“My grandfather was one, but I don’t know much about it.”

“My dad used to go to meetings every couple of weeks, but he didn’t talk about what went on there to mom or us.”

“I hear it is some super-top-secret sort of thing — something mysterious — special handshakes and passwords and such.”

Have you ever wondered about the Masons? What they stand for? What they believe in or what they do?

Then plan to have your questions answered Sunday when Harmony Lodge No. 6, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, will host a Masonic Open House from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Scottish rite Cathedral, 2128 Church St., in downtown Galveston. The event is free to the public, and light refreshments will be served.

The Masons — also called “Freemasons” — are one of the oldest fraternal organizations in the world, with a written history that dates back to early 18th-century London and which presupposes an underlying existence stretching even further back into time.

The Masons arose from guilds of actual stonemasons — the craftsmen who labored during the Middle Ages, sometimes for their entire lifetimes, to construct the great cathedrals of Europe. Over many decades, groups of these artisans, called “lodges,” evolved such that their members were no longer builders in the physical, but rather in the spiritual, sense — men united by the bond of the common belief that by endeavoring to make themselves better human beings they would accomplish the same in their fellow lodge members, their communities and the world.

Over the years, some have leveled criticisms at our “gentle Craft.” The most common is that we are a secretive society and therefore must be engaged in something clandestine of which we do not want others to know. We do employ initiations and ritual peculiar to our group, but so, too, do many other fraternal and civic organizations. And Freemasons proudly wear rings, lapel pins and neckties bearing the symbol of our fraternity — the “Square and Compasses.”

Another common misconception is that Freemasonry is a religion. This assertion, too, falls far from the mark. Freemasonry encourages its members to attend their chosen houses of worship. We keep a standard Holy Bible open in the center of our lodge room during every meeting to symbolize that we will take no action therein that we would wish to hide from the Supreme Being.

Countless famous and esteemed men have been Masons, including the “Father of Our Country,” George Washington, and prominent early Texas politicians Sam Houston, Anson Jones and Mirabeau B. Lamar.

We hope you will join us to learn more about a group that has been the quiet backbone of communities across our land for a couple hundred years.

Our motto: “Texas Masons: Taking good men — and making them better.”

Jeff Modzelewski lives in Galveston.

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