Bishop Alexander Sample is now Archbishop of Portland
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,423
    Any empirical evidence for this?


    Empirical is rough. I'm not sure anyone has engaged in those sorts of studies.
    Anecdotal? I've been a member at three different parishes (two in Florida and one in Massachusetts) where the MDs (more than one in each of the two FL parishes) did precisely that: programmed whatever piece was in the "psalter" section of the hymnal for the RP, regardless of how paraphrased it was.

    That would certainly be less charitable, as well as quite presumptuous.


    I presume nothing- as I said, I don't know what to think.

    Why include a "psalter" at all, if it isn't supposed to be conceived of as a Psalter?

  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,067
    Really, Adam? Any empirical evidence for this?


    Father, as a professional who has worked in many denominations, I can categorically say, "Yes, there is plenty of evidence!" Catholics are the worst, but that is in part because we have a lot of rules (just as we have many dogmas/doctrines as a part of Tradition). Empirical? No, I haven't done a study. However, in playing over 100 weddings in the past 5-6 years, I can tell you that many times I get calls from frustrated colleagues asking, "Why can't we use that as the responsorial psalm? It is a psalm in the psalter of Breaking Bread/RitualSong/Gather comp/etc." I try to explain the liturgical law (in a positive way: "The Church wants us to have the fruit of the actual scriptural text in worship, yadayada..." 9 times out of 10, it went over as a lead balloon and I was considered to be "too strict".

    This is also the case in parish Masses. I was criticized by many in my parish for insisting we use the appointed psalm for each distinct Mass during Christmas and Easter.

    People are extremely slipshod in this regard. I can say this as someone with a master's degree where I studied with one of America's most esteemed church musicians all the way down to my experience growing up in small town West Virginia. At one point, I thought, "oh, this is just West Virginia". A substantial amount of time in the Midwest taught me that evidently hillbillies and professionals with upper management jobs in multinational corporations are both likely to care little about if something is actually a psalm suitable for the Liturgy of the Word or not. I know talk is cheap, but I cannot insist enough that when a hymnal committee puts something *in the psalter*, especially in a hymnal published with the approval of the competent ecclesiastical authority in that diocese, then people believe that it is fine.

    I can't imagine anyone with significant experience in parish music ministry that has not encountered that, although the situation in Pittsburgh from Fr. Rossini on to yourself has been more uniform than in most diocese (as one can see from the disproportionate number of cathedral musicians who have come from your diocese.)
  • I don't have a GIA hymnal any more, but when I look at the OCP materials, the overwhelming number of paraphrased psalms written in refrain/verse/refrain/verse structure that are found in the "Psalms and Canticles" section are responses and psalms assigned in the lectionary, either as responsorial psalms designated for particular Sundays and major feasts (http://catholic-resources.org/Lectionary/Index-Sundays.htm) or as common responsorial psalms for various seasons (http://catholic-resources.org/Lectionary/1998USL-Psalms-Alleluias.htm#174). When one also looks at the refrains of these pieces, there is a very high likelihood that they correspond to the assigned responses as well. When one examines what verses of a particular psalm were included, there is substantial agreement with what one finds in the lectionary. The only reasonable conclusion to draw is either that composers are more likely to compose these pieces hoping that they will be used as responsorial psalms or that publishers publish them for this purpose. Why is it that my Heritage Missal has two settings of Psalm 19, both of which have as their refrain, "Lord, you have the words of everlasting life," and include verses, 8, 9, 10, and 11 if the reason is not so that this song may be used as a responsorial psalm. Psalm 20, which is not used in the lectionary, at least for Sundays, feasts, or as a common psalm, somehow has no setting included in the Heritage Missal.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,806
    i agree with jennyH... if its in the hymnal, it is ASSUMED appropriate for the liturgy by almost all DoMs
  • An interesting discussion. Some of the comments are helpful.

    Let’s explore the matter a little further:

    For the Responsorial Psalm, the GIRM (#61) allows for “Psalms arranged in metrical form.”

    Is a metrical psalm always a paraphrase?

    The document “Sing to the Lord (#159) states “Songs or hymns that do not at least paraphrase a psalm may never be used in place of the Responsorial Psalm.”

    So, it seems like psalm paraphrases are allowed by “Sing to the Lord.”

    In light of this, let me return to a question that I asked earlier:

    How far can a composition go in paraphrasing a psalm before the psalm is not substantially recognizable? For example, is the text “The Living God My Shepherd Is”(sung to BROTHER JAMES’ AIR) close enough to be considered a version of Psalm 23? How about other metrical psalms? Would they be suitable as Responsorial Psalms? Would it be appropriate to include them in the "Psalter" section of a hymnal?

    Along the same lines… I applaud the efforts of some lyricists in writing metrical versions of the Introit. In order to have intelligent rhymes, the psalm texts are paraphrased. Are the principles regarding psalm paraphrases the same with the Responsorial Psalm as with the other propers of the Mass?

    The verses of “Shepherd Me, O God” are a paraphrase of Psalm 23. How is it different from the types of paraphrasing used in some of the metrical psalms mentioned above?

    Discuss, if you wish!
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,423
    Father- with respect, I don't quite understand what you're saying- The songs in the psalter section aren't intended to be used as Responsorial Psalms, and it would be presumptuous and uncharitable to assume that GIA wants them to be used that way; except, actually, it's probably fine to use them that way.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,673
    I've heard many good, holy and exceptional people - like Dr. Paul Ford - defend the use of paraphrased Psalms. And certainly some documents give it some credence. However, I'm not sure how one can justify paraphrasing one piece of scripture (the Psalm), but not any others (1st and 2nd readings and the Gospel).

    To me it makes sense that all of the text during the Liturgy of the Word (1st Reading, Psalm/Gradual, 2nd Reading, Alleluia/Acclamation/Tract, Gospel) be word for word from the lectionary/gradual and all be sung.

    The Canadian Bishops issued a hymnal prior to CBWIII called CBWII. CBWII had a Responsorial Psalm for each Sunday/Holy Day, followed by an incomplete Psalter. The Psalms in the Psalter were rarely used by folks, but gave additional Psalmody - some paraphrased, some whacky, some decent. However, it kept it separate from the Responsorial Psalms to be used at Mass. It was an interesting idea, though certainly not executed very well.
    Thanked by 1BruceL
  • JennyH
    Posts: 106
    The songs in the psalter section aren't intended to be used as Responsorial Psalms, and it would be presumptuous and uncharitable to assume that GIA wants them to be used that way; except, actually, it's probably fine to use them that way.

    Adam, I am also scratching my head. It's like, "How dare you even IMPLY that people might think they're OK to use as Resp. Psalm ... but they are, right?"
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,806
    Fr. Jim Chepponis said:


    For the Responsorial Psalm, the GIRM (#61) allows for “Psalms arranged in metrical form.”

    However, I think you forgot to mention the caveat that follows, "providing that they have been approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop. Songs or
    hymns may not be used in place of the Responsorial Psalm."

    This means any metrical or paraphrased song or hymn may not be used in place of the Responsorial Psalm. It is very clear. Also, I am not aware of any Bishop who has approved a metrical song or hymn to be used in place of the Responsorial Psalm for use in the Mass. Can you provide evidence, a formal letter or some documentation?
    Is a metrical psalm always a paraphrase?

    The document “Sing to the Lord (#159) states “Songs or hymns that do not at least paraphrase a psalm may never be used in place of the Responsorial Psalm.”

    So, it seems like psalm paraphrases are allowed by “Sing to the Lord.”

    STTL is not an authoritative document of the Holy See, and cannot be used to change, supercede or ignore what is in the GIRM.

    In light of this, let me return to a question that I asked earlier:

    How far can a composition go in paraphrasing a psalm before the psalm is not substantially recognizable? For example, is the text “The Living God My Shepherd Is”(sung to BROTHER JAMES’ AIR) close enough to be considered a version of Psalm 23? How about other metrical psalms? Would they be suitable as Responsorial Psalms? Would it be appropriate to include them in the "Psalter" section of a hymnal?

    All of them can be included in the Psalter section, but it should be made clear that they are not appropriate for the Mass. The LOTH, yes, and personal prayer and devotions, but not the Mass.
    Along the same lines… I applaud the efforts of some lyricists in writing metrical versions of the Introit. In order to have intelligent rhymes, the psalm texts are paraphrased. Are the principles regarding psalm paraphrases the same with the Responsorial Psalm as with the other propers of the Mass?

    No. I believe that the official versions (verbatim, non-paraphrased) are what is prescribed as opposed to altered or paraphrased (for the sake of rhyming or being metrical). Secondly, I would think that the propers are in a different classification than that of the Liturgy of the Word, i.e, the Responsorial Psalm, but I am not definite about that.
    The verses of “Shepherd Me, O God” are a paraphrase of Psalm 23. How is it different from the types of paraphrasing used in some of the metrical psalms mentioned above?

    It is no different. Shepherd Me, O God is a paraphrased metrical song, and the GIRM explicitly states that, "Songs or hymns may not be used in place of the Responsorial Psalm."

    If we do not seek to out the rules and apply them to our thinking and our entire life, we will become unruly.
    Thanked by 1Ioannes Andreades
  • Father- with respect, I don't quite understand what you're saying- The songs in the psalter section aren't intended to be used as Responsorial Psalms, and it would be presumptuous and uncharitable to assume that GIA wants them to be used that way; except, actually, it's probably fine to use them that way.


    Adam, I'm just trying to surface some questions, since a number of people here seem to be interested in this discussion. I didn't intend my recent comments to specifically refer to Worship IV's psalter section, but rather to raise questions about psalm paraphrases and whether they should be actually considered as part of a hymnal (any hymnal) psalter. (And of course, you are correct once again that we don't want to be presumptuous and uncharitable about GIA!)

    STTL is not an authoritative document of the Holy See, and cannot be used to change, supercede or ignore what is in the GIRM.


    Francis, I know that the status of STTL as an authoritative document has been discussed in this forum in depth in the past. However, according to its front matter, STTL "was approved for publication by the full body of bishops at its November 2007 General Meeting."

    I'm not aware of any parts of STTL that "change, supercede or ignore what is in the GIRM." If that were the case, I would think that Rome would have intervened by now.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,067
    Father, I know you're not trying to steer us off any more than I was (easy to forget this thread is about USA's newest archbishop!), however, I suppose I should give my point.

    The question we needn't ask is, "Is it permissible to use a paraphrased/metrical psalm." Of course it is! Any wiggle room not given in the GIRM is given in STTL. Period. The question we SHOULD ask is, "It is desirable to 'settle' for a paraphrased/metrical psalm in the context of the Liturgy of the Word." I would emphatically state "NO!" It's one thing if it's a volunteer-only situation in a parish of 100 families. It is totally different in the situation of a parish of 500+ families that is paying someone to do the music: the number of those parishes that "settle" for the paraphrase is huge! GIA, OCP, and WLP have a golden opportunity, that is, to show people the ideal of the liturgy. We're not talking musical style/forms/etc., but rather just the text. Why would we want to give people anything other than the unadulterated Word of God in the Liturgy of the Word? Is that the best we can do? I don't think so. I realize that all translation is subjective to some degree, but a paraphrase like "Shepherd me, O God" is so subjective as to be a new text. I think your example of BROTHER JAMES' AIR is good, but even it is mostly a modification of word order, NOT a wholesale change in text.

    Again, I don't think we are really being helpful if we say, "is this permissible": I think we should be interested in constant improvement. I know you are, I know GIA is, but these 'psalters' are really a key issue that is not taken seriously (or at least it doesn't appear so). No Methodist, Presbyterian, or Episcopalian could have imagined their BCP, etc., with a paraphrased psalter...why should the Catholic Church (the true vine!) settle for less?
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,806
    Fr Jim:

    Then you are clear about the status of STTL. It is simply a recommendation and nothing more. The GIRM states the rule succinctly:

    "Songs or hymns may not be used in place of the Responsorial Psalm."

    Can you provide us with documentation that allows a metrical hymn or paraphrase to replace the approved Lectionary versions?
  • The document “Sing to the Lord (#159) states “Songs or hymns that do not at least paraphrase a psalm may never be used in place of the Responsorial Psalm.”

    So, it seems like psalm paraphrases are allowed by “Sing to the Lord.”


    How many people have actually come up to any of us and said, "Wow, these paraphrased psalms have really touched me, I'm so pleased to have them put this way."

    Now, how many people have come up to us and complained that the psalm refrains being sung do not match or resemble true psalms in careful translation? Happens all the time.

    Diluting the word of God to let it be sung in metrical fashion hardly seems ethical.

    "Oh, father! Your reading of the poem about Phineas the Sheep and Toby, his lamb son was so moving. People were just enthralled - the rhymes were wonderful and there's such a lilt to the rhythm of the words. Those people at St. Ambrose that had to suffer through the story of Abraham and Isaac again just don't know what they are missing!"
  • JennyH
    Posts: 106
    Why is this so objectionable to people?

    From my reading of the forum entries, most are not in favor of this.

    To those who are, please post a recording of your choir singing SATB last week. The microphone should not be in the choir loft, but in the pews, so we can hear how it sounds to have the congregation sing SATB parts.

    Let's hear it, so we can evaluate it!

    P.S. I, myself, already know how it sounds, which is precisely why I am not in favor of it, except at specialized choir schools and the like. But I am giving those who advocate this practice an opportunity to show us how it sounds.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,565
    It should also be noted that the US bishops have made special efforts to grandfather previously approved liturgical translations of the Psalms for use in the Responsorial Psalms. To me, this signals a serious intention and effort to provide as much non-paraphrase material for the RP so that there is less need to resort to paraphrase for that particular place in the Mass, much as we don't paraphrase the other Scripture lections. And they've never proceeded to do the work necessary to authorize paraphrases for that purpose.

    And think carefully here: this is the one place in the Liturgy of the Word where the body of the faithful actively joins in the proclamation of the Word of God. Giving them a paraphrase weakens the sign value of that immensely by a well-meaning form of condescension (which is always well-meaning...). This is why progressive liturgists I know have moved away from employing paraphrases for the RP in the past couple of decades.
    Thanked by 2Gavin BruceL
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,897
    For what I can find, a metrical psalm is set in rhyming verse in a fixed meter.

    "Shepherd me, O God" does not rhyme and it does not have a consistent meter across the verses, so it doesn't appear to be a metrical psalm.
  • ryandryand
    Posts: 1,640
    frogman says:
    How many people have actually come up to any of us and said, "Wow, these paraphrased psalms have really touched me, I'm so pleased to have them put this way."

    Now, how many people have come up to us and complained that the psalm refrains being sung do not match or resemble true psalms in careful translation? Happens all the time.


    Yep. Many positive comments have come my way for using the actual psalms of the day.

    What a surprise! The faithful are apparently edified by the liturgy and the proper use of scripture therein ... so much that they feel the need to speak up about their appreciation of the assigned texts being sung.

    Is outrage!
  • Father Jim said:
    I'm not aware of any parts of STTL that "change, supercede or ignore what is in the GIRM." If that were the case, I would think that Rome would have intervened by now.

    Rome did ask the USCCB to amend STTL in regard to the Agnus Dei. See:

    http://www.usccb.org/about/divine-worship/newsletter/upload/newsletter-2012-08-and-09.pdf

    To my mind, this actually lends more authority to the document. Rome has reviewed it, and asked for one change.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,806
    Chris:

    What it tells me is that the Vatican is starting to insist on what should not have been included to begin with and leaves me thinking, "What else is in there that shouldn't be?"
  • For all the people who have sat back and said, "If Benedict wanted the music improved, he'd do something about it."

    It appears that he just did.
  • I just got this forwarded to me by my pastor. Archbishop-elect Sample dropped this little pastoral letter just recently, on his way to Portland. My pastor believes this will definitely have some of the OCP crew concerned about the future. lol :)
  • TCJ
    Posts: 810
    Thanks for posting that letter from +Sample. Much of what is contained in there is what I've been trying to tell a lot of priests (and cantors, and choirs) without much success. Then again, I'm not very good at being clear and concise like +Sample, plus I don't hold the authority that he does. Good for him though! I hope the priests in his diocese will pay attention to him.
    Thanked by 1francis
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,806
    Three cheers for the Archbishop-elect! That is one incredible letter and should be the model for all bishops and all dioceses in the United States and throughout all English speaking countries.
  • CMAA Readers might find this as interesting as I did:

    First impressions by Aristotle A. Esguerra
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen