Still reading The Seven Storey Mountain, and liking it a lot. This passage struck me. Merton is making a Holy Week retreat at Gethsemani, prior to entering the Trappist order. Observing the other guests, he notes these:
...and there were three or four pious men who turned out to be friends and benefactors of the monastery--quiet, rather solemn personages; they assumed a sort of command over the other guests. They had a right to. They practically lived here in this guest house. In fact, they had a kind of quasi-vocation all their own. They belonged to that special class of men raised up by God to support orphanages and convents and monasteries and build hospitals and feed the poor. On the whole it is a way to sanctity that is sometimes too much despised. It sometimes implies a more than ordinary humility in men who come to think that the monks and nuns they assist are creatures of another world. God will show us at the latter day that many of them were better men than the monks they supported!
My wife is the archivist for the local archdiocese, and has told me several stories of people like this she's come across in her researches: men and women who were prosperous in the world and who gave much or in a few cases all of their wealth to support orphanages, hospitals, and the like in the days before government agencies were the main providers of those services. It was interesting to me to see that it was a not-unusual pattern.