GILM 19: The Responsorial Psalm

Let’s see what the Church has to say about the psalm after the first reading. They still call it the “gradual,” at least officially:
19. The responsorial psalm, also called the gradual, has great liturgical and pastoral significance because it is an “integral part of the liturgy of the word.” [36] Accordingly, the faithful must be continually instructed on the way to perceive the word of God speaking in the psalms and to turn these psalms into the prayer of the Church. This, of course, “will be achieved more readily if a deeper understanding of the psalms, according to the meaning with which they are sung in the sacred Liturgy, is more diligently promoted among the clergy and communicated to all the faithful by means of appropriate catechesis.” [37] (Notes here.)

Brief remarks about the choice of the psalm and response as well as their correspondence to the readings may be helpful.

Clergy education on the meaning of the psalms: when does that happen? Seminary? Bishop? The psalms do need to be included in the homily, at least as often as the other readings. Next up, we’ll look at practices in singing the psalms. Meanwhile, show of hands for those whose clergy preach on the psalms …

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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9 Responses to GILM 19: The Responsorial Psalm

  1. FrMichael says:

    Clergy education on the psalms, in my experience, is primarily accomplished by the recitation of the LOH in seminary and after taking Orders. The seminary course on the Psalms was an occasionally-offered elective.

    “The psalms do need to be included in the homily, at least as often as the other readings.”

    Where is that written or implied? I preach on the psalms at Mass more than any priest I know, and even I don’t use them as sources as much as the other readings.

  2. Liam says:

    It’s implied in the text of 19 itself, and that reinforces the traditional practice. For many centuries in the Catholic tradition, the Book of Psalms and the Book of Canticles were the most commented-upon books of the Bible.

  3. FrMichael says:

    Liam, rare is the time I disagree with you, but perhaps I’m being a bit wooly today. I don’t see in n. 19 a primacy being given to preaching on the Responsorial Psalm as opposed to the First, Second, or Gospel readings.

  4. Todd says:

    I wouldn’t say a primacy, but definitely more attention than they get.

  5. Liam says:

    Fr Michael

    Who said “primacy”? I never did. Inclusion is the point, not primacy. In other words, in considering the sacred texts for the homily, don’t neglect the psalm. Btw, IIRC, there is also mention elsewhere that imply that the Scriptural parts of the propers are also proper material for the scriptural foundation of the homily.

  6. Liam says:

    Btw, to take a metaview of this, the real point is to avoid the practical habit that many celebrants and liturgists appeared to have adopted of treating the psalm as more akin to a hymn than properly part of the Word that is broken open.

  7. FrMichael says:

    Liam, with comment #6 I think we are on the same page here.

  8. Robert Flammang says:

    The responsorial psalm is an “integral part of the liturgy of the word”.

    I’ve got to admit to being surprised when I read this. Of course, it was published four years before the Graduale Romanum. I wonder if it is still true? It would seem, after all, that the responsorial psalm is optional now, and, indeed, that the graduale is preferred.

    But then, in the sentence before that, the GILM says that the responsorial psalm is also called the gradual. That would seem to imply that responsorial psalm and graduale are two different names for the same thing, but I don’t think that many of us think of them that way. I wonder if any meaning got lost in translation here.

  9. Todd says:

    Hi Robert,

    The GILM was promulgated in 1981. I would say that whether a community uses a musical setting of the responsorial psalm or the gradual (same thing, it seems) the text should be treated and honored as Scripture.

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