Monday, March 26, 2007

How an iPod can help you learn the Faith

Perhaps many of you out there think--'well, I would like to learn more about my faith but I just don't have the time.' Perhaps you would also like to pray more but find that you lack the time. Of course, we must make time for God. However, do not discount the moments that you have while you are on the run.

For last Christmas I received an Apple iPod. Many of my late-twenties, early-thirties peers have had iPods. I resisted the idea because I was trying to simplify my life Franciscan-style. I finally gave in to the idea of receiving an mp3 player for Christmas. I am glad I did. The iPod is not just the gadget du jour of your teenage kid. It can also be an excellent tool to halp you grow in your faith!

I am directing this article to those catechists and anyone else who has no idea about the iPod technology...

What the heck is a "podcast"???

A podcast is a broadcast of a radio program (and now--TV and video is available) that you can download and listen to through your iPod. First you need an internet connection (preferibly high-speed) to download (for free!) Apple's software iTunes:

Radio and TV programs will be saved onto mp3 audio files (now, I see them called mp4 files?) and then you can download those audio files to your own computer via the internet and your iTunes software. In fact, you do not even need an iPod to listen to podcasts. All you need is an internet connection and the iTunes software. Once you download a podcast, you can simply listen to it via iTunes on your computer at work or home. If, however, you want to be able to take those podcast programs with you wherever you go... you will want an iPod (or some other mp3 player). The iPods cost $150 and up... but for just $80 you can get the tiny iPod Shuffle which amazingly is the size of a matchbook, clips on to your clothing and can hold 24o songs or the equivalent amount of podcasts. The larger iPods can hold up to 2,000 songs.

Once you have iTunes, you can go to the iTunes Store and search for podcasts. There is a vast number of podcasts of various radio and TV programming that you can suscribe to for free.
When you click on a program to suscribe then your iTunes program will check for updates every day to the podcasts that you suscribe to. If, for example, you suscribe to a podcast of an EWTN program that you like, then every time that the folks at EWTN make available a new audio file of a recent program then you iTunes will automatically download it. You do not have to remember, the program does it for you (it is kind of like getting the newspaper delivered to your door every morning). Once you have received the podcast file, then you can listen to it from your computer or drag it and download it into you iPod. Once you are done listening to it, you can delete the podcast from your iPod (that way, you save room for more future podcasts). Some new cars come set up with a jack to plug your iPod in so that you can listen to it through car speakers. You could also just buy a casette adapter and plug your iPod into that and listen that way.

What podcasts are out there?

You can dowload podcasts of any kind of program--news programs, sports programs, etc. However, there are many prodcast available to help you learn more about your faith. I will list just some of the ones that I have encountered (all these programs can be found from iTunes store by typing the name in the search window):

  1. CATHOLIC ANSWERS LIVE: For those who have access to Catholic radio stations such as EWTN radio or Ave Maria Radio (which is none of us out here in central Iowa) you might be familiar with this excellent program. CA Live airs two hour long episodes a day that will have a guest apologist expert in expalining and defending the Catholic faith. The guests will talk about a given topic (Lent, the Mass, the different rites of the Church, particular dogmas of the Church, controverial topics, etc.) and then take calls from listeners asking questions. This is an excellent way to learn more. Some programs even deal with current films, current hot topics (such as the DaVinci Code book and movie, or the alleged discover of Jesus' tomb, etc.), etc. Search "Catholic Answers Live" or see
  2. EWTN programs: You can suscribe to audio podcasts of your favorite TV shows: EWTN Bookmarks, Life on the Rock, The World Over, Sunday Night Live with Fr. Benedict Groeschel. Personally, I like Marcus Grodi's the Journey Home. On this program, converts to the Catholic faith (often times ministers from Protestantism or other non-Catholic faiths) come on and tell the story of their conversions... and also take phone call questions. This can be a good kick-in-the-butt for the cradle Catholic who takes his faith for granted.
  3. The K-Street Catholic: This is the podcast of the Washington D.C.-based Catholic Information Center ( ). I recently heard about these podcasts from a radio show, and they are excellent. Recent episodes have dealt with the Jewish ordigins of Baptism, the Mass, and the Paschal Mystery and an episode dealing with the "Jesus Tomb" controversy.
  4. Cardinal Arinze Podcast: Cardinal Arinze is the prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments at the Holy See. This one time papal prospect has written beautifully on the litugy of the Catholic Church. In recent podcasts he has covered Pope Benedict XVI's 2006 encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God is Love).

  5. Understanding the Scriptures: This is a podcast of an adult education class in a parish in Texas. They are using Scott Hahn's excellent textbook Understanding the Scriptures: A Complete Course on Bible Study. If you would like to get an understanding of the overall story of the Bible, and how the Old Testament relates to the New Testament, this is the podcast for you. ( )
  6. The Inner Life (on Relevant Radio): This program airs on the Catholic radio station Relevant Radio.

    This program hosts different priests as spiritual directors for each day. Callers call in with questions about discernment in issues small (personal decisions) and great (a vocation), questions about prayer and growth in the spiritual life, etc. Recent episodes included a discussion on Franciscan spirituality. On iTunes Store search for "Relevant Radio" and you will find this and other programs.
  7. Keep the Faith

    This site has mp3 lectures downloadable for a buck: topics include: many Archbishop Fulton Sheen talks, The Existence of God, St. Augustine, the development of the Latin rite liturgy, Saints of the Reformation, the Enlightenment revisted, Sacred Music and Liturgy, the re-definition of marriage, the Antichrist, the demonic today, etc. [some of this would be of particular interest to traditionalist catholics] This is not a podcast that you can suscribe to as far as I know... you go to the site, download the mp3 files you like, and then you can suck them up into your iPod or other mp3 player.
    This neat site has podcasts on a range of topics: the art of contemplative prayer; stations of the cross meditations (inspired by the Passion of the Christ and with quotations from various Catholic writers, including Josemaria Escriva, Pope John Paul II, and Dietrich von Hildebrand); "De-coding the DaVinci Code"; music from a parishes 2006 Easter vigil; marriage as a vocation; the artist and the sacraments (Barbara Nicolosi tells Catholic artists in Holywood about the need for the sacraments and spiritual direction); the Real Presence of Jesus in the sacrament of the Eucharist; teaching your children about the sacrament of confession; etc. A virtual treasure trove of good stuff!
    Listing of assorted blogs and audio books.
  10. What does the Prayer Really Say? ( )
    I just discovered this little gem of a site. Fr. John Zuhlsdorf covers matters liturgical... reflections on the text of liturgical prayers (as they are translated with "slavish accuaracy"). He has a lot of great podcasts where he reads and discusses the writings of the great ancient Church fathers--Augustine, Gregory the Great, Cyprian, etc. In a recent podcast he reads St. Augustine's commentary on Psalm 61 and discusses how we as Catholic Christians can more fully enter in the mystery of the Holy Mass--prayer that is "full conscious and active participation". Search iTunes Store by typing

  11. The Light of the East: Pope John Paul II said that the universal Chuch must breathe with both lungs (the East and the West). Do you want to learn more about the treasures of the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church? Check out this broadcast by Fr. Thomas Loya (which airs on Relevant Radio). Fr. Loya is also an expert in Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body.( )
  12. the Maronite Podcast: a Place to Pray:
    This is a daily reading of the Prayers of the Faithful or Divine Office for the Antiochene Syriac Maronite Church.
  13. St. Michael's RCIA podcast: This is a podcast of some local parish's RCIA classes. I have not really listened to this one, so I cannot vouge for it personally. However, the point is, there are things like this out there. Many adult Catholics would be well-suited to go through RCIA... they could learn a lot or get a refresher on things they once learned but have lost a hold of. If you have a friend who is thinking about coming into the Church but is not ready to join an RCIA program, they can listen in on one from the privacy of their home.

Musical Praise on the go

Many Catholics listen to the local Protestant Christian music station. Nothing wrong with that, but you should know that there are also ways to gain access to specifically Catholic praise music (many Catholic artists out there cannot break into the mainstream Christian stations). I do not like all the music that I hear on these programs (mostly because they do not always fit my musical taste... lyrically, they are great), but you can find a lot of good music. Check out these programs and also the website :

  1. Catholic Praisecast (search for the podcasts through these titles)
  2. Catholic Rockers Podcast
  3. (I am looking for some sacred liturgical music podcasts... if anyone finds one, let me know, eh?)

What else can I do with my iPod?

You can pray. Do you own a favorite CD of the rosary? You can download it to your iPod and pray the rosary while walking, running, gardening, vacuuing, etc. I have posted an article about running with the rosary before

I like to pray the rosary while I run because it allows me the time of meditation... and also keeps my mind off the fatigue and boredom of some longer runs. My mind tends to wander when I mentally pray by myself, so having a recording sometimes keeps me in track. You also can order podcast recordings of rosaries for free (one time downloads).

Franciscan University of Steubenville has a free recording of a recitation of the
scriptural rosary.

This is particularly useful to those who like to pray the rosary with short snippets of Holy Scripture between each prayer. Without a book, this would be difficult (unless you have stores of scripture passages stored in your memory). So, if you are running, driving, or otherwise on the go... and reading from a book is not possible... then listening to this scriptural rosary on your iPod can be ideal. If you cannot locate the podcast of this recording through a search on iTunes Store, then you can get this download from their website (by just right clicking on their link): (Type "Latin Rosary" in iTunes store and you can learn how to pray the rosary in the ancient language of the Church).

Another scriptural rosary can be downloaded from this high-church Anglo-Catholic's website "Pious and Overly Devotional":

Try typing in "Divine Mercy Chaplet" in the iTunes store search window and you can also download the Divine Mercy Chaplet (this one did cost me $1) spoken or sung. If you are waiting at the dentist's office, discreetly slip in your ear plugs and pray the chaplet in 10 minutes!

Pray-as-you-go: The Irish Jesuits have a daily podcast with about 10 minutes of meditation available at . This podcast includes sacred music, the Gospel reading from the day's Mass, and a brief reflection and guided meditation. Taking 10 minutes a day out for mediation can do wonders.

Pray the Prayer of the Church: the Liturgy of the Hours is not just for clergy and religious... it is also a prayer that the laity are encouraged to take up. The litugry of the Hours is the prayer of the Psalms throughout that various times of the day. Do a iTunes Store search for "Liturgy of the Hours" or "Morning Prayer" and "Evening Prayer." Podcasts for these are supposedly plentiful. Go to the following link for podcasts of the Office of Readings:

The US Bishops' Conference also has a daily podcast of the daily readings for Mass; type "daily readings from the New American Bible" in the search window, or go to the US Bishops' website:

The bottom line: you have more time than you think... and w/ the creative use of technology... you can make use of those spare minutes in the day. Plug in your headphones, your car stereo hook up, or play from a speaker docking station (they sell those too) and you can use an iPod while doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, waiting at the bus station/laundromat/doctor's office, etc. Perhaps some might think me weird for listening to my iPod while grocery shopping. But why should that be weird... for 15-30 minutes while I shop, I am by myself... I am not going to be talking to anyone... so I just plug in and enjoy. I recommend that you do the same.

There is probably a ton of other great things out there that you can download and take with you... as I find more things I will post them. If anyone out there knows of other good podcasts... leave a comment below and let me know about it... I will add it to this post.

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