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The Seven Storey Mountain
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Seven Storey Mountain > Seven Storey Part Three: Chapters 1 and 2

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message 1: by Susan Margaret (last edited Dec 04, 2015 08:17AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Susan Margaret (susanmargaretg) | 538 comments Merton was only 24 years old when he decided to become a priest. Up to this point, he had lived a very eventful life, in many different places, and had explored a variety of different ideologies. Because of his many experiences, I thought he was much older when he had made his decision. Had Merton’s parents and grandparents been living at this time, I wonder what they would have thought of him becoming a catholic and a priest, or if they would have tried to dissuade him.

As I was reading about Merton trying to decide which religious order to join, at first I was a little puzzled when he said that an advantage of the Franciscan rule was that it was easy. I thought here was a very intellectual man looking for something easy, but it turns out he was concerned with how monastery life would affect his physical and mental health. Merton had definitely had some hardships in his life.

I had to chuckle when Merton talked about the middle-aged female student who was taking a course in his composition class. This reminded me of the time when a few years back (I was in my 50’s) I was taking a course in Spanish at a local community college. A male classmate in his early twenties approached me and said, “There are only three types of students who attend this college; they are the poor, the stupid, and the hobbyist. You must be the hobbyist.” I was grateful he did not put me in the stupid category. I then determined that he must be poor, because I thought he was quite clever.

Merton writes about the joy he experienced after making his decision to become a Franciscan. And when he writes about the withdrawal of his application from the order, you can feel his pain and sadness. It is heartbreaking!

He comes to accept the idea that he will not be living in a monastery; he buys some breviaries, and then tries to live as a monk in the outside world. To me this sounds like an impossible task. When he writes about his retreat at Gethsemani Monastery, his descriptions are beautiful and he sounds as if he is describing heaven. Although Merton’s journey to the priesthood is not yet over, he has found his home.


Irene | 909 comments I enjoyed these later chapters of the book even more than the earlier. Maybe because he could access the feelings of his adult self better than his child self or maybe because I could identify more easily with them, I found these more intimate. It is amazing how quickly he moves from initial conversion to the Catholic faith to a desire for religious life. His sense of rejection is so powerful and I could relate on a very personal level to this phase in his life story. I wanted to smack that priest who rebuked him for his tears in confession. His continued longing and sadness was palpable on a very deep level.


message 3: by Susan Margaret (last edited Dec 04, 2015 02:37PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Susan Margaret (susanmargaretg) | 538 comments I was doing some additional reading about "The Seven Storey Mountain" and learned that part one of the book represents hell, part two represents purgatory, and finally part three represents heaven for Merton. I thought it was kind of interesting.

Irene, I too thought Merton's conversion and then his plans to become a friar happened in a short period of time. It is almost as if he wanted to hurry up and enter the monastery before he changed his mind.


message 4: by Doreen (new) - added it

Doreen Petersen | 441 comments All your thoughts are very insightful.


Galicius | 460 comments Merton certainly goes into spiritual development in full with daily mass and communion, Stations of the Cross, St. Ignatius’ “Spiritual Exercises”. I was struck by his visit from a stranger while he was meditating in his room. The stranger asks him for help in getting back home to CT. It dawns on Merton that the visitor may be an angel sent to help him practice charity. It made me think of how many times I passed a street beggar or a homeless man blind to their existence. These occasions I am sure were numerous in NYC in the 1930’s as they are now. How do you react? Merton describes an occasion of helping a drunk at a 14th Street subway station where a drunk is hanging over a turnstile. Merton risks his health, perhaps life to no avail. A little later still when he is in Havana:
“as I left the church there was no lack of
beggars to give me the opportunity of
almsgiving which is an easy and simple
way of wiping out sins." (p. 280)


Mike Galicius wrote: "Merton certainly goes into spiritual development in full with daily mass and communion, Stations of the Cross, St. Ignatius’ “Spiritual Exercises”. I was struck by his visit from a stranger while h..."

The visit from the stranger, was off the grid. I would love to know more about this. The thought of a stranger being able to locate him, in New York city, for the purpose of obtaining a handout is beyond imagination.


Mike I find part three to be a great section; so many insights and such honesty.

Very early in the section Merton is talking with Dan Walsh about monasteries and young Thomas thinks – the Cistercians of the Strict Observance. The very title made me shiver, and so did their commoner name: The Trappists. And yet where did he end up? Right in among them; in fact, in the years beyond this book he became the Novice Master. How wonderful!


Irene | 909 comments I was reading an article in America Magazine yesterday that used the four seasons as metaphors of the spiritual life. The author likened spring to the early awakening to faith, to the reality of God active in one's life. She said that this period is most often characterized by a draw tward devotional practices such as frequent reception of Eucharist, Rosary, Stations, etc. It sounded as if she was describing Thomas at this point in his life.


Susan Margaret (susanmargaretg) | 538 comments Not many people would compare a stay in the hospital to paradise, yet Merton describes it this way (pg. 302, 2015 edition). Merton writes that he had to climb scores of monumental steps to reach the hospital (his paradise and also another reference to his climbing a mountain). He was cared for both physically and spiritually during his ten day stay at St. Elizabeth's Hospital. He describes himself as a newborn. Once again his writing and descriptions are beautiful!


message 10: by Doreen (new) - added it

Doreen Petersen | 441 comments The one thing Merton says that I totally agree with is,
"Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" meaning our treasures should be in heaven.


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