Take a well-worn and well-loved iPad, insert a 3-year-old, and you’re either going to have a very quiet hour or ... an accident. As it turns out, I’ve had both. After a techie friend of mine fixed the tablet after “The Kool-Aid Incident,” I had hope that it might never die. And then my little guy tripped and the screen went kaput, and ... well ... let’s just say that we had a moment of silence for the iPad.
However, in the last year, I have broken down and gone the way of the smartphone, though not the Apple variety. That means I’ve had a chance to both bemoan the lack of some of my favorite apps on Android and to explore all new apps that are, in some ways, far different than what I’m used to.
In the year since I last wrote about Catholic apps, there have been quite a few more added to the Android landscape.
All of these apps are available both on Android and iTunes, which is a big change even from a year ago, when I longed for more (and better) Catholic apps available for Android; nearly all of them (unless otherwise noted) are free.
Catholic Calendar: Universalis
Pick your date and you can choose from reading about the saint of the day, the Mass readings and the readings from the Liturgy of the Hours. This is a pretty packed app, but it’s also available free only for the first month you have it on your device, and then you can decide if it’s worth buying. (iOS, Android)
The Catholic Directory (Mass Times)
Search for Mass times near you, in a city you’ll soon be traveling to or by any number of other parameters. In case you want to double check, phone numbers, maps and addresses for the churches are also provided. (iOS, Android)
Catholic News Service
It’s not the prettiest app, but it is useful to the max. You can browse through the latest headlines, look through photos and watch videos. And you can share the content on social media sites. (iOS, Android)
CRS Rice Bowl
Even though this is a Lent app, it still ranks as one of my favorites. For one thing, it’s beautiful. For another, it’s useful. I hear there are some major updates coming for 2015, though I’m sure the functionality that wooed me last year won’t be going anywhere. It includes daily prayer, recipes, a way to give through the app (as a virtual rice bowl), and information about areas of the world that benefit from rice bowl donations. This app really makes the rice bowl come alive and makes it possible to involve the whole family through technology. It’s nothing short of brilliant. (iOS, Android)
This app is both beautiful and indispensable. You’ll find tons of information about the message of Divine Mercy, about St. Faustina, about the “Mercy Popes,” and even excerpts and themes from St. Faustina’s diary. You can pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy along with your device, learn about the devotion and the image, research the Feast of Mercy, pray the Stations of the Cross, and even pray a variety of other novenas. There’s an audio option and information about the Marians of the Immaculate Heart, the order of priests who make this app possible. (iOS, Android)
Some apps are so simple, you wonder why you bother. But then, isn’t it handy just to know you can click a button and — boom! — there’s the daily Gospel! This app is really that simple, with some added bonuses, including the saint of the day and prayers. (iOS, Android)
Looking to pray the Liturgy of the Hours? This is the app for it. Over the years, I have gone from having a grudging respect to downright fandom of this app. It’s now better designed, easier to use and still free. You’ll have data downloading, but that means you don’t have to be online. You can download up to a week’s worth of data, which includes not only the breviary (Liturgy of the Hours), but also the Missal, Mass readings, and other prayers. To say I love this app is a huge understatement. I only wish it had an audio component, but I can forgive it that considering the awesomeness contained in this free app. (iOS, Android)
I’ll confess: For years, I was unimpressed with this app, formerly called Catholic One. Yes, it had a lot of information, but it was clunky and ugly. It’s been cleaned up a bit, and I’ve slowly come to see the “one stop shop” of it as a benefit. You have daily readings and the saint of the day, the Liturgy of the Hours (though they are a different translation than what you’re used to, and maybe that won’t even matter to you), the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet, a “sub-app” for confession, Stations of the Cross, prayers, Latin prayers, the Catechism, a link to Catholic media that will keep you busy all day long, two different Bible translations and a host of Vatican documents. I still don’t think this is “the perfect Catholic app,” but it’s definitely worth downloading, exploring and using. (iOS, Android)
The Pope App
Powered by News.va, this app gives you the chance to keep an eye on the Holy Father. There’s a stream of pope news on the homepage, a link to the @Pontifex Twitter feed, news and texts of Pope Francis’ talks. You can find photos, videos and webcams, and even mark your favorites. There’s a reason many of my Catholic friends love this app! (iOS, Android)
Prayers Plus ($2.99)
This app is well-designed and useful. There are prayers in both English and Latin, litanies, Stations of the Cross, a prayer index, a feast day calendar (with alerts!), a feast day index and a whole section on indulgences, Doctors of the Church and a feast day search by saint. (iOS, Android)
Sarah Reinhard writes from Ohio and can be found online at SnoringScholar.com. Her most recent book is “A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy” (Ave Maria Press, $14.95).
Reinhard informally surveyed social media followers and found that there were some repeat favorites. She also discovered some new apps. Among those most recommended:
◗ The Pope App
◗ The Catholic Directory (Mass Times)
Not sure about apps? Here are a few tips that might help you.
◗ Start by exploring free apps. Many apps have a free “lite” version; then, if you like it, you can opt into the paid version.
◗ Make sure your device supports whatever app you’re interested in. Some apps are only for Apple (iOS) and others are only for Android. Still others are designed to be used on the bigger displays of a tablet or an iPad.
◗ Don’t let your apps distract you from the mission of getting closer to God. While they can be great tools, they shouldn’t be more than part of the big picture.
|Uses for Non-Catholic Apps
Reinhard uses plenty of apps that aren’t specifically Catholic in decidedly Catholic ways. For example:
◗ In Evernote, I keep a notebook called “intentions.” Within that notebook, I have notes for specific requests, like pregnant women, those wanting to conceive, family members, special intentions, priests and seminarians, and many more.
◗ I use the clock app on my phone to set timers throughout the day. I have one set mid-morning, one set at noon and one set in late afternoon. These serve to remind me of the time and to call me to prayer. Sometimes, all I manage is a Hail Mary. Other times, I open iBreviary and pray one of the Liturgy of the Hours.
We’d love to hear how you use non-Catholic apps in Catholic ways. Email firstname.lastname@example.org