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 labour) 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 Theerese 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. The book includes a comprehensive bibliography.
Mary Margaret Funk, O.S.B., is executive director of Monastic Interreligious Dialogue and former prioress of the Sisters of St. Benedict of Beech Grove, Indiana. Her previous book, Thoughts Matter, has recently appeared in Spanish under the title El Corazn en Paz: La Sabiduria de los Padres del Desierto.