Mr. Shaun McAfee, O.P. is the author of Reform Yourself! and other books, is the founder and editor of EpicPew.com, and contributes to many online Catholic resources. He holds a Masters in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. Shaun has made his temporary profession as a Lay Dominican and temporarily lives in Italy.
A wise and gracious priest used to remind our congregation, at least once a month: “The family that prays together, says together. And the 15 seconds before mealtime does not count!”
I said that in the companion post to this one because it’s still true. In April 2019 I wrote Why I Still Prefer the Divine Office Book, Over the Apps — and no, I didn’t trash the apps. Even though my personal preference is for the books, the apps offer serious advantages.
The apps are virtually weightless and take up zero space.
As I said in my previous post, as a member of the Dominican tertiary (third order), I elect to pray the Divine Office every day. But “every day” is not conducive to the book form. I admit that sometimes, rather than bring my bulky and heavy book on a camping trip, or my beautiful leatherbound set on a multiday trek around Rome or other special pilgrimage locations, I’d rather have a form of the Office that isn’t going to take up much space and that I don’t have to worry about getting soaked or ripped. The apps, on the other hand, are already in my phone that I already have with me. (Although, I don’t want my phone to get wet, either!)
My smartphone is a multi-tool. A book is not.
That was the title of a point I made in the other post. Here, it may be applied. Imagine not being sure which page to start on, or what liturgical day it is. Imagine that you want to know other writings from that slick Office of Readings selection, or want to share a special quote or stanza to your favorite social media. You can’t do any of these with a book. If you can stay distraction free, the phone can be an incredible way to link resources and pull together a more immersive study alongside your prayer time.
Everything is right there.
If you’ve ever browsed or used the Divine Office books, you know it can be a bit of an undertaking to get every ribbon set, only for them to change the next day. In some circles of priest and seminarians, there is a thing known as “ribbon insurance.” The story goes that went a priest dies, the first thing the bishop asks for is his breviary, to check to be sure the ribbons are kept up to date. Thus, the priest’s sanctity and devotions are insured.
However hilarious that is, it can be a job to move those ribbons around and if it’s too much, the smartphone apps are a sensational solution: tap once and everything is right there in front of you to read, reflect and respond to. It’s almost error-proof.
I always have it with me.
Somewhat similar to the first point I make, since I take my phone with me nearly everywhere, there my prayers are, too. At lunch, on the bus or train, waiting to pick up my kids from school—whatever—the prayers are available in a couple swipes and taps. And guess what? Your phone can remind you that it’s time to pray with a subtle alarm!
I hope not to sound reproving when I acknowledge that the ability to get into a strict prayer regimen is tough on nearly all of us. So the most I hope to do is to convince readers to consider praying the Liturgy of the Hours, and more often. You might be trying to limit your screen time and the apps might seem like a distraction to that. If you’re in this situation, consider a screen-time monitoring app; this will tell you how much time you’re using and with what apps. Checking this every day will show you if you’re growing in the habit of using your phone for more positive activity than searching for old Catholic books on eBay like me.
And if you’re worried about the pace and the time required to pray the Hours, don’t be alarmed: there’s an easy way to get into the hours without diving right into the deep end. Take it one prayer/time a day, and do that for about a month—nothing more. Then, work in another. I was advised to just start with the Office of Readings, and it was a fantastic suggestion.
If you’re interested in praying the Divine Office in print, the set I recommend is the four-book Liturgy of the Hours set from Catholic Book Publishing Corporation. But if you’re looking for the right app to help you pray the Hours more, try these:
- iBreviary – Free, and on every device and OS including Kindle.
- Divine Office – On all devices, paid, but seriously well-organized. Also has the ribbon settings if you need them, too.
- Laudate – Free, comprehensive app with tons of prayers, readings and features.
- Universalis – The heavy lifter of the group (paid), this one has it all and is pretty cool to bust out in Mass if you travel because it can show interlinear languages. That means when you travel to Rome, you don’t have to say “and with your spirit” while everyone else is saying “e con il tuo spirito.”
There’s tons of others. Check out Catholic Apptitude (cute, huh?) for plenty of information.
I hope you will join me in prayer.