Every Fellow Craft knows the passage: “And now abideth faith,
hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”
With this charge, taken from the First Corinthians, the Fellow
Craft is inducted into the charitable teachings of Freemasonry.
When he is raised to the third degree, it will take the form of a
promise to his brothers and their wives, widows, and children.
As he embarks on his Masonic journey, he will study the values
of truth, relief, and brotherly love, and the spirit of charity that
springs forth from living them.
“To relieve the distressed is a duty incumbent on all men,
but particularly on Freemasons,” writes William Preston in the
1772 book “Illustrations of Masonry.” “To soothe the unhappy,
to sympathize with their misfortunes, to compassionate their
miseries, and to restore their troubled minds,” Preston declares,
“is the great aim we have in view.”
When community calls
The history of California Masonry is a lesson in generosity. For
as long as Masons have been in California, they have strived to
make a difference.
Imagine the infant state of California. Wagon trails snaked
westward to end here; weary families arrived with next to
nothing. In the state’s formative days, Masonic lodges kept
many of these families in bread. The lodges provided food,
nursed the sick, and gave relief to those who had come West
with dreams of gold, and found, instead, poverty and disease.
When cholera swept through Sacramento in 1850, California
Masons embarked on one of their first organized charitable
efforts: helping build and maintain a hos-
pital at Sutter’s Fort. There were roughly
300 Masons in the State of California. They
raised $32,000 in 10 months.
Extra money was hard to come by, and
one lodge was even bankrupted by the
extent of its charitable giving. Yet California
Masons, answering the call of truth, relief,
and brotherly love, did not scale back their
giving. To alleviate the burden on individual lodges, they simply adjusted their
approach. In the mid-1850s, the fraternity
created regional boards of relief – California
Masonry’s first systematic approach to
awarding relief, and a precursor to the
Masonic Homes of California and our mod-ern-day Annual Fund.
Truth, relief, and brotherly love leave little room for selfish regard, and generations
of California Masons have acted accordingly. Take the Great Fire of Chicago in
1871. When news of the fire arrived in the
Golden State, the Grand Lodge of California
unanimously voted to send its entire relief
fund to the Grand Lodge of Illinois. Or
take the 1906 earthquake and fire of San
Francisco, which decimated the city and
left 400,000 homeless. Without hesitation,
hundreds of California brothers rushed to
the Bay Area to set up food banks, bandage
the wounded, help families find each other,
and staff round-the-clock shelters. Grand
Master Motley Hewes Flint transferred
$3,000 of his personal funds to support the
relief effort, then rushed from Los Angeles
to San Francisco to help in the trenches.
PHILANTHROPY AND FRATERNITY
IN THE GOLDEN STATE
by Laura Normand