Mary Margaret Funk is a Benedictine nun of Our Lady of Grace Monastery, Beech Grove, Indiana. In addition to the five volumes of the Matters Series, she is the author of Islam Is . . . An Experience of Dialogue and Devotion and Into the Depths: A Journey of Loss and Vocation). In this substantive paperback, the author probes the spiritual practice of discernment as revealed in the early monastic tradition. She defines this virtue as "our relationship with the Holy Spirit who is at work in us." With divine assistance, we can begin training in listening with the ear of the heart.
Funk examines the eight afflictive thoughts which hinder discernment: food, sex, things, anger, dejection, acedia, vainglory, and pride. She then presents seven practices of ceaseless prayer:
• The Practice of Presence: As Taught by Brother Lawrence
• The Practice of Self-Abandonment to the Present Moment: Attributed to Jean-Pierre de Caussade
• The Practice of the Cloud of Unknowing: As Taught by the Unknown Author of The Cloud of Unknowing
• The Practice of Recollection: As Taught by St. Teresa of Avila
• The Practice of Colloquy: Dialogue with Our Lord: As Taught by Our Lord to Gabrielle Bossis
• The Little Way of Therese of Lisieux: The Method of the Little Way as Taught by Therese of Lisieux
• The Jesus Prayer/Prayer of the Heart: The Practice of Ceaseless Prayer in the Christian Tradition
Discernment takes patience and perseverance. Funk outlines five steps to making a decision and then looks at the process in choosing a book to read for lectio, wearing the habit, or figuring out what to do in her cell. She suggests three examples of programs that can be used to teach discernment and then salutes two saints who embodied discernment — St. Benedict and St. Patrick.
An added value to the book as a whole is Funk's compilation of wise words given by monks to those who came to them asking for guidance. Here are a few of them:
"• Humility is wisdom.
• Silence teaches.
• Sit with saints.
• Mercy is justice.
• Work is prayer.
• The guest is God.
• Stillness stays.
• All are saved."