BY SIMON CALDWELL
THE CATHOLIC Church has launched a "pray-as-yougo" service to put people in touch with God via their iPods.
An initiative by the British Jesuits to offer commuters daily prayer sessions in MP3 format, as free downloads from the internet, has proved an instant success, not just in Britain but overseas as well. Jesuit Media Initiatives piloted the project — called "Pray-As-You-Go" — for the season of Lent.
The Jesuits invited people from their parishes and schools in Britain to give it a go by using the audio files on their iPods, mobile phones or other MP3 players in an attempt to guide them through prayer on their daily journey to work, school or college.
On the first day of the ini
tiative, some 3,300 prayer sessions were downloaded from the website www.prayas-you-go.org in countries as far afield as Australia, Mexico And the United States.
Since then, a further 20,000 sessions were downloaded.
Fr Peter Scally, director of Jesuit Media Initiatives, said he had received many appreciative e-mails from users.
He said Brooks Thoman from Nipomo, California, had called service "awesome, wonderful, inspiring", while Patrick Allen in San Jose, California, said: "This is the most beautifully produced prayer that I have ever heard. It touches me in ways that 1 never thought possible." In London, Audrey Newbury, a Metropolitan Line cornmuter from Harrow, said: "There is no better way to spend the Tube journey home, after all the stresses of the day."
A new prayer session is offered every day, combining music, a short reading from the scriptures and a few questions for personal reflection in a session of guided prayer that lasts around 10 or 12 minutes.
The site also offers the option of using "Pray-AsYou-Go" as a daily podcast (with iTunes or other podcasting software) which automates the downloading process and keeps you up to date with the site's latest offering.
Fr Scally said: "So many people have been enthused by Pray-As-You-Go that we are left in no doubt that it is addressing a very real need in people's spiritual lives."
The success of the initiative comes days after Pope Benedict XVI became the first ever reigning pontiff to own an iPod.
The Pope, received a white, wafer-thin iPod nano as a gift from the staff of Vatican Radio. It was loaded up with compositions by Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky.
United States President George W Bush and Tony Blair own iPods — as well as Queen Elizabeth II, who was given hers by Prince Andrew last year.
Ipods come in differing shapes and sizes. The cheapest version, the iPod shuffle, costs around £50, and can hold roughly 240 songs. More expensive models cost around £220, and can store up to 15,000 songs.
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