Question: Are there any spiritual benefits in writing a diary? There have been many saints who have wrote a diary. Is it somehow beneficial? Why? Did any saint recommend it?
I am asking the question from the Catholic viewpoint.
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Are there any spiritual benefits in writing a diary?
Yes, there are benefits in maintaining a diary, especially if it is in the form of a spiritual journal in which one can trace the steps one is taking towards union with God.
There’s always been a special place in the Catholic Church for the keeping of spiritual journals. Some of our most beloved saints, including St. Therese of Lisieux (her journal was published as The Story of a Soul) and St. Ignatius Loyola (whose journal became the Spiritual Exercises), kept spiritual journals.
Closer to our own time, Pope John XXIII kept a personal journal from when he was a teenager until he died, and Pope John Paul II’s personal notes are also soon to be published in English.
These journals were originally meant to be simply dialogues between individual souls and God; but they continue to be a source of inspiration and encouragement to millions of people who can grow and learn from these revelations of great saints’ interior lives.
So what exactly is a spiritual journal?
It’s not the same thing as a diary. A diary is a chronological accounting of daily events. A journal is much more: it’s a prayer, a capturing on paper of an interior dialogue between the writer and God.
This is clear in Gabrielle Bossis’ spiritual journal, He and I; it’s a back-and-forth between her and Jesus. Father Gaston Courtois kept notebooks that he carried around everywhere and that reflected his interior conversations with God; they later became When The Lord Speaks to Your Soul.
Most of us don’t hear Jesus’ voice as clearly as did these people. We all try; and sometimes, if we’re blessed and fortunate, we’re able to get a glimpse of that same light the saints were blinded by. But we can all still come closer to God through keeping a spiritual journal. - HOW TO KEEP A SPIRITUAL JOURNAL LIKE THE SAINTS DID
Many saints have written diaries and/or spiritual journals. Even the Diary of St. Faustina was written in the form of a spiritual journal.
The DIARY of Sister Faustina, written in the form of a journal, records the last four years of her life. It reveals the depths of her spiritual life and illustrates the high degree of her soul’s union with God. The Lord endowed Sister Faustina with tremendous graces: the gift of contemplation, a deep knowledge of the mystery of the mercy of God, visions, revelations, the hidden stigmata, the gifts of prophecy and of reading human souls, and also the rare gift of mystical espousal (Diary Introduction, p. 10, Polish Edition). - FRAGMENTS THE DIARY OF SAINT SISTER FAUSTINA
Both diaries and spiritual journals are great tools to aid us in deepening and growing stronger in our faith. Diaries have the aided benefit of helping us see how we are progressing day by day spiritually in our journey with our faith and prayer life.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. Psalm 77:11
If you have received blessings via answers to prayer, or the help of another Christian, or found solace in any other way that your faith provides, by writing down these things today, you can help yourself tomorrow, and also enable you to share God's good news with others and comfort them.
23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:23-25)
A diary will help you not be that person.
11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11)
18 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8)
Keep praying. Don't give up!
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
Do this and you will invite joy into your life, and journaling can play a part in it.
To mourn in a healthy way. Life is filled with trials. Turning them into poems and hymns that you record in your journal and offering them back to God can help you grieve without regret, without despair. Some of the greatest hymns in Christendom were written by men and women who experienced horrible loss. As Elihu said when comforting Job:
“People cry out under a load of oppression; they plead for relief from the arm of the powerful. 10 But no one says, ‘Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night, 11 who teaches us more than he teaches the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds in the sky?’ (Job 35:9-11)
Write down your own "songs in the night". This will help you pass through your troubles and come out on the other side more whole and healthy.