• Hallow

    Popularity of the “prayer app” skyrocketed during the Super Bowl. I try not to live my entire life through electronic devices, so I wasn’t too interested. Besides, I’d downloaded the free version once before, and didn’t like that all the “good” content was paywalled. It didn’t last long on my phone.

    Then, I discovered a free trial. It seemed a good opportunity to try out the whole thing, at least for the next three months. It was right after Easter, and one of the first things I saw was a guided Divine Mercy novena. That seemed as good a sign as any.

    Over the past few weeks, I’ve been really into this app. More than I expected to be. Not only the novena, but other prayers that are often better with guidance—daily reflections, the rosary, homilies. I recently purchased beads for the St. Michael chaplet, and marveled that it was there to help me figure out how it works. I’ve used the app more for meditation (life certainly is busy), as it forces you to really stop rather than rushing through prayers. And you can set a schedule, so if you forget about that novena after four days, you get an alert!

    I thought I’d run out the free trial and then cancel, but it’s really helped me focus throughout the day. There’s a lot I haven’t explored, too, like stories of the saints and sacred music. It helps integrate worship into every day life, maybe turning that hated technology into something good (I can hear an “I told you so” from somewhere…). I wouldn’t use it exclusively, of course. There is still a place for silent, personal prayer. But if this helps guide you toward that, and makes prayer time more “normal,” then I’m all for it.

    Hallow offers a free trial on their website, so it’s worth checking out. And who knows… after my free three months, I might not delete the app after all.

  • Vatican II Collection: Gaudium et Spes

    Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World

    While other Vatican II documents focus on matters within the Church, Gaudium et Spes focus on the wider world. Its the longest document in this collection, so my notes are only a fraction of what’s discussed throughout.

    Gaudium et Spes is a call to preach the Gospel, as Jesus instructed. Man yearns for meaning and purpose, and it’s the Church’s duty to share the truth with them. “The council… puts at its disposal those saving resources which the Church herself, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, receives from her Founder.” (3) We live in an advanced society with a wealth of knowledge, but suffer from an increasing lack of purpose. “Man painstakingly searches for a better world, without a corresponding spiritual advancement.” (4) It’s only through God that we find true purpose and thus can create that better world.

     Though made in the image and likeness of God, mankind is still tempted by evil, leaving his spirit continually divided. Through Jesus, the Church aids in mending this fracture and leading man back to his intended purpose. Man’s dignity lies in his intellect, conscious, and freedom, inspired by the Spirit. “The root reason for human dignity lies in man’s call to communion with God.” (19) Atheism is a direct contradiction of this, the belief that the existence of God prohibits man’s value and dignity. It’s a Christian’s responsibility to prove otherwise, living a full and meaningful life that is only possible with God.

    “God, Who has fatherly concern for everyone, has willed that all men should constitute one family and treat one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” (24) The world is more connected now than ever, allowing for more and deeper interpersonal relationships. By obeying the greatest commandments of love for God and neighbor, we may truly offer ourselves to both. The communion of mankind is consummated in Jesus, who came for the sake of all and befriended even the lowest members of society. By cultivating the world as God instructed, including love of neighbor, man develops himself as well. But being susceptible to vanity and pride, man is tempted to claim his progress as his own. The more he turns away from God, the more he fails to understand the world. But this is all to show the importance of the Church. It “serves as a leaven and as a kind of soul for human society as it is to be renewed in Christ and transformed into God’s family.” (40) From its founding, the Church’s aim has been to reveal God to man, Who is the very meaning of existence. “only God… meets the deepest longings of the human heart, which is never fully satisfied by what this world has to offer.” (41)

    With the role of mankind and the Church established, Gaudium et Spes goes into specific modern concerns: “marriage and the family, human progress, life in its economic, social, and political dimensions, the bonds between the family of nations, and peace.” (46)

    Marriage is a unique vocation in that it mirrors God’s love for His children. It is not about the self, but the ultimate sacrifice of self. Family is the core of society, a natural means to promote moral values. Marriage’s “very nature as an unbreakable compact between persons, and the welfare of the children, both demand that the mutual love of the spouses be embodied in a rightly ordered manner, that it grow and ripen.” (50) It is an earthy symbol of Jesus’s great sacrifice for his love, the Church.

    In the wider culture, man is connected now more than ever across the world. Though this helps unify humanity, we must also ensure that this “universal culture” doesn’t destroy local traditions. Part of the answer lies in Christianity itself, the true “universal” culture. In seeking things above, not of earth (Colossians 3:2), Christians help build a more human world. Through each man’s unique talents, he supports not only his own family but the whole of society. Artists are of particular note, as their works reflect the inner nature and man’s relation to the world. When creative works are in line with God, it helps people to further understand both. Man also has an obligation to rest, in order to strengthen himself and the family, culture, and religious life.

    “Whoever in obedience to Christ seeks first the Kingdom of God, takes therefrom a stronger and purer love for helping all his brethren and for perfecting the work of justice under the inspiration of charity.” (72) But man cannot achieve this alone. The political and patriotic sphere is an integral part of this, so long as man is careful not to become narrow-minded or self-centered. His aim should always be for the common good and the promotion of peace.

    To this end, war should be avoided when possible. Those enlisted in military service “should regard themselves as the agents of security and freedom of peoples.” (79) The arms race is a detriment to this, as it aggravates fear and breaks down the trust between nations. Additional aggressors lie in human nature itself, which cause discord even when there is no war. It’s only through love of God that man finds true peace. “Let us take pains to pattern ourselves after the Gospel more exactly every day, and thus work as brothers in rendering service to the human family.” (92)

And they said to him, “Inquire of God, we pray thee, that we may know whether the journey on which we are setting out will succeed.”

And the priest said to them, “Go in peace. The journey on which you go is under the eye of the LORD.”

—Judges 18:5–6