I have had the pleasure of teaching several Brothers their Masonic catechisms over the years. I find it to be good practice for me and keeps me sharp when I’m called upon to provide assistance in degree work. More importantly, it has offered me an opportunity to get to know some very fine men. Very rarely will I instruct more than one person at a time. I find it is better to teach one-on-one since people tend to learn the memory work at their own unique pace. It also allows me to concentrate on the nuances of each person’s ability to absorb the material.
Although I try to teach at a regularly scheduled time and place, I recognize our professional lives make it difficult to do so. Consequently, I am willing to meet the Brother as needs require, be it at the Lodge, his office or mine, my house or his. (Frankly, I prefer the latter as it affords me the opportunity to smoke a cigar as we sit outside.)
When teaching a new Brother the catechism, I am looking for the fire in him to learn the work and, if I see it, I’ll bend over backwards to help him master it. But I have had a couple of occasions where the student really didn’t want to learn the material. In this situation I have offered to help him find another instructor who could possibly help him. Inevitably, it is not the instructor but the individual who simply lacks interest and eventually drops out.
In the past, you have probably heard me say that the only reason we learn catechisms is to perpetuate our degree work. This is why I think it is vital to not only teach the catechism, but to also describe how Freemasonry works, the history of both the fraternity and the Lodge, and the customs to be observed. In addition, I take the student to a Masonic degree so they can observe it from the sidelines (thereby more clearly assimilating the degree). Again, I think it is important to develop a rapport with the student and express your commitment to the person. In turn, the student expresses his commitment to you. I learned this from my own instructor, and we remain fast friends and trusted Brothers to this day.
Sometimes, Lodges appoint a Lodge Instructor to teach the work. Such dedicated people are becoming increasingly hard to find. When a Lodge Instructor is not available, it is wise to get the junior officers to teach the work, particularly the Wardens and Deacons. This does two things: it forces the Lodge officers to sharpen their memorization work, and it provides the means to get to know the new Brothers who may play a vital role for the officer should he ever reach the East.
After a Brother has been raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason, I am often thanked by the student for my efforts. But as I tell them, they did all of the hard work, not me. I expect nothing in return other than the Brother does a good job and perhaps teaches someone else down the road. Being an instructor is a big responsibility and should not be taken lightly; you have to be one part teacher, one part coach, and one part Brother. You shouldn’t simply teach the student his catechism, you need to teach them to be a Mason and to seek further light. A little investment of time in the Brother early on will inevitably pay dividends later on for Freemasonry and the Lodge.
Keep the Faith.
by W:.Tim Bryce, PM, MPS
Palm Harbor, Florida, USA
“A Foot Soldier for Freemasonry”
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