Grail Psalms

The Grail Psalms refers to various editions of an English translation of the Book of Psalms, first published completely as The Psalms: A New Translation in 1963[1] by the Ladies of the Grail. The translation was modeled on the French La Bible de Jérusalem,[2] according to the school of Fr. Joseph Gelineau: a simple vernacular, arranged in sprung rhythm to be suitable for liturgical song and chant (see: Gelineau psalmody). All official, Catholic, English translations of the Liturgy of the Hours use the Grail Psalms.


The Grail Psalms were already popular before the Second Vatican Council revised the liturgies of the Roman rite. Because the Council called for more liturgical use of the vernacular instead of Latin, and also for more singing and chanting (as opposed to the silent Low Mass and privately recited Divine Office, which were the predominantly celebrated forms of the Roman rite before the Council),[3] the Grail Psalms were utilized as the official liturgical Psalter by most of the English-speaking world.

The Grail Psalms were utilized by ICEL in their translation of The Liturgy of the Hours in 1973. They were also utilized, with some minor alterations, in a parallel translation of the Liturgy of the Hours titled The Divine Office in 1974. As these are the only two officially-recognized Roman Catholic translations of the canonical hours in English, the Grail became the de facto liturgical Psalter. Some Episcopal Conferences, such as that of England & Wales, also utilized the Grail for the Responsorial Psalms in the Lectionary for Mass.[4] The Ruthenian Catholic Church, since 2007, has also utilized the Grail Psalms for chanting, in an edition prepared by the Trappist Abbey of the Genesee called The Abbey Psalter.[5]

A separate edition of the Grail Psalms, revised with inclusive language, was also produced in 1986. It was expressly forbidden from liturgical use.[6]

The ICEL Psalter was meant to replace the Grail Psalms, but the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments did not grant recognitio to the translation,[7] and thus it was rejected for use. In 2001, Pope St. John Paul II promulgated the encyclical Liturgiam authenticam, which called for a more literal translation of liturgical texts. This led to an interest in updating the Grail. In 2008, Conception Abbey completed a wide-scale revision in accordance with the encyclical, published under the title The Revised Grail Psalms. The 2008 version is used in the ICEL translation of The Liturgy of the Hours published by Paulines Publications Africa, now promulgated for use in every Bishops' Conference of Africa.[8]

In 2010, the Holy See granted recognitio of The Revised Grail Psalms with certain modifications; the current modified edition of 2010 is the one in force for several Bishops' Conferences including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.[9]

In the General Assembly of the USCCB of November 2014, the U.S. Bishops voted to adopt a further revision of the Revised Grail Psalms, which if granted recognitio by the Holy See, would constitute another new edition of the Grail Psalms.[10]

Example comparison between the Grail (1963) and Revised Grail (2010)

From Psalm 63 (62):2-9.[11]

2 O Gód, you are my Gód, for you I lóng;

for yóu my sóul is thírsting.
My bódy pínes for yóu
like a drý, weary lánd without wáter.
3 So I gáze on yóu in the sánctuary
to sée your stréngth and your glóry.

4 For your lóve is bétter than lífe,
my líps will spéak your práise.
5 So I will bléss you áll my lífe,
in your náme I will líft up my hánds.
6 My sóul shall be fílled as with a bánquet,
my móuth shall praíse you with jóy.

7 On my béd I remémber yóu.
On yóu I múse through the níght
8 for yóu have béen my hélp;
in the shádow of your wíngs I rejóice.
9 My sóul clíngs to yóu;
your ríght hand hólds me fást.

2 O God, you are my God; at dawn I seek you;

for you my soul is thirsting.
For you my flesh is pining,
like a dry, weary land without water.
3 I have come before you in the sanctuary,
to behold your strength and your glory.

4 Your loving mercy is better than life;
my lips will speak your praise.
5 I will bless you all my life;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
6 My soul shall be filled as with a banquet;
with joyful lips, my mouth shall praise you.

7 When I remember you upon my bed,
I muse on you through the watches of the night.
8 For you have been my strength;
in the shadow of your wings I rejoice.
9 My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.


  1. While 1963 is the copyright date for the complete set, some of the psalms were published in other books earlier. For example, the book "Twenty Four Psalms and a Canticle: arranged for singing" has on page 6, "© Ladies of the Grail, (England) 1956". Psalm 2 has slightly different words to the version published in 1963, but Psalms 8 and 22 have the same words.
  2. "Revised Grail Psalms – GIA Publications". Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  4. "Liturgical Books In The English Speaking World". United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
  7. "Holy See's 1996 Order to Revoke Imprimatur Revealed in August". Retrieved 2014-04-04.
  8. "Liturgy of the Hours | Paulines Publications Africa". Retrieved 2014-04-04.
  9. "Recognitio Received From Rome, Revised Grail Psalter Approved". Retrieved 2014-04-04.
  11. "The Revised Grail Psalms". Retrieved 17 January 2014.

External links

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