By Gretchen R. Crowe
Catholic News Service
ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) — Praying is now so 21st century.
Instead of a paperback missalette, there’s iMissal. Instead of prayer cards, there’s a touch-screen Saint A Day. Instead of randomly jotting down prayer requests, there’s a digitally organized list in PrayerSteward.
These three applications — better known as apps — only scratch the surface of faith-related digital materials available in Apple’s App Store and, to a lesser extent, in the Android Market and Palm Pre App Catalog. With these digital Catholic resources comes the undeniable convenience of modern-day prayer.
“I know people who before they even get out of bed they have their iPod Touch or their iPhone in their hand,” said Sister Kathryn James Hermes, a Daughter of St. Paul and director of digital publishing for Pauline Books and Media, in an interview with the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Arlington Diocese.
“You could be looking at the psalms or the morning meditation,” she added.
In March, Parks Associates, a market research and consulting company specializing in digital technologies, reported that smartphone (i.e. iPhone, Android, Palm Pre) users are expected to quadruple by 2014, resulting in 1 billion users worldwide.
That’s a market that everyone, even the Vatican, can get behind.
On Easter Sunday, the Vatican Observatory Foundation, which promotes scientific research of the heavens, launched the Vatican-approved iPhone app: “Daily Sermonettes with Father Mike Manning.”
“These daily reflections are inspired by Scripture, using God’s uplifting message as a guide in your daily life, supporting the foundation’s mission of scientific research, education and discovery,” the website reads.
Also approved by the Vatican is iBreviary (available on iPhone and Android), an app developed in part by Italian priest Father Paolo Padrini, that contains daily readings, the Liturgy of the Hours and other prayers in multiple languages.
“As religious, we take to heart that (Pope) Benedict has said we need to give a soul to technology, a soul to communications,” Sister Kathryn said. “We do that through prayer, through reflection, through the love with which we carry out our apostolate — even the way in which we create our apps, trying to make them a truly beautiful experience.”
Sister Kathryn and the Daughters of St. Paul always are on the lookout for ways to give the Internet a soul by using it to spread the good news.
“For those who never go into a church, through the media we’re able to allow wherever they are to become a church,” she said. “It becomes a place of encounter for them, a sacred space, a type of church. It becomes a way to multiply our presence to a whole new audience.”
The iMissal app, developed by Cantcha Inc. and available for iPhone and Android users, contains a full calendar displaying all liturgical seasons, all Mass readings for every liturgical cycle, audio readings, a daily Bible verse and a list of popular prayers.
“It really is meant to become the source of everything Catholic that Catholics turn to for prayer and devotion and faith,” Sister Kathryn said. “It’s this very simple thing. You can have the readings right in your hand along with everything else that organizes your life.”
Favorite prayers can be e-mailed to friends, and iMissal is connected with CatholicTV, a television ministry of the Archdiocese of Boston, and enables users to stream Mass online.
Though the Rosary Miracle Prayer app, available in June, users can pray the rosary in his or her own “sacred space.” Audio tracks feature the Daughters of St. Paul — recorded at their studio in Boston — praying the decades, and 18 different sets of pictures help draw the faithful into the four sets of mysteries.
From within the app, users can e-mail the Daughters of St. Paul directly with personal prayer intentions.
With the Saint A Day app, invoking a prayer to the patron saint of cancer, artists, flying or mail delivery is only an index finger away. A quick search results in a wide breadth of information on a particular saint, and users then are able to e-mail it to a friend in need.
PrayerSteward, an application released earlier this month by Safe-t-Technologies LLC, offers an easy way to keep track of prayer intentions.
Once a user make a promise to remember someone in prayer, it can be added to the PrayerSteward list. The user can set time limits or reminders or e-mail the prayer request to others. More information is available at prayersteward.com, and a quick search on YouTube provides a useful tutorial.
Besides the digital apps, the Daughters of St. Paul have six CDs available for download on iTunes and will soon have books available for e-readers like Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Apple’s iPad.
Despite all the apps, smartphones and fancy devices, however, the mission of evangelization for the Daughters of St. Paul — and for the church — remains the same today as 2,000 years ago in St. Paul’s time.
“All of these things are means,” Sister Kathryn said. “They are a way to reach out to a lot of people at once. That’s really the essence of our mission, to evangelize out.”