November 19, 2014, was the 17th anniversary of my father’s death. My Dad was a man who liked associating with good men, and he was a member of the Masonic Lodge 52 years. I followed in his footsteps by joining the basic Masonic Lodge as well as the York Rite and Scottish Rites of Freemasonry as well as the Shriners. Normally, the Scottish Rite in the United States confers the 4th through the 33rd degrees.
Most basic Masonic Lodges in 49 out of the 50 U.S. States confer the first three basic degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft Mason, and Master Mason using the York Rite Ritual. Only a mere ten lodges in and around New Orleans, confer the basic degrees (nicknamed Blue Lodge degrees) using the Scottish Rite Ritual; making this meeting quite a rarity. The “York Rite” can loosely be defined as the mode in English-speaking countries, whereas the “Scottish Rite” is commonly seen in Central and South America as well as continental Europe. It has the flair of the phrasing of the Latin Romance language. The fuller American York Rite has additional degrees such as Mark Mason, Royal Arch Mason, Knight of Malta, Knight Templar, and others.
Freemasonry is not a “secret organization”; it is simply an organization that takes good men and endeavors to make them better men. Masonry has relatively few “secrets” beyond modes-of-recognition, such as passwords, which like computer “passwords”, assuring legitimate access.
On November 19, I was delighted to visit a Stated Meeting of Cervantes Masonic Lodge #5 in New Orleans which was chartered Sept. 24, 1842. It was a lodge that met, using the Spanish-language until about the year 2006 when it went English-only due to the lack of Spanish speaking members. The meeting I attended was held in the impressive Germania Masonic Lodge #46 which was chartered in April 1844 and was solely a German-speaking Lodge until World War II, when in 1944, a meeting started in German and was closed in the English language, and has been English-speaking ever since.
I met members who belong to both Lodges. I told them that my great-grandfather Rudolf Riedl, of Olmitz, being of Austrian-Germanic ancestry homesteaded land near a German-colony of “Germania, Wyoming”. I phoned my mother’s cousin Richard Riedl of Iowa while I was in New Orleans and he confirmed that during World War I, the citizens of Germania, Wyo. wanted to assimilate as patriotic Americans, so they changed the town’s name to Emblem, Wyo. I mentioned that to the members that night. They were impressed.
It was my privilege to attend a meeting of Cervantes Masonic Lodge. I saluted that lodge as a landmark institution and its sister lodge, Germania Lodge for being a grand old historic edifice. Cervantes Lodge was named after Miguel de Cervantes, author of the famous book “Don Quixote”. I enjoyed my Louisiana experience and I encourage everyone who can visit there to experience a part of Louisiana’s rich heritage. The Germania Lodge Hall originally had a fabulous life-size statue of King Solomon atop its building. A hurricane of the distant past blew it off the Germania Lodge building. I won’t disclose (due to safety and security reasons) its location now --- but the members showed it to me. It was breath-taking. I am certain the members of the Lodge would show it to any interested scholar upon request.
I have been to Louisiana before, but this was only my second visit to New Orleans. In a way, it gave me greater insight into the Pelican State as a whole. I just wish my Dad had been alive to go there with me.
James A. Marples,