Why “Hallow” Is my App (Plus Two More for Searching Minds and Growing Souls)

This Year, Will ‘Hallow’ Be Thy App? the blog post I’d stumbled on asked.

Indeed it will, I smiled. It already is.

A friend shared Hallow with me during Lent two years back. I downloaded the free version, “Hallow Lite” right away. I liked what Hallow offered: meditations, prayers and chant at the ready whenever I wanted a spiritual recharge.

If you’ve ever tried Calm or Headspace, you know the benefits of mini mindfulness breaks, but you may have yearned for a deeper openness to the personal God.

That’s how I became a fan of Dr. Greg Bottaro’s sacramental pause. Short, calming prayer breaks don’t replace extended silence and contemplative prayer, but mindful prayer renewals restore patience and revive our loving intentions throughout the day.

Hallow offers even more. It opens a myriad of pathways to the presence of God, as Hallow co-founder Alex Jones writes in his post What’s the Difference Between Mindfulness Meditation and Christian Meditation. Hallow surpasses the excellence of Calm and Headspace by providing a treasury of resources for spiritual growth and beautifully narrated prayer moments.

I admit that didn’t use Hallow regularly until I heard Pints with Jack host Matt Bush interviewing Hallow co-founder Alessandro DiSanto about the app’s origins and the content on Hallow Plus, the app’s premium version. DiSanto convinced me that the premium content was worth it and that supporting new content by paying for the current offerings would keep me engaged and growing.

He was right.

I love the simple beauty of Hallow’s icons and the way the background is dark blue when you click on the crescent moon to pray the Night Prayer office or select a sleep meditation.

When my mind races at night, the Bible stories for sleep (narrated by familiar voices like Scott Hahn and Jennifer Fulweiler) help me drift off in peace. The mental health series with Dr. Bob Schuchts and Sr. Miriam James Heidland of the JP II Healing Center is rich and moving. Hallow has Spotify-style inspirational “praylists,” beautiful prayer challenges you can join in community or do at your own pace and a journal option for recording your own note.

Hallow is a wonderful introduction to the deep tradition of Catholic prayer, from ancient to contemporary. You will never be bored when you open this app with an open heart.

Hallow Plus offers a generous three-month trial. I think you’ll find it’s worth it!

But perhaps you’re ready for an even deeper dive into meditation and contemplation.

Perhaps you’re interested in the Church’s social teachings or Bible study and you want a trustworthy guide. Or maybe you’re wondering what book to read next to boost your spiritual growth.

Discerning Hearts has an app for you.

I discovered the Discerning Hearts website a decade ago. It’s an absolute goldmine of podcast series so rich they reward repeated listens. Back then I would download the series that were feeding my soul and add them to folders in my mp3 player. Later I subscribed on my ipod. Discerning Hearts series can be found all the usual podcast apps and on YouTube as well.

But when Discerning Hearts’ host Kris MacGregor announced the free app, I did not hesitate to simplify my method of access to all my favorite DH content.

The talks by Father Timothy Gallagher on prayer in the Ignatian tradition first drew me to Discerning Hearts and I still recommend them as a place to begin. Among them, Meditation and Contemplation opened up a way to pray with Scripture that continues to support my prayer life. But I also love Gallagher’s insights into The Lord of the Rings, the Liturgy of the Hours and the life of Venerable Bruno Lanteri.

I discovered Dr. Anthony Lilles’ “Beginning to Pray” during a difficult time in my prayer life, and it’s still my favorite DH series. I also recommend the energetic Bible studies by Sharon Doran and Sonja Corbitt (DH is where I discovered Corbitt’s Just Rest, one of my most fascinating reads of 2021).

I enjoy tuning into Inside the Pages for “interviews with today’s most compelling authors” where I’ve learned about Peter Kreeft’s new releases, Mother Teresa’s spirituality and where I discovered Father Donald Haggerty’s Contemplative Hunger, one of the best spiritual books I’ve ever read.

DH has a wonderful series on the beauty of Catholic Social teaching, Regnum Novum with Deacon Omar Gutierrez.

Often misunderstood and frequently misused as a political football, Catholic social teaching provides a thorough explication of practical aspects of biblical teaching, applying a consistent rather than a divisive left/right approach to the implications of the gospel. Christians of all denominations will find Gutierrez enlightening and challenging.

The app makes all these series easy to access and since Discerning Hearts is always offering new content, it’s also the simplest way to learn what’s new.

And then there’s the Mars Hill Audio app.

I shared my enthusiasm for all things Mars Hill almost five years ago in The Mars Hill Audio Journal: Where All Things Considered Meets God. There is simply nothing like the audio journal that former NPR producer Ken Myers started as an audio tape subscription back in 1993. Myers was podcasting long before podcasting was cool.

Every thoughtful Christian should subscribe to the Mars Hill Audio Journal.

Myers consistently offers high quality interviews with a diverse spectrum of philosophers, scientists, thinkers, artists and musicians who all share a desire to apply their Christian faith at the cross sections of our culture.

This conversation, with professor of architecture at the Notre Dame school of architecture Duncan Stroik on his book The Church Building as a Sacred Place: Beauty, Transcendence, and the Eternal is a good example of a Mars Hill conversation.

While Hallow and Discerning Hearts are produced for a specifically Catholic audience, Myers, a Protestant Christian, interviews orthodox Christians in all denominations, exposing the listener to a wide variety of Christian traditions in conversation and a multiplicity of academic and artistic disciplines.

I was thrilled when, just a couple of years back, Mars Hill Audio made its content available through an app for Apple and Android devices.

The MHA app is worth it for the free Friday Features alone (see Here’s What You’re Missing: Friday Features on the MHA App).

Friday Features were a boon to my sanity especially during the 2020 lockdown. When most media outlets were spouting vitriol conforming to political talking points, Friday Features guests reflected deeply on the psychological, political and spiritual issues the pandemic had brought to the cultural forefront.

This is what Mars Hill content never fails to do: to help the listener think seriously and Christianly by listening to experts who are doing just that.

If you subscribe to the Journal as I do, you can stream the content of your entire library directly through the MHA app as well. That means if a particular topic (how technology changes us, or spiritual themes in Flannery O’Connor for instance) is on my mind, I no longer have to rifle through my aging collection of tapes, CDs, and mp3 downloads to refresh my memory on the issue of concern, and I can still add content I may have missed along the way.

Myers may be justly proud of his life’s work. And thanks to the MHA app, we have better access than ever to it.

Does all this listening and reading seem over the top? Perhaps it is, but these recommendations are the result of years of tuning in.

And with thousands of souls dropping out of church or failing to return after the 2020 lockdown, we are now more than ever the only Christian epistle seekers may read.

I hope that the legion of thoughtful Christians who are still engaging the culture with love will continue to draw others “further up and further in” to an encounter with the Lover of their souls. I hope to continue the adventure myself.

That seems reason enough to pray, listen, read and act.

The right app just makes it easier.

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You might also enjoy Music, Meaning and a Piece of Maria: How the Song & Story Podcast Can Fill the Music Void you Didn’t Know You Had.

If you’re new to the work of Mars Hill Audio, Ken Myers’ interview with The Front Porch Republic reveals the richness of his mind and the breadth of his career.

Photo by Maxim Ilyahov on Unsplash.