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!

Do Androids Dream of Electric Novenas?

When my friend Chad and I wrote Pray the Catholic Novena app, we didn’t know what to expect.

Would Catholics use the app?

Would they pray novenas with it?

Four months later, the verdict is in, and it’s a decided YES on both counts!

Novenas for Apple

Like a true “startup”, Chad and I wrote the app for iPhones and iPads. No sense in duplicating the effort onto Android before we knew whether or not people would like the app.

The Three Hail Marys novena
The Three Hail Marys novena

But we now have one thousand Catholics praying novenas each day using the app, and many many times that number using the app each month.

I myself pray more novenas than I ever have. Once we finish a novena using Pray, my wife immediately asks: “Okay, which novena do you want to pray next?”

But only Apple device users are able to pray. My friends who have Android smart phones and tablets have been out of luck.

At least til now…

Bring the Pray App to Android

I’ve started a crowdfunding campaign to raise the money to port Pray to Android.

It’s only been going for a day but already we have over 11% funded. Indiegogo, the platform we are using, told us that campaigns that get over 10% funded in less than a day almost always reach their funding goal.

Novenas to pray
Novenas to pray

We need your help though.

We need you to consider making a contribution–several levels are possible beginning at $5–and as a reward I am offering many “perks” for your generosity.

But beyond the perks you get, you will be helping tens of thousands of Catholics around the world pray novenas and grow in their faith.

People have contacted me through the app telling me that this is the first novena they have ever prayed, that this is the first novena they have ever completed, that they are learning about the saints through it and growing in their faith in God.

The app is free on iPhones and will be free on Android. My friend Chad and I spent all the money and did all the work ourselves for $0 to write the app.

But we don’t have endless time on our hands. Both of us have families and young children and professional jobs as software developers.

So check out our campaign, say a prayer for us, make a donation, and share the campaign on facebook with your friends.

Here it is –>

God bless!

A Novena Prayer Avalanche Has Started

Last week my neighbor and I launched Pray: the Catholic Novena App, and the response was staggering.

Thousands of Catholics downloaded and installed the app.

Countless novenas were begun.

Many people are even praying multiple novenas concurrently!

We Heard You: Facebook Login Removed!

Pray Catholic Novena app
Pray Catholic Novena app

Amid the tremendous positive feedback, one criticism emerged from many people: please remove the requirement to authenticate using facebook.

So we did.

We just released a new version of the app and the requirement to log in with facebook is gone.

For those interested, our rationale with having facebook integration from the get-go was to make it easy for you to invite friends to pray a novena with you. All friends who were also using the app and chose to be visible would show up as people you could notify when you started a novena so that they would pray it with you.

That feature is still there for those who do choose to connect the app to facebook, but if you choose not to then you can just pray the novena on your own (and email or text or call those friends and ask them to pray with you).

Reality is that so many people have had their facebook accounts hacked, or disagree with facebook’s ideologies and practices, or have had apps in the past that posted to facebook secretly without their permission, that they are (rightfully to a degree) wary and distrustful of facebook.

Boo for facebook.

Yay for praying novenas!

Why Make Such a Big Launch?

We did a coordinated launch that saw multiple blog posts from several sites go live on the same day:

I also did interviews on three radio shows including SonRise, Mater Dei, and Jen Fulwiler’s.

The reason for the big launch was to try to make a splash, especially in the Apple App Store.

Pray Catholic Novena App
Pray Catholic Novena App

The challenge nowadays with mobile apps is people finding them. With millions of apps, how does someone find yours?

Apple has algorithms that key off things like number of downloads, search terms used, number of installs, etc. Our app went to #2 in the search results for the word “Pray” and then became #1 as the launch went on. This is an incredible success. (The #1 app for Pray was an Islamic one for Ramadan.)

With the help of many friends we were able to get “above the fold” and on the radar of Apple’s search results, helping Catholics find us who 1) don’t read blogs and 2) don’t listen to Catholic radio.

Of course, longer term the best way for Catholics finding out about the app is for Catholics using the app to share it with them. We have already seen that happening but hope it grows even more.

Why Do Any of This?

Novenas are sort of hard to pray. Most Catholics don’t know about them or don’t bother praying them. But that’s a great shame! They are rich sources of devotion and can aid our spiritual lives greatly.

So we want Catholics to, first, pray novenas period, especially if they never have. Second we want Catholics to pray novenas regularly and to encourage them to complete the novenas they start. Third we want them to pray the novenas they want to pray when they want to pray them, for the intention they want to offer. Fourth we want to help them pray novenas together.

The app does all this, and we will continue to improve it. We’ve gotten hundreds of requests for new novenas–I put them in by hand one-by-one so it will take me a while to get to them all!

Also, we will eventually put in a way for people who like the app to be a patron of it; this will be optional and they will get some cool benefits we are working out, but it will enable us to improve the app and maintain its servers.

Imagine every Catholic in the world praying novenas! And God answering.

The world would change.

Let’s start it today.