Friday, May 13, 2011

Book Review: Into the Depths by Meg Funk

I have been following the work of Meg Funk now for some time. Funk is a Benedictine nun at Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, Indiana and the author of several books on the spiritual life: Lectio Matters (Continuum, 2010), Thoughts Matter (Continuum, 1999), and Humility Matters (Continuum, 2005). Funk is very active in ecumenical dialogue and at one time was the Executive Director of Monastic Interreligious Dialogue.

Her new book, Into the Depths: A Journey of Loss and Vocation (Lantern Publishing, 2011) is a spiritual memoir. The book is divided into three parts. In Part 1 Funk outlines her early faith formation as a Catholic but then soon after as a Benedictine nun. She entered monastic life on the heels of the Second Vatican Council but her monastic formation was clearly pre-Vatican II. Stories of control, authority, and “following the rules” in the monastery were eye opening. Her stories reminded me of a friend of mine who is a Trappist monk who entered monastic life in the early 1950’s. He told me that when the monks were called into the abbot’s office they were supposed to kneel during the conversation, only later receiving a blessing and a piece of candy before leaving! Talking about "old school" geesh! Thankfully monastic and spiritual formation has changed since then. Eventually Funk's superiors allowed her to enter a graduate program at Catholic University in Washington, DC and a new world emerges as she learns more about theology, scripture, and liturgy. Her wonderful blog and her books attest to her love for life-long learning.

The second part of the book focuses primarily on a tragic incident in Bolivia where five of her friends die in a tragic car accident. Funk was the only survivor. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but needless to say this accident sends Funk into a spiritual tailspin and sets her on a journey to find healing and wholeness. This was my favorite part of the book and Funk lets the reader into her mind as she discusses her most intimate spiritual questions and concerns.

The third part of the book shows the reader the results of these efforts. Her coming to grips with her previous faith formation, what it means to be a Christian, as well as really living a Christian life which is healthy and wholesome.

The only shortcoming is that this book was too short! I felt that Funk held back too much when discussing her early faith formation in the monastery as well as her deep spiritual questions. Funk has been a nun for almost all of her adult life and surely she could have offered more insight into how monastic life changed in her monastery, perhaps offering some short anecdotes or vignettes. We see little for example of her fellow nuns and authority figures. We hear little about her friends in the car crash, all the people seem rather “flat.”

However, Into the Depths is a powerful book. Funk does not sugar coat the spiritual life nor does she idealize it, but shows the reader her own faults and foibles and her long-term bouts with depression. In the end we see Meg Funk as a real Christian, a real nun, and a real person striving to find God in the everyday. She should be commended for writing this book.

For for information about Meg Funk click here

To order a copy of Into the Depths click here