W.B. Van Wagner Recounts a Father’s Words to His Newly Initiated Son

At the initiation of the Spring class of 2010 newly made Masons, then Worshipful Master Anthony Van Wagner read a speech given by a French count and Mason, to his son upon his initiation into the fraternity. 

If anyone has any information as to the Count or the Prince in question, Anthony is still curious!

To the Newly Made Masons of Braden #168 at the 2010 Entered Apprentice Table Lodge

“(Translated from the original French)”

“Was lately pronounced at Brunswick (Lower Saxony) where PRINCE …………………….. is GRAND MASTER of M., by COUNT T., at the Initiation of his Son.”

“I congratulate you on your admission into the most ancient, and perhaps the most respectable, society in the universe. To you the mysteries of M. are about to be revealed, and so bright a sun never shed lustre on your eyes. In this awful moment, when prostrate at this holy altar, do you not shudder at every crime, and have you not confidence in every virtue? May this reflection inspire you with noble sentiments; may you be penetrated with a religious abhorrence of every vice that degrades human nature; and may you feel the elevation of soul which scorns a dishonourable action, and ever invites to the practice of piety and virtue.

“These are the wishes of a father and a brother conjoined. Of you the greatest hopes are raised; let not our expectations be deceived. You are the son of a M. who glories in the profession; and for your zeal and attachment, your silence and good conduct, your father has already pledged his honour.

“You are now, as a member of this illustrious order, introduced a subject of a new country, whose extent is boundless. Pictures are opened to your view, wherein true patriotism is exemplified in glowing colours, and a series of transactions recorded, which the rude hand of Time can never erase. The obligations which influenced the first Brutus and Manilus to sacrifice their children to the love of their country are not more sacred than those which bind me to support the honour and reputation of this venerable order.

“This moment, my son, you owe to me a second birth; should your conduct in life correspond with the principles of M., my remaining years will pass away with pleasure and satisfaction. Observe the great example of our ancient masters, peruse our history and our constitutions. The best, the most humane, the bravest, and most civilized of men have been our patrons. Though the vulgar are strangers to our works, the greatest geniuses have sprung from our order. The most illustrious characters on earth have laid the foundation of their most amiable qualities in M. The wisest of princes, SOLOMON, planned our institution by raising a temple to the Eternal and Supreme Ruler of the Universe.

“Swear, my son, that you will be a true and faithful M. Know, from this moment, that I centre the affection of a parent in the name of a brother and a friend. May your heart be susceptible of love and esteem, and may you burn with the same zeal your father possesses. Convince the world, by your new allegiance, you are deserving our favours, and never forget the ties which bind you to honour and to justice.

“View not with indifference the extensive connections you have formed, but let universal benevolence regulate your conduct. Exert your abilities in the service of your king and your country, and deem the knowledge you have this day attained the happiest acquisition of your life.

“Recall to memory the ceremony of your initiation; learn to bridle your tongue and to govern your passions: and ere long you will have occasion to say: ‘In becoming a M., I truly became the man; and while I breathe will never disgrace a jewel that kings may prize.’

“If I live, my son, to reap the fruits of this day’s labour, my happiness will be complete. I will meet death without terror, close my eyes in peace, and expire without a groan, in the arms of a virtuous and worthy M.”


Past Master’s Remarks at His 2010 Election

W.B. Anthony VanWagner

Braden 168’s most recent Past Master, Worshipful Brother Anthony VanWagner, made two speeches in his first term that he wished to share here, and as he was the Master who raised me, I am enthusiastic to post them. Here is the first…

Remarks after being installed as Worshipful Master of Braden #168

When I see Masons involved in an ID program that protects children from becoming missing or exploited, or supporting a dental records program that targets criminals – when I see these things I take them as signs that Masons really hunger to aid others, to do good in the world. In many ways you could say that we want to usher in justice.

That Freemasons should want this is not so strange or foreign an idea. I remember a Royal Arch Companion who once told me the story of how a police officer in Texas stopped him on the highway. The officer told him there is still a law on the books that it is illegal to display any Masonic symbol on your vehicle if you are not truly a Freemason. The Companion, of course, proved he was a Mason. I wondered from this incident: Why should such a statute like that even get on the books in the first place? The episode hearkens one back to era in Texas and with other places on the American frontier when the Masonic Lodge was not only a place where vital information was passed on, but where decisions of great consequence to the community were made, and even justice dispensed.

I want to digress here for a minute. WB Ray Hayward, and the other Past Masters of Braden have reminded me that as WM my authority here is nigh unto absolute. One of the things that I thought I had wanted to do was to absolutely forbid the discussion of politics – not just within this chamber, as is prudent and customary during our meetings, but even without, even downstairs. My thoughts were that the discussions I heard outside of Lodge were sometimes contentious, divisive, often unproductive, and not worth the risk of hurting another Brother’s feelings.

I will tell you right now that without the bounds of this room I won’t be cutting off political discourse within Lodge.

To do so would have been a big mistake for a number of reasons. Out in the world when we see tyrannical and anti-masonic governments shutting down Masonic Lodges, it is often because they serve as a place for citizens to come together, spread the word to one another, and educate themselves. Ordinary men learn to trust themselves and to support one another directly.

In our modern, electronic age, in an atmosphere where our country has become increasingly more broken up, and even polarized, where next-door neighbors treat each other like strangers, the institution of Freemasonry is more vital than ever.

Personally, I think that things out there will get better for everyone in the long run, but not before we face the night. We may even get close to some very nightmarish scenarios. You know, and I know many individuals who have already faced, or are in the midst of facing some hard times. We can, and we will help them.

When I practice Freemasonry, there is a famous film that I often think of. In this movie the main character comes from a family of philanthropists. He seeks to save his city through the means of symbols. In fact, he attempts to transform himself into an incorruptible symbol, and to shake his city out of a state of complacency by the use of dramatic examples.

In Freemasonry, we have some of those same things at our disposal. We can impress our fellow man with the proper use of our symbols, and give him the opportunity to transform himself, according to his will, in the unfolding of dramatic lessons. These things are alive in Freemasonry.

By now you might be saying, “all of this seems a bit too grandiose, Anthony.” You are, after all, relating this to the example of one man’s grand plan to save his city. I would say though, that on the contrary, it is really very simple, and requires what some might consider the smallest of circumstances.

Whenever we reach out to each other personally, meet upon level, act upon the square, whenever we support the disadvantaged, whenever we visit some of our older Brethren who have difficulty traveling, whenever we learn their history, whenever we pick up a piece of tradition and incorporate it in our lives…we are sharing Masonic light. That light has more than enough power to save cities. We know this, because it helped save a country.

As we go forth we should realize our limitations as far as the human vehicle is concerned – remembering the words written by that man of genius who was initiated into the Blue Lodge degrees. “The exposure of innocence is a lie.” …meaning – people will know us by our actions, not just how we appear to them, or how we present ourselves. I am not an innocent man. I don’t know many who are. So I don’t go around claiming how good a man I am. It does no good to parade our innocence, without regard to reality.

In other words we can’t simply go on about how we’re really a bunch of great guys inside, and expect people to accept it at face value. Form without substance. It will not be enough, because ultimately it’s what we do, that defines us.

(I then thanked my Mother and Grandmother. I thanked last year’s Master, presented him with his apron case, and then made a few statements about the Winter Solstice that recently passed.)

I would like to read the words of the Young John, from the play, “The Ship.”

In the sea my father lieth,
Wept by waters, lost for ever
Where the waste of woe replieth:
“Naught and nowhere!” “Naught and never!”
I that serve as once he served,
I that shine as once he shone,
I must swerve as he has swerved,
I must go as he has gone.

He begat me; in my season
I must such a son beget,
Suffer too the triple treason,
Setting as my father set.
These my witnesses and women —
These shall dare the dark again,
Find the sacred ark to swim in
The remorseless realm of rain.

Flowers and fruits I bring to bless you,
Cakes of corn, and wealth of wine;
With my crown will I caress you,
With my music make you mine.
Though I perish, I preserve you;
Through my fall, ye rise above:
Ruling you, your priest, I serve you,
Being life, and being love.

Here is corn! (I hold the cake of light.)
Here is wine! (I take the cup.)
Life reborn,
The Deed Divine!

(They are consumed.)

Let us pray.

Thou, who art I, beyond all I am,
Who hast no nature and no name,
Who art, when all but thou are gone,
Thou, centre and secret of the Sun,
Thou, hidden spring of all things known
And unknown, Thou aloof, alone,
Thou, the true fire within the reed
Brooding and breeding, source and seed
Of life, love, liberty, and light,
Thou beyond speech and beyond sight,
Thee I invoke, abiding one,
Thee, centre and secret of the Sun,
And that most holy mystery
Of which the vehicle am I!
Appear, most awful and most mild,
As it is lawful, to thy child!