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A Catholic Yik Yak

| Monday, September 7, 2015

Last week an app called 3D Catholic went live for iOS devices. Though the name might call to mind multi-dimensional shapes and the red and blue shades of movie theater glasses, the app possesses a far more pastoral feel. It opens to a trio of unadorned tabs on the home screen, one for each of the three main Catholic devotions: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These are precisely what we need to promote, especially in the wake of the recent sexual assaults reported on campus.

I actually attended a meeting for the app’s launch. There I met this simple tagline: It’s Yik Yak for Catholics.

So what exactly does this mean? Well, on one level, the feature of the app that allows users to post anonymous prayer intentions that can be up-voted by other users resembles the general Yik-Yak interface. However, while Yik Yak tends to degenerate into insensitive remarks that border on cyberbullying, 3D Catholic has enjoyed a wholly benevolent usage in its first week of existence.

I would take this comparison further though. Not only does 3D Catholic function analogously to Yik Yak in the sense of offering up comments to smartphones in a five-mile radius, it also has a particularly social and cultural component. However, the substance of this 3D Catholic culture lies valleys and vistas away from the culture of Yik Yak, Tinder and other smartphone apps. I think this difference is what makes 3D Catholic a potential source of enormous good on this campus and elsewhere. Allow me to explain.

At the heart of Catholic devotion rests the Gospel message of love: serving the Lord and serving others. 3D Catholic channels this sacrificial love by promoting users to pray for each other’s needs, give up meat on Fridays (or any other day one chooses) and act charitably through works of mercy (the app conveniently lists volunteer opportunities in the area).

These are things that many, perhaps even most, Notre Dame students partake in and do quite well. Around 80 percent of Notre Dame students volunteer in some kind of service outreach, according to the Center for Social Concerns. But when one has an app that issues reminders on a daily basis that inculcate one with the message of service and sacrificial love, these inherent drives toward goodness are nurtured and fortified.

Compare this to the vast majority of little square icons one finds on smartphones: entertainment apps, photos of attractive singles one can appraise with a swipe to the right or left, platforms for stimulating one’s senses and stroking one’s ego. These apps need not be condemned outright, but we ought to think about the behaviors that they nurture and fortify. Is it love or use? Self-sacrifice or self-centeredness?

When we are bombarded with messages of how we are to serve ourselves, how we are to win over the next romantic partner, how we are to affirm our own worth through earning the affections of another, doesn’t sexual assault — the violent attempt to seize those wants for ourselves — follow close behind?

These daily reminders matter, as the sensations that surround us day to day influence the people we will grow into over the course of our lives. If one has time to send a Snapchat and check football scores, is it asking a whole lot to be reminded of the need to pray for and tend to the needs of others?

What 3D Catholic offers in its own pocket-sized way is an enduring reminder of God’s call for us to love others. This call constitutes its own culture of love. Amidst the violations against love seen most explicitly in the recent spree of sexual assaults on Our Lady’s campus, not to mention the culture of sexual assault at large, it would behoove us to spend more time thinking about this culture, a Catholic culture.

We do not necessarily need to radically change our lives, nor even give up other fun-generating apps. But we do need to allow God’s call into our lives in a more apparent way. 3D Catholic is not quite Yik Yak for Catholics, since Catholics can use Yik Yak benevolently, too. It is a Catholic Yik Yak, an app for building up the Kingdom one day at a time.

Charlie Ducey is a senior studying the languages of G. K. Chesterton (English) and Edith Stein (German). Please contact him with questions, comments, complaints, appraisals, invitations, prognostications and prestidigitations at [email protected].

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Charlie Ducey

Charlie Ducey is a senior who studies English at Notre Dame. He is currently a big fan of alternative German rock music.

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