The following is an excerpt taken from Men in Brown written by Fr. Walter Bedard. It follows a Franciscan priest, Fr. Anthony, as he goes about his day and tells short stories from his reflections and memories. The booklet was published by The Friary Press in Montreal in 1940.
Father Anthony was preparing the weekly instruction of the lay brothers when the mail came. He laid aside his pen and slit open the first letter.
I think you yourself, dear Father, have often remarked that “it’s a funny world.” May I just suggest a small incident in further substantiation of this truism. One evening last winter I dropped in to see you for a few moments and while we were talking, I was struck with the amount of hilarity coming from an adjacent room. The crescendo of laughter eventually moved me to ask you what public dinner was being given or what special society or club was celebrating, and to my amazement you answered that it was simply the recreation period, and that the lay brothers were chatting among themselves as usual before going into chapel for evening prayers.
A few minutes after leaving you, I attended a dinner at one of our well-known Rah-rah Clubs composed of businessmen and others who foregather for the sole purpose of raising the roof and having a whale of a good time. I looked around me and found that a few here and there were conversing in low tones and with strained expressions on their faces. I overheard snatches of conversation and was regaled with stories of how the market was about to break any day and that everything would be in a pretty mess, that the world situation was extremely disquieting and that we were all soon to be at each other’s throats, etc., etc. Not a smiling face. Not a real honest-to-goodness laugh in the whole crowd. Nothing but worry, and strain, and suspicion and sombre, morose or at best, feigned merriment which is a thousand times worse than outright misery.
Now here’s the point. We, the people of the world, look at you poor Franciscans with your austere life, cut off from the pleasures of the world, subject to every hardship, and we pity you as you go clop-clopping along the city streets, when all the time you must be laughing up your sleeves. Or if you are not, then you are entitled to laugh. For while we think that we are having a whale of a time ourselves we are just managing to get by, while you, free from worry and strain and dedicated to the service of others, are the ones who are really having the good time. And yet, when a boy leaves the world to join the Franciscans we roll our eyes heavenward, and think, “Oh the poor, poor boy! What is he letting himself in for!”
It is a funny world, isn’t it, Father?
Father Anthony laid the letter beside his stack of manuscript notes. A strange, funny law it is, he mused, that people cannot really believe truths until they have lived them. A person cannot fully realize, until he has experienced it himself, that the Savior who warns, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me,” is referring to that same life of self-denial for His sake when He makes His understanding appeal to the world-weary, “Come to Me, all you that labour and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me… and you shall find rest to your souls. For My yoke is sweet and My burden light.”