If you’re anything like me, you start asking your kids about a month before Ash Wednesday, “So, have you thought about what you’re doing for Lent?” In our house, we don’t just ask, “What are you giving up?” but also ask, “What extra thing can you do for Jesus?” Often, a daily Rosary is added to our day, or morning or evening prayers.
But this year, Bob Rice and the Franciscan University of Steubenville have teamed up to make it easy to add something to your prayer life (and that of your teens and pre-teens) this Lent.
Behold! The 40 Day Spiritual Workout for Catholic Teens! It’s a mouthful to say, but it only takes a few minutes a day to do. Before beginning, there’s a “Who, What, Why, Where, and When” part that explains the benefits of daily prayer time. Teens can choose their background (“The Gym”) for the app, and then dive into the daily reflections. There’s a 40-Day calendar, which can only be viewed in order (as each lesson moves a little farther along the prayer journey).
Every day, there are a few quotes from saints, holy men and women, and Scripture. This is followed by a short reflection by Bob Rice, who weaves all of them together and points us towards Christ. The call to action is subtle, and reads more like a bit of a pep talk or a reassurance rather than a “go and do this,” which I think is a more effective way to reach teens. When you’re done, you have the option to share your workout on Facebook, with your Youth Minister (whose email you can enter in the settings of the app).
I asked my children to download the app and use it so I could get a feel for how it comes across to them. They’ve been using it for more than a week now, and they’ve written a bit about their experiences with it and what impressions are:
“I wasn’t sure what to do with this app when I first downloaded it. It might’ve just been because I’m not welcoming towards new things, but I was skeptical about it. However, after my first day of using it, I found out that it was an easy process.
You read a short meditation, then you’re done. At the end of the first week, it gives you a little ‘Cool Down,’ in which you say the prayer given to you.
After expecting to be given a lengthy essay every day, I actually think it’s a rather pleasant app, and I would highly recommend it for anyone wanting to strengthen their spiritual life.”
– 15-year-old daughter
But I was curious about how it came across to someone who’s not officially a teen yet.
“The 40 Day Spiritual Workout for Teens is a great app for anyone over the age of ten, not just teenagers.
When I first downloaded the app, I expected it to be difficult to work with. The words ‘Spiritual Workout’ scared me.
How hard was this going to be? Should I set aside 30-40 minutes everyday just to complete the daily workout? The answer to both: no.
You can set a reminder every day to tell you to start the session. The lesson is a few scripture verses, a segment or two from the Catechism, and sometimes a few saint quotes. Then the lesson explains the readings.
Each day has its own title–day one is ‘God’s Love for You,’ day two is ‘What is Sin?,’ and so on. It never takes more than ten minutes, even after meditating on the exercise. I enjoy using this app every day.”
The 40 Day Spiritual Workout for Teens is a free app that’s available for Apple iDevices, although the screen layout is meant for iPods and iPhones. It requires iOS 4.0 or later, and is compatible with iPhone 3GS and later, as well as iPod Touch 3rd generation and later. (There is no separate formatting for the iPad, though the app will work. It’s just a bit … big.)
If you don’t have an Apple iDevice, the daily meditations are also available as an email subscription. And, as my younger daughter mentioned, the app isn’t just for teens, though it’s definitely worded and geared towards them. It’s a good tool for anyone who wants to deepen his spiritual life and move closer to God.
Copyright 2014, Christine Johnson