Monday, November 28, 2011

The Art of Falling on Your Own Sword

Long time readers of this blog will know that I'm very involved in the Knights Templar in Pennsylvania. I have proudly been a member of a two different Commanderies and am currently serving as a Division Commander (kind of like a District Deputy.) I really enjoy my time with the Sir Knights and I continue to learn things from them. Anyone who dismisses the value of the older members of the Masonic fraternity needs to rethink their stance. We may need more young people in the fraternity, but without mentors to teach us about what has come before, there would be an empty space when it comes to knowledge.

The one thing that seems to "irk" younger folks is when older persons point out when they have done something wrong or made a mistake. This often happens in our fraternal world, especially with ritual. Many times we get corrected and think to ourselves "... it was only a tiny mistake, what does it matter?" Sometimes the older guys are just being picky, but most of the time they are doing it to help you improve. They really do mean well, even if it comes off a little rough. Recently, I had just such an experience in Commandery.

To put it simply, I made a wrong call when it came to something one of my local Commanderies wanted to do. I told them it was okay when in reality it was not. It's as simple as that. They came to me for advice, I gave them the answer I thought was correct without consulting my resources and in turn, I made a mistake. Was it a big mistake? Not particularly, but it was a mistake none the less. When the Grand Commander found out about this mistake, I received an e-mail stating that I would be reprimanded for the action. I was sad to say the least. I had made a call and it was wrong and now I had to pay the consequences. No one likes being punished, but we all have to pay our proverbial debts.

So, I did the only thing I could do. I responded to the email and said that it was indeed my call, that I took responsibility for the action, and that I understood the consequences. In return, I received a pleasant email back from the Grand Commander who was obviously gratified by my reaction. It is his job to uphold the Constitution of the body and in my case, that is exactly what he did. However, I'm sure many men have a hard time accepting the outcome of events when they are wrong. It is unusual for someone to take responsibility in this day and age.

Which brings us back to DeMolay. As DeMolays, we are instilled with the Seven Cardinal Virtues - Filial Love, Reverence for Sacred Things, Courtesy, Comradeship, Fidelity, Cleaness, and Patriotism. Notice what is missing from that list - honesty. It's such a simple trait that it is just expected that all DeMolays will strive to have it. It's not always the easiest trait to stick too, but it is incredibly important. The world respects men who can recognize the error of their ways, face the outcomes, and apologize.

We are all wrong at various times in our life. A real man will own up to his short comings and strive to make them right. He will not make excuses for his actions or try to hide them. Real men don't have to hide behind distractions and false reasoning.

Be a man and take credit when it is due and take the blame when it is squarely on your shoulders. You'll be surprised at how much respect you get.

Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth Anthony

Monday, November 21, 2011

Just try!

"Do or do not, there is no try." That immortal phrase ws spoken by Yoda in Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back. The character was just a work of foam and wires, voiced by Frank Oz. However, those words have never had a truer sound than in today's society. That simple line has become etched in the consciousness of the popular culture we currently live in and it is a valuable lesson for us all. It was this lesson that I took to heart.

A little over a month ago I was challenged to participate in a 5k with my girlfriend. She'd been wanting to run a 5k for a long time and it seemed that our calendars finally matched up and that I could be there to support her. I agreed to go to the race with her and help her in training. Then I said to myself "Self, why aren't you running the 5k too?" It was less than 30 days before the event and while I had been exercising more regularly, I didn't think I was in any shape to take on such a challenge.

I've always been a big guy. A little over a year ago I decided that I was as big as I was going to get. I weighed in at just under 290 pounds. A poor diet full of fast food and Masonic banquets, coupled with low physical activity got me to that point. I realized that something had to be done, so I started walking on a treadmill. At first, I could barely do 20 minutes. I couldn't even jog 4 miles per hour for 4 minutes straight. I was in pretty bad shape. But, I persevered and kept with it. I continued to work out regularly and watch my food intake. I counted every calorie that went into my body. While it was a huge pain in the neck, the weight started to come off. By January of this year, I was down 45 pounds and felt much better. I laid off of the exercise and stopped monitoring my food so closely. Come August, 10 pounds had crept back and my clothes were starting to feel a bit tighter. I went back on my diet and started exercising more regularly, just as I had been. Then, this 5K came up.

So, with all of that behind me, I decided that I too should try to run the race. The key word here is "try." For those who know me, I'm not an athletic person. Outside of some random activities at a DeMolay event, I haven't voluntarily participated in an organized athletic activity since the 5th Grade. This was a huge step for me. I told myself that as long as I really tried, I'd come out ahead. I signed up for the race and with less than 30 days to go, I started training. I bought the right equipment, including new running shoes. I then put them to work and got on the treadmill more often. I also ran outside, to get the feel of it. Before I knew it, race day was upon me.

When I lined up with the other competitors, several things went through my mind. Who else was doing this for the first time? What journey had brought them here? One woman was walking with cane, another man had a knee brace. Some people were warming up, while others were just chatting. Everyone was there for a different reason. I was there to prove to myself that I could do it.

As the starting gun went off, I charged forward, setting a good pace for myself for the first mile. Then the exertion set in and I varied my pace between walking and jogging for quite a distance. Whoever decided to make us run up steep hills is a torturer! Soon the end was in sight. As I dashed down a steep hill and turned the corner, the spotter told me the finish line was just ahead. I looked up a small incline which approached a straight away to the finish line. I briskly walked up the hill and then gave it my best, bursting forward to finish the race. I had no idea what my time was, I was just happy that I finished (and that I wasn't last.) My girlfriend had come in ahead of me, but not by much. I had done it! Trying had paid off.

Today, the final results of the race were released. My time was 39:57 - just under 40 minutes, a number I could not have dreamed of! I ended 119 out of 216 competitors and came in 5 of 6 in my age group. I even managed to not be last amongst my peers!

As usual, you are probably wondering what this has to do with DeMolay. To answer that, I'm going right back to the first paragraph of this post - TRY. There are things in life that we think we are incapable of doing. Put in me in front of a room of a 1000 people and ask me talk and I'll be in my element. Ask me to do physical activity and I'm petrified. We have our comfort zones, but until we try to do something outside of the norm, we are never going to know what we are capable of. By simply trying to do something that you didn't think you could, you've already taken the first step in doing it.

Try to learn that ritual part word perfect. Try to live by the precepts of DeMolay. Try to take control of your Chapter and your life. If you never try, you're never going to succeed.

I tried and I'm glad I did.

Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth Anthony

Thursday, November 17, 2011

WWII DeMolay

Recently, PA DeMolay presented a 65 Year Pin to "Dad" Robert L. Engel. "Dad" Engel has been a long time friend of PA DeMolay and holds an Honorary membership in the Supreme Council. Here in PA, he is most widely known as a Most Excellent Past Grand High Priest of the Grand Holy Royal Arch Chapter of Pennsylvania.

After receiving his pin, "Dad" Engel made copies of some old photos he had from his days in DeMolay. He sent them to the PA DeMolay office and we thought that it would be nice to share them with you. Most of his photos come from around the time of WWII, an era when DeMolay was in serious jeopardy in PA. However, "Dad" Engel was a DeMolay in the Cleveland, OH, area. From the photos, it appears that DeMolay did very well there!

Enjoy this pictorial history of DeMolay from the mid-twentieth century! (Click the photos to enlarge.)

You can learn more about "Dad" Engel's 65 Year Pin presentation over at the PA DeMolay Website.

Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth Anthony

Monday, November 14, 2011

I have a delivery for Mr. Ritual...

One of the things that we don't spend much time talking about on this Blog is the DeMolay ritual. While it is an important part of our program, it's not something that's easy to talk about in a public forum. However, there are aspects of the ritual and its performance that we can discuss without giving away information we shouldn't. Today, we are going to discuss one of "Dad" Labagh's pet peeves in ritual performance - speaking.

Learning how to use your voice to deliver a memorized part is an important lesson in DeMolay. Some guys are just naturally talented at ritual, while others have to take some time to practice it. When we learn ritual, most of us concentrate on the memorization and forget that the delivery is really what matters most. The biggest challenge that many of our young men face is something they don't have much control over - their voice.

During our teen years, our voice changes a lot. For some guys, it gets very low, while others remain high pitched and nasally. There isn't much you can do to change the voice you have, but you can learn how to use it to its full potential during ritual delivery. Over on the Art of Manliness page they have an article titled "Develop a Strong He-Man Voice." In the article, the author discusses ways to use the voice you have to be a more effective public speaker. Check it out and try some of the exercises. You'll be surprised how much of a difference they make.

On a side note, I will be on the road beginning on Wednesday of this week. I will be in and out of the office over the next two weeks, so updates may be erratic and / or sparse if they are from me. This is a great time for those of you who read the Blog to submit your own articles and ideas to be published here. Just jot down your thoughts and send them via email to

Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth Anthony

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Not Your Ordinary Obligatory Day

As DeMolays, we observe seven Obligatory Days each year (as discussed in one of our recent posts.) Of the seven, the one that is listed last in the Rules and Regulations of DeMolay International is Frank S. Land Memorial Day. According that document, to observe this Obligatory day,

"it is the duty of each Chapter to arrange a memorial program in honor and memory of Dad Frank S. Land, Founder of the Order of DeMolay, andto carry out a special fund raising effort with the proceeds being donated to a Masonic charity."

Sounds pretty simple, right? It's true - it really is that simple; and that, my friends, is just the issue with it. Many Chapters just "phone in" their Frank S. Land Memorial Day observance. They raise some money, give it to a charity, and then wash their hands of it. They meet the requirements quite ably, but it's not a very exciting Obligatory Day to observe. However, we recently received a copy of an invitation to a different kind of Frank S. Land Memorial DayObservance - enter Allentown Chapter!

Allentown Chapter has been going gangbusters for the past two years. They have continually produced quality young men with several Past Master Councilor's Meritorious Service Awards being presented to their leadership. They have had a string of Chevaliers, Legionairres, and one of their Advisors, "Dad" Eric Blew, was presented with the Guild of the Leather Apron at Convention 2011(otherwise known as the Advisor of the Year.) This Chapter is really on the move and they are proving it with their Frank S. Land Memorial Day observance.

Just what are they doing? Well, on Monday, November 28, 2011, the members of the Chapter have organized a charity dinner in observance of the day. Sounds pretty normal, right? Think again! Instead of just another dinner, admission to this feast is conditional on two things. First, you have pay $5, which will go to a charity. Then, you have to bring some kind of Thanksgiving left over to share with everyone else. Oh, did I mention that you don't start with any utensils either? If you want a fork, you can shell out another dollar towards the charity. Yep - this isn't a banquet - it's a medieval feast! That's right, you feast on the food with your fingers, toss the scraps on the floor, and enjoy fellowship with Brother DeMolays, all while raising money for charity in honor of "Dad" Land!

This is one of the most creative observances we have ever seen here at PA DeMolay! Congrats to Allentown Chapter for spicing up their program, thinking outside of the box (or is that bun?) and making Obligatory days fun in the process!

Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth Anthony

Monday, November 7, 2011

What makes DeMolay special?

We all know that DeMolay is a special organization. The lessons it teaches, the  Brotherhood it engenders, and the dedication its members and advisors feel are all signs of how wonderful it can be. While each of us takes something different away from the DeMolay program, we all get something out of it. That's what takes DeMolay to the next level. It provides an opportunity for young men to run their own organization and to make it suit their wants and needs. There really is no other youth organization out there doing that same thing.

Fulfilling a members wants and needs has become the cornerstone of our system of government and values in DeMolay. We have a diverse group of members, especially here in Pennsylvania. We have young men who have grown up in the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Some of our members come from the farmlands of central Pennsylvania, near Lancaster and York; while even more come of the coal laden hills of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. Each of these areas has it own set of values and beliefs - and DeMolay embraces them all! That diversity is what drives our program to evolve for the next generation of members.

Recently, as a Jurisdiction, we've had to evolve in another way. Because of our ability to adapt, we've seen an influx of members with special needs. Those needs run the whole spectrum, from mobility and accommodation concerns, to young men with Aspbergers. These young men are no different and should be given the same opportunity to benefit from DeMolay as any other member. This can be a challenge for some, especially on the local Chapter level. Advisors are being asked to work with young men who have needs they may have never encountered before; and they are doing it with a grace and ease that amazes all. I can proudly say that in Pennsylvania, these young men are getting the same opportunities as everyone else. The key is providing a program that works for them.

Recently, I received a copy of an article from Scouting Magazine, dated March / April 2011. The article was entitled "Structure and Support - Ideas from the field: Helping "Aspies" succeed." In a previous issue of the publication, members and adults were asked how they had modified their local Scout program to better suit young men with special needs. Here are some of the suggestions, adapted to DeMolay:

  • Provide Structure - DeMolay, by its very nature, is hierarchical and structured. These young men want to know their place in the structure, so take the time to explain that to them.
  • Make a List - provide lists of activities and achievements that can be earned. Definitive goals are a great way to help young men excel.
  • Show the Visuals - Don't just talk about awards or paperwork; have physical things on hand so that they can see the reality of what you're talking about.
  • Use the Buddy System - find two members and pair them up. This kind of friendship only serves to strengthen local Chapters.
  • Cut Some Slack - Remember, not every DeMolay is going to be a model member. Using teachable moments is why the program exists in the first place.
  • Ask - If you're having trouble communicating, talk to the member's parents / teachers and find out how you can better meet his needs.
These are just some ideas from the real world of the Scouts. Every young man is different. Rather than try to fit him into the "DeMolay Mold," why not mold DeMolay to fit him?

Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth Anthony

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Suit Up for Success

One of my favorite TV shows is "How I Met Your Mother." This sitcom seems to mirror where I am at in life and I find that I easily relate to it. I often realize that parts of the character's personalities are tied very closely to the behaviors I see some of my real world friends display. Of course, like most viewers, my favorite character is Barney Stinson. Portrayed by Neil Patrick Harris, Barney starts the series as a soulless ladies man, always on the hunt for his next female conquest. Later he cleans up his act and becomes a pretty astute gentlemen. However, the importance he places on being a "Bro" and his impeccable fashion sense are what really get me; the key, of course, are the suits!

As I've written before, fashion is one of those things that many guys shy away from. We have it in our head that "fashion" is for girls. Alternatively, we think that fashion is for Abercrombie and Fitch models or for the guys who feel the need to buy $50 tee shirts at Hollister because they perfume the air around their stores. This is utter nonsense. Real men's fashion has nothing to do with fake palm trees, over priced jeans, or brand names. No, every man should be aware of some basic fashion tips.

In this vein, I recently came across a great video from the website "Real Men - Real Style" that seemed perfectly appropriate for DeMolay. The image you project as a DeMolay is very important. It's okay to be in jeans and a tee shirt while you're making pancakes at a fundraiser, but if you're standing in front of the door to a local store asking for money, you better look professional. It seems that young men today (myself included) have a poor sense of what we should be wearing to look like proper gentlemen. This video does a great job of summarizing what we should do. Take a look:

So, there you have it! Now, some of the advice offered is pretty pricey. However, there are ways to do all of this on a budget. Never underestimate the power of Goodwill or the Salvation Army Thrift Stores. Check them out! You never know what you might find! "Suiting up" is the first step to looking like a respectable young man. Remember our Precept of Cleanness - in thought, word, and deed. Just because you bathed today doesn't mean your clean. Isn't that part of what DeMolay is all about?

Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth Anthony