The Spiritual Diary

In some ways, this might be obvious. Or in other ways, easily perceived as "cheesy" and "self-absorbed." However, whatever your previous opinions concerning journals, beginning one at the advice of my confessor was a sound and prudent decision. Below are notes I have given to students about how to use a spiritual diary to best advantage. It should turn us not to self, but to Christ. Here's how.

What do you put in a Spiritual Diary?

1. Resolutions, for the day, for the month, for the year, for Lent.
a. Penances.
b. Sins to work on.
c. Practices and prayers.

2. Thoughts and understandings
a. Quotes that give helpful advice or help you to truth, beauty, and goodness.
b. Things you’ve come to understand.
c. Questions to ponder, to ask a priest.

3. Examinations of the Soul
a. Prayer, which includes but is not limited to the daily practices of the saints:
  • Mass. Get to Mass as often as possible. What could be more important, really, than seeing, nay, even receiving Christ, for real, every day?
  • Mental Prayer and Meditation. Read the scriptures slowly and meditate on them for at least 15 minutes a day, working your way up over time to 1 hour a day. At the end of this meditation, it would be a good time to think of your penances for today or tomorrow, write them down, and write down any insights you came to, any new resolutions.
  • Spiritual reading--15 minutes a day.
  • Vocal prayer--especially Liturgy of the Hours. Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet—good to pray it with your family, but you can also work one in when you are driving / being driven, walking to school, etc.
  • Penance--you should make the effort to do some mortifications or penances every day. Better to do small unnoticeable things that break your will--be on time, sit still, walk more slowly, return phone calls right away, etc.
  • Examination of Conscience and morning offering.
  • Confession at least monthly.
  • Get a spiritual director.
b. Good works; Corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Do I do any? Which should I try for?
c. Virtues: theological (faith, hope, charity); cardinal (wisdom, temperance, fortitude, justice); good use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit—wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, piety, fortitude, fear of the Lord. How do I want to grow in these areas?
d. Commandments, practices of the church, attachment to sin. Where do I fall? What can I do? Where can I start--practically?
e. Catholic culture, i.e. an integrated and honest life conducive to all of the above.

4. Ask these questions. How would I like to grow in the next month, next year? What would it take to grow perfect? This virtue needs to be acquired, this fault needs to be conquered. How have I progressed / regressed in the last 6 months, year?

5. Pick out something to work on, or the most important thing to work on. Figure out ways to work on it. Write these down.

6. Use the book. Examine your conscience at night, and look over the book. Did I keep this resolution? Did I remember to work on this virtue? Here is a question I was confused about 2 months ago. Has it been answered? Read it over in a year or so. Thank God for His mercies!



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