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Hallow is a Catholic prayer and meditation app that is linking technology and faith — and allowing users to personalize their prayer experience. It’s also changing lives.
The word hallow means “to make holy.” And with 3.75 million downloads so far, the app — headquartered in Chicago, Illinois — has facilitated over 100 million prayers across some 150 countries since its launch in late 2018, says its creator, 29-year-old Alex Jones.
Fox News Digital asked Jones in a phone interview exactly what combining Christian belief and technology offers — and how the idea for the app first originated.
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The genesis for Hallow began with popular meditation apps such as Headspace and Calm, which Jones enjoyed using and felt were beneficial.
“I thought they were super helpful tools to learn meditation within the comfort of your own home,” Jones said, noting that he’d previously drifted from his own Christian roots.
However, when using meditation apps, Jones — a husband and father of two small children — said he noticed something.
“Every time I would meditate, my mind would feel pulled toward something Christian,” he said. “An image of the cross, or the Trinity, or the Holy Spirit, which I thought was very strange.”
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He started reaching out to friends, priests and pastors, “brothers and sisters I knew who are deeper in their faith,” he noted.
“I would ask, ‘Hey, is there any way there’s some intersection here between this whole faith thing and this meditation thing?'” he said.
“They all laughed at me and said, ‘Yeah, we’ve been doing it for about 2,000 years. You’ve probably heard about it. It’s called prayer,'” he revealed.
Explaining that he “discovered this rich, beautiful tradition of contemplative and meditative prayer” within the Catholic Church, he noted that he also discovered “Ignatian spirituality, imaginative prayer — these things that I’d really never heard of before.”
“If I spent the rest of my life and all of my retirement savings, and God was able to do one more thing like this through the app, it will have been infinitely worth it.”
He was soon googling “Lectio Divina” — a Latin phrase meaning “divine reading.” It’s a meditative way of reading scripture in which readers open themselves to God’s messages, the Hallow website notes.
What particular word stood out to Jones as he tried Lectio Divina?
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“Hallow,” from the Lord’s Prayer, he said. “Our Father, hallowed be thy name,” he added.
“It just changed my life — it brought me to tears,” said Jones.
“It brought me back to my faith. It changed everything about what I value and the most important part of who I am.”
Jones wondered what was next. “Is God calling me to be holy?” he asked himself, along with the question, “Am I to be helping other people grow in virtue?”
He soon began working on the first rudimentary version of the app. “I knew how to code a little bit, and so I coded the first version of it,” he said.
“It was terrible, but I used it and I thought it was decently helpful.”
He had a few friends and family use the app, with memorable results.
“I have one friend, a young woman, who was dating someone,” he said.
“After about nine sessions of meditating on the app,” he continued, “she realized that she was being called to religious life as a nun, so she broke up with her boyfriend and committed” herself to God.
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Jones’ aunt, he said, also recently found her way by using her nephew’s app.
She had lost her only son — Jones’ cousin and a new husband and father himself — suddenly from a heart condition.
“Heartbreaking,” Jones said. He added, “My aunt hadn’t gotten out of bed. She wasn’t able to eat.”
She started using the app around the Advent season of 2018, he said, and sent Jones a note.
“Especially this year, I’m facing this immense amount of dread knowing that I’ll be without my son for the first time,” she wrote to him.
“I just want to let you know that the only thing that’s kept me going through this has been the meditations,” she continued.
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“Each morning it’s reminded me of the hope and the peace and the meaning of this season, and allowed me to kind of ‘pact’ with God through this pain.”
“God can reach out to everybody at any stage of their lives.”
Jones explained, “If I spent the rest of my life and all of my retirement savings, and God was able to do one more thing like this through the app, it will have been infinitely worth it.”
Since its launch, the app has grown to offer multiple ways to worship. Benefits include being able to listen to meditations and reflections from “world-class retreat leaders that most people wouldn’t have the opportunity to [engage] with,” said Jones, along with “incredible sermons. Some of the world’s leading pastors are on the app.”
Has this technology discouraged church attendance? Jones said it supplements it.
“Our lowest usage day is on Sundays — people are going to church,” he said. “We encourage them to go to church on Sunday and not use the app.”
“But throughout the week, it’s a really helpful way to try to build a consistent habit of prayer,” he explained.
“You’re being led in prayer in a structured, guided way that makes it a lot easier to spend time in silence — that can be pretty intimidating to do on your own,” he said.
“In-person participation for Sunday worship is still required by the Catholic Church.”
The Rev. Jeffrey Kirby, pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Indian Land, South Carolina, said that in-person Mass attendance is mandatory for Catholics, for those who are able to do so.
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“In-person participation for Sunday worship is still required by the Catholic Church,” he told Fox News Digital via email.
He added, “I’ve had many parishioners tell me that Hallow has been a godsend for them. It has proved to be a quick and easy-to-use resource for many who are busy but still want to grow in their spiritual lives.”
The Rev. Jesse Bradley, pastor of Grace Community Church in the Seattle area, told Fox News Digital that in our “noisy, fast-paced” culture, it is very easy to skip prayer altogether.
“Having a set time, place and resources like apps can provide a prayer focus that can help you cultivate a vibrant habit,” he told Fox News Digital in an email.
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“Apps can provide a framework,” he added, “but the essence of prayer is your decision to worship God in spirit and in truth.”
For Jones, one of the biggest surprises post-launch was the big spike in young users.
“Global political crises, inflation, the economy — there were a bunch of things that are stressors for folks. They were feeling frustrated and hopeless.”
The average user is about 34 years old, he said. Young users are interested in meditation and “want to see what it would be like to incorporate their faith into that.”
“Or they’re struggling to sleep at night, but they want to want to stop scrolling through Instagram or TikTok and use their time differently,” he said.
“We have users like me, who have young families, and teenagers who want to build habits, and we’ve got folks who are retirees or who are nearing the end of their life who are trying to use that time to dive deeper into their relationship with God,” he said.
“God can reach out to everybody at any stage of their lives,” Jones said.
The app launched pre-COVID, and at that time “there were a lot of folks interested in the spiritual but not the religious,” he said.
Users can “find endurance and perseverance, and a sense of peace away from the division and the anger of the world that we live in.”
“As COVID went on and many were suffering with the loss of loved ones or sickness themselves, Hallow was a place where they were able to find that solace,” he continued.
As COVID progressed, “you had a lot of folks who were angry,” he said. “Global political crises, inflation, the economy — there were a bunch of things that are stressors for folks. They were feeling frustrated and hopeless.”
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Users can “find endurance and perseverance, and a sense of peace away from the division and the anger of the world that we live in,” he said.
Hallow has featured some famous people recently in promotional videos shared on social media.
Actor Mark Wahlberg is “one who helped share it,” Jones said.
“He and his wife use the app all the time, and they have been incredible partners.”
As Fox News Digital previously reported, when Hallow found out about Wahlberg’s 2022 movie, “Father Stu,” the company reached out.
Soon, a partnership was forged.
Hallow is working with other high-profile people of faith as well.
“As a baseline, we make sure that everything on the app is 100% in line with church teaching and theologically correct.”
Reflections, prayers and meditations on the theme of resilience are available on the app from former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre.
“He’s got a little bit of something to say about when life knocks you down,” noted Jones.
Another sports legend who will be contributing soon, according to Jones, is Lou Holtz, the famed former Notre Dame football coach.
While people may not respond to a video message featuring a priest or a nun or even himself, Jones explained that “when someone you’re a big fan of is talking about how prayer has helped them through their career and their life and how it keeps them grounded, it may strike a chord.”
The young tech innovator said the app’s strength is in its faultless message.
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“As a baseline, we make sure that everything on the app is 100% in line with church teaching and theologically correct,” Jones said.
This may be drawing worshippers of every denomination, which is the “ultimate goal” of Hallow.
“We have tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of non-Catholic Christians on the app,” he shared.
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“The most active user on the app, at least as of a year or two ago, was an evangelical woman who used it three times a day for 400 days straight,” he said.
“We want to build something that’s a tool for Christians of any background,” Jones said.
Soruce : https://www.foxnews.com/lifestyle/christian-app-hallow-100-million-prayer-mark-wide-audience-believers