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Funeral Rites

During wars, funeral rites were also important for other, less apparent reasons. While on active campaign, the fraternal bond was necessarily stripped away, lodges could not meet, initiate new members, or conduct business on the battlefield, but the yearning for the strong association and support of the Order remained undimmed----and in fact may have been intensified by the stressful conditions of battle and the attendant absence of normal societal bonds. These funeral rites allowed Freemasons in combat to create an envelope of fraternal sanity amid the insanity of battle.

           It is certainly not unusual for soldiers to afford their brothers-in-arms a decent burial, nor is the Masonic order unique in interring the dead with special ceremony. It is, however, extraordinary to risk death to arrange a burial for a fallen enemy, or to suspend hostilities to recover a fallen comrade. That these acts were performed under individual initiative and not in response to orders is equally remarkable, and testifies to the depth of feeling that Masons associate with their burial rites. There are perhaps as many reasons that Masons devote such care to the interment of fallen brothers as there are incidents thereof. For some, a sense of reciprocity made such devotions obligatory----they would wish similar care had the roles been reversed. For others, the obligations that each Mason accepts upon initiation to care for a distressed worthy brother was the prime motivator. More important than individual motives, however, is that the observation of Masonic funeral rituals allowed men on both sides of the conflict to put aside their secular disagreements and return, albeit briefly, to a fraternal world in which moral men of all ranks stood equally with one another.

 

Respectfully submitted,

R\W\Jay Austin

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