I’m always on the look out for interesting articles that relate to DeMolay and what we stand for. Every DeMolay knows the story of Jacques DeMolay, at least to some extent. They know he was a knight, they know he was brave, and they know he died while keeping the faith of his brothers. In DeMolay we’ve become especially attached to the idea of knighthood. There are very few young boys out there who haven’t, at least once, dreamed of donning a fanciful cuirass and riding into battle atop a well barded destrier (Yes, I know. Young guys have no idea what a “cuirass” or “destrier” is. This is one of those “teachable moments.” If you don’t know what those words mean, go look them up!)
I recently finished a novel called “A Storm of Swords.” It’s the third novel, in a much larger series, known as “The Song of Ice and Fire,” which was written by George R.R. Martin. The series comprises a tale of knights and heroes, battles and murders, and general medieval type stuff. One of the recurring themes of the book is how the dreams of the younger characters rarely come true. One little boy has his heart set on being a knight, but he falls out of a window at the age of 8, and never regains use of his legs. Another character, this time a young girl, dreams of being a high born lady and perhaps even queen, but she is later married to a very conniving, and some would say dishonorable, man.
So, what do these two things have in common? Why, another piece of literature of course! Some of you may have read the “Song of Roland” in high school or college. It’s a piece of 12th century French literature that details the Battle of Roncevaux Pass, which occurred in the year 778. More importantly, however, it gives us one of the few complete lists of what was called the “Code of Chivalry,” dated to a period when it was actually being used.
In the “Song of Roland” there are laid out the following components of the knightly code:
1. To fear God and maintain His Church
2. To serve the liege lord in valor and faith
3. To protect the weak and defenseless
4. To give succor to widows and orphans
5. To refrain from the wanton giving of offence
6. To live by honor and for glory
7. To despise pecuniary reward
8. To fight for the welfare of all
9. To obey those placed in authority
10. To guard the honor of fellow knights
11. To eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit
12. To keep faith
13. At all times to speak the truth
14. To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
15. To respect the honor of women
16. Never to refuse a challenge from an equal
17. Never to turn the back upon a foe
Let’s take a harder look at this. Of the 17 aspects listed, 12 of them relate to how one should act when not on the field of battle. Three of them deal with honor, while three others deal with faith. Six of the tenets deal with protecting or defending other people, while several more deal with truth and doing what is right. Now, let’s take those 17 rules and see how they match up to the 7 Cardinal Virtues.
• Filial Love
o To give succor to widows and orphans
• Reverence for Sacred Things
o To fear God and maintain His Church
o To keep faith
o To eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit
o To respect the honor of women
o To guard the honor of fellow knights
o Never to refuse a challenge from an equal
o Never to turn the back upon a foe
o To despise pecuniary reward
o To fight for the welfare of all
o To obey those placed in authority
o At all times to speak the truth
o To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
o To refrain from the wanton giving of offence
o To live by honor and for glory
o To serve the liege lord in valor and faith
o To protect the weak and defenseless
Well, now look at that! Funny how all of those old ideas of Chivalry just happen to match up to DeMolay ideals, huh? Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
Filial Love, to DeMolays, means loving one's parents. However, in this case, I also believe that it means giving honor to people who are parents themselves, especially widows and orphans, who may not have anyone to help them in a time of need. Reverence for Sacred Things reminds us to have respect for that which is holy, and in the same way, the knights of old were encouraged to be faithful to their church and maintain its teachings. A knight, like a DeMolay, also practiced Courtesy, by being slow to anger, never letting vengeance become a goal, and honoring the fairer sex. They were also strong Comrades, who believed that each knight was a brother, to be protected and listened to, and that even a worthy foe deserved respect. Fidelity, as is apparent, was the key belief of any knight, and therefore of any DeMolay. Knights and DeMolays do what they do without hope for reward, fight the good fight, obey authority, speak the truth, and never quit. Both groups also tried to live clean lives, abhorring offensive things and living for honor and glory rather than for worldly pleasures. Finally, both DeMolays and knights enjoy a sense of patriotism, protecting the weak, and defending their country.
As DeMolays we have a long history of trying to emulate knightly behavior. As men, most of us also have a yearning to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. What you must realize is that the moment a young man becomes a DeMolay he has already found something bigger, and has been “knighted” into a brotherhood of character. It then becomes his responsibility to live up to those standards to the best of his ability, just like the knights of old!
Frat! ~ ”Dad” Seth Anthony