasonry?” The reason is really quite simple: Misinformation. There are a lot of anti-Masonic materials circulating out there that you may not be aware of. Perhaps one of your family members may have heard of Freemasonry as a secret organization bent on dominating the world, or perhaps they view us as a subversive society out to oppose the Church. Yes, you will hear a lot of strange things out there against Freemasonry, which brings us to another question: Are you prepared to be treated differently by such uninformed people? If so, what would you do about it? I could go on and on about this issue, but that’s another matter. We are here to talk about your petition.

The second thing you should consider before joining would be your commitment to the Craft. The Fraternity requires every Mason to be proficient with the ceremonies. Hence, a great number of lengthy rituals are to be memorized by heart along the way. Are you willing to make time for such a commitment? Also, certain secret words and methods of recognition are to be invested on you once you have already been initiated. Are you willing and able to keep such secrets from being known to non-Masons, under any circumstance?

Thirdly, certain yearly dues are required of every Mason, which are used to maintain and sustain the activities of the Lodge, whatever those may be. Dress codes are also strictly part of the Masonic life along with regular attendance to the meetings. Rules of conduct also exist and corresponding penalties are enforced on their violation.

All these into consideration, are you willing to proceed? Remember, we are telling it as it is. We are not discouraging you from joining. We are telling you these facts now so you would not have any second thoughts later. The last thing we want is for you to blame us for not properly telling you what it’s like inside. But the single, most important question you should ask yourself is: Are you truly prepared to become a Mason? Of course, you cannot answer that without any knowledge of what Freemasonry is. The fact that you are here, applying for membership, and have gone as far as this point in this article, it is go and read more about the Craft. Ask around. Don’t be afraid to “seek the light.” We would be more than happy to enlighten you further. And once your questions have been satisfied and have developed that true desire to proceed, then we know that you have indeed found it in your heart to become a Mason.

Where to Apply

Lodges are the constituted bodies of Freemasons. They are normally held in places called Masonic Temples. It is necessary for you to physically visit a Lodge to formally express your application.

Finding the right Lodge for you is really not that hard. Ideally, you should apply at the Lodge nearest your place of work or residence. In most cases, Petitioners seek the assistance of friends or people they know, who happen to be Masons, in finding a Lodge with an accessible location to them. Those who find a suitable Lodge on their own, without the assistance of a Mason, are referred to as “walk-in” Petitioners.

Lodges regularly meet once a month in what we call “Stated Meetings.” You should also consider your own availability or time schedule in order to determine which Lodge is most fitting for you to join, taking into account the time and day of the Stated Meetings of Lodges.

Once you have found your Lodge, you must appear personally before the members of that Lodge during one of their Stated Meetings. You would then be given a petition form for you to fill-up using your own handwriting. Together with your facial and full-body pictures, this would then be submitted back to the Secretary of the Lodge for evaluation.

Await a time with Patience

It is true that Patience is a virtue, and it could never be more applicable than in your situation as a Petitioner. Once your petition form has been submitted, it would then be read inside the Lodge during their meetings. It would not be until you pay the degree fees (varies depending on the Lodge) that your application would be turned over to the Grand Lodge (the administrative body under which all Lodges of the Philippines are systemized) for circulation.

Once you have paid your fees and your name properly circularized, an investigation on your person would then be conducted. After which, you will then be scheduled for balloting.

Note that this entire process would take some time. You would be counting months here. During which, it would give the members of the Lodge the opportunity to get to know you more on a personal basis. Do attend the Stated Meetings regularly. Introduce yourself respectfully as a Petitioner to attending Masons. You yourself will get the chance to get to know them more also, especially during what we call “Fellowships” which normally follow after their scheduled meetings.

Fellowships

Note that Stated Meetings are normally conducted at dusk since it is the only available time for most Masons who have day-jobs. After their meetings, they are free to go home. But most, as you would soon observe, would still find time to get-together for some kind of brotherly banquet. We call this a “Fellowship.”

A Fellowship is an opportunity for brother Masons to get to know each other, exchange stories, share food and drinks, and basically just have fun. It is an informal gathering with a warm atmosphere of camaraderie. We could not possibly describe what it’s like. You have to be there to see it for yourself.

This is your chance to introduce yourself to them. Talk to them. Mingle with them. Ask them questions. But in most cases, you would find yourself answering their questions. Do not be intimidated by the culture. Let me explain.

You are petitioning to become a Mason. Your approval depends on the Masons who are members of the Lodge you are applying in. To put it bluntly in simple words: You are soliciting their favor! It’s like applying for a job. Think of it as a sort of “panel interview” when they question you about your intentions in joining the Craft. But in this case, it is important to be yourself, instead of pretending just to win their approval. Rest assured that they would learn all about you evidently. It would be wise to be transparent. Whatever bad personality you have, they won’t take it against you. What is important is you show them the real you and your desire to become a Mason. That having done, leave the decision to them if they feel you are qualified.

Until that fateful day of your balloting, when they would decide on your application, be patient. Be there during the Fellowships. You would see who and what Masons are. You would catch a glimpse of what it’s like to be a Mason. You would witness firsthand the strength of the brotherhood that exists among them. You would hear extra-ordinary stories of how Masons have stuck together in good times and in bad. And eventually, you would feel that there is something there which makes total strangers the best of friends. Believe you me, when your intentions are pure and true, your desire would be fueled from mere curiosity to genuine eagerness.

Your Duty

Now let me tell you something that most people have misunderstood through the years. It has been common practice in some Lodges to make slaves out of Petitioners. Some Petitioners have even gone as far as doing personal errands for Masons. The situational vulnerability of the Petitioners had sometimes been taken advantaged of. This is generally wrong, especially if it would cost the Petitioners their personal time and money. But there is a distinct line between being-a-slave and being-molded. Again, let me explain.

Humility is the first lesson you should learn as a Petitioner. It is the very ground that supports all other lessons that you would eventually learn as you go on. It is from humility where peace, order and harmony are rooted. It is because of humility that people from all walks-of-life, regardless of race, religion, political affiliation, or financial status, are joined together in brotherhood.

Think of it this way: With humility, you are like a clay – a clay we could mold and shape to become something grand and beautiful. Then after which, would be subjected to fire in order to solidify. In order for us to shape would-be Masons into becoming better men, they must learn the first lesson of humility while they are still Petitioners.

Let’s go back to our discussion about the difference between being-a-slave and being-molded. Though it is true that some Lodges make slaves out of their Petitioners, we should be able to recognize the intent of why this is practiced. The concept is, as I have hinted earlier, is to teach Petitioners how to be humble. When you encounter cases where you have been tasked by Masons to do certain errands, do it gladly and open-heartedly. This is the first sign of humility – obedience. When you feel that the task being given to you is hard, find ways to do it. This is the second sign of humility – initiative. When you feel that the task being given to you is beyond your ability, then say so in a polite and respectful manner that you cannot do it. This is the third sign of humility – courtesy. Remember the concept: to teach you about humility and nothing more.

However, you might encounter situations where you feel you are already being abused. These are rare instances, I assure you. But in such cases, how would you know when you are “being molded” or “being slaved”? Distinguishing between the two is very easy. When you are being told to do something, personal or being caused to spend from your own pocket, that is an abuse. It is best that you report to the Worshipful Master of the Lodge of your situation.

Let me reiterate that this is rarely done, so stop worrying. In most cases, you will be tasked to do Lodge-related errands, which is normal. You should be able to exhibit, at an early time, your desire to contribute to the welfare of the Lodge you are “knocking” on. This is a duty that you will continue doing even after you become a Mason.

The Secret Ballot

At last, the moment of truth. It is time for your balloting. After having been thoroughly investigated and the results reviewed and carefully scrutinized by members of the Lodge to determine your character and moral decency, they would then vote by secret ballot to accept or to reject you for membership.

To be elected, you must receive an affirmative vote from each and every member present at that meeting. Just one member out of all present can drop the “black ball” and deny your petition. The reason being that if even one member knows something negative about you, then that one member should have the right and the opportunity to prevent the entrance into the Fraternity of one he feels would bring discredit to it.

There are two things that could happen here: Either you’re in or you’re out. When you’re in, then you can proceed to the next step. When you’re out, you again have two choices: Either you give up or you try again. That is entirely your choice. But know this fact: Some members of the Lodge merely put a “black ball” on a Petitioner simply because they don’t know him, not because they have something against him.

That is why I have always strongly insisted early on that you show up during the Stated Meetings and let them get to know you. Better yet, find out where they work and pay them a courtesy visit during the day. Introduce yourself as a Petitioner of their Lodge. This is especially a good idea since not all Masons attend Fellowships. By visiting them at their offices, they would get the chance to talk with you one-on-one. Of course, let them know you are coming.

By: Bro. Joey Villegas