Saint Augustine of Hippo wrote in his masterpiece “The Confessions”:
People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.
Do you want to learn how to live a life worthy of the calling God has for you? If so — echoing the words of Saint Augustine — you should begin by looking inside to find out what God has placed there for your to work with. One of the best ways I have found to do that is to keep a journal.
If you are already keeping a journal and have a regular journaling habit, well done, keep up the good work!! For rest of you, starting a journal habit could change your life.
Difference Between A Diary & a Journal
Keeping a journal was a hard habit for me to get started because I thought journal was a fancy name for a diary, and “real men” don’t keep a diary. My male ego was humbled when I learned the reason we know so much about the interior lives of the saints is because they recorded their spiritual journey in their journals. Since I am called to become a saint (as are you), I buckled down and learned the journaling discipline.
A diary is a description of the day’s events.
- This happen and this happen.
- I met this person and committed to getting this done.
A journal is what you got from those events.
- This what happen today and this is what I got from the event.
- I sinned in this way today and here were the condition where I made this error in judgement.
What To Journal About
Journaling helps in conforming yourself to the image of Jesus by recording insights gained from events, something you read, or thinking on paper about what God is saying to you. As we journal, we are re-processing that information and those insights, which helps to learn more and become more. While there is great benefit in journaling, there is even more in reviewing your journal on a regular basis.
I use my journal most often to take notes at Mass. Yes, I do get the occasional stare from people wondering what I am doing but that’s okay. I record how the readings and homily affect me, as well as any other insights while being in the presences of Jesus. When I review Mass entries, I do so by recording them in an electronic tool called Evernote. This makes the notes searchable, which in pulling together the various ideas spread over many pages of journals.
My journal is close by when praying the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, and other devotions to record insight from the prayers. There are always plenty of notes to take from books, articles, or podcasts. Of course the events of life, like encounters with people or situations are worthy of being journaled about.
Journal entries will help you as your prepare for Confession and meeting with your spiritual director.
What Is The Best Journal Format
The simple answer is the format the works best for you and your current situation.
Almost all of my journals are spiral-bound, normal-rule school notebooks (I stock up for the year during back-to-school sales). Within the last year, I have switched to the composition school notebooks. They are not as tall and have less pages but with these, I no longer have the issue of the wire coming loose.
Some people like leather-bound journals; that is not my style. Business philosopher Jim Rohn who I first learned the journal habit from says spending $26 on a book with empty pages motivates him to put something in there worth more than $26. I am talking about journal about the pearl of great price but I still can’t bring myself to spend $26 on a leather-bound journal.
Some people prefer an electronic journal where they can dictate their thoughts. Those are great, but I like pens, and I want to continue struggling with my handwriting to ensure it is at least semi-readable. As I said above, I summarize in an electronic format, and some would call that inefficient but it works for me, and that is the key.
Find a journaling method that works best for you and use it.
How This Helps In Becoming A Light To The Nations
It is no overstatement that in the journey in becoming a light to the nations, we are embarking on a journey unlike any we have been on before. We are going to encounter information and learn skills as we transform into the people God is calling us to become. Like the saints before you, this is a journey you want to record perhaps only for yourself or perhaps for your canonization cause because you lived a life worthy of your calling.
Get a journal and start the journal habit.