Mary Margaret Funk, OSB (as of January, 2004) 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.

Was Prioress 1985-l993 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:

Published Thoughts Matter in 1998 by Continuum. It’s a teaching on the 8 afflictions from John Cassian. A second book, Tools Matter (2001) on practices that help us with our afflictive thoughts and help us to lift up our thoughts in prayer. She has chapters in Benedict’s Dharma (Riverhead, 2001) and Purity of Heart (Continuum 2001). Book on Gethsemani Encounter II, Transforming Suffering (Doubleday 2003). Published, Islam Is… (Lantern 2003) is her third book. "Humility Matters" for Practicing the Spiritual Life (Continuum 2005).This is the third volume of a trilogy that began with Thoughts Matter.

She spoke at the Gethsemani Encounter 1996 and 2002. 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).

Sister Mary Margaret Funk
Our Lady of Grace Monastery
1402 Southern Avenue
Beech Grove, Indiana 46107-1197

___ ___ ___

Living Spiritual Teachers Project: Mary Margaret Funk

Quotation Sampler

A Jewel in Our Midst

"And now Islam is with us in the United States and throughout the West — a jewel in our midst. It is a religion that brings each generation to a God-consciousness that fosters all that is human. Whether we are lay or religious, Christian or Muslim, we cannot afford to delegate this dialogue to specialists, academics, political and military generals. We must bow our heads and bend our knees and, upon rising, extend our hands. We are friends."

— Islam Is… An Experience of Dialogue and Devotion

Sufism, the Way of Love

"I feel I have an affinity with Sufi devotees. Their practices have heightened God-consciousness and have inspired some of the greatest religious poetry and music ever written. When I am with Sufis and participate in the prayer to our same God, I feel their intensity. Some of that intensity's exuberance seems more like the Christian charismatic movements than the low-key, everyday chant of the monastic choir. Nevertheless, the sober phases of Sufism seem like a great 'fit' with my own love for Our Lord, Jesus Christ — through our daily inner conversations. Sufism is a way of love."

— Islam Is…An Experience of Dialogue and Devotion


"The most telling indication that we are in the grip of vainglory is revealed in daydreams, excessive imagining of situations where we are the center of attention. Through the practice of watchfulness, we need to stay in the present moment, noticing subtle signs of boasting, of being competitive, of telling remarkable tales about ourselves, of seeking and taking credit, of playing the role of the hero.

"We must continually edit, redirect, and change thoughts about ourselves that are either high (praise) or low (dejection). The practice of humility is to think about myself exactly as I am. Vainglory intoxicates the mind."

— Tools Matter For Practicing the Spiritual Life

Humility Matters

"Humility matters. It is at the core of our experience of life in Christ. So central is this quality of being that it may be said that humility is for a Christian what enlightenment is for a Buddhist, realization is for a Hindu, sincerity is for a Confucian, righteousness is for a Jew, surrender is for a Muslim and annihilation is for a Sufi. Humility is what others see of our purity of heart."

— Humility Matters for Practicing the Spiritual Life

Guard of the Heart

"When we guard our heart, we refrain from being in contact with energies that will interfere with our effort to pray ceaselessly and eventually with our experience of God's presence. We cannot engage in ceaseless prayer and simultaneously engage in afflictive thoughts and emotions. So, guard of the heart prevents easy entry of any disturbance into our heart. It requires us to take control of what goes in and what the heart has to 'feel.'

"Guard of the heart is a practice that is most helpful once we've made a resolution about something. When we want strongly to follow through with our resolution we should guard our heart from doubt and from counter experiences that move us away from our resolve. The fruit of guard of the heart is a heart full of strength and commitment to our vocation, our work, and our relationships. Since the heart provides us our innermost experience of 'being with' God, we should guard all our choices to 'be with' God."

— Tools Matter For Practicing the Spiritual Life

Rooting Out Anger from Our Hearts

"The thought of 'about anger' rises in each one of us. Anger is a response that is frequent, habitual, and sometimes seems apparently uncontrollable. We often adjust to bouts of anger in ourselves and in others. John Cassian recognized that in order to live the spiritual life, we must reduce our angry impulses, refrain from acting out our anger, and strive to resist even the thought of anger. According to the desert fathers and mothers, anger is a learned behavior and can be unlearned. This Christian teaching says we act rightly and justly, never out of angry feelings."

— Thoughts Matter The Practice of the Spiritual Life

Negate Nothing

"'Negate nothing,' say the early masters of the Christian way. Though it may seem ironic, it is important to understand this in the practice of renunciation. Nothing is negated. What is, is! We acknowledge the reality of all that we are invited to renounce: our erring passions, our ideas of God, and our self-made sense of self. Humility is standing in the truth of being. Because we already have what we are looking for — the direct experience of our living awareness — we renounce what is not and so, negate nothing.

These teachings about renunciation are tools that the desert elders gave to serious seekers who desired to live life in conscious awareness rather than living heedlessly. These renunciations are described in many classics of spirituality."

— Humility Matters for Practicing the Spiritual Life



Thoughts Matter
by Sister Mary Margaret Funk, OSB

In Thoughts Matter, Sister Mary Margaret Funk explains the theory and practice of dealing with mindless thoughts developed by the great fourth-century monk John Cassian, and she interprets them in a contemporary way suitable not only for nuns and monks but for all lay persons who are serious about the spiritual life. What are the thoughts that matter? According to John Cassian's classic list, they are thoughts about food, sex, things, anger, dejection, acedia or weariness of soul, vainglory, and pride. The book devotes a chapter to each of these "thoughts" and shows how, with prayer and practice, we can discipline our thoughts and achieve a "mind at peace, stilled, available for conscious thinking-at-will."

From Library Journal: The desert tradition of Christianity (250-450 C.E.) is remembered for its ascetic rigor, but its purpose is often forgotten. Renouncing a former way of life to dwell in the wilderness meant renouncing the thinking that formed old habits and hence moving beyond all preconceived ideas to experience fully the divine reality. Funk, a Benedictine nun, discusses this spiritual practice of watching and training thoughts, largely based on the eight classic thoughts outlined by John Cassian, a fourth-century monk. Interesting parallels exist between this early Christian spiritual practice and Buddhism and Hinduism, as Funk points out. This book might be of interest to students of Eastern asceticism as well as those wanting a good introduction to the literature of the Christian desert communities, but even more broadly, it is an excellent, clearly written companion for spiritual seekers drawn to the path of mental discipline.

From Publisher's Weekly:  Benedictine nun and former prioress Funk translates the vocabulary of fourth-century Christian mysticism into accessible prose for 20th-century spiritual seekers. Using primarily the writings of the early desert father John Cassian (b. A.D. 356), other Christian mystics and an occasional Eastern religious mystic, Funk, the executive director of Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, explores Cassian's premise that serious knowledge of God involves three renunciations: of one's former way of life, of the thoughts belonging to that former way of life and of one's very idea of God. Most of her text deals with 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. In each chapter, she shows how such thoughts can interfere with one's knowledge of God. As Funk states: "To renounce one's thoughts may seem out-of-date to a casual observer, harsh, foreboding, even unrelenting. A mind at peace, stilled, available for conscious thinking at will is of major value for those of us who confront chaos, confusion, noise, and numbness as we move into the third millennium."


Tools Matter
by Sister Mary Margaret Funk, OSB

Sister Mary Margaret 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 - Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved - Reviewer: Sharon Salzberg from Barre, Ma. United States

This is a lovely new book by Mary Margaret Funk. It reads as both a source of inspiration and a practical guide for the development of spiritual practice. The importance of having tools and knowing how to use them as we tend "the garden of our souls" is articulated in a fresh and accessible way.

While it draws on practices from the early Christian tradition, the depth and universality of its message is applicable to anyone on a contemplative path. Tools do matter; they provide us with the means to bring our spiritual practice to life in an ongoing way. Many thanks to the author for this important manual of the heart. - Reviewer: Pascaline Coff from Sand Springs, Oklahoma USA

God's call to contemplation is universal, Bede Griffiths, a greatly revered English monk who died in India in 1993 insisted, but the reason the "call" is not effective is because of a lack of receptivity. Meg Funk in this present volume offers us all a handbook for spiritual receptivity - more than 25 Christian prayer methods (tools) for our cooperation in becoming receptive to the gift of God's Sprit given without limit.

Sr.Meg truly takes her readers "back to the sources" of the desert and early Christian monasticism as she places in our hands another insightful and helpful 155 pages for the spiritual journey. Those who haven't yet read or may have forgotten the contents of her first volume: Thoughts Matter, will be happy to find that the author gives us not just a brief replay of the "eight thoughts" or "afflictions" that obscure our awareness of God but adds many new insights, nuances and examples. Of the more than 25 practices Meg shares here from our Christian tradition that can be reappropriated today as tools on the contemplative path, she gives pride of place and repeated focus to Lectio Divina "the classic individual prayer form".

Her presentation is very well done. Sr. Meg's years of compassionate intermonastic exchanges echo through her volume as she uses phrases like "right effort; right thinking, right relationships" and "the transmision of God". Her breakdown of the tools into negative, positive, social, and prayer tools is helpful. Under the social tools the author gives an exposition of humility with a unique glimpse at St. Benedict's 12 degrees (Chap. 7 of the Rule)and as she herself says "The tools involved in using these twelve steps form a refrain throughout this entire book". Motivation is critical! Attention and intention are frequent "wake up calls" thoughout the seven chapters of the work.

In the final chapter on discernment the author indicates what we can learn from each of the eight afflictive thoughts, using the suggested tools and knowing the goal of each effort. The "downside" or limitations of each of the tools is offered to help all walk in the Truth! Spiritual direction is also included in the final chapter with a view to the listener and the seeker.

The books is highly recommended for all seekers, monastics and lay alike!


Humility Matters
by Sister Mary Margaret Funk, OSB

Book Description - This is the third volume of a trilogy that began with Thoughts Matter: The Practice of the Spiritual Life and continued with Tools Matter for Practicing the Spiritual Life. Thoughts Matter was an update of the teaching of the fourth-century desert father John Cassian on the eight "afflictive thoughts" that impede the spiritual life (thoughts about food, sex, "things," anger, etc.). Tools Matter presented a wide variety of practices from the Christian tradition, both ancient and modern, that help us lift our thoughts in prayer: practices such as lectio divina, the Jesus Prayer, the Cloud of Unknowing, St Therese’s Little Way, Jean-Pierre de Caussade’s Practice of Self-Abandonment.

The springboard for Humility Matters is the teaching on humility of St. Benedict, but the pool itself has been enriched by the fifteen years Sr. Funk spent in interreligious dialogue. "Humility," she says, "is the essence of being human. Humility for a disciple of Jesus Christ is what enlightenment is for a Buddhist, surrender for a Muslim, realization for a Hindu, and sincerity for a Confucian."

Mary Margaret Funk, OSB, is director of the School of Lectio Divina at Benedict Inn, Beech Grove Indiana. 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 and Tools Matter, chapters by her have appeared The Gethsemani Encounter, Benedict’s Dharma, Purity of Heart, and Transforming Suffering. Reviewer: William B. Mains "Bill" (Kentucky) - February 24, 2006 -- I have just finished reading Sr. Meg's new book, and it is one of the best spiritual books I have read in the last 5 years, if not more. I want to go back and reread it again, more slowly, and want to reread her earlier works, Thoughts Matter and Tools Matter, which are also outstanding, in light of this one. It is not necessary however to read those before reading this one. Her method of dialogue with Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, and John Cassian is original, and helps to make these saints come alive, as well as to clarify their teachings. Also her meditation on the question, "Was Jesus Angry?", and suggested scripture for Lectio on the Eight Afflictions is priceless. Just a wonderful and inspiring book. Reviewer: Sr Catherine Cleary (Rock Island, Illinois, USA) - February 6, 2006 -- Humility, says Funk, is at the core of our experience of life in Christ. The author systematically and creatively unfolds in her research how humility is an essential ingredient in our desire for transformation. Grounding her assumption on Baptism and St. Benedict's treatise on humility, the reader is then introduced to three other renunciations necessary to develop the virture of humility. These renunciations are presented with a dialogue between the author, St.Therese of Lisieux, St. Teresa Avila and John Cassian. An inspiring and challenging Lenten read! Sr. Mary Margaaret Funk has saved the best of her triology to the last.