"Humility matters," writes Mary Margaret Funk in this third volume of a trilogy (Thoughts Matter: The Practice of the Spiritual Life and Tools Matter for Practicing the Spiritual Life). "So central is this quality of being that it may be said that humility is to a Christian what enlightenment is to a Buddhist, realization is to a Hindu, sincerity is to a Confucian, righteousness is to a Jew, surrender is to a Muslim, and annihilation is to a Sufi. Humility is what others see of our purity of heart."
The low door of humility was demonstrated again and again by Jesus, and it led to the monastic emphasis on four renunciations: of our former way of life, of the thoughts and desires of our former way of life, of our self-made thoughts of God, and of our self-made thoughts of self. Funk demonstrates how the desert fathers and mothers trained their minds in regard to afflictions of the body (food, sex, and things), afflictions of the mind (anger, dejection) and afflictions of the soul (acedia, vainglory, and pride). She moves on to a very creative treatment of humility in the form of dialogues with two pioneers of humility: Saint Teresa of Jesus (Avila), who shows us how to renounce our self-made thoughts of God through the practice of recollection, and St. Therese of Lisieux, who shows us how to renounce our self-made thoughts of self through the practice of the Little Way. The fourth renunciation is explored in the Institutes of John Cassian who presents ten indicators of humility including holding one's tongue, being satisfied with utter simplicity, and maintaining a gracious obedience and steadfast patience.
This volume nicely complements the other two, and together they comprise a wonderful compendium of spiritual practices for Christians. There are thought-provoking pieces on feasting, hospitality, reverencing things, patience as an antidote to anger, the sin of sadness, the beneficial sides of afflictions, and more. Funk's experience for 15 years in interreligious dialogue gives her work a rounded perspective.