Where did the time go?” It’s everybody’s question when another summer has flown by. As the school year begins and family schedules fill up, juggling schoolwork, extracurricular activities, family time, etc., the school year can fly by just as quickly.
When schedules are packed and stress is on the rise, it’s easy to lose track of the special moments and even the milestones we’re experiencing along the way. It can be especially difficult to carve out the time that’s needed to keep God at the center of it all and to nurture the faith life of our children. Keeping a family faith journal can help to slow you down, to cherish and record the special events and spiritual highlights of the year, building into your schedule a time to pause and reflect, so that daily life doesn’t just go by in a blur.
Starting a journal might seem daunting at first and yet another task added to an already busy family to-do list, but the benefits are lasting, producing something concrete that records and preserves your family’s faith journey with Jesus. Journaling can even – according to Psychology Today – relieve stress and help build relationships.
There are many different approaches one can take in journaling. Keeping it simple is probably best, at least the first time around. Blessedcatholicmom.com suggests starting with a blank notebook, but there are also a great variety of keepsake journals on the market, as well as many online resources to help craft your own. Here are some suggestions to help get you started:
The “Sunday book”: Prepare ahead by creating a page for each Sunday of the coming month. Then set aside a time, as little as five minutes, maybe after Mass or before going to bed, and record one special prayer, act of kindness or family moment that helped you experience, share, or celebrate God’s love.
Family Milestones: At the front of your journal, write a list of all the milestones you expect to encounter in the year – a notable birthday, a Baptism or other Sacrament, graduation, etc. When the special moment arrives, be sure to record some memories of the day, and include a prayer of blessing or petition for the family member who’s being celebrated.
Observe the Liturgical Year: Journaling the whole year ahead can be daunting, so try narrowing it down to special occasions, the holidays and holy days that you’ll be celebrating. Prepare the journal by having the children decorate/illustrate the pages for the different holidays/seasons – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas and so on. When the holiday arrives, simply record together a special memory, event, or prayer that you offered as a family. You can even take time to print (!) just one of the many photos you’ve taken and add that to your journal as well.
Prayer Journal: If tracking particular days or occasions seems too overwhelming, consider a simple prayer journal. From time to time during family prayer, record a prayer of petition or thanks for a particular need or grace you’ve received. When you look back over the prayers, you might be surprised at how much they chronicle the movement of God’s grace in the life of your family.
Whichever method you choose, there are plenty of online resources to help you along. You can find a basic how-to for getting started, here: www.typecalendar.com/prayer-journal-template.html. For journaling through the liturgical year, here’s a sample resource for Holy Week: https://www.looktohimandberadiant.com/search?q=journal. On her website, Sarah Titus offers helpful suggestions on journaling with your children, and even provides lots of colorful journal pages to help you along: www.sarahtitus.com/how-to-start-a-kids-prayer-journal.
Any memories you capture are treasures in themselves, so don’t stress if you miss a week, a month or even a season. Just start again, record what you can, and remember the promise of Scripture in Psalm 90:12: “Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.”
Nancy Arkin is director of faith formation in St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.