Introducing, my first native iOS app, Pray: the Catholic Novena App.
This app was a long time in the making, but came at a providential time, as I’ll relate shortly.
The Story of Pray Catholic Novenas App
I’m a computer programmer, have been for twenty years. A few years ago I moved in across the street from another programmer, Chad.
We got to be friends and realized we had lots in common in regard to software development. He was working as the CTO of a startup company and programmed their mobile app, a really sleek iPhone app for college students to make connections with each other.
I was interested in learning iPhone development; he was interested in doing a project that would be part of his portfolio, since all the other apps he had made were for other companies.
So we decided to partner together, and Devoted Coders was born.
He taught me the Swift programming language and let me hack out the first chunks of the app. At the time, it was going to be a general purpose Catholic app, like Laudate or iPieta.
I’ve appreciated these Catholic apps to do things like read the daily gospel reading, but I’ve always cringed a bit with the usability. Most of these apps have big clunky icons, long listviews of text, and the ever-spinning activity indicator. (Does it really take that long to open up the USCCB daily reading pages in a web browser?)
Chad had honed his skills on professional apps that had to be instantly usable by people with little patience and attention span. So we started designing the app and realized that making another “kitchen sink” Catholic app wouldn’t be very valuable.
I shared with him about novenas, how you pray for nine days and ask a saint to pray for you during that time for some particular intention. He, not being religious, had never heard of novenas before but loved the idea of people praying together for a certain request.
We decided to just make a simple app that helped people pray novenas.
And Pray: the Catholic Novena app was born.
The Pain Points of Novenas
I explained to him the pitfalls of praying novenas:
- You forget to pray one or more days
- You forget which day you are on
- You have to mentally compile each day’s prayer, intro-day prayers-concluding prayer
- It’s hard to sync up with your friends and family to pray together
But an app is perfectly suited to solving such problems:
- It can remind you each day to pray
- It compiles the prayer for you
- It takes you to the right day’s prayer
- It helps you catch up if you get behind
- It enables you to invite friends to pray a novena with you
So we started out with crayola drawings of the screens, discussed them, refined them, mocked them up, and then implemented them using Apple’s storyboards.
Chad applied his design and aesthetic skills to the usability, look and feel and touch, and we made a prototype. Along the way I explained more about novenas to him.
He wanted Protestants to use the novena app too, but I told him Protestants don’t believe in asking for prayers from saints. A discussion began about Catholic-Protestant differences, where they came from, how we can know which is truer, and so on.
Even if most Protestants wouldn’t use this app, though, Catholics would. And I have even had some Protestants indicate they would be willing to try it out, as several novenas are directly to Jesus or the Holy Spirit in any case.
[tweetthis url=”http://bit.ly/1X8HXYg”]He wanted Protestants to use the novena app; I told him Protestants don’t believe in asking for prayers from saints[/tweetthis]
Then It Got Personal
We published the app on Saturday. Then I invited a handful of friends to try it out as beta testers and give us feedback.
Three days later my daughter got a bump on her face, and we took her into the hospital. The ER doctors took a blood sample then a CT scan, then they disappeared and we didn’t hear from them. We saw them looking in our room window with very concerned looks.
We asked them what was going on and they said they didn’t have any results back yet. We know now that they did but were waiting on the oncology doctor to come down to the ER to speak with us.
My daughter had leukemia.
Complete shock. A whirlwind next few days of bone marrow extractions, spinal taps, tests, and chemotherapy.
Friends began to hear the news and they all wanted to pray. Many wanted to pray novenas. Which saint? they asked. So I sent them the link to the new app and said pick anyone you want.
A few days later I had some time at night and added St. Josephine Bakhita, my daughter’s namesake, to the app.
I can’t tell you how good it felt to know that so many friends were praying novenas with me for my daughter.
A week later, we are still in the hospital. But we’ve had positive signs of how she is responding to the chemotherapy.
A Real App for Real Needs
It’s so simple, but novenas are one of the Church’s traditions for praying together for a request. While there are several novena apps in the App Store, none had the elegance, usability, or helpfulness of our app. And some of them cost money; our app is free.
So please do try out our new app for praying novenas. And if you pray the St. Josephine one, please consider adding my daughter’s healing to your intentions.