With every release of a new technological marvel, there are always the faithful who dream of how it might be put to a higher purpose. The printing press made the Bible the most widely distributed book in the world, social media was eventually harnessed by the pope, and now more apps than ever have been released on Amazon, turning their Echo into an excellent tool for prayer, practicing devotions, and keeping up with all things Catholic.
Amazon makes this possible by offering developers the Alexa Skills Kit, which allows developers to add functions to any Alexa. The nature of the programming is open-ended, allowing the files to stay on the cloud, rather than be downloaded to the system like a normal app.
Thomas L. McDonald, at the National Catholic Register, wrote a fantastic piece that highlights some of the fine “skills” Amazon offers for the faith. He said the most common way Catholics use the Echo is as a “smart speaker,” or a speaker with an audio device that listens for key words to wake up and start a given function.
The Echo can be set up to give a “morning briefing,” also called a “routine,” which activates with a single voice command and runs through an uninterrupted line of previously organized functions. This means one could say “Good morning, Alexa” and the device would turn on lights, smart appliances, and tune in to “Catholic Reporter” radio. The routines are completely personalized and can encompass any of Alexa’s skills.
Barb Szyszkiewicz, editor of CatholicMom.com, suggested to NCR another good use for Alexa. She said: “I use Alexa as a way to stream Catholic radio without bogging down my computer’s resources.” She continued to explain that she could listen to Sirius/XM Catholic Channel, the Son Rise Morning Show on Sacred Heart Radio, Relevant Radio programs, and even learn about Franciscan Media’s “Saint of the Day” before she ever sits down at her computer.
McDonald highlighted several of the most useful Catholic Skills available for free download on Amazon:
- “Catholic Daily” offers the daily readings and Gospels of the Mass. With the simple commands “Alexa, ask ‘Catholic Daily’ for the readings for today” or “Alexa, ask ‘Catholic Daily’ for the Gospel today,” Alexa will relate to you all the day’s scriptural passages for free.
- “Catholic Prayers” offers a similar service for prayers. They offer 35 prayers — six of which are in Latin — including Hail, Holy Queen, Anima Christi, Memorare, Angelus, St. Michael Prayer, Act of Contrition, Miraculous Medal Prayer and many more. Once commanded, Alexa will recite the prayer along with you.
- “Catholic Calendar” has the highest rating for Alexa Skills: 5 stars. Catholic Calendar keeps you up to date on holy says and feast days, as well as helping to keep track of which Catholic liturgical season we’re in.
- “Five Decade Catholic Rosary” will guide you to pray through the whole Rosary. You can even ask for the app to recite a set of the mysteries and it will pause for an “Amen” after each Hail Mary.
There are a plethora of Catholic skills filling the Amazon library that are just waiting to be explored. Several major networks have one set up skills programs, like EWTN, Relevant Radio, and Ave Maria Radio. It can also be a good way to keep up with Bishop Barron’s podcast, or Pope Francis. Other skills include Catholic Trivia, kids’ prayers, various novenas, and even a skill for Alexa to lead a family through saying grace before a meal.
The number of skills that Alexa currently has is estimated to be around 50,000. While a simple Amazon search will show there are only about nine pages of Catholic skills, more and more developers expand the Catholic presence on the Echo every month. Only time will tell if the Echo will become a staple of every Catholic household.
Do you use any of the “Alexa Skills” we just mentioned? Leave us a comment and let us know how they worked for you.