Good for your soul: a look at Catholic apps and podcasts that can boost your faith life
Answering the question of whether or not smartphones have been a net good for society is a difficult one.
On one hand, they have brought the four corners of the world closer than they have ever been before, providing a medium for human connection the value of which has become vividly apparent over the last year-and-a-half. But on the other, many of us have become rather addicted to them.
We wake up each morning, perhaps even to an alarm set on our phones, and are immediately spellbound by social media and/or the news, only wriggling ourselves free when we return to bed at night.
It doesn’t have to be this way, however. Smartphones are tools after all, and it is up to us to decide whether a tool is used for good purposes or for ill.
If you’re like me, then one of your goals for this new year is committing yourself to a routine of prayer; to strive towards St. Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing.”
Our smartphones, and other similar devices such as tablets, can be truly powerful helpers in this endeavor, thanks to wonderful Catholic apps and podcasts meant to encourage us to grow in holiness and knowledge of our faith. Hopefully this list, which is by no means exhaustive, will aid each of you towards those ends.
Top Catholic Apps
Laudate (Free): Out of all the apps here, I would wager this is the one a great deal of you are already familiar with. Personally, Laudate was the first Catholic app I remember downloading.
It has remained a staple of devotion for good reason. The app offers many aids for Catholic prayer life: daily Bible readings, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Order of Mass, a guide for praying the Rosary, preparation for Confession, multiple versions of the Bible, and even links to Catholic media such as EWTN. The interface is straightforward and easy to use as well, which is always a plus.
Hallow (In-app purchases): Truly a program for structuring one’s life upon a robust foundation of prayer, Hallow is the most all-encompassing of these apps. It is elegantly presented and possesses a dazzling array of features; if I were to try and touch on them all, it would take up the rest of this article!
In addition to the free-of-charge offerings (like a daily audio Rosary, daily lectio divina, Gregorian chant for meditation, and homilies by the well-known Father Mike Schmitz), for a fee of $4.99 a month even more features are unlocked. These include the Stations of the Cross, various meditations for sleep, the scriptural Rosary, and much more. If you are searching for an app the mission of which is to integrate prayer into your life in every possible way, look no further than Hallow.
iBreviary (Free): Next comes a more single-purpose app: iBreviary. As its name suggests, it is an electronic version of the Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Daily Office or the Breviary. Everything from the Office of Readings to Morning and Evening Prayer, including the daytime prayers of Terce, Sext, and None (midmorning, midday, and midafternoon) are present. Even though Laudate includes the Liturgy of the Hours, iBreviary goes further in adding the Commons of various memorials and occasions within the Church, like the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Office for the Dead, just to name a couple. Like Laudate, iBreviary also provides a missal and daily readings from Scripture.
The Word Among Us (Subscription): This app is an electronic version of the print magazine by that name. According to the publication’s website, “The Word Among Us is intended to assist people in reading, mediating on, and understanding Scripture and to provide sound, practical advice for Catholics on the living out of the Christian life…”
For a subscription fee of $1.99 a month through the app, you can access the digital version of the magazine, the daily readings, as well as the Order of Mass. There are also free digital-exclusive articles which can be accessed within the app.
Top Catholic Podcasts
Pints with Aquinas: Hosted by the notable Catholic apologist Matt Fradd, “Pints with Aquinas” is a relatively laid-back, yet theologically weighty show perfect for those who are serious about digging deeper into the Catholic faith, and maybe even having a laugh along the way.
Structured mostly around interviews with theologians, priests, religious, and laypeople with a story to tell, each episode revolves around a central theme, some of which are: logical arguments for God’s existence; insights on spiritual warfare from an exorcist; and how Eastern and Western Catholic tradition can enrich one another, among many others.
The Word on Fire Show: This weekly podcast is hosted by Bishop Robert Barron, who is likely most known for his fantastic YouTube videos discussing Catholicism and various aspects of popular culture. “The Word on Fire Show” is an accessible and illuminating podcast covering a wide range of topics.
Bishop Barron possesses a unique ability to present deeply philosophical concepts and arguments in a way that is simultaneously relatable and thought-provoking. Engaging with matters relevant to Catholics navigating modern society (which is all of us), Bishop Barron tackles subjects such as addressing combative internet culture, promoting Catholic education, and the importance of forgiveness.
The Bible in a Year (with Fr. Mike Schmitz): Aimed at increasing Biblical literacy among Catholics, “The Bible in a Year (with Fr. Mike Schmitz)” takes the listener on a scriptural journey through the entire Bible in 365 daily episodes.
Fr. Schmitz’s warm and welcoming personality draws you in immediately as he reads through the day’s passages of Scripture, followed by a prayer of thanksgiving and a reflection on the significance of the readings. Think of it as a guided lectio divina, of sorts.
Hugely popular, the podcast hit 125 million downloads from January 1 to October 1, 2021 and along the way earned the honor of #1 podcast in Religion and Spirituality, according to Apple.
The Bible in a Year team has more surprises up their sleeves. Starting on January 1, 2022, the team will release a Spanish version of the podcast.
Catholic Answers Focus: Perhaps some of you are familiar with the radio program “Catholic Answers,” which serves as a forum for discussion regarding any questions people of all faith and intellectual backgrounds may have regarding Catholicism. “Catholic Answers Focus” seeks to serve a similar role, acting as a resource for Catholics who wish to deepen their understanding of their faith, so as to better defend it. Hosted by Cy Kellet and other expert guests, the weekly podcast is an invaluable tool for learning the “why” behind Church teaching.
Grow in Faith in 2022
I hope that something on this list piqued your spiritual interest. So often our initial commitments stirred up by the beginning of the new year fall away as swiftly and as easily as we made them, once the struggles and doldrums of everyday life begin to reassert themselves.
Here’s to hoping that each of us makes good use of the tools God has given us in His Providence to do all we can to make sure that doesn’t happen. It starts with making decisions. Instead of greeting the day with stress and worry and anxiety, perhaps each day’s first words will be those of Morning Prayer: “Lord, open my lips. And my mouth will proclaim your praise.”