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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Into The Future – Time Capsule

As part of the year-long Bicentennial celebration of East Aurora, New York, on March 1, 2019, a time capsule was assembled and sealed to be opened March 1, 2069 – 50 years from now. The Brothers of Blazing Star Lodge included the following letter and some other specifics for our Brothers 50 years from now. This year is our Sesquicentennial (150th anniversary of our current charter) and we are planning for a celebration on June 15 which is open to the public (Details are coming soon). When the time capsule is opened our Lodge will be celebrating 200 years of Freemasonry.

Brothers of Blazing Star Lodge #694 Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York.

Good afternoon Brothers,

Today is March 1, 2019, this year is the 200th anniversary of East Aurora, New York and this year also marks the 150th (sesquicentennial) Anniversary of Blazing Star Lodge #694.  We are busy planning our 150th celebration scheduled for June 15, 2019.  Bro. Wochensky already taking an active role by being the chairman of that committee.  You should be planning your 200th by now too.  My name is Todd M. Paterek I am 46 years old and if all goes well I am reading this to you in Lodge at 96 years old.  I am currently filling some very big shoes as Chaplin as Bro. Janeczko recovers from some health issues.  If I am not here, I already put down my heavy earthly working tools and joined our Brethren in that Celestial Lodge above.  Hopefully one of my sons is reading this to you in my stead.  Our Worshipful Master is Bro. Capron.  W:. Capron is very passionate about Masonry and is working hard for our Lodge.  He truly is an exceptional Mason and should be remembered.  Bro. Rhodes is our Senior Warden, a man who has devoted his life to the betterment of everyone else’s life.  Sitting in the Junior Warden chair this year (again) is W:. Andruczyk, a man who is helping the community, The Craft and this Lodge each day.  Senior Deacon is Bro. Ginter.  He is way too busy for his own good but continues to play an active role.  Junior Deacon is Bro. Layman.  He is a fine and honorable man who is growing in the Craft.  Our Secretary is W:. Breth.  He never stops and is probably still the Secretary or is the Secretary of the Celestial Lodge above.  Our Treasurer is Bro. Thomason.  He is our Knight Templar and wears the armor well.  W:. Barber is currently the Marshal.  He knows every line and every movement to every position and ritual, for everything there is in Freemasonry.  We have Bro. Egressy sitting in the Senior Master of Ceremonies chair.  He started Brothers of the Bread to help supply food pantries in the area.  So far it has spread from just him to several Lodges helping from Niagara Falls to Syracuse and soon to be Statewide.  W:. Markuse, DSA is a Trustee and heads up our Fellowcraft club.  He is always organizing a delicious fundraising dinner.  Bro. Evans, DSA is truly dedicated to this Lodge personally paying for and attending to many of the repairs in the Lodge.  W:. Mann has finally taken a roll on the sidelines after MANY years of dedicated service. Bro. Snyder recently affiliated with Blazing Star and is a welcome addition especially with his ritual expertise.  When W:. Breth was Master he started a quick history of the world for each year from our Chartered year of 1869.  I will take the honor of doing the same for 2018-2019:  Dues are $150 per year.  The average cost of a home in NY is $382,000.  The average cost of a new car is $34,000.  The average cost for a dozen eggs is $2.96 and milk is ~$2.00 a gallon while gas is $2.48.  The average salary is $44,564 and a haircut will cost $20.  Donald Trump is the President of the US.  I am using a Dell 5530 Precision Laptop with an i9 processor, 32GB or Ram, 2GB nVidia graphics card, and a 1TB solid state hard drive.  This is the BEST laptop I could purchase at this time.  You can get other desktops that have more graphical processing power but the i9 CPU is the best out right now.  The iPhone XS and Samsung Galaxy S10 are the best mobile phones available.  Currently, there are estimated to be about 1,035,000 Mason in the United States we hope that number grows and are working to attract new, worthy, and deserving men to join our Lodge.  We currently have about 100 members with about 10-15 active members.  This year we Raised two new Brothers (Bro. Wochensky and Bro. Neff) to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason and just this past Tuesday, Initiated Brother Cius in his Entered Apprentice Degree.  We also have about eight men expressing some interest.  I included a copy of our 2018-2019 Roster and By-laws, a letter from W:. Capron at the beginning of the 2018-2019 Masonic year.  I also included a dues summons because I had it laying around, and a petition.  We wish you well Brothers.  It is our sincerest wish that the building is in good repair, updated a bit but still holding and practicing the time-honored traditions of Freemasonry.  Always remember that you are Sublime – Of such excellence, grandeur, or beauty as to inspire great admiration or awe.  Go inspire Brothers!

Entered Apprentice Degree for Bro. Cius – February 26, 2019
Upper left: Present Day – Lower Left: 1930s – Left: Looking West
Blazing Star Lodge, East Aurora, New York 1907
Blazing Star Lodge East Aurora, New York 1908