Common Psalm, Common Psense

A member of our parish music ministry team asked an excellent question:

Since we only have 2 or 3 weeks before Lent, I have a suggestion. Is it a viable idea to continue the Responsorial psalm that we have been doing?

This is my thinking face.


To answer your question,

First of all, what Psalm have you been doing lately? I hope it’s one of the seasonal psalms for Ordinary Time. By the way, Ordinary Time is “ordinary,” because we hear about Christ’s life, over the course of several weeks, through an ordered (hence the word, ordinary) sequence of Gospel passages.

In our parish, because we worship in multiple sites, we use music to unite our community. One way that we do this is through a single setting of a seasonal responsorial psalm. The lectionary (the compilation of scripture passages for mass) encourages us to sing the psalm of the day when it is possible, but sometimes, like in our case, a familiar setting encourages the participation of the assembly. It also unifies the musician and provides some continuity of musical repertoire. Since there might  be several different accompanists and cantors who rotate over the course of many weeks at a single mass-time, and there is plenty of musical diversity among our team, we’re all playing at least one song in common.

We make an effort to select a musical setting that works well on keyboard and guitar.

During the seasons of Lent, Advent, Easter and Christmas, we decide on a single setting of one seasonal psalm. Since Christmas culminated with the Baptism of the Lord, we begin this season of discipleship known as Ordinary Time, which has its own set of common psalms.

Depending on when Lent begins, the first segment of Ordinary Time could be as short as four or five weekends, as it is this year. This is exactly why I would like our team to select one of the psalms for Ordinary Time that we have sung over the summer.  In our case this could be either Ps. 34:  Taste and See by Bob Hurd or Ps.63: My Soul is Thirsting by Steve Angrisano. Since we only have a few more weeks to go, I think it’s the most viable option for us to pick something that is familiar to us. (We sang another one during the fall, Ps. 27, but it just seems more appropriate for the end of the liturgical year.)

Although these settings were exceptionally well received by our team, they wouldn’t work right now because

Psalm 25: To You Oh Lord  is an Advent psalm

Psalm 98: All the Ends of the Earth is a Christmas season psalm…

(So wait until next December to work on those songs again.)

I love questions like these, so please keep them coming.   I love being able to answer them for you. I hope that over the next few months, I will be able to empower you to find answers and explain them in ways that make sense. For future reference, here is a sound and simple article I found in the liturgical blogosphere about seasonal responsorial psalms:


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