Note: This is an updated version of the same article from last year, featuring new apps and a focus on Lent for 2016.
Most Catholics are familiar with the standard Lenten practices: fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, no meat on Fridays, and making time for penance and sacrifice during this six-week season. While Catholics have been observing Lent for thousands of years, it’s only in the 21st century that we’ve gained access to the vast wealth of information and convenience that smartphones provide.
They’ve become such a staple of our society, in fact, that some people choose to give up their phones altogether for Lent, or at the very least the social media accounts that our phones allow us to access so quickly. This is a clever sacrifice, but thanks to a wealth of recent apps, keeping your smartphone handy during the season of Lent may actually help you to grow your spiritual life. To show what I mean, here are 6 fantastic smartphone apps to focus you on Lenten goals.
1. Laudate (iOS, Android)
Laudate has pretty much everything you could want from a Catholic app. The list is comprehensive – you’ll find everything from daily readings and saints, prayers in Latin and English, two different translations of the Bible, the entire Catechism, a heap of Papal encyclicals, and much more. If your Lenten resolution is to read the Bible, get better acquainted with the Catechism, or spend some time doing some quality Catholic reading everyday, you’d have a hard time finding a better app that puts so many resources all in one place.
Bonus: it also has the Stations of the Cross and a confession companion, with a guide to examination of conscience for both children and adults.
iBreviary (iOS, Android)
You’ve seen the Breviary – it’s the book used by priests which contains prayers for liturgical and canonical use, including the prayers of the Divine Office. Well, now it’s available in one convenient little app. Most people will probably focus the bulk of their attention on the missal for the Mass, daily readings, and other useful prayers. However, any clergy who download the app may be interested in the included text of common rites, such as the Anointing of the Sick. While this may be simply an extra for laypeople, the fact that accidents and emergencies happen everyday could turn this app into a crucial tool for priests and deacons.
Bonus: If you get nervous before important meetings at work, this app has a prayer for that.
Xt3Lent2016 (iOS, Android)
This app might have a weird title, but don’t pass it up just yet. Xt3 is a daily calendar app from the Diocese of Sydney in Australia. Each day, you unlock a calendar with content created especially for Lent. A bit of appeal comes from the idea that you will only be able to unlock content for each day of Lent when it arrives- no looking ahead! In previous years the content of Xt3 included everything from podcasts to sermons to Catholic images, so expect some solid resources from this app.
Bonus: The content for each day is unique, often reflecting feast days or readings.
The Pope App
If you’ve found yourself searching for Papal addresses, sermons, news, and writings and kept having to bounce around from site to site, you’ll love this app. Created by the team behind Vatican News, the Pope App will keep you informed about all things Pope Francis. Everything from his latest Twitter status to his Wednesday audiences is covered here. And since we’re entering into the season of Lent, what better way to prepare for Christ’s death and resurrection than by following the Pope? Over the next six weeks the app should feature plenty of Lenten reflections and prayers from Pope Francis.
Bonus: The app has a livestream feature for watching many of Pope Francis’ events as they happen.
Lentsanity (iOS, Android)
Developed by FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), this app’s main purpose is to remind you when it’s time to abstain from meat with videos featuring the “Meat Police”. It does have some other nifty features as well, such as daily reflections, articles on Lenten traditions, and ideas for daily sacrifices. Many of these daily sacrifices are quite clever, and designed to increase your all-around spiritual health. For example, one idea – “Quit texting” – encourages followers to try meeting face-to-face or calling someone directly, rather than relying on the constant distraction of texts.
Bonus: The app is designed by a Catholic organization run by and for young people, so teenagers and youth especially may find it extra relatable.
CRS Rice Bowl (iOS, Android)
Cost: Free, With an Optional Donation Feature
Every year Catholic Relief Services retools its Rice Bowl app with a special focus for the Lenten season. The Rice Bowl program offers Catholics the option to donate and support people living in poverty through prayer, fasting, and donations. All three are optional on the program, but for those who wish to donate in some way, the Rice Bowl program offers the opportunity to support charitable actions around the world while bolstering one’s own spiritual life at the same time.
Bonus: The Rice Bowl app includes a database of delicious meatless recipes from countries and cultures where CRS is directly working.
There are plenty of tools out there to help you succeed in having a fruitful, grace-filled Lent. If you’ve decided to hold on to your smartphone or tablet this time around, why not give them a shot? Best of all, none of these take up too much space – perfect for fitting into the Lenten season!
So what do you think? Have you tried any of these apps? Are there any I left off the list that you would recommend? Tell us in the comments below!
Featured Photo: Antoine Mekary/Aleteia