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Jack McLainFebruary 21, 2011

During a recent discussion with a brother Jesuit about the inherent goodness or badness (I believe the terms ‘Luddite’ and ‘Borg’ were trotted out during the conversation) of smart phones, I asserted that there were plenty of Catholic-centric uses for such devices. In the great Jesuit fashion, my confrere asked me to prove it. So I began combing through Apple’s App Store in order to find the best Catholic apps I could. 

From the beginning, I left a few things off of my list, most notably digital rosaries. I am not opposed to rosary apps; I have one actually, but trying to separate the sheep from the goats in this particular instance proved to be a little too bandwidth intensive. Most rosary apps had free versions so you could try them before you invest your 99 cents. My other criterion was one I alluded to above, namely, I wanted to find apps that were applicable to the non-techno person who was looking to use their device to add to their faith life. I focused exclusively on iPhone apps because of its userbase and because I don’t have access to an Android-based phone.

Here are some of the better apps:

(Free): This app, which I’ve been using for over a year, can be a life saver. Last year my campus minister, seated next to me at a student Mass, whipped her head around and turned white as a sheet. “I forgot to put the Gospel in the binder!” She whispered during the Psalm. I calmly fished under my alb, pulled out my iPhone, fired up the app and had the Gospel ready by the time I made it to the lectern. It includes the Office readings for the day and, as a bonus, all the parts of the Mass for a presider. Plus, all the readings update automatically when you turn the app on—in five different languages, no less! The only downside is that it requires a data connection. If our chapel had been a signal dead spot, I would have been sunk.

Universalis ($24.99): This is from the super-useful Universalis software house, whose goal is to “harness computer technology to help enrich the spiritual lives of Christians.” The app contains all the readings within the app itself, so it doesn’t matter if you are on top of Mount Everest (although I read recently they have 3G coverage there now), you can get your daily readings and pray the Office with out a wireless connection. Exceptionally well organized and easy to navigate, this is best of the daily reading and Office apps I reviewed. Two caveats about the app: First, the price. In a world of 99 cent apps, $25 will give some people pause, but this is clearly a case of getting what you pay for. The app replaces both a lectionary and a breviary (not to mention being much easier to carry) so the price tag shouldn’t be a sticking point, in my opinion. My second quibble is a priest-centric one: I wish the app also provided the parts of the Mass.

Divine Office ($14.99): This app has all the functions of the apps above, automatically figuring out the date and bringing up the readings for the time of day. The feature that sets it apart is that it will also download audio files of the prayers of the hours so that you can listen to a group of people praying, and pray with them. Ideal for quiet time on a train or bus or even over your car audio system during your commute. Another neat feature: by tapping on a globe icon you see a map showing where other people are using the app around the world. This gives you a real sense of praying with universal church.

iCatholicRadio & Radio Vaticana (Free & $3.99 cents respectively): These apps stream audio from Catholic radio stations. iCatholicRadio streams from Holy Family Communications, which features shows ranging from Catholic call-ins to the recordings of Bishop Fulton Sheen. The user interface needs work—it doesn’t have the buttery smoothness usually associated with Apple—but it works fine. It can also stream the audio in the background so you can listen while you navigate to another app. Radio Vaticana does the same thing, only it offers a direct line to the broadcasts of the Vatican Radio in several different languages. Good for a change of pace.

3-Three Minute Retreat (99 cents): The Irish Jesuits started a Web site several years ago that leads you through a quick reflection for your day. Loyola Press has taken this idea and applied it to the portable world. Each day it supplies you with a brief reflection set to placid music in either English or Spanish. It follows the Ignatian arc of settling down to pray, reading Scripture, reflecting and deciding act. It is a simple, straightforward app that does exactly what it says.  

Mass Times (Free): For sheer useful simplicity, this app was probably the best one I reviewed. It uses your location to find the nearest parish and gives you the Mass times at those locations. You can also search for a particular church and bookmark your favorites. A sponsored banner pops up every once in a while, but that’s how they make the app free. This is a must-have for Catholics on the move who like to find a Mass wherever they go.

CatholicTV (Free): This app allows you to watch the Mass of the day along with much of the other programming of CatholicTV from Boston on your iPhone. The catch is that you need to have a WiFi signal. An excellent app for someone in an isolated place who wants to enjoy tons of quality Catholic content.

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Lisa Eichman
11 years 12 months ago

I heard about an app for Confession - what's up with that?  I can't imagine that "counts" as valid because there's no priest, but I supposed it might help for reflection.  What are your thoughts and opinions of those types of apps.

Eugene Pagano
11 years 11 months ago

Another good app (one that I used before converting to the Episcopal Church) is iMissal, an app with the missal, lectionary, liturgical calendar, daily Bible verse, compilation of prayers, etc.

Beth Cioffoletti
11 years 11 months ago

The one APP that interests me here is the Universalis Daily Book of Hours.  I need to be "disconnected" for hours (sometimes days) at a time, and I like to pray the Hours.  I have a little prayer book for this, but try as I may, I can never seem to be on the correct reading.  And I have a web link to Universalis, but I'm not always near a computer.  So I will fork out the $25.  I hope that they have it for the IPod Touch.  Thanks for the tip!

Beth Cioffoletti
11 years 11 months ago

Update: Just want to say that I downloaded the Universalis and it is everything that I hoped it would be.  Everyday, each of the psalms for the different parts of the day are right there at my fingertips.  I have it on my Ipad Touch, which is NOT always connected to the Internet - in fact it is only connected when I am in a wireless zone.  Very much an improvement to carrying around a thick prayer book with ribbons all over the place.  I also have a meditation timer on my Ipad that I use for contemplative prayer. 

Though not a Luddite, I have apprehension about much that goes on under the guise of religion and spirituality on the web.  But I do appreciate this little APP. 
Alfred Chavez
11 years 11 months ago
The iApps "Confession" is not an app designed for going to confession unless one uses it as a kind of cheat sheet while in the confessional. Rather it's an aid for examination of conscience. A person can input some basic data (gender, age, etc.) and the app prompts a tailored examination of conscience. The app will then compile a list of sins for those things a penitent checks off as problems. News reports said a bishop in the midwest had approved it.
Patricia Phillips
11 years 11 months ago
Fr. Mike Manning, SVD, has an app entitled iGodToday. You can start your day with insightful reflections of faith, inspiration and spirituality presented by the Vatican Observatory Foundation and delivered on screen by Fr. Mike. He has an uplifting message of hope and faith and practical topics for everyday living. You can preview it on iGodToday.com.
Larry Hiner
11 years 11 months ago
Only in terms of the Daily Office readings, I can comment on three of the apps mentioned (iPad versions, mostly). Universalis seems to favor British versions, and so is sometimes out of sync with the US readings. DivineOffice is closer (and that audio feature is particularly helpful with many of the really old hymns), but is also frequently out of sync with the Christian Prayer - including glaring errors (like leaving out Psalm prayers). I just started using iBreviary, but it seems to be the closest to the Christian Prayer version that I've used yet; it doesn't have the audio of DivineOffice, but makes up for it in accuracy, keeping me in sync with my companions in prayer.
11 years 11 months ago
I have been using universalis on my pc for a long time, starting in Rome. I use it for Night prayer and reaing the Gospel for the next day as prep for meditation. I am not techy enough yet to use my phone... which I use only for making emergency calls except I have Beato Angelicos paintings of the mysteries of the Rosary in the camera part to set my focus.. I love technology.
Chris S
11 years 11 months ago

The app. on 'Divine Mercy' is excellent and free too!

Magnificat is good too, only one need to pay monthly after one free month.

Then the Christian apps. on Prayers are good for when one has no words and needs them. This is also free!

The CCEL free app is really good as you can actually get full books like "Practice of the Prescence of God and Imitation of Christ" even without being connected with wi-fi.

Evangelizo is also good for it's Daily Mass readings and reflections.. free again.

I did pay fo iMissal but fact is, with so many free apps it seems obsolete?

I don't have an IPhone but do have and IPod Touch [a gift to me] and being can't afford to pay for much I tend to look for free apps. :)



Valent Richie
11 years 11 months ago

For rosary app, I have just developed Scriptural Rosary app to help people keep focused while meditating on each mystery. This is achieved with the aid of scripture verse in each Hail Mary.



Hope all of you will find it useful.

Terrence Stewart
11 years 11 months ago
Another very nice free app is from Ave Maria Press. It is the Stations of the Cross. It has beautiful artwork and very nice prayers. It is really an application of one of their newest Stations of the Cross booklet (which we ordered for use in church during Lent too.)
Stephanie Tracy
11 years 11 months ago
Another app that might be useful: the first Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. An app produced by the Redemptorists, who have promoted devotion to Our Lady under that title since 1866.

Alessandro Giuliani
10 years 7 months ago

I would like to inform you that on the Apple store is available the St.Bridget prayers App,called "ParadiseGate"..


It is free and contains both prayers: one year and twelve years versions.
Languages: English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish

Please help us to diffuse the St. Bridget prayers..a great gift from our Lord..  : )

Best regards,



chigg patel
5 years 6 months ago

really great to seee how vaults can help you organize and share information within your team. check

imessage for Android

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