The number of Catholic (and Orthodox) apps for smartphones is surprising, and it grows it seems every month.

This past week I came across a four-year-old app for the Daily Gospel Reading, produced and maintained by an organization of a hundred volunteers around the world. The organization is called Evangelizo, founded by two young French Catholics, Gregor Puppinck of Strasbourg and Bertrand Couderc of Fresnes.

Now there are a number of apps that offer the daily readings of the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours; Divine Office offers the Liturgy of the Hours in text, reading, and chant; iBreviary offers the Liturgy of the Hours, the Missal, the proper of the Mass, the readings at Mass, prayers; my favorite is Universalis out of England. Universalis uses the Grail translation of the psalms and readings from the Revised Standard Version—Catholic, both a considerable improvement over the mediocre English of the New American Bible. Universalis requires a one-time modest fee ($16), unlike Divine Office, which is a yearly subscription ($16), and iBreviary, which is free but asks a donation to support the Franciscans in the Holy Land, who produce it.

You can find the daily Gospel reading in these three apps, but you are not going to find a reflection or meditation on it. Evangelizo specializes in Gospel and reflection, and it does this and this only. Thus, it is quick, simple, and effective. The founders state that their intent in developing this app was to make the Gospels accessible to everyone everywhere every time.

This is what Pope Francis asked of Catholics this past spring, that they carry about with them a pocket edition of the Gospels. When I followed up on this, I was surprised to find that there was no pocket version of the Gospels in English, not even from Protestant groups. Given their great love of

the Scriptures, this was truly amazing. There were pocket editions of the New Testament, but these tend to bulk and they do not center one’s attention on the most important books of the Bible, the four Gospels.

This summer, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did produce a pocket edition of the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, using the NAB version, of course, and filling many supplemental pages with footnotes. It’s an attractive little volume and costs only $8 at your local Catholic bookstore, but it’s a bit large to fit in a pocket.

The problem with the book is that, for some unknown reason, they chose not to bind the little book, the size of one’s hand, in vinyl covers. The covers are thin cardstock. Now, anyone can figure out that such a covering is not going to hold up well in one’s pocket or purse. Frequently removing and reinserting it will in time damage the covers and ultimately the binding.

Not so with the wonderful Evangelizo Daily Gospel app, available in versions for iPhone, android, and generic smartphone. It is also available on one’s laptop or desktop computer at www.dailgospel.org. The beauty of this app or webpage is that it is simple and direct. You open up the app, read the Gospel and the mediation that immediately follows it. There is no flipping from page to page. This app is easy to use, direct, and to the point.

I mentioned earlier that Messrs. Puppinck and Couderc founded this app, back in 2010, with the purpose of making the Gospel easily available to everyone with a smartphone. They stated a second intention, too, and that is to make the marvelous library of commentaries on the Gospels by the Church Fathers available to the public. Here’s the second marvel of this app: The daily meditation is a selection applicable to the daily Gospel reading from one of the Church Fathers or from the official teaching of the Church. The translations are excellent and fluid. The selections are to the point and quite helpful. One can spend a half-hour if one has the time meditating on Gospel and reflection based on it.

There are a number of websites (not all of them are also available as apps) that offer simply the Gospel of the day (and sometimes the Epistle and Gradual), and some of these offer a reflection. The reflections are of garden variety; some are brief and simple, others lengthy and more profound. One or two are exceptionally good. One or two are rather long. Some are hortatory, some gently accusatory,
others offer discussion and let the reader draw his own
benefits from it. Some are by educated, well disposed
laymen, others by organizations, a few by priests, and an
excellent one by an Asian bishop—and in English at that!

Where Evangelizo succeeds is that, in offering the Gospel of the day’s Liturgy, its accompanying reflection is just the right length. Of course, one does not have to read either all the way through; one can stop where one finds much to reflect and pray upon, or one can stop when one no longer has the time to continue.

Myself, I wish I had had something like this in the 27 years I worked in federal offices. A quick look at an app can be a real lift in the middle of a hectic or a tedious day! It can also be a good impetus in the morning when one awakens and awaits the percolator to finish, or in the evening when the kids are abed or working on their homework, the dishes are done, the garbage put out, and the house settles for the evening.

Evangelizo also offers a sketch of the life of the saint or saints whose feast occurs on the day, and on a separate page there are prayers that every Catholic once knew, as well as special prayers for priests and the pope and the prayer intentions of the pope for each month of the year.

One more thing. Evangelizo translates the Gospel and the reflection into ten different languages. This work is done by unpaid volunteers around the world. When you open the app the first time, it may ask you to choose a language. You will find offered French, English, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, German, Arabic, Italian, Polish, Armenian, Irish Gaelic (now that’s a rare one to find!), and Greek. (Evangelizo’s founders say they want to make the Daily Gospel available in even more languages as soon as they can line up volunteers fluent in those languages.) If you want to keep up your knowledge of a language you studied in college and once did OK with, you’ll find it here. A little pocket bilingual dictionary may be useful—most of these run $7 or $8 at any bookstore.

I have found in my long life that there are real advantages in reading the Scriptures in foreign languages. Not only does the practice keep one’s knowledge of another language in good form—or restore it if one has gotten rusty, but in reading, one has to concentrate on the foreign text, so that the words come very much fresh and alive in ways that a Gospel text in one’s familiar mother tongue does not. You’ll be surprised how suddenly new insights appear because you are forced to concentrate on the text in a foreign language.

So how well is Evangelizo doing? Has it grown these past four years? One hears about iBreviary all the time, but not Evangelizo. Surprisingly, a Google search turns up little on this quiet little organization, apart from its own pages. I found one article on Zenith’s website, a piece four years old. For other information, I had to go to organizations that monitor and tabulate website use.

What I found was remarkable. Evangelizo sends out the daily gospel reading in one of the ten languages to a total of 500,000 people every day—via e-mail and webpage/smartphone app visits. Within the last month, 1,848,532 visits were made to its website, says one organization, PandaStats.

Another organization, AStats, says that the site gets 6,657 daily visitors, with 33,285 page views. Since the half- million get the Daily Gospel and reflection via e-mail or app, these apparently are new visitors. Evangelizo’s websites (there’s one for each language, but one can transition from one language to another by clicking on a little window upper right on the home page) ring in daily donations of $83. Among all websites in the world, Evangelizo ranks 137,312 in visits.

I strongly urge you to download the app. Go to the iPhone store or to Google Play Store; the app may also be available in other places. It is free of charge, although you can offer a donation from time to time to pay for the expense of maintaining the website and app. The translations are done by unpaid volunteers worldwide.

When I say it is free, I mean also that you will not have unwanted and often grotesque and inappropriate ads appearing on the pages of the Gospel, reflection, and the prayers. There will be no ads of the “Beautiful Russian girls” or “Shocking French Video” or “Miracle food cures diabetes” type nonsense. Thanks be for this blessing! I have other religious apps on

my smart phone, apps whose pages are blighted with such ads, utterly detracting and distracting from the prayer or Scripture reading. This never happens with Evangelizo.

Download it; you can use it easily in those brief moments waiting at the bus stop, or waiting in the doctor’s office, or between supper and helping with homework. Those of you who are on-air hosts really ought to promote this easy to use, easily accessible app. By concentrating on the Gospel and the Gospel only, it masterfully fills a crying need among us ordinary laymen!

The Gospels are Jesus Christ; as thus, they are preeminent in the Scriptures. The other books are divinely inspired, but they do not contain the words of the Logos Become Man, nor do they detail his actions and portray the whole of Him as clearly and succinctly. Besides all this, Evangelizo does what Pope Francis urges us to do—carry the Gospel with us all the time and consult it however so briefly throughout our day.

—Michael Dorner