The iBreviary

Only recently we at the friary joked that by taking the Lectionary, Sacramentary, Liturgy of the Hours, and all the other numerous books we kept and put them onto iPhones, not only would we be saving money and saving trees, but we'd be following the wishes of St. Francis who strictly forbade the brothers from owning books. Of course the older friars didn't see much humor in the idea. But for as fast as technology continues to grow, I wasn't surprised by what I found in my email this afternoon.

The iBreviary is the next innovation in prayer resources developed for the digital Catholic. I received an email from one of the developers Fr. Paulo Padrini, sharing some information about his application for the iPhone and how it already "has gotten the applause and encouragement of the Vatican."

-Available readings in English, Spanish, French, Latin, and Ambrosian

- has the three major Hours, Daytime Prayer, and Compline. Also has the daily missal as well as the principal Catholic prayers.

-The cost is only $.99 in U.S. dollars, with funds going to, an online ministry in Italy aimed at younger Catholics.

Before writing about this application, I wanted to get some first-hand experience with it. One of the Postulants has an iPhone, and he promptly paid the 99 cents to put the iBreviary to the test.

The program can be tricky at first. It's original language is in Italian, and we had some trouble figuring out how to change the languages. We had to go into the iPhone settings, select "English" as the language, and then get back into the program. Without directions, it can be confusing to some people.

After transposing to English, we took a look at one of the psalms for today: Psalm 51. To my surprise the translation is very good. I must assume that the translations were all written and are not transposed by the application. Compared to the four-volume Liturgy of the Hours, the text was very close. I am not a "purist," so the fact that it wasn't 100% was not an issue.

The fact that today's Hours were available without using 5 different bookmarks was a nice change of pace, however those that are familiar with praying the Office will see that the program is not entirely the same as having a breviary or psalter:

-There are no Antiphons available for any of the psalms or canticles.

-There are no tone indicators (the underlines) for those who choose/are obliged to chant.

-It lacks the flexibility of observance that an actual breviary does. If you/your order celebrates a specific saint or feast day with special psalms and antiphons, there's no Index with Commons and/or Intercessions to observe specific days of obligation. (Example: We as Franciscans observe the feast day of Thomas Aquinas with antiphons from the Common of Doctors, while the Order of Preachers observe the feast day of their founder with specific psalms and readings.)

Overall, I think the iBreviary is great for people new to the Divine Office or for religious who are "on the go" and are looking for a cheap and efficient way to pray the Office. If you pray the Office daily and are intent on the observance of those obligated feasts, this probably isn't for you.
Check out your iTunes Store; it's worth the $.99 cents and the money is going to charity.

While I don't think we at St. Conrad's Friary will be replacing our books with digital screens just yet, I have long waited for The Church to embrace the digital age. Perhaps my generation will be the one to help use the digital tools to better spread the Gospel.

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