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Revised Grail Psalms 1

The full text of the Revised Grail Psalter can be found here.

Its publication explains some of the astonishing “translations” in the new RC English Missal that are completely contrary to Liturgiam authenticam – I will deal with that in my next post with this title.

The Revised Grail Psalter is a translation from the Hebrew by Abbot Gregory Polan, O.S.B., of Conception Abbey, Missouri. The intention is that this is the translation used by all English-speaking Roman Catholics [except, of course, the Anglican Ordinariate and Anglican Use Roman Catholics, who, like some Carthusians and probably other RC monasteries, use Anglican translations].

[Currently, I understand, USA Roman Catholics are in the bizarre situation of using one translation in the Daily Office and a completely different translation at Mass! So much for “by heart”.]

Whether it is preferable to have such a venture issue from the hands of an individual or a committee is an interesting discussion.

The accuracy of the translation is something that can be examined and discussed and I will look at one psalm as an example in the third post with this title.

It needs to be underlined that the purpose of this translation is for use in worship. There are perfectly good, literal, accurate translations already available, and I have a repugnance for the multiplication of translations. [Even so take my advice and join me in buying shares in GIA Publications and Conception Abbey; see also copyright] If you want an accurate Psalter, use Robert Alter’s The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary.

An English psalter for worship needs to balance accuracy on the one hand with rhythm for proclaiming, chanting, and singing on the other. As we pray them we need to be able to find ourselves within these psalms so that we can grow into their being “our” prayer. The translation should not draw attention to itself but be “sacramental”, a window to the Divine. We shouldn’t be noticing the glass. One cannot but wonder how different the translation might be if instead of a male monk in a male monastery (and authorised by male bishops) the task had been done by a woman monastic with a community of her sisters.

[I have the People’s Companion to the Breviary, and used it for many years. It is produced by the Carmelite sisters of Indianapolis. They started by revising the Grail psalter, but then Grail, holding the copyright, did not allow them to continue. Instead, they produced their psalter based on the RSV.]

Thanks for those who have pointed me to the online text of the Revised Grail Psalter.

ps. I know the rejected 1998 Missal Translation is online – but can’t seem to find it again – please can someone point me to it.

In the Southern Hemisphere, and certainly in Aotearoa-New Zealand, this is our go-slow time… So – sometimes your comments may take longer than usual to get through moderation…

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9 Responses to Revised Grail Psalms 1

  1. Bit of an abomination, aren’t they! Very hard to sing and pray.

    What do you think of the translation used in ‘Common Worship’? I use them each day, as I pray the office from the ‘Daily Prayer’ volume. I use them for chanting as well, and find they lend themselves to that well.

  2. You bring up a wonderful point about the LotH and the mass. I follow the 4 vol. LotH from the Catholic Church, and I will tell you it makes scripture memorization somewhat difficult due to the lack of common translations.

    In fact it is worse than you state. The Grail Psalter is used in the breviary, except for Psalm 95 which is a stand alone ICEL translation, which is not the NAB (the translation used at mass). Plus to add to the confusion there is a Revised NAB coming out approved for private devotion but not for mass (or is it the other way around?).

    This jigsaw of multiple translations is often distracting when I pick up a bible and find a familiar psalm or canticle rendered in an odd way; as if someone rearranged my living room furniture while I was out.

  3. I feel that a good, workable and poetic psalter is crucial – it lies at the heart of the liturgy. Having used the Divine Office (with the original Grail psalms) for over a couple of decades, I found the transition to the CofE’s Common Worship Psalter very difficult. The Grail psalms had ‘got under my skin’ and felt like old friends that I did not want to abandon! I have recently given up on CW Daily Prayer, principally because of the psalm translation (although the single opening verse of Psalm 62: “On God alone my soul in stilness waits” may yet have the power to drag me back!).

  4. I love having a variety of psalm translations available and choosing which is most appropriate depending on what I’ll be using them for. Some of the metrical settings or paraphrases are glorious!

    But then, I also attended services entirely in Hebrew for a few years…

    I think there is much to be said for parts of liturgy being familiar so they can be said “by heart”, but it isn’t the only consideration. I think for most Sunday morning congregations, the psalms aren’t repeated often enough to get anywhere near memorisation. In my own daily prayer I tend to use the Common Worship translation because it is there, but I make a point of sometimes using others, and the different setting of the words delights me rather than tripping me up. I would, of course, only use one translation were I to intentionally set out to memorise a psalm — and would probably make use of a metrical version as these can be much easier to remember.

  5. I read somewhere that the Revised Grail Psalter will be used in the Mass eventually. Still, we in America will still have a weird situation with one psalter for the LOTH and the Mass but a different psalter in the NABRE but don’t forget how it was with the traditional BCP which uses the KJV except for the psalter which is Coverdale’s.

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