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Writing Spiritual Autobiography: Discerning God in Your Personal Story

By Erin Crider

Grove Books, 2020, £3.95. ISBN 978-1788271448

Review by Neville Manning, Retired Priest in Chichester Diocese

Writing Spiritual Autobiography: Discerning God in Your Personal Story

Here is a publication from Grove Books which reaches into what may be new ground for many people. It is about learning to write down our story in order to answer questions like Where is God in my life? Or How has God been at work? It takes the Ignatian practice of an ‘examen’ at the end of each day and develops it in a wider way. The booklet gives helpful suggestions about how to do it. It needs to be taken time over and to be done prayerfully. It needs a focus, such as a key moment or season in our life. Different formats can be used, such as a story or a map or poetry. It may be helpful to have a reader in mind. Crider assumes that those who may help us in the task will normally be Christians, though I wonder whether we need to acknowledge that occasionally people of other faiths or indeed no faith may shed light on our reflections!

The process of spiritual autobiography may be helped by the reflections of others before us, such as Augustine of Hippo in his Confessions or C. S. Lewis in his ‘A Grief Observed.’ The Blessed Virgin Mary is rightly held up as a model of reflectiveness and the value of holding on to memories.

Two comments of Crider remain in my own mind. One is about how difficult times look different on later reflection: ‘situations that seem hopeless are sometimes the very moments when God is closest.’ The other is about letting memories be a source of hope and encouragement. In the words of Pope Francis: ‘Memory and hope go hand in hand.’ All this can feed into the life of those of us entrusted with preaching.

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