The spiritual journal is an important part of this course. However, the journal is highly personalized. It is yours. You operate on the honor system and so it is required but not inspected (Who would want to write honestly in a journal and then have someone else to read it?) So, there is no inspection of your journal. Therefore, whether you decide to have daily or weekly entries is up to you. I would imagine that monthly entries would be counterproductive. In an eight week intensive course that would mean you would have two entries. I don’t believe you would serve yourself well in that scenario. The goal of a spiritual journal is to capture your most immediate responses to the material that you read, hear, or discover by research. So, I should think anything more than once per week is not ordinarily helpful. If I were to ask you a question, “where did you discover God today in your studies?“ How would you respond? So, I believe that daily or even multiple entries in a day will be more helpful for you. However, I don’t want to project my own spiritual needs on you. I trust and pray this is of some help to you.
A brief story for you: when I studied at the University of Wales in Great Britain I had to be re-orientated to teaching and learning since the English pedagogical strategy—from college to graduate school and post graduate school—is based on research and independent, self-motivated initiative. I recall a fellow American student who, after a lecture, approached the professor and said that he did not see anything in the syllabus that would guide him on weekly readings and so forth. The professor responded,
“There are none. We will provide you all of the resources, available guidance, assistance, and lectured you will need. However there are no step-by-step mandates. That is entirely up to you. The only mandate is you must pass the course to advance. That is up to you. If you want to learn, read. Read deeply and read widely. If you want to get in deeper insight then attend the lectures. Read the recommended books but don’t stop there. Follow the footnote trail.“
The student was used to a regulated course of study which was focused on the professor’s requirements rather than the student’s desire to learn. So, the student, seeking further clarification, responded, with mild exasperation, “But you don’t even say when you will have tests!” Lifting a cup and saucer to his mouth, the imminent doctor of the Church whispered his reply, blowing into the cup to cool the steaming tea.
“My dear Sir, there is only one test. That test comes at the conclusion of the course. You will be given a blank notebook of paper and a pencil. I will ask two questions. And you will respond. From your written responses, I will be able to discern if you have conducted sufficient independent research or not.”
That experience was my own, as well. I’ve come to see the value of a research-based educational system in theological higher education. The initiative must be upon the student. The professor guides, gives perspective and insight, lays out ideas, and provided private tutoring when necessary — counseling, if you prefer—and, instructs in a faithful way. This approach is also unafraid to highlight places were men of goodwill differ.
Given that philosophy of education, I seek to design a course of graduate theological education with both independent research and student self-motivation at the forefront of teaching and learning strategies. So I’m not checking things, nor am I trying to design assignments too tightly. I want to open the gate (rather than guard the gate) to an upland field welcoming intellectual curiosity, discovery, and theological reflection. In this way, as your mind and heart are fueled by your vocation, motivated by your desire for “excellence in all things and all things for Christ,” you will explore and learn independently. Such an approach can activate what educators call “deep learning”— the fission point, the illuminated nexus that is created when knowledge and wisdom connect to personal need. It is the most profitable experience of teaching and learning and is a strategy the minister needs in the pulpit and the parish.
I trust this is of some assistance to you. If I have not answered your question to your satisfaction you just let me know. Sometimes I am as clear as mud.
The Lord bless you and keep you and grant you spiritual eyes to see the resurrected Christ present in your life this very day.
Commending you to Christ and to the word of his grace, I remain