New app promises to transform lives this Advent

4 mins read
Father Mike Schmitz, the popular host of Ascension Press Media's "The Bible in a Year" and "The Catechism in a Year" podcasts, speaks Aug. 8, 2023, at St. John's Resort in Plymouth, Mich. Father Schmitz, a priest of the Diocese of Duluth, Minn., kicked off a speaker series in the Detroit Archdiocese with a lecture on the cardinal virtues. (OSV News photo/Daniel Meloy, Detroit Catholic)

Podcasts — and the apps that house them — can change lives, according to Father Mike Schmitz, host of the popular “The Bible in a Year” and “The Catechism in a Year” podcasts.

“So many people who have been involved in abortion have reached out to me — and other sins as well, other areas of human brokenness as well — and have said that ‘Listening to this has gotten me to the place where I knew I needed to take that step,'” he told Our Sunday Visitor. “‘I knew I needed to hand over my heart, my past, my sins, to the Lord Jesus through confession and have never felt as free,'” they said to him.

“That’s what I’m praying for,” Father Schmitz, who serves as chaplain for Newman Catholic Campus Ministries at the University of Minnesota Duluth and director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, added. “I’m praying that all of us just get closer to Christ, have lives that are more and more fully converted to Jesus, and that every single one of us doesn’t just experience data, more and more information, but conversion and transformation.”

His comments followed the launch of the Ascension app, a new Bible and Catechism app from Catholic publisher Ascension. It features his two podcasts (produced by Ascension) along with the full text of the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The app also includes daily Mass readings, Ascension Bible studies and, now, daily Advent reflections.

“I love the Ascension app,” Father Schmitz said, calling it the best Bible app and the best Catechism app he has ever used.

The app, which went public earlier this year, quickly became the #1 Bible app in Apple’s App Store. In addition to the full text of the “The Great Adventure Catholic Bible” and the Catechism, it includes “The Bible in a Year” and “The Catechism in a Year” podcasts with transcripts and summaries, more than 1,000 common questions about the Bible with expert answers, an interactive reading plan, and daily readings with highlight and note-taking capabilities.

Users can customize the app for themselves, from changing the audio speed and the text size to taking notes and inserting bookmarks.

After downloading the app from Apple’s App Store or from Google Play, users can access the Bible and the Catechism as well as the audio of Father Schmitz’s two podcasts for free. To access all content, Ascension offers two auto-renewing subscription options: $8.99 per month or $59.99 per year.

Concluding ‘Catechism in a Year’

The app began during Father Schmitz’s ongoing “Catechism in a Year” podcast that concludes at the end of 2023. He shared how the podcast, featured by the app, transforms listeners.

“The point is conversion, right?” he said. “The point is, it draws us more deeply into a relationship with God through the power of the Holy Spirit in his Church.”

He offered a more sensitive example of people who changed and reached out to him after listening to the podcast.

“I’ve had so many people reach out to me after we’ve recorded these episodes about abortion,” he said. “They have shared with me their grief. They’ve shared with me their fear — sometimes even fear of the Lord. Not fear of the Lord in the good way, but their fear of God, being afraid to bring this before God.”

“We can’t fully proclaim the Gospel unless we share the hard truths, that’s true,” he commented. “But we also can’t fully proclaim the Gospel unless we share the astonishing truths, that even in the midst of our weakness and our sins and our failures, God loves us.”

The making of an app

Josh Rudegeair, the director of corporate marketing at Ascension who is responsible for the development of Ascension’s new app, revealed what inspired him to create the app.

“I noticed that although Bible apps are the most popular type of Christian app, there were not many specifically Catholic Bible apps,” he told Our Sunday Visitor.

“Ascension has been publishing fantastic Bible resources for over 25 years, and I realized that if we were able to put everything we’ve created about the Bible, in the Bible, it would make an incredible companion for Catholics who want to read, understand and love Scripture,” he added. “If we tried to do that in a physical format, it would fill dozens of volumes — but with an app, we can fit a tremendous amount of material and it will all fit in your pocket.”

The app, he said, is for anyone who wants to learn to love and understand the Bible through a Catholic lens.

“Just like our faith, it’s intended to be universal and appeal to all ages!” he commented.

He shared that he has received feedback from older users who find the app easy to use, as well as reviews and emails from non-Catholics who call the Ascension app their preferred Bible app because of its features and Father Schmitz’s commentary.

The app’s mission, he said, is to “help people love and understand Scripture and God’s plan for their lives.”

An app for Advent

Biblical scholar Jeff Cavins, author of “The Great Adventure Bible,” called the app “perfect for preparing the heart in Advent.”

“The Scripture readings during Advent lead the reader intentionally in a narrative that ends in the birth of Jesus!” he told Our Sunday Visitor. “This is a life-changing event that, for most, could use some explanation.”

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church is an invaluable gift that explains many of the practical aspects of God becoming a man and dwelling among us,” he added. “The Ascension App seamlessly blends the Bible and the Catechism together, giving believers a treasure that has never been available. In addition, the Rejoice Advent meditations are on the App, giving you a great Advent trifecta!”

Father Schmitz called the Church seasons an opportunity to start something new and, particularly in the Advent season, an opportunity to start a new year.

“Kind of a ‘new year, new you’ kind of a situation where we get to say, ‘OK, I’m going to do something simple,” he said. “‘I have this app and every day I’m going to open the app and I’m going to hit that bar that says today’s daily Mass readings. And I’m just going to allow God’s word to speak to me.'”

“I think that’s a great first step in this beginning of this new year,” he concluded, “and to prepare ourselves to receive Jesus and celebrate his coming, to get ready for his final coming, and to be able to worship him this year.”

Katie Yoder

Katie Yoder is a contributing editor for Our Sunday Visitor.