I was reading the most issue of The California Mason and noticed a very interesting article. The theme of the magazine was food but I noticed a very different topic. The article featured not one but two lodges in California working the ritual in French.
That’s right. The article, entitled Bon Appétit by Cason Lane, describes these two Lodges, La Parfaite Union Lodge #17 located in San Francisco and Vallee de France #329 located in Pasadena who do their ritual work. This fact piqued my curiosity. I visited the history section of Vallee de France’s and found that originally this Lodge was chartered by an obscure Louisiana Masonic body and then received another charter from the Grande Lodge Symbolique Ecossaise based in Paris. The Lodge was considered clandestine but sought recognition from the Grand Lodge of California which had absolute jurisdiction over conferring the first three degrees.
Vallee de France Lodge finally surrendered its charter from Grande Lodge Symbolique Ecossaise and received a new charter from the Grand Lodge of California with a special dispensation to continue to work in French and to confer the first degree as it had always done. It is really amazing to think that there are Lodges in this country working the ritual in another language. This got me thinking, why don’t more Lodges work in other languages?
Many new immigrant groups live and work in this country seeking the American dream. Although they may know basic words of English, they may not feel completely comfortable with speaking a new and unfamiliar language. Perhaps we, as Freemasons, should allow the creation of Lodges that use the mother tongue of these new immigrant groups.
In my state, we have many new immigrant groups from many continents. They are Hmong, Somalis, Ethiopians, Liberians, Russian, Indian, Latin and South Americans as well as many others. I love living in Minnesota with the mixture of cultures, clothing and languages where there are many choices of food and activities originating from these cultures. However, I sometimes think that Freemasonry has a major hurdle for these groups, language. The ritual is in English. It is okay for me to be a Mason because English is my natural language. Why shouldn’t we extend this ability to understand the ritual to a worthy man who has another mother tongue other than English?
In Minnesota, Norwegian immigrants maintained newspapers that were only in Norwegian until late last century, and created fraternities like the Sons of Norway to preserve their culture. In the Texas Hill Country, ethnic Germans lived in small isolated conclaves preserving their language for generations. Although these languages began to lose their mark on these population, they were still important to those first two generations.
Masonry seeks to be the great tree of morality, we may have different branches but the trunk is the same for all of us. Perhaps allowing brothers to do the ritual in their own language will help to foster this understanding amongst our brothers and keep bonds within new immigrant groups.
Now, here is your French lesson for today.