From About Freemasons
When Masons pass away, they are often eligible for Masonic funerals. To be eligible, a Mason must be a man and must be in good standing at his Lodge at the time of his death. While women Masons can also have Masonic funerals, because most Lodges do not recognize women Masons, women have their own, different, Masonic funeral practices.
Similarities between Masonic and traditional funerals
A Masonic funeral service is a way of honoring a Mason’s life and a Mason’s commitment to the fraternity. In some ways, these types of funeral services are similar to the services held by anyone. Just like traditional services, Masonic funerals are take place in a funeral parlor, church or temple, depending on the families’ wishes. The bodies are prepared for funeral rites in much the same way they are prepared for a traditional service. For example, the body is cleaned and embalmed for viewing.
Differences between Masonic and traditional funerals
As you might expect, there are some important differences between Masonic services and traditional funerals. One example of this difference is the presence of the Masonic apron in the service. The deceased’s Masonic apron is placed over the body during the service. If there is no open casket at the ceremony, the apron is draped over the urn or closed casket. A Masonic funeral usually includes the Masons who met in the same Lodge as the deceased and additional Masonic symbols may be used throughout the service.
In most traditional services, ministers or priests read from texts, favorite poems or the Bible, so that each person gets a fairly unique funeral service. In a Masonic funeral, this is not the case. Each Mason gets the same standard ritual at his funeral service, with no deviations to account for personal tastes or preferences. Only the Mason’s date of birth and death and his name are different in each case. In every other aspect, the service is exactly the same and is completed from memory.
The Masonic funeral service
A Masonic funeral service begins with a prayer. The prayer may differ depending on the specific Lodge the Mason belonged to, but in many cases the prayer chosen is Psalm 23. The service takes place in about 20 minutes and involves elaborate, prepared rituals and dialogue. Masons must learn about ten pages of dialogue so that they can perform the service perfectly without having to read anything. Most Masonic funeral services consist of a Mason reciting the ritual, a chaplain, observers, marchers, and a marshall. These duties are usually performed by Masons from the deceased’s Lodge. Once the service is done, family and friends can approach the casket to pay their final respects.