St. Patrick & How He Influenced Freemasonry & The Revolutionary War

Maewyn Succat, Patrick’s given Roman name, was born to a wealthy family in the Roman Empire.  The exact location of his birthplace, Bannavem Taburniae, is unknown, but it is believed to be “near the Western sea”, as described in his autobiography, “The Confessio”.  Maewyn’s father was a Christian deacon and minor Roman official, his grandfather was a priest, and his sister is Saint Darerca of Ireland.  It is undoubtedly that Patrick was raised in a Christian household, although there are differing accounts of his conversion to Christianity. Some sources suggest that he converted from paganism while he was a slave in Ireland, while a more likely scenario says that Maewyn was exposed to Christianity throughout his early childhood.

When he was 16 years old, his village was raided by a band of Irish marauders and Maewyn was taken captive.  During this time, the Roman Empire began to lose its power over its ever-expanding empire and such raids were becoming more common.  Young boys like Maewyn were often taken to herd sheep and cattle, while girls were taken to work as servants, cooking and cleaning for the chieftains who owned them.  Maewyn was taken to County Antrim in the north of Ireland, where he worked as a shepherd for a local chieftain on the slopes of Mount Slemish. 

Living in isolation, deprived of food, and lacking proper clothing, Maewyn’s only company was his flock and his ever-growing faith in God.  According to his writings in “The Confessio”, he prayed as many as 100 times a day and 100 times at night.  Six years into his enslavement, an angel appeared to him in a dream and said; “You have fasted well.  Very soon you will return to your native country”.  The angel instructed him to find a ship bound for the European continent, and Maewyn journeyed on foot for 200 miles through peat bogs and forests to reach a port.  Despite being an escaped slave, he was able to convince the crew of a cargo ship to allow him passage.

Upon arriving at the mainland, the ship and its crew became lost for several weeks in a land devoid of food.  The crew grew skeptical of Maewyn’s faith and began to chastise him for his piety.  They questioned why his God was not helping them in their dire state of hunger.  To which Maewyn replied; “Turn in faith with all your hearts to the Lord my God, because nothing is impossible for Him”.  Immediately after, a stampede of pigs appeared, providing ample food for the crew.  This miraculous event led to Maewyn’s first converts.

Maewyn eventually returned home to his parents, but his religious visions did not stop.  He heard a voice calling him; “We beg you, holy boy, to come and walk again among us”.  He understood this to mean he was to return to Ireland to serve the people.  In 418 AD, he was ordained as a Deacon and in 432 AD, he was consecrated as a Bishop and given the name Patricius or Naomh Pádraig in Gaelic.  

With the knowledge of Ireland’s language and customs, his religious training, and his life experiences, Patricius was uniquely suited to convert and baptize the island’s Druid priests, chieftains, and aristocrats.  He successfully converted thousands of individuals before his death on March 17, 461.

Since St. Patrick is Ireland’s patron saint, St. Patrick’s Day is considered a holy day of obligation for Christians in Ireland, who are expected to attend Church services.  Historically, Irish Christians would attend church services and then go about their day.  The priests were eager to remind them not to drink alcohol on such a sacred day.  St. Patrick was relatively unknown outside of Ireland until March 17, 1737, when a group of over two dozen Presbyterians who had emigrated from Northern Ireland gathered to celebrate St. Patrick and formed the Charitable Irish Society to assist distressed Irishmen in America.  The Charitable Irish Society still holds an annual dinner on St. Patrick’s Day to this day.

After that first charitable celebration, St. Patrick’s day remained relatively obscure and continued to simply be a Holy Day of Obligation. Until the Revolutionary War and Brother General George Washington needed to boost his troops’ spirits.

The connection between St. Patrick, the Revolution, and Freemasonry becomes clearer when considering the situation of the Continental Army at Morristown, NJ during the winter of 1779-1780.   The Army was facing the coldest winter in recorded history, with 28 snowstorms from November 1779 until April 1780, burying the encampment under six feet of snow.  The soldiers lived in basic log huts, slept on straw, and huddled together for warmth.  The conditions made it difficult to deliver supplies or hunt forcing the men to go days without food, leading to a loss of morale.  The soldiers were losing the battle without even waging war.  In such dire conditions, a moral boost was desperately needed.

The Irish represented the largest immigrant group to arrive in the colonies in the 1700s, mainly Presbyterians from the Northern Provence of Ulster.  The first celebration of St. Patrick’s Day was in Boston in 1737, but it remained a quiet religious holiday for many years.  The Scotch-Irish who immigrated in these early days were driven from their home by British oppression and had a strong rebellious spirit against the British Crown.  One-quarter to one-half of the Continental Army were Irish born or of close ancestry.  Most of the Generals were born in Ireland or had parents still living in Ireland. 

Brother General George Washington recognized the necessity of boosting morale among the Continental Army during the harsh winter. Brother Washington knowing the Irish heritage among many of his soldiers wanted to show solidarity with the “brave and generous” Irish people who were fighting for their own independence against the English, and declared St. Patrick’s Day a holiday for his troops.  This was the first day off they had in over a year, and it was a much-needed boost for morale.  Although today’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are often festive and lively, Washington emphasized that he expected his troops to celebrate in a disciplined manner and warned that “the celebration of the day will not be attended with the least rioting or disorder.”  Although the celebration may not have involved abundant food and drink, the troops did enjoy a hogshead of rum provided by their commander.

For those who are curious, a “hogshead” is about 63 US gallons. Let’s hope those troops had plenty.

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Moon Lodge Observance

Tuesday, November 8, 2022, Blazing Star Lodge held its “first-ever” Moon Lodge Observance meeting. First-ever could be incorrect because of the history of Blazing Star Lodge #294.

To honor and promote New York State’s last remaining true Moon Lodge Warren Lodge #32, the Brothers of Blazing Star opened, conducted business, and closed by lantern light. This was truly a unique and powerful experience. The evening started with a pre-opening ritual-inspired exchange of Light which shows how, as Masons, we share our Light and grow stronger with each time we share. This immediately flowed into the traditional opening. W:. Paterek presented a paper on Warren Lodge #32 and how Blazing Star most likely has its roots as a Moon Lodge. All Brothers present requested that the houselights remain off for the duration of business. Modern LED lanterns made this easy.

The Brothers who attended were blown away by the experience.  You had to be there to enjoy it.  If you missed it do not worry because it is certain that Blazing Star Lodge will continue the Moon Lodge tradition at least yearly.   All visitors requested more information on Warren Lodge’s Midnight Rider opportunity.

Moon Lodge Brothers

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Moon Lodge – A Brief History of Warren Lodge #32 – The Last Moon Lodge In New York State

Written by RW:. Steven Adam Rubin, Deputy Grand Master and W:. Todd M. Paterek.  Originally published on Craftsmen Online.

On the evening of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere was summoned by Dr. Joseph Warren of Boston and given the task of riding to Lexington, Massachusetts, with the news that regular troops were about to march into the countryside northwest of Boston, Massachusetts.

Thirty-two years later, Warren Lodge No. 32, named for Brother and Revolutionary War hero Dr. Joseph Warren, was chartered June 10, 1807, by DeWitt Clinton, Grand Master of Masons in the State of New York.  Warren Lodge meets in Rhinebeck, New York, about 100 miles North of New York City.  Aside from a noteworthy connection to the American Revolution, there is another unique feature that sets Warren Lodge #32 apart in New York State: The Lodge meeting dates are on a lunar schedule.  Warren Lodge opens by lantern light, setting its monthly meeting date as the Thursday before every full moon, rather than on a set calendar day. 

Dr. Joseph Warren

During the 18th century, Brothers had to travel to Lodge by foot, horseback, buggy, and sometimes even by boat.  There were no paved roads and very few gravel roads.  Instead, what they used were merely two dirt ruts that would meander through brush and fields rarely in a straight line (Three feet of snow, uphill, both ways!).  With only an oil lamp to help light the way, and a Full Moon assured illumination for the lonely and desolate miles.  Masons at that time would travel 8-10 miles or more and were often unable to make the long trip home at night.  Brothers would supply lodging to a fellow Brother, leaving after breakfast to return home the next morning.  I am sure many of us travel more than ten miles to get to Lodge but imagine the dedication these Brothers had to their Brothers, Freemasonry, and the difference they were making in themselves and the World to continue attending with such a difficult journey. 

Warren Lodge #32

Moon Lodges rapidly disappeared throughout the world with the invention of the lightbulb and then the automobile.  At the turn of the century, there were approximately three thousand moon Lodges in the U.S.  However, by the 1950s that number decreased to five hundred.  Today, there are roughly 129 moon Lodges remaining in America, 14 of which are in Pennsylvania, Texas has the most with 19, and New York State has just one;  Warren Lodge #32 in Rhinebeck, New York. 

Like many small rural Lodges, Warren Lodge lost membership year over year due to Brothers passing and few if any joining.  About 30 years ago in desperation, the remaining Brothers decided to give up the building.  At that time, several members of the Dutchess District Past Grand Lodge Officers chose to affiliate with Warren Lodge hoping to keep the Lodge viable.  As a result, the Lodge became known informally as the “Blue Lodge for Purples”.  With long-time relationships and ample experience with ritual, meetings took on a comfortable, easy complexion, which Brothers looked forward to enjoying.  As a result, the membership expanded so that today Warren Lodge is the fastest-growing Lodge in the District. 

You will find the earliest mention of Moon Lodges in the Cooke Manuscript of 1410, one of the oldest documents belonging to the Masonic Craft.  In the U.S., Moon Lodges were first noted in colonial times around 1717, operating in Philadelphia, Boston, and Tennessee.  Before our Moon Lodge Observance meeting, I picked the lock on the display case (The key was lost years ago) and found a newspaper clipping.  The headline reads; East Aurora Masons in 1827 held sessions “At the Full of the Moon”.  Unfortunately, the fire of 1905 destroyed all documentation and the historic record of our first charter.  However, considering our first warrant was issued in 1817 for Blazing Star Lodge #294, well before the lightbulb became a standard fixture it is not unlikely that Blazing Star Lodge has its roots as a Moon Lodge. 

Please consider helping protect and preserve New York Masonic History by becoming a Warren Lodge Midnight Rider Subscriber.  You will be part of a Special Membership category and identified as a Lodge Champion.  While not affording voting rights or the ability to hold office, it does offer the opportunity to become part of the preservation of New York Masonic History and ensure that the Lanterns are never permanently extinguished.

As a subscriber, you will receive a Warren Lodge Midnight Rider membership certificate, a custom identifiable lapel pin, and an E-mail subscription to our newsletter.  The annual subscription cost is a mere $32.00 and will establish you as an enthusiastic supporter of our rich Masonic history. To learn more about this Lodge and inquire about this special membership category, visit their Facebook Page.

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