Monday, January 17, 2011

Can I see the Degrees?

In a world where the exploitation of children is an all too common occurrence, it is rightfully understood that parents may be hesitant about their kids getting involved in an organization, especially one they may not know much about. One of the common concerns is the induction ceremony of the Order, or sometimes called the Degrees. Many parents request to see this performance in advance of their children and it's a request that we most certainly will grant. What follows is a letter written by "Dad" Brent Richards in August of 2001 to the mother of a prospective member with this very question.

The induction ceremonies are rather elaborate, and frankly, in my opinion, quite beautiful and profound.  They date back to our founding in 1919, and have their roots in similar ceremonies that are much older.  The general flow of events is as follows:  New members are greeted outside of the meeting room, and receive some preparatory comments from a member or advisor in charge of "orientation" --before the formal ceremony begins, parents are welcomed to be seated in the main meeting room.  The first of the two reception ceremonies involves a series of "trips" around the room, symbolizing the journey of life, during which the new members are instructed in the basic principles of DeMolay, or "Seven Cardinal Virtues" as we call them:  Love of Parents, Reverence, Courtesy, Camaraderie, Fidelity, Cleanness, and Patriotism.  New members take a symbolic "oath" much like an "oath of office", the Scout Law, or other similar construct.  In this oath, members pledge their support of the high virtues of DeMolay. 

The second of the two ceremonies has always been my favorite.  It is known as an "allegorical" ceremony, in that it is in the form of a play, representing the last trial of Jacques DeMolay, the last master of the Order of Knights Templar (of Crusade fame).  DeMolay, from whom we obviously take our name, was wrongfully imprisoned by the King of France, and eventually executed for his refusal to turn over the names and locations of other officials the king wished to arrest.  We use his story as a lesson in loyalty to friends and principles.  It is a very impressive scene.  It is followed by another shorter section similar to the first ceremony, with a final "vow" reaffirming these principles of faithfulness.

Both of these ceremonies together form one of the most impressive, and certainly most "serious" aspects of our organization.  They are all performed entirely by the young men of our group, and entirely from memory.  I have never failed to be impressed by their performance.

These ceremonies, by long tradition common to most fraternal groups, are closed to non-members --More precisely, to youth who are non-members.  Parents and other adult relatives are always welcome in our meetings, even those designated as "closed."  We do hold to the tradition that a young man formally joining DeMolay will be seeing these ceremonies for the first time.

All this to say, you are all most heartily welcome tomorrow evening.  If your son and/or his friend have decided to join, we can have them participate in the ceremonies tomorrow.  If you feel you would rather see the ceremonies yourself, or need other information of any kind, before your son formally joins us, we'd certainly welcome you and Alex's parents to be our guests tomorrow, to view the ceremonies and ask me any questions you may have, and we can arrange the ceremonies to be performed again for your sons as soon as you like.

If you've not had any contact with fraternal orders before, this may all sound confusing.  Part of the "bond" you observed between our young men last night is based in this formal ceremony, a "shared knowledge" and experience they have together, not known to others of their peers.  Naturally, we don't believe in keeping secrets from our members parents, nor would we want to be seen as encouraging them to do so, hence the welcome to parents at any and all meetings.  

Remember - DeMolay IS NOT a secret society. It is no different than the National Honor Society, the Cub Scouts, or other in groups in that it's meetings aren't just open to anyone who wants to wander in off the street. Take some time to educate your new parents - remember, they are the best place to find new Advisors!

Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth Anthony

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