The Catholic blogosphere is all atwitter (no pun intended) about the refusal of Apple to permit a Manhattan Declaration app on the iPhone. While I agree it would be a wonderful thing, I’m not sure the refusal of Apple to permit the app is evidence of wicked bias against Christians—it strikes me as (unfortunately) good business sense. The rage of the Culture of Death over pro-life activities is hard to underestimate, and Apple is in business to do business. Besides, this is the same company that has gone to great lengths to prevent the iPhone being used as a platform for porn, so overall, I give them better-than-average grades in the culture wars.
In addition, there is a plethora of Catholic apps already available, so it’s hard to argue that Apple discriminates systematically against the Catholic faithful. In fact, I’ve found my iPhone an indispensible aid to my devotional and apologetic life. It’s a back-pocket homilist, choir, bookshelf, retreat master, prayer partner, cheat sheet and art gallery all rolled into one. It might be an interesting Lenten penance for me to give up my use of the iPhone so much has it wound its way into my daily devotional life. In fact, not a day goes by that I don’t retreat to my iPhone (or iPad or iTouch) for one of the following:
iTunes: Not only is it possible to purchase only the music I want, I can customize playlists for the seasons: Advent Mix, All Saints’ Day, Lent, Christmas, Easter, Psalms, Gregorian Chant, even a cobbled together sung rosary (in Latin) which takes a wonderfully long time to sing. Plunk my iPhone into the dock on my desk and I work with the constant background of music that refreshes me and uplifts me.
Podcasts: I’ve found a number of homilists that I like and I subscribe to their podcasts: Fr. Larry Richards, Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Fr. Robert Barron, and a variety of EWTN podcasts. CDs from Lighthous Media and other Catholic sources have talks available on MP3 downloads as well. There’s no Catholic radio readily available in this particular prong of the buckle of the Bible Belt, so I rely on podcasts, tucked into my faithful iPhone, for inspiration and education. I listen to them in the car, thanks to a patch cord that connects to my radio, or when I take my lunch-time constitutional, courtesy my equally useful earplugs.
YouTube: Fr. Barron’s Word on Fire videos are available through YouTube as are many, many other interesting video clips. Check out Msgr. Charles Pope’s blog at http://blog.adw.org/. He almost always ends with a video.
Search for Catholic Apps in the iPhone App store and it’s like entering a candy shop. Many are free, most are inexpensive. Here’s my list of indispensible ones:
Magnificat: Although I also have the print version, it is almost never where I am when I want it, so I downloaded the app. It’s free for a month to try it out, the $1.99 a month thereafter and worth every penny. I have not yet garnered the courage to use it in church, not wanting to appear disrespectful or provide a near occasion of sin to some teenager who might mistake my reading the texts for texting during mass. But it has come in handy when I have found off minutes when I wanted to spend some time in prayer and meditation, and it’s a great help when traveling. Couple it with the alarm on the phone and I might be able to start praying the liturgy of the hours in the New Year, who knows? iMissal provides the mass readings, daily verses and prayers for $4.99 and iBreviary Pro is an app for the Liturgy of the Hours, for free.
Recordatio: You can have at your fingertips all the papal encyclicals of the last 50 years, as well as prompts for praying the rosary, a generous assortment of prayers, the Litany of Saints and acts of adoration, contrition, consecration, faith and praise. A great way to spend time waiting in line, for $1.99.
iPieta: This all purpose app contains the Bible, the Novus Ordo Calendar with readings for each day, prayers (some audio) and selections from the Church Fathers, Bible Commentaries, Papal encyclicals, the Summa Theologica, the Ecumenical Councils and writings of various saints including Joihn Vianney, St. Louis De Montfort, St. Augustine , St. Theresa of Avila, and St. John of the Cross. No excuse for not doing ten minutes of good reading a day with this app, which is an entire library for $2.99.
St. Augustine: Just in case you want Confessions, The City of God and Christian Doctrine in one place, you can have it. For free, no less.
Saint of the Day: St. Anthony Messenger press’ application provides both written and audio biographies of the saint of the day, and also includes a calendar, alphabetical and patronage listing for $2.99. Saint a Day, from iMissal, has a similar app for $1.99, which does not include audio but does include devotions and prayers. If you want a little longer audio with more content and a more “edgy” delivery (the intro sounds like a voice-over from a super-hero movie) and a different, more “hip” approach, SaintCast is worth a try at $1.99. Buffering can take a while, so not something for when you are pressed for time, and the audios are much longer than the other apps.
iGod Today: Father Mike Manning of the Vatican Observatory provides daily sermonettes, video included. I like Fr. Manning’s gentle and enthusiastic messages. $1.99. You might also like iPadre, with Fr. Jay Finelli, also $1.99. Then there is an library with classic Fulton Sheen talks for $8.99—but with a free trial to decide whether you like it. You can also download the major works of St JoseMaria, but it’s a pricey app at $9.99, and there is no audio. Loyola Press has 3 Minute Retreat ($0.99) that can be a nice interlude in a busy day.
The Catholic Directory: I have used this to find mass times when traveling. It’s free and generally reliable.
Catholic Cheat Sheet: This app contains an outline of beliefs, disciplines, devotions and practices as well as general prayers and an explanation of the mass for $0.99. I’ve used it more than once when my memory fails me in a discussion with my Protestant friends. Answers for Catholics (A4C) is a good pocket resource for apologetics, either in answering questions from the curious or helping lapsed Catholics home to the faith. It has a section on Matthew Kelly’s Rediscovering Catholicism, as well as audio links, Bible quotes and an outline of apologetics in the most common topics encountered in discussions with non-Catholics. For those of us who have trouble remembering chapter and verse, even when we know the content, it’s a great resource at $1.99.
Virgin Mary, Cathedrals and Jesus Christ are all art applications that contain images that can be used as a focus for meditation. Some are better than others; the Jesus Christ app has some images that I really don't like and I keep hoping for an update to improve the selection. Cathedrals is the most extensive, and the most expensive at $4.99, but the images—photographs in a slide show--- are better as well.
I’ve never felt the need to use a rosary app regularly, but there are many, ranging from free to $4.99 for the Art Image Rosary. Most contain art, prompts for prayers and a focus for meditating on each mystery. Some have audio as well. You’re on your own to find one that works for you.
iConfess ($2.99), Sin Diary ($.0.99) and Prayer Steward ($1.99) are note-taking apps for confession and intercessions. I confess (no pun intended) that they languish on my device, as I have not made the transition to iPhone note taking yet, but if you have these might be useful.
The one downside to iPhone apps is that it’s not always possible to test them adequately, and you’ll probably find yourself, as I did, buying some you don’t like. No matter. Even the most expensive ones are reasonable, and it’s a good thing to support Catholic evangelism in the New Media. Most apps have a mechanism for feedback, and they are regularly updated with improvements.
Not all apps can be used equally well on iPhone, iPad and iPod, but many work on all the Apple technology, and they are easily managed and updated. Keeping up with the times can be a challenge, but with savvy Catholic programmers out there, we have an abundance of 21st Century technology to help feed—and spread—our faith.