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Schoenstatt
Apostolic Movement

How to make an analysis of our spiritual journey?

By: Father Antonio Bracht, Secular Institute of Schoenstatt Fathers

Father Antonio Bracht invites us to review our spiritual life, especially in the face of a new year and gives us some recommendations to do it properly.

How do we do a spiritual journey?

Every journey has its pauses. Every process requires evaluation.

Our life, which is above all a spiritual journey, that is, a process, also needs these pauses and evaluations. And how can we examine our spiritual journey?

First, it is necessary to keep in mind our goal, the great objective of the path we are about to follow, that which in our pedagogy we know as the personal ideal. This is the most important element of our review, since it will indicate the direction, motivate the steps to follow and, together with the circumstances along the way, it will also mark the pace of our journey.

For a good analysis, it is necessary to take into account the external framework in which we will carry it out. It must be one marked by the spiritual and the sacred, which will help considerably to silence the heart, concentrate and analyze our inner thoughts.

For the most part, the interior is the object of the spiritual examination. What takes place in a review presupposes an important condition: it must be a conversation with God. Whoever is not willing to listen to the Word and respond to God’s call in his life, assuming the challenges that He allows, will not be able to make a true spiritual revision. It is through the light of the Spirit that one reaches the depths of the soul to discover what is decisive. Whoever sets out to make a spiritual examination of life needs a good method to make the most of it. Asceticism offers so many different forms that, within the framework of this article, it would be impossible to present them all, much less evaluate them all.

A few simple guidelines

Let’s begin with a more practical guideline, the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) method. Life is placed within a framework of strengths, the application of which is more oriented to organizational business development but can also be used for spiritual purposes.

There is a very simple way to organize a spiritual examination: by preparing a questionnaire with questions about the most important aspects of life, taking a look at the experiences, reactions and actions taken in all of them.

Some authors who have followed the inspiration of the great saints recommend a “spiritual rumination”. Rumination is the form of digestion of some animals, so that they ingest food and chew it again and again to assimilate it better. Ruminating or pondering on the events and experiences of life helps us to better understand the messages they imply for our life. Thus, animals often ruminate while lying quietly in the shade, without rushing to finish.

Another recommendation is Father Joseph Kentenich’s  method.

spiritual journey

He guides us to “savor” what has happened to us, allowing us to relive what we have experienced and to foretell what is to come.

For the founder of Schoenstatt, life is marked by some milestones that should be taken into account at the time of the spiritual examination. These are essentially three:  1) faith in a God who leads our life according to his plans, which are revealed step by step through the events and circumstances of life; 2) hope that is strengthened in a life of faithful fulfillment of our duties and the nourishment of our inner self, which also knows how to expect everything from a God who loves us, and 3) love that translates into generous and selfless service in the lives of others, leading us to its original contribution, giving that which God grants to each of us and which is revealed in our abilities and skills or, as we prefer to say today, in our personal charism.

When we talk about Father Kentenich’s method, it is important to allow ourselves to be surprised by the unconventional manifestations. For him, the method has two parts: “pretasting and aftertasting” the events and circumstances of life. This involves savoring, reliving past experiences as well as showing a glimpse of what lies ahead. This will allow us to perceive what is behind the events. We might even discover that which lies within, at the center, that which has formed the events that occur even though they remain in constant motion. The founder called it “constants” or “important backgrounds”.

Tasting, as we do with food, allows us to discover and recognize the seasoning of situations, to know if it is something that can nourish us or if it is something that intoxicates us and must be discarded. It is not only a matter of confronting truths, because these, in order to be lived, require a flavor. The flavor of the truths are the values because these motivate us, induce us to act and give spice – taste, aroma, color and appetite – to life.

Finally, some practical recommendations:

It is convenient to put the reflections in writing. The determinations of the spiritual examination will serve as guidelines for our journey, so they should be available for future revisions, thus ensuring growth.

It is also advisable, especially in times of crisis or great challenges, to seek some good companionship, be it from a friend, a trained counselor, or a spiritual guide.

The review will probably uncover negative and unpleasant things. And what can be done with them? The most appropriate thing to do is to bring all these issues to a good confession. Guilt needs redemption. Forgiveness, given and received, soothes and renews.

Finally, the finishing touch to a good spiritual examination is gratitude. He who is not grateful, does not grow.

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