It’s a new year! How can I improve myself? I want to enter the new year with a pure and fresh outlook, as we all do. I want to improve my daily prayer routines to keep myself aligned with God in every day life. I wish I had a rigorous prayer routine that doesn’t rely so much of the predicaments in which I find myself weekly. Daily. OK hourly. But in this culture of technology distraction and multi-tasking, How? I think there’s a way to use the same mobile devices that I use to organize all the rest of my life in today’s technology culture–and use them to become a better Catholic in 2017.
The first test of this tech culture idea came this summer, with some success. In recent years, my daily prayer methods and spiritual routines have gotten away from me. I pray spontaneously, but I no longer pray the way I used to—truth be told, this year I had to make a concerted effort just to attend the same Mass every week. We had fallen into the poor habit of fitting in Masses at the most convenient times, based on other weekend activities, naptimes & the children’s health, and generally how we feel that day. We didn’t even attend the same parish every week, and sometimes my husband’s work schedule means he has to attend Mass alone in the evening after the kids’ bedtime.
Theoretically, moms told me, my children might exhibit better behavior when they have the same Sunday routine, and they might ingratiate themselves to the familiar ushers etc. (which might enable the ushers and parishioners to regard my kids with more patience and generosity in the moments when their behavior is less than perfect).
So a weekly, recurring Sunday noon Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Paul was added to our shared “Family” calendar using our iPhones. I carved out the drive time and adjusted to a more structured mindset to attend the Cathedral of Saint Paul’s noon Mass every week. It paid off for the most part, especially in ingratiating my kids with the ushers.
My mobile phone helped quite a bit in this case. It even allowed me to block off “Travel Time” before the Sunday Mass recurring appointment, with the time allotment and directions automatically calculated based on my starting Location. Slick. And it worked: it took only 2 Masses to get myself comfortably in the routine, and because of the calendar block, I was able to avoid other activities that might cause stress.
How else can I use my trusty mobile phone and tablet to keep my spiritual life calm and on track? Here’s what I’ve done, and I’ll check back in a couple months to let you know how it goes.
First, I took a look at the methods I use to organize the rest of my life. Work calendar, shopping and to-do lists, bills, handyman contacts, and the rest. I am delighted to realize that I can apply the same methods that I use to manage my massive task list at work, to my prayer life.
At the office, I avoid a “reactive” work style by setting a written & visually-illustrated plan: Power Point slides laying out up to 3 high-level goals; a smattering of the best, most realistic high-level strategies to reach each goal; and then specific to-do tactics within each strategy. (I won’t bore you with an example of a marketing plan for legal industry technology marketing).
Then I lay out a timeline of which projects I’ll work on and when; and finally the rubber hits the road. I use Outlook to set reminders & meetings in advance.
This month I’ve given it a try: I set up my mobile phone and tablet to help me keep track of prayers, and help me to act upon my commitments. I should specify that I use an iPad and an iPhone. I’m sure the functions are slightly different on other mobile devices/platforms, but I’m also sure the same functions can be done (perhaps better).
- Reminders: I set up the Reminders for anything that doesn’t take significant time—such as small prayers, little things to improve my relationships.
- I make it virtually unavoidable for myself by naming each Reminder by the actual prayer text. I.e., the pop-up doesn’t say “Reminder: Pray for stepkids.” Instead it says “Reminder: Dear God, help me see my stepchildren through your eyes.”
- Reminders can be customized to recur as you wish, so some of mine pop up daily or monthly.
- In addition, Reminders can be organized into lists, shared across my phone & tablet, and I can choose to share them with our Family group of people.
- Reminders can be color coded too! The color choices aren’t numerous, but it helps me enter the prayer optimistically when these things are pretty.
- Calendar appointments: Anything that takes more than 15 minutes gets a Calendar appointment. We’ve already discussed the Sunday Mass success with our shared Family calendar!
- Alerts, recurrence, location and drive time can be set too.
- The location automatically pulls in a map, and if I click into the map, it automatically opens up the Maps app for driving directions.
- Invitations can be sent to anyone who isn’t already in our Family list.
- App masquerade (my fun name for it; “masquerade is not a technical term): Did you know that any web page can masquerade as an App? In the spirit of making things easiest, and placing reminders where I can’t miss them, I skipped the Bookmark function and saved the USCCB’s Daily Readings as an App icon directly onto my Home screen. To do this:
- Open the webpage that you want to save.
- Click the Send button
- One of the options is “Add to Home Screen”
- Note that occasionally, if the web page changes significantly, you’ll need to resave it.
- Color themes and background photos: I did consider placing a religious-themed photo as the background of my tablet so I would constantly reminded of something (I could change it as I wish). But to be honest, I thought it might be counter-productive. A reminder of the same thing, all the time, might actually desensitize me. Instead, I opted for a color theme: One of the ways that the Church’s relationship with art comes to life is in color symbolism. Liturgical colors are not assigned randomly: psychology comes into play as well, as colors elicit emotions. The associations of color and emotion are written into our fabric of humanity. Prior to dedicating my mobile devices to my spiritual improvement, I used to change my background photos to fit the seasons of the earth; I now choose a color theme or photos of certain people to put me in the right frame of mind to make inroads in a certain virtue. For example, if you are struggling with faith, perhaps choose a blue color theme to evoke trust as you go about daily life.
- Email VIPs and folders/tabs: Some meditations, novenas etc. offer email notifications (see my separate post 6 Ways to Turn your Smartphone into a Sacramental). Here, a shortcut can be created specifically for spiritual activities. Using a mobile device makes this SO easy!
- Simply open an email from the sender.
- Click the little “i” information button. This is for the Apply family of mobile devices (I assume there’s a similar function for other brands).
- Make the sender a “VIP.” Then, you can go straight to your VIP email folder to see any new emails from those senders. I like to do this whenever I find myself with a spare minute.
- Lock screen: in my mobile device’s settings (and in some of the individual apps’ settings), I can choose which Alerts are shown on my “lock screen.” This is the black-out screen when my tablet or phone is at rest. I set up my reminders, appointments and any emails from my VIPs to show up on my lock screen.
So there it is! Reminders, calendar appointments, themes, lock screen VIPs and my “App masquerade.” I’ll check back in a couple months to let you know how it goes. Happy New Year!