I was given early access as a Beta tester to a new novena praying app, called (appropriately enough) Pray: the Catholic Novena App.
The premise of this iOS app is simple: you can choose a novena and pray it over nine days. That’s nice, but I’ve also seen other novena apps in the App store before so I was curious if anything was unique about this one.
I immediately noticed something cool: the app lets you invite facebook friends to pray with you. Now you can invite those family members and friends to pray for a specific intention together. I’ve done this kind of thing “manually” before by asking a friend to pray with me for some request, but the app makes it super simple.
Another nice feature is that it tracks which day you are on automatically. If you get behind, it gently prompts you to see if you want to catch up to the current day you should be one—nice! Along these lines, it will give you a once-daily reminder to pray your novena until you complete it, so that you don’t forget and fall behind, one of my main problems when praying novenas without the app.
And if you want to share your prayer request with a broader audience, you can easily share the specific novena you are praying to facebook, customizing the audience for the post according to what you are comfortable with.
What impressed me the most about the app actually has nothing to do with Catholic stuff or novenas: The app design itself is elegant, attractive, and super easy to use.
That might not sound like much, but I’ve used most of the popular Catholic apps and have never been impressed by their usability and design. They feel like someone threw together a list of text and clunky icons. The spinning activity indicator has become expected even for simple actions like getting the daily readings.
We as Catholics are used to putting up with mediocre media, whether music or movies or books. I’m sad to say that we have come to expect it and are honestly happy just for the fact that there is a Catholic something that we can use. But as so many people have pointed out over the years, when you compare Catholic media to what the secular world offers, we fall far short almost every time.
The Pray Catholic Novena App is a very happy exception to this unfortunate rule. It works so seamlessly that praying novenas now, even more than one at a time, is ridiculously easy. I don’t know, I might need to go back to my old ways of praying novenas as a penance to offer up like a hairshirt. The app just flows, does what you expect, and looks lovely.
What Needs Work
Every feature in the app is executed well. But in using it I started wanting several new features added.
Currently I can invite specific friends using the app to pray a novena with me. I like that, but I don’t get the feedback that they have prayed for the novena intention I requested. Granted, that could be a privacy concern, but I would like the option to enable getting the feedback that they are praying.
I also would like a broader selection of novenas. There are about fifteen currently, and even though they are popular ones, I like some odd saints and would love to see some of them in there. Perhaps even let me choose a novena and have it automatically added to the app (though that may not be possible to do). While Beta testing, several times I was surprised to see a new novena in the app just pop up, so they must be adding them continually.
I also want an Android version. The app is iOS only currently, so some of the friends I want to invite to pray with me aren’t able to do it through the app.
The Easy Button for Novenas
This app has made praying novenas as simple as it should be. So simple that I even have lukewarm Catholic friends joining me in novenas.
I love that it does this one thing, and one thing well and doesn’t try to be the Swiss army knife Catholic app. Plus, the app is free and seems to be in constant development—since the time I’ve been using it during Beta testing it’s gotten multiple updates, each adding some features and fixes. I hope more Catholic apps emulate what this app has done in terms of quality and design.
So if you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, head over to the App store and take Pray: the Catholic Novena app for a spin.