'God on the move' with prayer downloads

London, England - A "pray-as-you-go" service has been launched by the Roman Catholic Church to put people in touch with God via their iPods.

From the beginning of this month, the British Jesuits have been offering daily prayer sessions complete with soothing spiritual music and Bible readings as free downloads from the internet.

Stressed commuters can then listen on their iPods, mobile phones or other MP3 players on their way to or from work, college or school.

The initiative was due to end at Easter, but has proved so successful in Britain and abroad that the Jesuits are now expected to extend it well beyond the season of Lent.

At its launch on Ash Wednesday, some 3,300 prayer sessions were downloaded from the web in countries as far apart as Australia, Mexico and the United States.

Since then, a further 30,000 sessions have been downloaded from the Jesuit website, and interest is growing.

Fr Peter Scally, the director of Jesuit Media Initiatives, said he had received many appreciative e-mails from users.

One, Audrey Newbury, a commuter from Harrow, north London, said: "There is no better way to spend the Tube journey home, after all the stresses of the day."

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."

A new prayer session is offered every day, combining music ranging from modern hymns to Gregorian chant with a short reading from the scriptures.

The session, which lasts about 10 minutes, opens with a peal of bells and closes with questions designed to prompt personal reflection.