The Operative Mason in the Modern Era

Bro. Jon Patrick Sage

I was talking this last week with a Brother, friend and author, John S. Nagy, and he mentioned something that, on the surface, sounded very strange, and even seemed to go against the normal and accepted teachings of any “speculative” Lodge. As we remember from the several lectures; we, in the modern era, “operate as speculative Masons only”.

Br. Nagy, (Coach Nagy), as he is known at his website,, said that it bothered him that we should only be referred to as speculative Masons. Although it is true that we no longer, as a Fraternity, work in stone and the building arts, it is very true that we actively engage in the art of character building, which according to John, is not a speculative task. Instead, this is REAL WORK. In order to complete the task that we say to so many new-comers, to “take good men, and make them better”, a great deal of personal work must be done by the individual. This is in depth soul searching, self-examination, evaluation, and ultimately, an adjustment or re-alignment, with the aide of our working tools, of one’s ultimate pathway in life, with the goal of becoming a better man.

This is work that can always be aided or assisted by a mentor, friend, or elder member of the Lodge and/or Fraternity. However, it is ultimately the sole responsibility of the individual Mason to determine his pathway towards Light, and to set his course according to that Light, as he interprets it. In this regard, we are actively building our Masonic edifices, according to the plans laid down on our individual Trestle Boards, by the G.A.O.T.U. We actively shape and square our Ashlars, our bodies as living stones. Doing so, we actively and daily anticipating and preparing ourselves for the final inspection of our Creator, and thus, find ourselves constantly busy doing His good Work!

As active Masons, we are actively engaged in any number of community and Lodge events. These may include one or more appendant bodies, or it may include mentoring and/or recruiting new members. Perhaps our Work to beautify and adorn our Lodge lies in helping out in the kitchen, or in greeting Brethren at the door. We could find ourselves smiling, and saying “Hi” to the Brother who has been away from Lodge for far too long. If that is our role, it is never in judgment, but in a manner that truly exhibits the Brotherly Love which will welcome that Brother back into our midst.  

As we Labor in our daily chores that is Masonry, it does become apparent that these activities are no less operative, inasmuch as we ARE constructing something, as were the efforts of our Cathedral building ancestors! As I thought more and more about what Coach Nagy had said, it suddenly did not seem like it was a foreign idea – (I AM an operative Mason!)  I DO actively build my own, and assist others in constructing real Masonic edifices! We ARE building something, and that something has real and evident value!

In that vein, Brethren, carry on with your good Work! Shape the stones that will help to build that House not made with hands, and when the time comes, lift high YOUR stone, and assist others in helping to place theirs. These actions, Brethren, CAN and DO make us Operative indeed! As such, when erecting your Masonic edifice, know that it is a real building, one that the whole World can see.

Those in the World will either claim it a thing of beauty, as in the Cathedrals of old; or will reject it as a thinly walled ramshackle hut! Endeavor then, to BUILD your Masonic edifice as a real and lasting structure of beauty; one to be appreciated, imitated, and revered.