What Matters In The Spiritual Life
Amongst the increasing number of excellent books exploring the “technology” of the spiritual life, and deriving from the Desert Fathers and Mothers, and the Early Church, is “The Matters Series” by Mary Margaret Funk OSB.
Mary Margaret Funk OSB “Thoughts Matter: Discovering the Spiritual Journey” (The Matters Series) [Liturgical Press, 2013]
“Cassian taught that real intimacy with God in prayer demands renouncing one’s former way of life, the thoughts belonging to that former way of life, and one’s very idea of God. In “Thoughts Matter”, Mary Margaret Funk focuses on the second of these: renouncing the thoughts belonging to one’s former way of life. Her eight chapters focus on different thoughts”-food, sex, anger, dejection, acedia (profound weariness of the soul), vainglory (taking credit for good actions), and pride.
Funk explains well how failure to control these thoughts can undermine our spiritual life, and she instructs readers on how effectively to overcome these thoughts and to focus instead on thoughts in harmony with God’s will. The result is an experience of joy, hope, and freedom from enslavement to our appetites. Readers will come away enlightened, strengthened, and inspired to delve more deeply into a life of intimacy with God.”
Mary Margaret Funk OSB “Tools Matter: Beginning the Spiritual Journey (The Matters Series) [Liturgical Press, 2013]
“How can we tend the garden of our souls? Meg Funk turns to the wisdom of the desert fathers for the means of removing obstacles to spiritual growth, which include thoughts of food, sex, possessions, anger, dejection, and pride, among other preoccupations. Redirecting thought away from such weeds in the garden of the spirit can lead to a greater awareness of God and purity of prayer. This method to mental discipline may seem impossible at first, Funk admits, but those who succeed at it are rewarded with a liberating experience as they come to observe and control individual thought processes. Drawing on the writings of the fifth-century monk John Cassian, Funk goes on to explore deeply using such tools as memory, imagination, and rational thinking-tools right out of early Christianity-to work on inner healing. She also explains how other positive tools, such as ceaseless prayer, manual labor, and isolation, may lead to uncluttering the mind and purifying the heart.
Mary Margaret Funk OSB “Discernment Matters: Listening with the Ear of the Heart” (The Matters Series) [Liturgical Press, 2013]
After fifty years of monastic life, prayer, and spiritual direction, Meg Funk knows what it means to listen with the ear of one’s heart to the Holy Spirit. In “Discernment Matters”, she shares what she has learned. This book is a resource for those who want to learn and practice discernment as taught by the early monastic tradition. It includes an accessible summary of teachings about discernment from monastic traditions of late antiquity, consideration of important tools for making decisions today, and practical examples from the lives of St. Benedict and St. Patrick, as well as from the experience of monastics today.
With this fifth volume of the Matters Series, Funk completes one of the most comprehensive presentations of the spiritual life available today, demonstrating why this inner work is both necessary and such a joy.”
Mary Margaret Funk OSB “Humility Matters: Toward Purity of Heart” (The Matters Series) [Liturgical Press, 2013]
“”Humility Matters” makes the claims that humility is for a disciple of Jesus Christ what enlightenment is for a Buddhist, realization for a Hindu, surrender for a Muslim, and righteousness for a Jew. It is the unmistakable character of one who has accepted the vocation to undertake the spiritual journey. It is at the core of our experience of life in Christ.
Meg Funk guides readers deeper into a life of humility by following the movement of what the early Christians called the four renunciations: to renounce our former way of life, our thoughts of our former way of life, our self-made thoughts of God, and our self-made thoughts of ourselves. With the help of the compelling examples of St. Benedict, St. Teresa of Jesus, and St. Therese of Lisieux, Funk shows the way to ongoing conversion of mind, heart, and way of life.”
Mary Margaret Funk OSB “Lectio Matters: Before the Burning Bush” (The Matters Series) [Liturgical Press, 2013]
“”Lectio divina” is a way of praying by sustained immersion into a revelatory text. While Scripture is the classic place of encounter with God, the text could also be the book of life or the book of nature. In “Lectio Matters”, respected spiritual guide Meg Funk accompanies the reader in exploring the various levels of “lectio divina” as taught by the ancient church writers and by sharing her own long experience. By means of this wisdom both ancient and new, “lectio divina” can become our burning bush, a real encounter with the living God, in which we take off our sandals and bow our brow to the ground.”
Mary Margaret Funk OSB “Tools Matter for Practicing the Spiritual Life” [Continuum, 2001]
In her previous book, “Thoughts Matter: The Practice of the Spiritual Life”, Sister Mary Margaret Funk, elaborating on the teaching of John Cassian, dealt with the eight classic “thoughts” that distract us from the presence of God. In her new book, casting her net more widely, she treats more than two dozen “tools” or practices of the spiritual life. Many of these (such as fasting, vigils, ceaseless prayer, and manual labor) derive from the desert mothers and fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries, but just as many come from later times: the practices of emptiness based on “The Cloud of Unknowing”, of recollection (Teresa of Avila), of self-abandonment (J. P. de Caussade), of the presence of God (Brother Lawrence), of colloquy (Gabrielle Bossis), and of the Little Way of Therese of Lisieux. The book concludes with a chapter on discernment, spiritual direction, and the limitations of each tool. Tools, says Funk, are means, not ends. “Eventually, we discover, with freedom and love, that tools don’t matter after all! God, our heart’s desire, is all that matters!” The book includes a comprehensive bibliography.”
“Funk turns to the wisdom of the desert fathers for the means of removing obstacles to spiritual growth, which include thoughts of food, sex, possessions, anger, dejection, and pride, among other preoccupations. Redirecting thought away from such weeds in the garden of the spirit can lead to a greater awareness of God. This somewhat Zen-like method to mental discipline may seem impossible at first, Funk admits, but those who succeed at it are rewarded with a liberating experience as they come to observe and control individual thought processes. Drawing on the writings of the fifth-century monk John Cassian, Funk goes on to explore deeply using such tools as memory, imagination, and rational thinking–tools right out of early Christianity–to work on inner healing. She also explains how other positive tools, such as ceaseless prayer, manual labor, and isolation, may lead to uncluttering the mind and purifying the heart. Worthy guidance for contemplative spiritual seekers.” June Sawyers – American Library Association
Mary Margaret Funk, OSB, has been a member of Our Lady of Grace Monastery Beech Grove Indiana since 1961. Taught elementary school at St. Barnabas 1965-69. Was an administrator for the Archdiocese in catechetics from 1969-1983. Archdiocese of Louisville in 1984. She was Prioress from 1985 – 1993, and in 1994 became Executive Director of Monastic Interreligious Dialogue Board. In that capacity she coordinated the Gethsemani Encounter 1996, and in 2002, Benedict’s Dharma Conference, 2001, Benedict’s Dharma 2, 2003. She spoke at the World’s Parliament of Religions in 1993. She traveled to India and Tibet on the 6th Spiritual Exchange Program in 1995 and 1999, and has been in formal dialogue with Hindu, Zen Buddhist, Islam, Confucius, Taoist traditions.
She was the Executive Director of MID Board. She collaborated with James Wiseman, editor, on the last 30 issues of “Monastic Interreligious Dialogue Bulletin” and Web Site: MonasticDialog.com
She has given many retreats to Monastics and lay ministers on Christian Practice. Currently she’s directing the School of Lectio Divina at Benedict Inn. She served on Thomas Keating’s Contemplative Outreach Board of Trustees, Weston School of Theology in Cambridge and was a member of the Board of Overseers of St. Meinrad School of Theology.
She holds Graduate degrees from Catholic University (1973) and Indiana University (1979). She’s a graduate of Epiphany Certification Program of Formative Spirituality (2002).