Pray Catholic Novena App–1 Year later

A year ago my friend Chad and I published Pray: the Catholic Novena App to the Apple app store.

Honestly, we didn’t know what to expect. Would Catholics find this app helpful in their prayer life?

I knew it helped me to remember to pray novenas and to not forget which day I was on, but would other Catholics find it similarly useful?

One Year, And Countless Novenas Later

Well, the verdict came in: Catholics loved the app. We were inundated with (mostly) five-star reviews, novena requests, and emails of thanks. We saw prayer warriors from Tanzania to England, the Philippines to Japan, Australia to Sweden and many countries in between.

We listened to what users wanted and implemented their requests in the app.

Along the way, I was touched by the heartfelt emails that people sent to me through the app–yes they all go right into my email–with requests for prayers on everything from cancer to depression, to finding their future spouse to conceiving children.

I could relate to most of these requests–I had prayed novenas for the very same hopes!–and so a community was born based around this ancient devotional practice within Christ’s Church.

Novenas Answered

During my single years, while seeking God’s vocation for my life, I prayed numerous novenas to St. Joseph for wisdom in discernment and then for the grace to meet my future wife.

It was through such prayers that I met my wife Catherine.

We hoped for children right away, but months passed and no children were conceived. So we prayed more novenas, and we conceived. We had such joy, but two months later we miscarried, the first first of three children we lost to miscarriage.

We turned again to God through novenas and conceived, and our son Edmund was born.

Again and again our Lord has been faithful to us through the prayers of the saints. Through the novenas, we have grown closer to these great saints as well, learning more about them, feeling a kinship with them in the communion of saints.

Androids Were Left Out

The only problem was: the Pray app was serving roughly half of Catholics: it was only on Apple devices like iPhones and iPads, not on Android ones. And given that many inexpensive Android devices are accessible and used by Catholics in developing countries and around the world, we needed to port the app to Android.

Technically speaking, this is a difficult task. It required a rewrite of the app using a different programming language on a completely different platform.

We did a crowdfunding campaign through IndieGogo and raised $1,300. Normally, that would not pay for even one-tenth of the price of a mobile app, but because Chad and I are programmers and have ties to the software development community, we were able to find a mutually beneficial situation with a up-and-coming Android developer. He was willing to write the app for almost the exact amount we had raised!

The result: we are now live in the Google Play store with the Pray app!

Novena Avalanche

I’ve been amazed at how many Catholics are now praying novenas with the app. Before the app, I prayed perhaps two novenas per year. In the past year, I prayed 19 novenas! The app made it that easy.

What’s also been amazing is how generous our patrons have been. Originally in the app, there was no way to pay for it (app was free) and no way to donate to our mission of spreading novena prayers around the world.

You could unlock novenas by sharing them with a friend. But people emailed me explaining they had already invited all their friends, or didn’t have many friends, so could they please just donate or pay us?

We listened and added in a patronage model. You could become a patron for $4.99 per year or $9.99 per year. You get the same benefits no matter which level you choose to become a patron at. The surprising result: half the patrons chose the higher level of patronage!

This was a big validation to us that our mission and execution of it in the app was helpful. People wanted us to continue work on the app, and so we have. By their generosity we have been able to add more features, more novenas, bring it to Android, and have many other plans for it.

Going on Right Now, Huge Novena

As this goes to publication, not only is the app now on Android, but also we’ve added the amazing Divine Mercy Novena to the app.

This novena and the Chaplet that goes with it has been a favorite of mine ever since I learned of it shortly after becoming Catholic. The Marians kindly gave me permission to add the novena to the app, for which I am grateful.

The app is becoming the #1 Catholic app in the world. Join us and begin to grow closer to God in prayer!

Become a Champion of the Rosary

Curious to know more about the Rosary?

Look no further. Fr. Donald Calloway has written a magnum opus on it in Champions of the Rosary.

History, Biography, Recipe

Fr. Calloway breaks up the book into three main sections; in the first he goes into historical depth on the Rosary’s origins and development century-by-century.

He defends the traditional belief that the Rosary was given to St. Dominic and provides many pieces of evidence to support the claim.

Then he traces the Rosary’s history forward, observing its intriguing permutations from the monasteries to the laity’s use. I thought I knew a decent bit about the Rosary but I didn’t know a quarter of what he revealed about it.

In the next section he unfurls the lives of the great champions of the Rosary, including favorites like St. Maximillian Kolbe, Pope St. John Paul II, St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta, and Padre Pio.

Each biopic includes powerful quotes from each saint on the Rosary and has a full-page photo or painting of them…very cool.

Finally he offers a practical section on how to pray the Rosary to maximum benefit in your spiritual life.

Fr. Calloway even signed the copy for me…how cool is this inscription?

Fr. Calloway uses an analogy throughout the book that God gave the Church the Rosary as a spiritual weapon, and it is needed in our dark time more than ever.

I didn’t expect that anyone could write a big, varied book like this on the Rosary but Fr. Calloway proved that not only could it be done, but that it needed to be done.

Take up your Rosary and start praying it!

How Do I Grow in Holiness This Lent?

Have you hit a wall in growing in holiness? For a long time I feel that I have.

Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t know how to overcome this, but then I discovered an old practice that all the saints partook in to help them grow close to God.

A Reader Hits a Spiritual Wall

I’ll share it with you below, but first this question from a reader, who emailed me a year ago echoing my own struggle:

I’m a Catholic convert, going on about 10 years now. I think what has been a continual struggle for me as I grow deeper in the faith is the question “how do I grow in virtue?

I come from a Calvinistic background. We focused a little bit on “discipleship,” but there was no concept of holiness, growing in holiness, disciplining the flesh. When one believes in the “once saved, always saved” mentality, growing in virtue or doing good deeds are not necessities, but secondary in importance. (At least in my experience.)

Anyway, as a Catholic, I do lots of spiritual reading, participate in the sacraments, especially Confession, as much as I can. This helps, and I know this is a lifelong process. But, I have yet to really find out the best steps or a systematic way to grow in holiness, or the virtues, as a serious Catholic.

I know a life of penance and fasting regularly certainly helps also, whether it’s Lent, Fridays, Advent, special fasts or intentions or penances. For those of us who are (hopefully) not in serious sin, but trying to do our best, I just don’t know how to go to the next level. I don’t know how to get beyond the same level in the spiritual life of not being in mortal sin, but not being a model of virtue either. I just feel at a loss, even when I ask priests. I have never gotten a practical answer.

Amen! I could have asked this same question. And for a year, I didn’t have an answer for this reader.

Then I watched this video:

Meditation? Hmm, I’ve heard of it, read about it, have no clue how to do it.

Meditation: What Is It?

Quite simply, meditation is a form of prayer where you focus your mind for a period of time on some attribute of God, Christ, His Church, etc.

For instance, you could spend 10 minutes meditating in silence on God’s goodness, or His omnipotence, or His omniscience, or Christ’s life on earth, His Passion, the marks of the Church, and so on.

It will be hard at first. You may only make it through five minutes. You may have to go into a completely quiet room or church to block out distractions. Your mind may jump around everywhere to worries, tasks you need to do, or fears, but you simply train it back to your topic of meditation.

This is not Eastern Mysticism, Buddhist meditation, centering prayer, or anything like that. It is an ancient Catholic practice of prayer.

Meditation: A Key to Growing in Holiness

Why meditate? Fr. Ripperger answers that question above: one cannot become as holy as God wills without meditation. The saints all meditated (and ascended to higher levels of prayer). One cannot conquer venial sin without meditation, a claim I had never heard before!

Meditation is the gateway to deeper forms of prayer, but you can’t bypass it. Years ago I read books by St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila–two saints considered geniuses on prayer–but it was too deep for me. I couldn’t understand, practically, how to meditate and begin to penetrate into the inner levels of the Interior Castle.

In Fr. Ripperger’s talk he lays out very practical, simple ways to meditate. Sit or kneel in silence for as long as you are able meditating on some truth of the Catholic Faith. Your goal should be 15 minutes of meditation. For me that means about 7 minutes in the morning and 8 in the evening, but I’m working up to more.

Why Haven’t We Been Told About Meditation?

I have asked priests; the reader who emailed me had asked a priest. None could answer the simple question of how to grow in holiness. None recommended meditation.

Why? Were they hiding this secret?

No, I think that most priests don’t know about meditation. Like so many traditional practices, it has been largely forgotten.

It was only through my wife finding this video on YouTube and sharing it with me did I find a straightforward explanation of meditation and why it is valuable.

What I love about this new-to-me practice is that it is not mysterious or secret or even very difficult: you kneel, you quietly pray and meditate on a truth of God. 

This is basic meditation. You will grow closer to God through it.

Are you looking for a way to grow in holiness this Lent? Commit to meditating for 15 minutes per day, either in the morning, at night, or splitting it up into two sessions.

Sainthood here we come.