Tools Matter for Practicing the Spiritual Life

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9780826413512: Tools Matter for Practicing the Spiritual Life

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.

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About the Author:

Mary Margaret Funk is a Benedictine nun of Our Lady of Grace Monastery, Beech Grove, Indiana, USA. From 1994 through 2004, she served as executive director of Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, which fosters dialogue among monastics of the world's religions. In addition to her books Thoughts Matter, Tools Matter, Humility Matters, Islam Is, and Into the Depths, chapters by her have appeared in The Gethsemani Encounter, Benedict's Dharma, Purity of Heart, and Transforming Suffering. Currently she maintains her web page, megfunk.com, to provide further support for her readers.

Review:

"Worthy guidance for contemplative spiritual seekers."—Booklist

"This is a rich work. As I worked through this short but handsomely produced volume, I realized that one could use it as an instructional tool. It would also make a wonderful gift to someone who loves the psalms."
—Lawrence S. Cunningham, Commonweal, May 3, 2002
"Sister Margaret is well versed in monastic tradition and history and has a keen talent for summarizing major figures."
—Paul Matthew St. Pierre, The B.C. Catholic, March 25, 2002
"The focus of her discussion is on ensuring that readers, after committing themselves to drawing out and refining their spiritualities, have the 'tools' also to ensure they do not slip back in secularism."
—British Columbia Catholic

] "an excellent place for one to begin spiritual renewal"
—Catholic News Service, August 2, 2002
“Worthy guidance for contemplative spiritual seekers.” —Booklist (Booklist)

“An excellent place for one to begin spiritual renewal.” —Catholic News Service (Catholic New Times)

“In [Tools Matter, Mary Margaret Funk] discusses the tools needed to advance in the Christian life.... Her negative tools come from the monastic tradition: guarding the heart, watchfulness of thoughts, fasting, dreams, and repentance. Her positive tools: ceaseless prayer, manual labor, the cell, vigils, manifestation of thoughts. There are, in addition, social tools: humility, ministry, and the common table.... Funk shows how a person might borrow one form of spirituality in order to enrich another....[T]his is a rich work. Funk, like the householder of the Gospel, is able to draw out both old things and new.” —Commonweal (Commonweal)

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Mary Margaret Funk
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