Most of us as Masons are aware, at least to some extent, of the importance of Freemasonry to the development of civil society. This organization has made considerable contributions to the world benefitting many outside the Fraternity. I wonder, however, how many of us truly appreciate how much our Craft can mean to the individual Mason. Due to your membership, my Brothers, there are few places in the free world where you can travel today that you will not have friends. There are so many doors open to you because you are a member of this Craft; and, yet, I suspect that there are very few who truly appreciate that aspect of membership. I am well aware that we do not join this Fraternity for what we will receive from it; but, there is nothing wrong in recognizing what the true concept of brotherly love is and opening ourselves to receive it.
I have been extremely fortunate in having the opportunities to experience this feeling of brotherhood far beyond the opportunities that most members will ever have. It is there for all, yet few accept it. Regrettably, also in recent years, too few extend it. It is this expression of brotherly love to one another that probably has meant more to me than any other aspect of Freemasonry. To the world and to society in general, the Craft offers an ethical and moral base of principles by which it guides its members. To the individual member, this Fraternity offers an opportunity to experience a feeling rarely known outside of it.
I recently returned from the Conference of Grand Secretaries held in Honolulu. There, once again, I had the privilege of experiencing the true feeling of Masonic brotherhood from grand officers around the world when I announced to the Conference my intent to retire as an active Grand Secretary. It was an experience that I will never forget. I wish there were a way of transfusing into each of you that feeling, because I am convinced that, should you know it, it would change your life in respect to your commitment to the Craft.
All of us are aware today of the declining numbers on the membership rolls of Freemasonry. This loss in numbers has been impressed upon us for well over a decade and we look with regret that men of society today fail to show the interest in an organization such as ours. My greatest sadness, however, is not directed toward our loss in members, but to the failure of the numbers that we do have to direct the feeling of brotherhood to each other. As Grand Secretary, I have listened to countless stories from our brothers who were ill, or from widows of our brothers, who want nothing more than a compassionate contact with a brother. I would like to ask the question of them, when they were able, how much they offered. But, I don't. Some day, my Brothers, that may be all we want.
If we could recapture that quality which so greatly characterized the Craft in earlier America, it probably would go a long way toward reversing our decline in numbers. I encourage you to give and receive what is perhaps the greatest advantage of being a Freemason the feeling of truly being a brother and experiencing brotherly love.