Ordinary Saints, Unsuspecting Evangelists

Merton's prose ripples with hagiographic energy when he recalls the influence of a humble French family, the Privats in Murat, remembering "their kindness and goodness to me, and their peacefulness and their utter simplicity. They inspired real reverence, and I think, in a way, they were certainly saints. And they were saints in that most effective and telling way: sanctified by leading ordinary lives in a completely supernatural manner, santified by obscurity, by usual skills, by common tasks, by routine, but skills, tasks, routine which received a supernatural form from grace within."

Staying with them for a few weeks as a boy, the now-boy-become-monk considers the weight of their impact on his life:

"Those were weeks that I shall never forget, and the more I think of them, the more I realize that I must certainly owe the Privats for more than butter and milk and good nourishing food for my body. I am indebted to them for much more than the kindness and care they showed me, the goodness and delicate solicitude with which they treated me as their own child, yet without any assertive or natural familiarity. [...] I was glad of the love the Privats showed me, and was ready to love them in return. It did not burn you, it did not hold you, it did not try to imprison you in demonstrations, or trap your feet in the snares of interest. [...]

After all, this going to Murat was a great grace. Did I realize it? I did not know what grace was. And though I was impressed with the goodness of the Privats, I could not fail to realize what was its root and its foundation. And yet it never occurred to me at the time to think of being like them, of profiting in any way by their example. [...]

Who knows how much I owe to those two wonderful people? Anything I say about it is only a matter of guessing but, knowing their charity, it is to me a matter of moral certitude that I owe many graces to their prayers, and perhaps ultimately the grace of my conversion and even of my religious vocation. Who shall say? But one day I shall know, and it is good to be able to be confident that I will see them again and be able to thank them."

~Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain, pp. 62-65