The Seven Storey Mountain - Part 3: Chapter 3, The Sleeping Volcano Summary & Analysis

This Study Guide consists of approximately 29 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Seven Storey Mountain.
This section contains 563 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)

Part 3: Chapter 3, The Sleeping Volcano Summary and Analysis

He started volunteering at a place called Friendship House, helping the poor residents of Harlem. It was run by woman called the Baroness. Her name was Catherine de Hueck and her work among the poor inspired Merton. He went to Friendship House often. "I needed this support, this nearness of those who really loved Christ so much that they seemed to see Him. I needed to be with people whose every action told me something of the country that was my home".

In the end, though, he decided that writing and teaching were his first calling. Work such as that done at Friendship House would have to be subordinate to those two. The Baroness confirmed this, in a way, when she wrote to him, "Go on. You are on the right path. Keep writing. Love God, pray to Him more. . . You have arisen and started on the journey that seeks Him. You have begun to travel the road that will lead you to sell all and buy the pearl of great price".

During this time, Merton got interested in St. Thérése of Lisieux or, as she's also called, the Little Flower. He liked her very much and he prayed to her to watch after John Paul who had now joined the Royal Canadian Air Force.

It was Mark Van Buren who eventually pushed Merton out of his fearful holding pattern. They had lunch at the Columbia Faculty Club and Van Buren suggested that since Merton hadn't resisted when first denied entry into a monastic order, then perhaps that, in itself, was a sign that he had no vocation for it. Suddenly, Merton feared that his inaction was putting him forever out of reach of his dream. He spoke to a priest he knew who encouraged him to reapply to the priesthood, this time at Gethsemani. Merton wrote to ask the Abbot there for permission to return during Christmastime to make a retreat, but he never planned on returning, hoping instead to apply to the order once his foot was, literally, in the door.

But before Christmas arrived, two things happened. First, Merton received another notice from the Draft Board. Apparently, his teeth were no longer a concern. Secondly, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Merton wrote to the Draft Board and got permission to delay his draft until he could see whether the Kentucky Trappists would have him. Then the book recounts how he wrote letters, sold or gave away possessions, and prepared himself for poverty. He boarded a train and, he wrote, "my last tie with the world I had known snapped and broke . . . I was free. I had recovered my liberty. I belonged to God, not to myself; and to belong to Him is to be free, free of all the anxieties and worries and sorrow that belong to this earth, and the love of the things that are in it".

In this chapter and throughout the book, one of the virtues which Merton most extols is simplicity. Simplicity of purpose, of heart, of mission, and of worldly possessions were important to him—both before and after his entrance to a religious order. It's these traits that he has admired in his father, his mother, the Privats, Mark Van Buren, Bob Lax, and others.

This section contains 563 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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