How do you pray with the Psalms?

Over at dotCommonweal, I just posted a two-part reflection on praying with the psalms. In it I shared some thoughts from two authors whose insights I find stimulating and helpful to understanding: Pius Parsch, and André Chouraqui. These are older works, not easily available, so I’ve quoted from them at some length.

You can see the post that features Parsch’s thought here. The one that features Chouraqui’s thought is here.

You are welcome to join the conversation there, of course. The questions I have for Pray Tell readers however are different and more specific:

  • How do you pray with the psalms?
  • What are the challenges, struggles, blessings and rewards of praying with the Psalter, as you’ve experienced it?
  • What psalms do you know by heart, and how did you learn them?
  • Do you teach psalms to children? 

In the dotCommonweal posts I did not really broach the topic of music in praying with the psalms.

  • How important do you find this aspect of the psalms (psalms as song)? Essential? A nice extra? Superfluous?

Our discussion need not be limited to the Liturgy of the Hours, although obviously that is a premier vehicle for praying the Psalms for Catholics. Other venues are fine too. For example, in my house we pray bits of the psalms as grace before meals.




29 responses to “How do you pray with the Psalms?”

  1. Ben Yanke Avatar

    I pray the psalms liturgically, in the Office.

  2. Todd Flowerday Avatar

    Sing them at Mass, compose them for liturgy.

    For the Spiritual Exercises, I used Psalms 105 and 106 recently in Lectio Divina as reflections on the Jewish context of Jesus. I found that more fruitful than the suggested Scriptures from the Pentateuch.

    When I was more random about daily prayer, I often prayed with and returned to some of the favorites listed by John Veltri in his books Orientations. Psalms 62, 131, and 139 still have special meaning for me.

    A few years ago, I prayed with the pilgrimage psalms (120-134) during the Advent season.

  3. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    Rita has produced a good introduction to the Psalms and Divine Office.

    My introduction to the Divine Office and Psalms was in the late 1950s as a teen in high school. I came upon the Short Breviary in English for women religious (Liturgical Press) in a local religious good store. Its introduction deeply formed me into the Divine Office as communal prayer rather than as private or personal prayer. It made me very comfortable that while sometimes the psalms might express my thoughts and feelings, they could express the thoughts and feelings of others. I never experienced the Divine Office as private prayer but always as communal prayer. Of course there is a large side benefit of personal inspiration that often occurs.

    I graduated from the Short Breviary to the complete Divine Office in English before the end of high school, then to both the Monastic Office in Latin and the Brothers Office with Gelineau Psalms during college at Saint John’s in the years of Vatican II. That very varied experience led me to see the Divine Office as being broader than any particular form it might take.

    That broader picture was further shaped by Taft’s course on the Divine Office which I took at Notre Dame one summer in the 1980s, i.e. the Divine Office as one aspect of “praying always.” This allowed the Divine Office to take varying shapes within my own life using all the liturgical resources that I have available which included a large collection of liturgical music, the Byzantine and the Anglican Offices.

    I would advise people to become familiar with a particular form of the Divine Office before adapting it much. We now have a wonderful resource for the reformed Liturgy of the Hours in the website.

    One priceless gift found in praying these different forms is that the Divine Office as a whole forms my deepest Christian identity. Things Roman vs Byzantine, Pre-Vatican vs. Post Vatican, Councils, Popes and Bishops are small potatoes. Another priceless gift of the Divine Office is that it is liturgy we can do as baptized persons without needing the clergy, and something we can adapt to our life and its needs.

    Andrew Greeley claims in Religion as Poetry that we experience religion as poetry i.e. images, words, and experience come together. I have certainly found that true with regard to the Psalms and the Divine Office.

  4. Peter Rehwaldt Avatar
    Peter Rehwaldt

    Three weeks before Christmas 2011, while I was serving as an interim pastor, each of the three very good parish musicians came to me independently within the span of 36 hours to say “I can’t take it — I’m going to quit.” They had been arguing and fighting with one another behind the scenes, and each had reached their breaking point. Faced with the prospect of an a cappella Christmas, I asked the three of them to join me the next evening in the sanctuary, so that I could get a handle on what was going on between them. To open the meeting, I turned to Psalm 137:

    By the rivers of Babylon–
    there we sat down and there we wept
    when we remembered Zion.
    On the willows there we hung up our harps. . . .

    I read the whole psalm, and we sat in silence for a couple of minutes. Finally, I broke the silence: “So, you’ve decided to hang up your harps?”

    It was a powerful gathering.

    It was the start to a long process of sorting out a lot of stuff, but it was that psalm that named their pain, that named the depth of their pain, that gave them the strength to be willing to look at the mess and try to sort it out.

    I love the psalms.

  5. Ron Jones Avatar
    Ron Jones

    Several years ago I had such a negative experience with my pastor that I considered leaving the Church. I did not attend mass with any regularity for the next five years (I was in a world of hurt). I retreated to the Liturgy of the Hours which I had dabbled in for a long time with no sense of commitment. Now I jumped into it because at that point, mass caused me to ache. The psalms about fear and pain, loss and abandonment really spoke to me. One day I came across the verse, “You duped me, Lord, and I let myself be duped.” I think I read it over and over about ten times. Yes, that was exactly how I felt. God touched my hurt and healing began. That next Friday, Psalm 51 almost knocked me over during morning prayer. I knew I was ready to let go of the pain and move on. Then I came across Psalm 57:
    “My heart is ready, oh, God, my heart is ready; I will sing and chant praise. Awake my harp! Awake psaltery and harp, and I shall awake at dawn!” And about ten times (again) I kept repeating, “My heart is ready, oh God, my heart is ready.” I cried and went to mass that Sunday. I have continued to pray the hours and every day the psalms speak to me. They call me to think deeply and feel when I’d really rather not. They follow me through all of my ups and downs, my ins and outs. In regard to music with the psalms, I sometimes find myself singing the words because saying them just isn’t enough. My greatest joy each Sunday is to cantor the psalm response. I always sense God’s constant love in the words and the music.

    1. Elisabeth Ahn Avatar
      Elisabeth Ahn

      @Ron Jones – comment #5:

      1. “God touched my hurt and healing began.”

      Your story is wondrously beautiful; thanks so much for sharing.

      2. “My greatest joy each Sunday is to cantor the psalm response.”

      And ’tis mine also — except that, instead of cantoring, I sing from the pew.

      3. As for me, I cannot really say that I “pray with the Psalms” outside of weekday and Sunday mass with any regularity. Still, as has been said many times, many ways, the Psalms to me are poetry, a series of love poems really. They speak to me, and they take me to God.

      As to the musical aspects of the Psalms, singing them is nice, but generally speaking, I agree with Keats: “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter.”

      Besides, even without any melody, one can still sing and make melody in one’s heart to the Lord.

  6. Bryon Gordon Avatar
    Bryon Gordon

    Thank you for this posting Rita. My first spiritual director gifted me with the Liturgy of the Hours and I have been praying the Psalms in that mode ever since. As a family, we usually pray the Psalms at Vespers and close the Sacred Triduum with Vespers since there are so few places that do.

    My most significant spiritual insight with the Psalms came to me in the orphanage as a boy when Sr. Mary Christine, RSM quoted some lines from Psalm 27: 10, “Though my father and my mother forsake me, the Lord will take me into his care.” That has sustained me for many years.

    There is a wonderful book by the Presbyterian pastoral theologian Michael Jinkins, “In the House of the Lord: Inhabiting the Psalms of Lament.” It helped me greatly after the death of my brother Lance.

    The Psalms are so rich, for they express the human condition. They also remind us that God is sovereign. Jinkins writes, “To inhabit the world of the psalms is to exchange the various loyalties that compete for our attention with the one loyalty which conditions and relativizes all others.”

  7. Deacon Don Donaldson Avatar
    Deacon Don Donaldson

    It would be easy to simply answer, “each day in the Office” but that would not really state the total truth.

    I find a marked difference between when I take the time to sing the psalms in Morning, Evening and Night Prayer and when they are read. There is something about the soul in song through the words of the psalmist that is indescribable.

    When we were being formed the idea of singing the psalms was strictly forbidden … “I don’t sing, you will not sing.” As a result, the daily prayer rituals were largely glossed over, processed through so that we could get to breakfast or the evening’s refreshments quicker. I often found myself secreting away to repeat the prayers and psalms in song, in private. The thoughts of doing it in song together … not going to happen.

    Similarly with the hymn selections in the current “Christian Prayer” Breviary … which have to be among the worst choices that could be made. Lately I switched over to a Mundelein Psalter and find the choices of the poetic texts far more in keeping with the spirit of the prayer liturgy.

    So, I pray the psalms in unity with all the other parts of the Office … in song … in private (or with my wife).

    Finally, I find myself returning to small “psalm-lets” when I greet people at meetings or services. There is some wonderful wisdom and an immediate centring of those gathered. Try beginning a group together with “God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,” Now say “Let us pray” and watch how the mood has instantly focussed in the room.

    There is very prayerful power in the words of the Psalmist. Too often we simply ignore them or do not bring them into balance within the liturgy, feed our pearls to the pigs.

    “… speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,”

    1. Linda Reid Avatar
      Linda Reid

      @Deacon Don Donaldson – comment #8:
      “There is something about the soul in song through the words of the psalmist that is indescribable.”

      Yes!! Yes!! Yes!!
      I am a cantor as well as a music director, and the Book of Psalms has been my prayerbook for 35+ years. The responsorial psalm in the Liturgy of the Word at Mass has been my special area of focus. It is a wonderful moment of prayer for me and I have tried to make it prayerful for the assemblies I serve as well, by carefully and prayerfully choosing settings which will magnify the words and foster meditation. (Inserting a plug here for The Michael Joncas Psalter {WLP} which has been a beautiful resource for deepening the prayer of the responsorial psalm)
      I find I cannot pray the psalms without singing them even if I try. As I travel through my days, little snippets of sung psalmody enter my head; i.e. Driving through a dense fog summons Psalm 91 “Be with me Lord…..when I am in trouble and need” – happy news summons Psalm 118 “This is the day the Lord has made” and awareness of my sinfulness summons Psalm 51 “Be merciful, O Lord, be merciful for we have sinned”. But it is always in the form of a sung setting!

  8. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    In the dotCommonweal posts I did not really broach the topic of music in praying with the psalms.

    A few months ago I came across an interesting webpage of the Complete Chanted Psalter and some canticles from the Lutheran Prayer Brotherhood everything is free so try it out!

    The single cantor’s voice is pleasant and clear. However one voice can be tiring. The plan used by Divine Office in the LOH site is better, a small group of people speaking one at a time. Even if the smaller psalms were chanted by one person, it might be useful to divide them up among several people, thinking perhaps of different voices as musical instruments to bring out the moods of different psalms. Many psalms would benefit from two people doing the psalm antiphonally. The complex structure of some psalms could be brought out by several voices.

    The text is the King James Version. That would have been more helpful if it were more familiar. In this case the unfamiliar texts and words are a distraction. Sometimes I use a Bible website to read the KSV before listing to it to process and eliminate those distractions.

    REPEATING A SINGLE CHANTED PSALM as background. The computer in my great room is the center of my music system. I download a psalm into my Windows Media Player (WMP), then add a hymn, chant verse or instrument selection after the psalm from the music collection stored on the computer, and set WMP to repeat.

    ALTERNATING CHANTED PSALMS AND HYMNS as background. The Lutheran Prayerbook website music (15.9 hours, 454 tracks) is available for $10.00 from the link on the above page. I stored it on my computer, that way I can load several psalms into my Windows Media Player, and then intersperse them with hymns that serve the same functions as antiphons, a kind of do-it-yourself first part of the Liturgy of the Hours. Again something I can listen to while doing all sorts of other tasks around my house.

    Taft said in his course that the basic idea behind the LOH is to pray always; the fixed hours were symbolic of praying always. This influenced me greatly in bringing down the walls between prayer and life. After all the desert monks did basket weaving as they listened to the psalms being chanted. While most of the day my house is filled with the sounds of the local classical music station, interweaving that with long or short sessions of psalms and hymns helps shape the day without absorbing a great deal of time and attention.

    It would be great if websites were developed to give us chanted versions of the New Grail Psalter. In my research in the local parish I found that most people know the Psalms primarily through the responsorial psalm which most really like. We need to make chanted psalms available to people in their homes, at work, etc. for free as with this website, or very cheaply as with their CD.

  9. Brian Palmer Avatar
    Brian Palmer

    I very much enjoyed reading Rita’s piece on Pius Parsh. It gave me the idea that while the beauty of Lauds is that it reminds us of the Resurrection, I’m also mindful there are those who aren’t “morning persons”, certainly not at 6 or 7 am. However, there’s no reason why this lovely office couldn’t be celebrated closer towards 2 or 3 am for those of us who count ourselves as party animals. We love the late night revelry and early morning.

    I imagine following a night of wining, dining, and merriment with a shortened Vigils around 2 or 3am. Masses in some NY churches were often celebrated at these hours for actors and muscians on Broadway.

    I’m thinking of the three laudate psalms at the end of a vigil, or even serving as a stand alone rite for those who haven’t the endurance to attend a full vigil office . It might encourage parishes to celebrate the Resurrection as central to the Sunday liturgy.

    An abbreviated office of Lauds consisting of no more than psalms 148 to 150. Ideally, with parish clergy present.

    It could include the lighting of a paschal candle incensed at the altar or later at the font after a rite of Asperges. Part of a short procession to or from the font to the accompaniment of the beautiful psalm 51. A resurrection gospel said or sung at the font (or the altar) followed by a hymn or introit to mark the beginning of Mass.

  10. James Ignatius McAuley Avatar
    James Ignatius McAuley


    Lovely little article. I very much enjoyed your commentary on Pius Parsch. As you know, Parsch was a great favorite of the Liturgical Movement in St. John’s Abbey before the Council. The introduction you speak of in the 1964 Divine Office in Latin and English by the Liturgical Press survives in its modified descendent, the Baronius Press Breviary.

    I came to the psalms at the Legion of Christ when we did certain of the Grail psalms at Vespers. After I left, I wanted to continue this formal liturgical prayer and I found my Grandfather’s 1944 Short Breviary and used that for years. Later I used the 1962 Short Breviary and fell in love with Dom Olinger’s translation of the psalms. The fastest way to earn to pray the old office is with the Short Breviary (just like the fastest way to learn the LOTH is to use the 1975 Short Breviary) Presently, I use the Melkite Horolgion and do my kathismas using the Baronius Press pslams, which are translated most excellently (they are Jerome’s Gallican Psalms).

    I do think it would help, if and when the revised Liturgy of the Hours is finally produced, that the Liturgical Press do a set that included Parsch;s introduction and commentary on the Psalms. There is nothing like it. Parsch was scholarly, but holy, and, unlike Psalm commentary of today, it is not overwhelmed by historical/textural criticism or an inordinate focus on Social justice, but rather is truly imbued with the a liturgical spirit that emanates the love of God. In other words, the liturgy without an agenda.

    Anyways, Happy Sunday of the Last Judgment (Meatfare Sunday)

  11. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
    Karl Liam Saur

    One big obstacle to me is the unmusicality of renderings of many of the approved translations. Individual psalms or passages might be lovely, but the attempt at uniform rendering almost invariably kills a larger sense of musicality. Which is, btw, like watching the Wizard of Oz on a black-and-white TV.

  12. Xavier Rindfleisch Avatar
    Xavier Rindfleisch

    Several years ago, I asked a devout Jewish friend to recommend a Psalm commentary for my Lenten reading. He responded instantly: “You MUST get Rabbi Martin Cohen’s ‘Our Haven and Our Strength’ (The Book of Psalms with a new translation and commentary. AVIV Press, NY).” Rabbi Cohen is at Shelter Rock Jewish Center, Roslyn, NY, for whose liturgy he translated all the texts. For each psalm he gives the Hebrew text and his translation. Then a commentary. Sample from our Compline Psalm, 134:

    “A cold night. A Jerusalem winter. The priests are asleep in the Hearth House on the northern wall of the Priests’ Forecourt, the westernmost of the adjoining courtyards that constitute the sacred inner space of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Levites are on duty throughout the night, guarding against intruders . . . To the casual passer-by, they look like lumberjacks: big, burly men wearing padded winter jackets and holding pick-axes and other tools of the security trade . . . but there is more here than meets the eye. Nighttime is the Levites’ hour in the Temple: no one guards the sacred courts but they . . . As the moon rises and the courts are bathed in yellow light, a small group gathers. No one speaks. The night is totally still. The air is heavy with God. The hymns begin . . . The singing is muted, sometimes even whispered, lest it awaken any interest on the part of the outside world. The light of God will shine forth from the Holy of Holies . . . if those gathering in the Temple court can draw it out. A cold breeze sweeps through the courtyard. The Levites turn toward the building that houses the innermost sanctum, the Holy of Holies. As if on signal, they raise their hands and in unison begin to bless God, the holy Source of light and night, Maker of heaven and earth, the God of Israel for whose communicative presence they yearn . . . ”

    And hundreds of insights from his translation! Ex: Ps 65: “To you, silence alone is praise, O God in Zion.”

  13. Fran Rossi Szpylczyn Avatar

    What a wonderful post! Thank you, Rita.

    I am someone who struggles with the LOH when I am alone. Having done a great deal of discernment, and simply retreat, at a monastery of cloistered Dominican nuns, I love the office when I am present. On my own, I have always struggled.

    Yet I love the psalms, so when I pray a modified morning or evening prayer, I pray with them daily. And I often have a sound track, if you will, of psalms, surrounding me as I move through my days. It could be the words of a responsorial psalm that i know or love, or simply the words of a beloved psalm, such as 137. 139 , 91 – and so many others.

    The psalms are essential to my prayer life, to my life.

    1. Elisabeth Ahn Avatar
      Elisabeth Ahn

      @Fran Rossi Szpylczyn – comment #15:

      “… when I pray a modified morning or evening prayer…”

      Would you mind elaborating on this a bit more? How did you modify those prayers? Or is there a modified (which I’m guessing means “simplified”?) version of those prayers out there ?

      1. Michelle Francl-Donnay Avatar

        @Elisabeth Ahn – comment #17:

        The daily reflection booklets, Give Us This Day and Magnificat, both include shortened versions of Morning and Evening Prayer.

      2. Elisabeth Ahn Avatar
        Elisabeth Ahn

        @Michelle Francl-Donnay – comment #18:

        ah, thank you.

        I was wondering if there was something in a book form, rather than a periodical.

        @Jack Rakosky – comment #19:

        And thank you to you too.

        I must say, however, that the instruction given itself could use some modification or simplification!

      3. Michelle Francl-Donnay Avatar

        @Elisabeth Ahn – comment #21:

        When I began all those many years ago, I used an earlier version of “Shorter Christian Prayer” (, which has the complete four week cycle of psalms in it for just Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, along with the seven day cycle for Night Prayer.

        An easy way to start is to begin by praying Night Prayer — the shortest, and to my mind, most hauntingly beautiful of the Offices. It has only one psalm, and repeats on a 7 day schedule. Then try the 4 week cycle (we are in week 3 of the cycle right now), not worrying about any special feasts yet.

      4. Elisabeth Ahn Avatar
        Elisabeth Ahn

        @Michelle Francl-Donnay – comment #22:

        That’s actually the one I started with too. I still found it to be, eh, something other than ‘easy to follow.’

        So, maybe the problem is me, and not (the structure of) the prayers.

        A good Catholic gal that I am (haha), however, I remain ever hopeful that one of these days, by God’s grace I too shall find my own Eureka! moment with the Liturgy of the Hours.

        Now, if only God would hurry up a little…

      5. Jack Rakosky Avatar
        Jack Rakosky

        @Elisabeth Ahn – comment #23:
        So, maybe the problem is me, and not (the structure of) the prayers.

        Actually the problem IS the structure of the prayers.

        The reform of the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours) was done very poorly. It was largely done to make the Office easier for priests. It was not done to provide any easy office for laity in their homes and daily lives. A little thought was given as to how the Office might be used in parishes, mainly on weekends. But even that was done poorly.

        The history of the Divine Office was only beginning to be understood at the time of the reform.

        The first part of each hour consisting mainly of Psalms came from the Divine Office as practiced by the monks in the desert. The psalter was consider not only as the model of prayer but also the model of Christian life. So in communities of monks it was chanted by a reader while everyone else listened and in some cases did their basket weaving. Periodical breaks in longer psalms (the present Glory be) provided monks an opportunity to rise and in silent prayer make the psalm their own. (I suspect this process also enabled monks to lean the psalter by heart which many did).

        The second part of each hour came from the Divine Office as practiced in cathedrals. For the major hours it consists of a psalm, a reading, hymn (now moved to beginning of hour), Gospel Canticle, prayers of the faithful, the Lord’s Prayer. The psalms used were very fixed, e.g. the psalm of incense in the evening, the Ps. 148-150 in the morning.

        As more monasteries came into the cities, the two offices were joined because the monks said their office of psalms while waiting for the clergy to come for the Cathedral office. All this resulted in the present fused hybrid office.

        What does this mean for us today? Some liturgists have suggested that we need to use the Cathedral Office as a model for what we do in parishes, something like the Anglican model for Evening Prayer: Hymn, One Psalm, Lesson, Gospel Canticle, Gospel Reading, Prayers. I agree.

        However more importantly we need daily offices for individuals, families and small groups that distils the richness of the Office into very simple forms while giving people many options. In a nutshell we need to revive that notion of household churches, whether those households be single person, family or meeting places of small groups or small Christian communities. These need to develop their Divine Office models just as the monks did of old outside the parishes. Remember Saint Benedict set the form of the Divine Office in his Rule based upon previous monastic experience.

        Bottom line, we need to experiment with simple forms of the Office in our lives. For some people that might be the doing the psalms using a lecto divina style not paying much attention to time of day. For other people it might be some combination of an evening or morning psalm, a reading, a Canticle, petitions, and the Lord’s Prayer. These simple forms need to fit well with our modern equivalents of basket weaving.

      6. Elisabeth Ahn Avatar
        Elisabeth Ahn

        @Jack Rakosky – comment #24:

        1. “Actually the problem IS the structure of the prayers.”

        aha! Just as I suspected (but didn’t dare to say it out loud, well, not around here anyway).

        2. “… daily offices for individuals, families and small groups that distils the richness of the Office into very simple forms while giving people many options.”

        This sounds very nice, almost heavenly, which I hope and pray will come to be someday (soon).

        Meantime, I’m just gonna continue to weave my baskets (of life) to the psalmic tune of my own.

      7. Michelle Francl-Donnay Avatar

        @Jack Rakosky – comment #24:

        Cardinal Jean Marie Lustiger, archbishop of Paris, suggested in his book, First Steps in Prayer, that one ought memorize the psalms first, rather than the usual traditional prayers. He admits it seems daunting, perhaps even outrageous in these days when the psalter can be so easily obtained, but says start small.

      8. Jack Rakosky Avatar
        Jack Rakosky

        @Michelle Francl-Donnay – comment #27:

        Well it is a good thing we have books! I would be in deep trouble if I had to memorize the Psalms.

        While my verbal and analytical skills are very high, my rote memory skills are below average. Anything that involves a lot of memorizing such as learning a language is very difficult. My early attraction to the Divine Office as an adolescent was likely helped by the amount of verbal and analytical skills required.

    2. Brian Palmer Avatar
      Brian Palmer

      @Fran Rossi Szpylczyn – comment #15:
      I like the idea of a sound track of psalms during private prayer. I was reading an article somewhere in which it was said Pope Paul VI would often read his office privately with tapes of Anglican Evensong or Matins in the background. He collected them from various English cathedrals. Having developed a fondness for the CofE offices from the time he was a university chaplain in Milan.
      Occasionally, for a change of pace I’ll read my great grandfather’s prayer book using the 1662 (Matthew Parker) office. It’s an 1847 edition containing printed prayers for he sovereign and her consort, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

  14. Michelle Francl-Donnay Avatar

    I just might echo Chouraqi and say that the psalms are in my bones. I’ve prayed the LOH for 30 years and the psalms are always just beneath the surface even when I don’t have the breviary in my hand.

  15. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    The General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours is helpful in understanding its structure and how it can be modified, especially simplified.

    Option to Choose Texts

    246. In certain particular cases there is an option to choose texts different from those given for the day, provided there is no distortion of the general arrangement of each hour and the rules that follow are respected.

    247. In the office for Sundays, solemnities, feasts of the Lord listed in the General Calendar, the weekdays of Lent and Holy Week, the days within the octaves of Easter and Christmas, and the weekdays from 17 to 24 December inclusive, it is never permissible to change the formularies that are proper or adapted to the celebration, such as antiphons, hymns, readings, responsories, prayers, and very often also the psalms.

    In place of the Sunday psalms of the current week, there is an option to substitute the Sunday psalms of a different week, and, in the case of an office celebrated with a congregation, even other psalms especially chosen to lead the people step by step to an understanding of the psalms.

    251. The readings, prayers, songs, and intercessions appointed for the weekdays of a particular season may be used on other weekdays of the same season.

    252. Everyone should be concerned to respect the complete cycle of the four-week psalter. [7] Still, for spiritual or pastoral advantage, the psalms appointed for a particular day may be replaced with others from the same hour of a different day. There are also circumstances occasionally arising when it is permissible to choose suitable psalms and other texts in the way done for a votive office.

    In the case of both personal and communal praying of the office, these options suggest ways in which we can begin with much simpler offices while still keeping in mind the ultimate goal of introducing people and congregations to the full richness of the Divine Office.

  16. Sasha Kotlinski Avatar
    Sasha Kotlinski

    One way I like to pray with the Psalms (which may be quite appalling to some, fair warning): I write them out longhand. And in between each line I add a line of my own, my echo or response to the Psalmist’s words. I’m sure this is not an ‘approved’ way to pray them. But it has been very powerful for me.

  17. Roger Evans Avatar

    As for memorizing the psalms, I consider it a great obstacle that we don’t have one standard English translation of the psalms that we both hear and repeat over and over. When people enthuse over Anglican Evensong, one of its main characteristics of it is the use of the same Coverdale translation of the psalms since 1549, with the words and rhythms sinking into the bones. Granted, there is also a limitation involved in investing in one (inevitably imperfect) translation, but in making the psalms constantly accessible to the spiritual life, there is also much value. For a short time I held out great hope in this regard for the ICEL psalm project of the 1980s, but of course it was shot down officially and very emphatically.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: