I recently had the honor and privilege of traveling to France to present research I had done on behalf of The American Masonic Great War Project at a Masonic Banquet held in Saint-Nazaire on August 25, 2019. It was the experience of a lifetime.
On February 10, 1919, American Masons from American Base Section No. 1 and French Masons from Trait d’Union Lodge in Saint-Nazaire held a banquet to celebrate fraternalism and brotherly love between the two countries. They produced this flag as a souvenir.
The banquet held on the 25th was to celebrate the centennial of that event. It was attended by over 125 Masons representing all four French Grand Lodges, a representative from the Grand Orient De France as well as Masons from Brussels, Paris and Nantes.
I was the guest of honor and as I, the Masters of the lodge, and the honored guests began to march in, a Mason, fully dressed in Scottish garb, and with an apron on, began to play “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. I marched in last, after the representative from the GODF and a 33rd degree Mason, the highest-ranking Mason at the event. As we turned the corner to the glorious sound of the bagpipes, we were escorted under the arch of steel, it was an amazing experience. A beautiful video of photos and postcards from the era was played to “La Route de St. Nazaire” by Maurice Fanon, followed by an audio of a man who remembered the Americans arriving in Saint-Nazaire in 1917. Then a beautiful rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” in French, gorgeous. Finally, an old American military song from the era. Then the French National Anthem.
I presented my research entitled “So Mote It Be” and then a presentation on the Masonic Ambulance Corps. We then listened to a paper on Universalism by one of the Masons in attendance.
At the end we formed a Chain of Union, over 130 Masons strong, and held it for about a minute to beautiful music. A very moving experience.
After we ate some delicious catered food, drank delicious French wine and sparking wine and I was able to meet many of the Masons in attendance. I had pins, books and Anchor Bell mugs as gifts; they were quite a hit.
It was the experience of a lifetime but best of all I left with many new friends. I hope to go back and see them again soon.
The next day I was treated to a private tour of the GODF Museum by Pierre Mollier himself. The museum was closed, he opened it up and he took me around the entire museum and explained everything. I also saw another souvenir flag from the 1919 meeting on display.
I saw an original 1923 edition of Andersons Constitutions and a minute book that describes when the Marque de La Fayette stopped by. He then took me to the archives and behind three locked doors to where the Moscow Archives are stored. There I was, the infamous Moscow Archives three feet from me. Pierre randomly opened up a box and pulled out a minute book from 1827! It was quite a thrill. He then showed me two beautiful lodge rooms and also their two chambers of reflection, the oldest rooms in the building and reserved for Masonic eyes only.
I gifted Pierre an Anchor Bell mug, he seemed genuinely grateful and posed for a photo. He then signed and gifted to me the book which includes his published article on the Moscow Archives.