In which my cynicism astounds even me

Yesterday I followed a Twitter link to a survey about the rosary. It began normally enough (age, gender) and then started asking whether I’d ever used a rosary aide.

The only “rosary aides” I own are rosaries (about eleven or twelve million at last count) and one audio rosary I got free in the back of the church (well, free with a three dollar donation, but I can’t wrap my head around that so I try to think of the donation as an entirely separate action from the receipt of the CD.)

The CD is a recording of six people in a room saying the rosary, and its purpose is so I don’t drive into a tree while fumbling with beads and contemplating the Scourging At The Pillar.

The first batch of heavy-duty questions asked whether I’d ever used an audio rosary with music and meditations. Um, no, sorry. I have books of meditations if I want them, and I also have this thing called a brain, which is full of meditations of its own and is sometimes receptive to ideas God wants to give me. Sometimes. Occasionally.  Well, even a stone warms up if you sit on it for five years.

Regardless, I have something called “limited time” which means a 20-minute prayer should not take 45 minutes, or else I’d never do it and then my guardian angel would be forced to wake me up in the middle of the night again to make me finish. This isn’t good for my spiritual development for several reasons, the primary one that I’m not a nice person, even less so when someone wakes me up in the middle of the night for anything other than “I’m only two months old and I’m starving to death.” We’re supposed to respect angels as higher-order beings, and “So finish it yourself if it’s that important” isn’t exactly respectful.

We reached the survey’s true agenda: how much would you pay for a smartphone app that would assist your rosary-prayers? This even after I’d noted that a) I don’t own a smartphone and therefore b) I’d never purchased any apps for the smartphone I don’t own and c) No, I probably won’t be spending more than ten dollars apiece on the apps I’m not going to purchase for the smartphone I don’t own.

Penultimate question: If you believed an app would forward your spiritual life and bring you closer to God, how much would you pay for it?

I answered $5.

Final question, and I’m not making this up (although I’m paraphrasing because the question itself was about 300 words long): Some people think if they under-report their spending on these surveys, the products will be priced lower. So please be honest: if you really, honestly, truly believed that an app would bring you closer to Heaven and impact your eternal soul’s eternal destination and more closely unite your soul to God’s vision for your life, how much would you spend on it?

Once again, I answered $5.

That’s when I realized just how cynical I’d become. Because I know there’s nothing more valuable than growing closer to God. For one young man, the cost was selling everything he had and giving it away. And here I’m saying I’d spend about as much as I pay in library fines.

I’ve been exposed to so much advertising and experienced so many false promises about products, that even in theory, I couldn’t imagine this product actually delivering.

The more insignificant the product, the more outlandish the claims. So this lipstick will turn you into Miss America, and that diet snack bar will burn calories and lengthen your life by ten years. I’m more likely to trust a McDonalds ad saying “This food will taste okay and stop you from feeling hungry for three hours” than “Enjoy our juciest burger yet — two pounds of pure angus heaven!”

So if you claim your app is going to bring me closer to God, I’m going to react as if you told me your shoes will improve my marriage. The minute you say your app will advance my spiritual development and help unite my soul to the Almighty Triune God, my innate cynicism kicks in: “Yeah, your app is worth about five bucks.” Because even in fantasyland, I can’t imagine a product doing what it’s supposed to.

And that’s beside the point that really, an app can’t do that. Prayer and grace? Sure. But an app? A freaking app…? Oops, my cynicism is showing again.

Anyhow, thank you Advertisers for saving me a ton of money. If anyone needs me or my spare change, I’ll be the one with the string of beads.


  1. hthrb

    My cynicism would like to join yours. I looked up “Rosary” in the App Store, there were 108, most we’re free, a few were 0.99, a couple were 2.99, one was $5, then I got bored. I may download a free one so I can stop looking up the mysteries every night when my guardian angel not so subtlety suggests that the 2 am feeding would be a great time to say the rosary.

    1. hthrb

      most were free, thank you autocorrect

    2. philangelus

      I got the impression that this rosary app would also give guided meditations, scripture verses, pictures, etc. But it doesn’t matter, to be honest. The point is to meet God in prayer, and sure, maybe those add-ons help people, but the real action is in God’s grace rather than in our effort. We can make it easier for ourselves, but the app itself isn’t ever going to bring us closer to God any more than going to the gym is going to bring us closer to fitness.

      Praying from a leather-bound Bible is awesome, but the text is the same in the copy I got for twenty-five cents at Angelborough Consignment Stuff People Were Trying To Unload.

      And btw, I did many, many rosaries while nursing Kiddo3 and Kiddo4. It’s just a very soothing time to do it, and a feed takes about as long as a rosary. 🙂 But not at 2AM. I’d fall asleep at 2AM.

  2. Mom

    I never pay for apps…not when i can have Laudate for free. And I think I would have written back profanities at the “price scoffing” you encountered. You are a much more polite and friendly decliner than I am afraid I could have been 🙂

    1. philangelus

      I should have put it *lower* the second time around. 😉 You know, “If you’re so desperate you’ll try to play on my spiritual needs to get cash, then I trust you even less.”

      1. Mom


        1. philangelus

          Because that’s the person you want to trust with your spiritual direction, right? The guy who’s intent on extracting every possible cent from your wallet?

  3. iGrrrl

    Y’know, there’s an entire ‘religion’ founded on just how much you’ll pay to be “clear”.

    1. philangelus

      I guess God only loves the rich? Jesus said something about that. Oh, wait, no, He said something else about the rich and the poor.

  4. cricketB

    Does it come with a money-back guarantee? If so, how do we collect?

    1. philangelus

      Then again, how do you prove you haven’t grown closer to God, and it’s the fault of the app?

      1. cricketB

        Good point. The guarantee is “closer”, not “close enough”. Re-reading, the question is “_If_ you really, honestly, truly believed that an app would…” All that, in the convenience of an app? No further work required? I’m not that good at imagining. Also, exactly how much is “closer”? I have a micrometer in knitting bag.

        1. philangelus

          Even a micrometer closer to God would be infinitely valuable, of course.

          I think the burden needs to be on them to prove they’re going to do that in a way that nothing else could. ie, “You could do five thousand hours of community service, or you could just buy this pretty app!”

  5. The Sojourner

    I think I’d pay 99 cents. (I don’t have a smartphone either, so this is a purely hypothetical exercise.) I’d be willing to pay LESS if the app was supposed to bring me closer to God and not just, “Look, pretty music to listen to in the car!” It rubs me the wrong way when specifically spiritual things cost money.