Smartphone app exercises the spirit

By  Meredith Gillis, Youth Speak News
  • August 29, 2014

Bob Rice’s A 40-Day Spiritual Workout for Catholics has leapt from the printed page to smart-phones.

Aimed at teens and young adults, Rice’s daily spiritual workout includes insights on how to pray, reflections on Scripture and inspirational quotes. The workout is available as a printed book and as a free iPhone app or through e-mail updates from the Steubenville Conference’s web site.

Rice was inspired to write the book by the memory of a booklet he received from Young Life, an evangelical ministry he was involved with idn his teens.

“They passed out a booklet at the end of one of their camps called My First 30 Quiet Times. The idea was to put something in your hands to follow up on that experience. A number of years ago I decided to try to write a 40-day Bible study to introduce Catholics to the Word that way,” said Rice

If you’re working from his book, a Catholic edition of the Bible is necessary to complete the workout. Day one includes Wisdom 11:24-26, which as Rice points out in the introduction is one of several books Protestants do not include in their canon.

“Every workout needs to begin with adequate hydration: In a physical workout it’s plenty of water and other fluids; in a spiritual workout it’s the Word of God,” he writes.

In keeping with the gym metaphor, each day’s workout includes hydration in the form of Scripture and a reflection to enter into prayer with. Prayers of blessing and adoration are the opening stretches. Confession and reconciliation burn fat while prayers of intention for your own needs and others build muscle. Thankfulness and praise are the cardio, and the Our Father and Hail Mary take the place of the cool down routine.

If it sounds intimidating, it’s nothing that will turn you away. Rice is aware of how challenging it is to build a habit of prayer and his workout eases the reader into it, building on the previous day’s experience.

“Prayer is difficult. It’s easier to look at Facebook or surf the web. Prayer is very active because it requires thought and introspection. There’s not a lot that’s in our life that challenges us to do that. Reading Scripture, thinking about God’s love and thinking about vocation all do,” said Rice.

The app is called 40-Day Spiritual Workout and includes an easy to follow calendar featuring the text from the book and the Scripture readings for each day. Daily reminders to do the workout can also be enabled to keep users on track.

“The app was actually a neat idea and blessing from the university I work at. They were looking for resources to follow up the (Steubenville Youth) conference. I volunteered the content of the book to create an Internet app. Creating the app seemed a really exciting way to get this into teens hands and use it wherever they are,” said Rice, who teaches Cat-echetics at the Franciscan Univer-sity of Steubenville in Ohio.

Rice said the app has been downloaded more than 15,000 times since its launch. Xyologic. com, a web site which recommends apps to users based on their social network and interests, estimates a much higher number. The Apple Store does not release download figures to the public.

In his own life, Rice says the biggest challenge to prayer is finding a quiet time and space in a house with seven children.

“The thing that bugs everybody at prayer is distractions, but the catechism says distraction is part of it. Recognize it and move away from it and go back to prayer.”

The analogy in the book is how commitment is important to achieve the things we want. At the gym, people want to lift more weights or run farther, so they practice to build the strength and endurance necessary.

Rice also keeps a focus on the importance of the sacraments in addition to prayer.

“Many Catholics don’t appreciate the power and beauty of Scripture,” said Rice. “We think it’s a Protestant thing. For us it needs to be Scripture and sacraments.”

One of the beautiful things about A 40-Day Spiritual Workout for Catholics is how accessible it is for teens and young adults. Rice does an excellent job of writing for his audience and recognizing the cultural shifts that have taken place since he began his ministry 20 years ago. While some reflections include references to things such as cassette tapes, Rice writes about the technology changes of the past two decades with humour.

For the app, visit www.40days.

(Gillis, 25, has an undergradu-ate degree in journalism from St. Thomas University in Fredericton, N.B.) 

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