Collegia of Freemasonry (exert from book on freemasonry circa. 1923)
THE subject of charity, or brotherly aid, may well be illustrated by a sketch of a condition that developed itself among the Roman people many centuries ago. In essentials that condition was the same as the condition in which we now live.
In the early days of the Roman republic a man grew up in the house in which he was born; when he married he brought his wife to live with him under the paternal roof; when he died he left his sons abiding in the same place. Neighboring families were similarly stabilized, and all these groups, owing to this perpetual neighborliness and to intermarriage, became so in woven with each other, that in a community there would not be one stranger.
In such a community the individual was not left to his own private resources; he was surrounded by others ever ready to aid him in misfortune, nurse him in illness, and mourn him in death.
But there came a time when this stability of life was broken up. By degrees the Romans conquered adjoining territory. A great military system was organized. Whole nations were brought into the Roman Empire. Great cities arose; travel was made possible; and a feverish restlessness took the place of the old stability. The old calm neighborhood life was destroyed, and in its place there grew up a fermenting life in town and city. A man no longer lived and died in the place of his birth, but moved from place to place, becoming a stranger in his own neighborhood, and scarce knew other persons living under the same roof. In misfortune and death he was thrown back on his own unaided individual resources.
In this situation men set out about the creating of a bond that would take the place of the lost neighborhood ties. They organized themselves into Collegia - groups formed of men engaged in the same trade— which in the early days of their history were principally devoted to securing for a man a becoming burial service, the lack of which so filled a Roman with dread.
In the course of time these organizations— we could rightly call them lodges—assumed more and more functions until at last a man found in them charities, social life, business aid, religious influences, friendships, and other features of general protection.
To live a stranger in a city was no longer a thing to dread, to a man who could find in such a fellowship the same friendship and support that his forefather had secured in the old-time neighborhood.
We men of today are living under just such conditions as brought the Collegia into existence. The great majority of us are living in towns and cities; many of us are subject to conditions that shuttle us about from place to place, and from situation to situation, so that life has lost its firmness and security. Our next-door neighbor is a stranger; we may live in an apartment house, where with dwellers even on the same floor we have no ties at all.
In the midst of such conditions the individual is often thrown entirely upon his own resources. It is here that the lodge comes in, for the lodge, from this present point of view, is nothing other than a substitute for the old-fashioned small community life, wherein neighbor was so tied to neighbor that there was no need of charities, social centers or employment bureaus. In a lodge a man need no longer be a stranger; he finds there other men who, like himself, are eager to establish friendships, engage in social intercourse, and pool the resources of all in behalf of the needs of each.
From all this one can see at a glance what brotherly aid really is. It is the substitution of the friend for the stranger. It is a spirit which throws round a man the comforts and securities of love. When a worthy brother in distress, or his family, is helped, it is not as a pauper, as in the fashion of public charity, but the kindly help which one neighbor is always so glad to lend to another.
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