Thursday, February 25, 2010

The DeMolay Degree - Fact or Fiction?

I think few would argue that the DeMolay Degree can be one of the most impressive experiences in all of Freemasonry, let alone in DeMolay. Yet, one line of that degree always tugged at me a little. While I don't have a ritual book in front me to quote it, the Orator, at the beginning of the ceremony states that the events portrayed in the degree are essentially a condensed version of several trials used to depict the point of the degree. So, the ritual itself acknowledges that the events portrayed are not historically accurate. This led me to wonder - what did exactly happen?

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, this research isn't hard to find. It took me a little while to dig through it all and get to the real meat of the story, so I decided to condense the narrative to the most important points and share it with you here.

The day was Friday the 13, 1307. This day literally lives on to the present as an ill omen. Yes, you can thank Jacques DeMolay for Friday the 13th being bad luck, but I digress. Just a day before Jacques was in Paris, attending a royal funeral for the sister-in-law of the King of France. Early in the morning King Phillip of France dispatched the military to round up any Templars in Paris and arrest them on charges of heresy and blasphemy (fancy words that mean "doing things against the church.") Why would Phillip do such a thing? It seems that the monarchy of France was a little short on cash... repeatedly. When they found their coffers dry they would head over to the local Templar Preceptory and borrow some cash. And borrow they did! Phillip was in deep debt to the Templars, who he knew were very wealthy. He figured that if he could seize all of the Templar assets, and dissolve their organization, he would be out of debt and very wealthy in one fell swoop! So the arrests were made and Jacques was imprisoned.

The Templars were taken to the University of Paris, and about 10 days later were viciously interrogated in an attempt to get a confession. During this interrogation Jacques confessed to the King's torturers that the Templars did indeed commit acts of heresy, such as trampling on the cross and denying Christ. Having gotten this confession, the interrogators then forced Jacques to write a letter to all of the Templars in world that implored them to confess and give themselves up. It seems the game was over.

There is still one character left in this story however, and that would be Pope Clement V. You see, Phillip couldn't have all of the Templars arrested without his express permission. Without Clement's approval, Phillip would have been out of luck. However, Phillip was a devious man, who had caused lots of trouble with the Papacy in the past. His latest fight, before the Templar issue, had forced the Pope to move his headquarters from Rome to southern France, right under the thumb of Phillip. The Pope didn't have much choice in the Templar matter thanks to all of this, and quickly gave his blessing. Clement wasn't a complete pawn though, and even after Jacques had confessed to the King's torturers, he still wanted to hear Jacques story for himself.

In December of 1307, Clement dispatched two high ranking Cardinals to talk to Jacques face to face. When the Cardinals confronted him about the charges, and the confession, he quickly recanted, taking the position that he had no choice but to confess after being tortured, and that he knew the King's men wouldn't take no for an answer. However, he believed that the Cardinals, being men of the cloth, would give him a fairer trial, and so he recanted to them, believing that the church would trust his word and save him. Upon hearing this, Phillip and Clement began to argue about who should be in charge of trying and convicting the Templars. This squabble lasted until the summer of 1308 when it was decided that the King could preside over a trial of the Order, which of course would involve it's disbanding, with it's monies being turned over to the King of France. However, Clement and the church would retain control of the trials of the Templars themselves, and so in 1309, the church began hearings for Jacques and other Templars. He again recanted his confession to the Pope and his Cardinals. The Pope then believed that the case was pretty clear, and called an ecumenical council (a meeting of several church officials to make a decision on an important matter) in the spring of 1310, to be held at Castle Chinon, in Vienne, France.

At this conference Cardinals again questioned Jacques about the Order, and his confessions in 1307. The problem was that the King didn't trust the Pope and his officials to get the confessions out of Jacques a second time, so he sent royal officials to the trial. Upon seeing these officials Jacques again confessed to the crimes. The case was now right back where it was in 1307. To make matters worse, Phillip used the confessions gained in 1307 to burn 54 Templars at the stake. With all of the evidence being so convoluted, and several Templars having been tried, convicted, and executed, the council was not able to come to a decision until 1312. The council then decided to abolish the Templar Order as a part of the Church, and to continue imprisoning DeMolay and several other high level Templar officials. So, for two more years, Jacques and his companions lay rotting in a French prison.

Under pressure from Phillip, and wanting to finally put the issue to rest, Clement dispatched several Cardinals to meet with DeMolay in 1314, and decide his final fate. The Cardinals met with DeMolay, and three of his highest officials, Hugh de Pairaud, Geoffroi de Charney, and Geoffroy de Gonneville. After hearing testimony, the Cardinals decided to imprison the four men for the rest of their lives, and to spare them execution. Upon hearing this, Jacques (who was now close to 70 years old) gave a stirring speech that again proclaimed his innocence. Joining Jacques in this speech was Geoffroi de Charney, who loudly protested the verdict. After hearing of this public disruption to the trial, Phillip orderd both men to be burned at the stake as "relapsed heretics." So it was to be, that very night, that Jacques DeMolay and Geoffroi de Charney were burned at the stake.

There are several legends surrounding Jacques's death. Some say that he asked that his hands not be tied, so that he could die praying. Another tale says that Jacques cursed both the King and the Pope, and that within a year of his death, he would meet them at the right hand of God to be judged. Interestingly enough, the Pope would die a few months later due to an illness, with the King soon following him to the grave thanks to a hunting accident.

Thus, it came to pass that the Templars were abolished, and Jacques DeMolay would be it's last Grand Master. Today, we as DeMolay's recreate this scene in the DeMolay Degree. Now that you know the whole story, it's easy to see where embellishments have been made, and liberties taken, to provide a better story. The basic principle, however, remains the same. Jacques died proclaiming his innocence, along with his brother Templars. This my Brothers remains a truly commendable act.

That's not the whole story though! Documents were discovered at the Vatican, in 2002, that show that Pope Clement absolved DeMolay of wrong doing in 1309 while on trial at Chinon. Even this Papal decree of innocence was not enough to purchase Jacques his freedom and life.

After reading this, I hope that each time that you watch the DeMolay Degree you think about this story. You remember that Jacques spent the last 7 years of his life defending his name, under brutal conditions, only to be declared innocent, and then guilty again, ending in his demise.

Hail thee noble Martyr..."

Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth C. Anthony

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Competing Efforts

Every four years our lives are disrupted by two two-week television extravaganzas called "The Olympics" when we stop what we are doing to watch extraordinary humans doing extraordinary things with their bodies and with their minds. I am glad it doesn't come more often-- I get exhausted just watching the incredible speed, strength, flexibility and gracefulness of the skiers, skaters, sledders, and others. It's great to see the USA win medals, but I have to admit that I get caught up in the personal stories of so many of these athletes, and I cheer for all of them to simply do their very best. When I see all of the top competitors exceed their own expectations, and are rewarded for being the very best in their sport, it seems as if their country doesn't matter. Record-breaking performance isn't a triumph of nationality, but rather, a triumph of mankind.

DeMolay competitions require that kind of effort and performance, as well. Winning performances aren't what matters-- what is most important is that each competitor puts forth his very best effort to help his team succeed. Whether on the court or diamond or playing field, on in a ritual or RD competition, what matters most is giving it everything you've got, and performing better that ever before.

This attitude of doing the very best you can needs to extend even one step farther than the competition arena. In everything you do in school, or at work, or at home or with your friends, you need to be the very best -- the best student, the best employee, the best sibling, the best friend-- that you can be. Always.

DeMolay helps us all to understand our obligations to be better sons, better brothers, better leaders, better men. Through our DeMolay activity, we too, can experience a kind of triumph of mankind as we learn how to set our standards higher and strive with our very best effort to reach our goals in service to our fellow men.


"Dad" Tom Labagh

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Little Math

Let's start this off by saying that "Dad" Anthony is terrible in math. Period. I don't do it. Thankfully, DeMolay International has done some for me...

As we are now well into the year of 2010, the United States Census Bureau has begun collecting information about all of the citizens in the United States. Back in the 1990's (ancient history to some folks) DeMolay International used the information gathered in the 1990 census to see just how much of an impact DeMolay was having on society. That information was distilled into a short article called "100 DeMolays" and it is still available on the DeMolay International website, but for ease of reference, I present it here:

"Of any 100 young men who join DeMolay, five of those 100 will become Master Councilor of their DeMolay chapters. And at least one of them will later say that he valued that experience above his college degree. Eighty or more of the 100 will go on to complete some form of post-high school education.

Many of the 100 will find their vocation through other DeMolay involvement, such as Merit Bar work. DeMolay has produced a good number of men, who after serving as chaplain of their local chapters, went on to become ministers or pastors. Along those same lines, several of the 100 DeMolays will first be introduced to some form of organized religion by attending some church or temple through a chapter function.

Of any 100 young men who become a DeMolay, thirty will drop out in their first year. Perhaps this may be regarded as a failure. But in later life, most of these will remember that they have been in DeMolay and speak well of the program and the lessons it teaches.

Of any 100 DeMolays, only rarely will one ever appear before a juvenile court judge or be in any trouble with the law. In fact, DeMolay produces a great many lawyers. And, although the percentages are not known, many of the 100 will join the military. Each of the 100 will learn something from DeMolay and most all will benefit from their association with the fraternity. Again, the percentages are not known, but a considerable number of the 100 will also go into the Masonic Lodge in later life. Of the 100 who join Masonry, many will serve as a head of one of the Masonic organizations.

A number of the 100 come from single parent families and look to their advisors (Masons) as positive role models. One out of the 100 will be awarded the rank and honor of Chevalier, the highest honor granted to an active DeMolay. Approximately sixteen of the 100 will value their time in DeMolay so much that they will "give back" to DeMolay by serving as an adult volunteer in later life.

Although only one out of every 1,000 young men in the United States, age 13 to 21, will join DeMolay, it is interesting to note that many of this nation's leaders in business, religion, and politics belonged to DeMolay in their teens. In fact, one out of every twelve State Governors is a Senior DeMolay and one out of every ten United States Senators is a Senior DeMolay.

One hundred DeMolays ... equals a high number of leaders.

So, the question is simple... what number are you?

Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth Anthony

Monday, February 15, 2010

Where's Waldo

"Dad" Cockerham, Grand Master of DeMolay International, has created a contest based around his logo for the year - a DeMolay shield shape filled in with various Masonic organization insignias. The rules of the contest are as follows:

Now with that in mind, you get to tackle this image...

Think you have what it takes? If you do you'll get $1000 and if you can find all of the changes you'll net yourself $10,000!

C'mon PA DeMolay - let's try to get that cash!

I have already personally submitted my responses, and I had to crack at least three books on Freemasonry just to find a few of the graphics. How many did I find? I'll tell you when the contest is over!

Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth Anthony

Monday, February 8, 2010

I come from a land down under...

DeMolay is an international organization, right? Sure, it's in the title isn't it? DeMolay exists in Canada sure enough - we welcome several of our Canadian brothers to Key Man every year. We also know that it's popular in Italy, as they are part of our DeMolay Region (Region 2 to be precise.) But, did you know, that PA DeMolay is responsible for the Order being founded in Australia? Read on, and find out more!

Written for the 50th Anniversary of DeMolay in our state, the history of the Order in Pennsylvania was penned in 1973 and presented at festivities held during that year in Pittsburgh. On page 5 of that book there is the following paragraph:

" Of special interest is the fact that a Pennsylvania chapter was inadvertantly responsible for the Order of DeMolay being established in Australia. Wilbur Chapter at Bethlehem was visited in early 1938 by writers and photographers from Life Magazine. They published an article and photo lay-out entitled "Life Goes to a DeMolay Coronation Ball."

Since the pictures showed DeMolays in their robes and ritual positions, the chapter's charter was suspended. Life was circulated in Australia and Masons of that country saw the article and wrote to the chapter to learn how they could start DeMolay chapters. The inquiry was forwarded to "Dad" Land who carried out successful negotiations. Incidentally, Wilbur Chapter had its charter restored."

What a story! Not only was a PA DeMolay Chapter given a several page spread in a major magazine with national distribution, it helped to spur DeMolay in Australia! A few months ago I went on a search for that article, and lo and behold I found it, buried in an online version of Life Magazine from 1939. So, without further ado, I give you that article. Enjoy!

Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth Anthony

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dad Labagh's Favorite Movie Lines (Part 1)





Dateline February 2, 2010:


Our CONGRATULATIONS to the following Jurisdictions for placing in the Top Ten Jurisdictions in 2009 for the total number of Initiates:
1st Place.....Missouri.....171
2nd Place.....NorCal/Hawaii and Texas.....122 Each
3rd Place.....Southern California.....119
4th Place.....Pennsylvania.....116
5th Place.....Oklahoma.....106
6th Place.....Florida.....101
7th Place.....Washington.....100
8th Place.....Illinois.....88
9th Place.....Ohio.....84
10th Place.....New Jersey.....77

Our CONGRATULATIONS to the following Jurisdictions in 2009 for achieving a Positive Growth in Membership:
North Dakota and Oregon.....+3 Each
Arizona, British Columbia, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina,
Southern California, and West Virginia.....+2 Each
Atlantic Provinces, Massachusetts, and New Mexico.....+1 Each

Our CONGRATULATIONS to the following Chapters in 2009 for initiating the most new members:
Waynesville, Chapter (MO).....29
Robert Goldberg Chapter (MO) and Excalibur Chapter (OK).....20 Each
Phoenix Chapter (TX) and Kenosha Chapter (WI).....19 Each
Excelsior Chapter (MO) and River City Chapter (KY).....18 Each
Susquehanna Chapter (PA).....17
Independence Chapter (MO), Beograd Chapter (Italy), Coal County Chapter (OK), and Round Table Chapter (IL).....16 Each

Our CONGRATULATIONS to the following Top Line Signers in 2009:
Christopher S. Pierson.....Robert Goldberg Chapter (MO).....12
Jomarx Gonzalo.....Beaver Chapter (British Columbia).....11
Kevin M. Hudon.....Lowell Chapter (MA) and Braden D. Zimmerman.....Excalibur Chapter (OK).....10 Each
Tarek Zawaideh.....Occidental Chapter (WA).....9
James E. Bowling.....River City Chapter (KY), Danial D. Best.....(Wm. F. Kuhn Chapter (MO), and Samuel K. Martinez.....Albert Pike Chapter (TX).....8 Each