Where my own prayer life is concerned, I am still pretty much of a hardcover book fellow. The old leather covered breviary adds a sensual dimension to the venerable age of the Psalms and writings. In recent years my wife and I have been using the iPad application "Universalis” for the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours. I have been vaguely aware of a free Catholic website called "Laudate” primarily by the enthusiasm of those who have downloaded it and use it regularly. I decided to give it a look this week, and after some considerable investigation I find that it may possibly be the most popular Catholic app in use at this time, if numbers of reviews are any indication.
Upon first impression the expanse of Laudate strikes the reader like something of a Catholic Amazon, a wide platform of spiritual resources reaching in many directions. No one can argue that the creators have not gone the extra mile to make every possible spiritual resource available to the user. I will just give a few examples: the Liturgy of the Hours, podcasts of the daily liturgical readings, the order of Mass, the rosary in sixteen variations including interactive, several options for the Stations of the Cross, about three hundred traditional prayers, and examination of consciences for daily and sacramental use. There is a function that permits an individual user to create a favorites page of particular prayers and devotions, which strikes me as extremely useful.
Laudate is more than a source of individual and communal prayer. It is also a considerable library of Catholic texts. These range from the Code of Canon Law to the Catechism of the Catholic Church to many dozens of magisterial statements, including the major documents of Vatican II and a significant library of papal encyclicals dating back as far as Leo XIII of the late 1800s.
The reviews from many hundreds of users that I researched both on the Apple apps site and Amazon were overwhelmingly faithful. Most criticisms, in fact, appear to be more technical than devotional. I encountered no such technical problems. Given that this is a rather remarkable site, I was curious as to who created it and sponsors it. I could see no appeals anywhere for funding from users, such as one sees with Universalis more often than not. After exhaustive research, I still could find no information about the inventors and creators of the site.
When teaching, one of the first rules I use in the use of Internet research, particularly in church matters, is research on the originator of any site. While I saw nothing in Laudate that seemed liturgically or doctrinally inappropriate, I cannot say the same for other sites claiming to be "Catholic." I would make the suggestion that some information be made available to users about the editors. Certainly, they deserve a round of thanks. But further, I think with the expanding use of the Internet and specific applications among Catholics, "brand identification" does matter. I am of a generation that still recalls the importance of the “Imprimatur” or bishop's sanction of any book claiming to be Catholic.
One issue I did notice in perusing the various liturgical sites within Laudate is the question of translations. This website is honest enough to note when it does not have access to particular translations such as the Holy Grail translation of the Psalms. When this site opened in 2012, it apparently did not have a working agreement about texts owned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and a history of updates that I discovered indicates that a fair amount of negotiating has taken place between Laudate and other links regarding the issue of translations.
This of course also raises the question again of Laudate's relationship with the USCCB, and given the wide use of this application, this question should probably be clarified publicly. The same is true of the actual texts of sacramental celebrations. The sacramental ritual is not available on Laudate for the Sacrament of Penance, for example, although as noted above, examinations of conscience are available in multiple forms.
Many reviewers used phrases that essentially say, "This is the one Catholic site for all your needs." I am not quite sure I would go that far. There are no links to recommendations of Catholic academic or biblical study resources, or to the writings of church fathers, nor to other resources for catechetical education. At the end of the day, from reading the resources and reviewing the site myself, the primary value of the site is in the direction of prayer and worship.
Having said all of this, I still think I am sticking with Universalis for the praying of the Hours. Several reviewers picked up on a concern of mine, that the presentation of the Psalms is ideal for an individual, but laid out poorly for group for congregational use. But I certainly recommend a perusal of Laudate. If nothing else, it certainly reinforces the wide variety of Catholic piety and devotion in today's Church.