A commitment to the family and its values is a commitment to life by Masons as individuals and by the Scottish Rite as an institution.

The title of this message and the following powerful words, as spoken by a mother, form part of the "Flower Talk," a DeMolay ritual which each young DeMolay hears when he joins the Order.

My body fed your body, son,
But birth’s a swift thing
Compared to one and twenty years
Of feeding you with spirits’ tears.
I could not make your mind and soul.
But my glad hands have kept you whole.
Your groping hands
Bound me to life with ruthless bands.

To me, these words express not just the responsibility of a mother to her son but also, in a larger sense, the responsibility of the Scottish Rite to the family. This issue of the Scottish Rite Journal, like the special "Family Life" issue of the Journal in November 1997, is devoted to the theme of family. Someone asked me once why we devoted a special issue to the family, when many of the same thoughts had been published before in our magazine as well as in other publications over the years.

His remark reminded me of the story of the church that had just hired a new minister. His first Sunday was well attended, and he gave a powerful sermon. But on the second Sunday, he delivered the same sermon. On the third Sunday, it was the same sermon again. Finally, the Elders of the church called on him, and one of them asked, rather tartly, if he had nothing else he could preach about.

"Indeed," replied the pastor, "and I will as soon as I’ve seen some evidence that people have heard what I’ve already said."

Some things just can’t be said often enough.

It is so obvious the family is at the center of everything spiritual, emotional, and even economic. Clearly, nurturing the family and the conditions which surround it should be the first care of every government, every public organization, and every private institution. Yet, too often this is not the case. Most of us hope for a bright future, and most of us realize the future will be populated by our children. Still, we tend to ignore tomorrow and focus only on the immediate needs of today.

Birth is a swift thing, as the DeMolay "Flower Talk" notes, when compared with the years of support, reenforcement, and help a child or family needs to grow, gain strength, and mature. And, again as the poem states, a child or family has to be fed with tears of the spirit. It takes a true emotional investment to make a family work. That investment is not just by parents—although theirs is the greatest. Many of us have had the experience of helping the families of our friends grow, or of being supportive in times of trouble and grief, or of sharing in the family’s laughter and success. It is, perhaps, the greatest privilege one can be granted, but it is not a privilege without pain.

The Scottish Rite can help—not so much as an institution, but as individual Scottish Rite Masons, armed with the teachings we have learned and the self-development we have experienced. We cannot make the mind, heart, and soul of a family, but we can help to keep a family whole. We can provide information about what helps make families successful. We can host events for the family. We can supply good fun and fellowship in wholesome surroundings. We can oppose those conditions—poverty, ignorance, loneliness, drug dependence—which crush both the family and the child. We can find new ways to help remove roadblocks to success.

The family’s "groping hands," to cite the DeMolay poem, do bind us to life with "ruthless bands." It is far better to be bound to life than to be shackled to death. A commitment to the family and its values is a commitment to life. It gives us purpose and challenge. Both as an institution and as individual Masons, it gets us out of our personal zone of comfort and into the greater world outside ourselves. Our Fraternity can be stifled by too many marble halls and too little reality. Families live in the center of reality. The Order of DeMolay’s "Flower Talk" poem continues with these words:

While all my living became a prayer,
While all my days built up a stair
For your young feet that trod behind,
That you an inspiring way might find.

I know of no greater challenge for the Scottish Rite, and no greater or more glorious future, than to make those words true for every Scottish Rite Mason.