Academic Programs 

Spiritual Autobiography*   (WS-615)
Fall 2009

Have you ever wished you could tell your story in such a way that your experience of God and your grappling with grace were the primary storyline? Guided by selected readings and literary examples, we will explore depths that underlie and thin places that surround the bare bones of biographical data, revealing a testament to faith and an evolving spirituality. Participants will creatively chronicle their spiritual autobiographies in ways that are individually fulfilling as a keepsake of the past and a legacy for the future.


Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Wednesdays from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (12 weeks), beginning Sept. 9

Miriam Therese Winter
Professor of Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9558


Course Syllabus


The primary goals of this course are:

  • to creatively chronicle our faith story as we have perceived and experienced it, from the inside out
  • to tell the stories within our story in ways that reveal to ourselves and to others who we really are
  • to proceed in a way that results in an authentic and tangible expression of our spirit’s journey on the path of the heart

The primary outcomes of this course are:

  • a framework for discerning decisive elements in our faith journey
  • a sense of how to uncover and remember those transformative moments that make meaning of our lives
  • a spiritual autobiography that will long outlive the class

“There comes a time in every person’s life when moving forward into the future is best served by looking back. Happily ever after is integrally related to once upon a time. Steps we have taken, paths we have chosen, even paths that were chosen for us by others with or without our consent and all those roller coaster rides of the heart are milestones on a spiritual journey that begins and ends in God. We often miss divine intent when we are caught up in the moment, while telltale signs of the Spirit, indicative of God’s handiwork, emerge with remembering. An autobiography of the spirit helps us identify divine design in the twists and turns of our evolving to the place where we are now. It has done this, and more, for me.” Miriam Therese Winter, The Singer and the Song: An Autobiography of the Spirit


(1) September 9 Introducing Spiritual Autobiography
• what is it?
• how do we do it?
• why is it important?

Laying the Foundations
• memory…myth…meaning
• means and methods

(2) September 16 Encountering the Divine
• experiences recalled, reinterpreted
• images revisited, reevaluated

(3) September 23 Epiphanies
• thin places, revelatory occurrences
• savoring the wisdom

(4) September 30 Spirals, Labyrinths, Mandalas

• discerning our spiritual path
• marking milestone moments

(5) October 7 Pilgrimage
• integrating our past
• sacramental shrines

(6) October 14 Kinship
• acknowledging significant relationships
• exploring biomorphic bonds

(7) October 21 Our Sacred Stories
• what I want to remember
• what I cannot bear to forget

(8) October 28 Synchronicities, Serendipities
• incidents of innerconnectedness
• living Spirit-ually

(9) November 4 Transformation
• traditions and transitions
• decisive turning points

(10) November 11 Keepsakes
• keeping faith, regardless
• keepers of the flame

(11) November 18 Legacy
• seed, taproot, branches
• trajectories, real and imagined

(12) December 2 Spiritual Autobiographies
• reaffirming the remnants
• expanding the sacred – space, story, symbol, sacrament
• celebrating Spirit-led lives


Recommended Reading

  • there is no assigned order to the reading
  • books will provide context and additional content for the course as a whole
  • read as much as you can early on in the course, or even before the course begins, as most of your time will be given over to creating your spiritual autobiography
  • make notes of helpful suggestions, passages, or quotations from the readings to be shared with the class when relevant, and with the instructor at the end of the course if you are taking the course for credit

Spiritual Autobiography

  • by the end of the first session, students will have decided on how they want to chronicle their autobiographical information, insights, wisdom
  • the possibilities for chronicling are many – tactile or digital – verbal (written) or visual (art, photography) – through prose, poetry, drawing, collage – in a journal, scrapbook, or on a CD – using a single medium or multiple media, whichever means will best facilitate your achieving the course outcome in the time available to you … be creative, imaginative, committed
  • your spiritual autobiography will be reviewed by the instructor at the end of the course if you are taking the course for credit

To summarize: If you are taking the course for credit, you are expected to:
• submit your informal notes on the recommended reading at the end of the course
• submit your spiritual autobiography at the end of the course
• submit the self-assessment Grade Sheet at the end of the course

On the day that grades are due, students taking the course for credit must submit to the instructor either a Grade Sheet or a signed Incomplete Form (available online).

Grade Sheets, Notes, and Autobiographies are due January 12, 2010
Spiritual Autobiography (WS-615) / Fall 2009
Miriam Therese Winter

Recommended Reading

Atkinson, Robert. The Gift of Stories. Practical and Spiritual Applications of Autobiography, Life Stories, and Personal Mythmaking. Westport, Connecticut: Bergin and Garvey, 1995.

Feinstein, David and Krippner, Stanley. Personal Mythology. The Psychology of Your Evolving Self. Using Ritual, Dreams, and Imagination to Discover Your Inner Story. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988.

Goldberg, Natalie. Writing Down the Bones. Freeing the Writer Within. Expanded Edition.
Shambhala Books, 2005.

Mandelker, Amy and Powers, Elizabeth, eds. Pilgrim Souls. A Collection of Spiritual Autobiographies. Simon & Schuster, 1999.

Phifer, Nan. Memoirs of the Soul. Writing Your Spiritual Autobiography. Cincinnati: Walking Stick Press, 2002.

Winter, Miriam Therese. The Singer and the Song. An Autobiography of the Spirit. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1999.


Hartford Seminary  77 Sherman Street  Hartford, CT  06105   860-509-9500