Responsorial Psalm Question

Here’s one for all of you liturgy experts and cantors:

I know that the words of the readings and the Gospel cannot be changed at Mass but what about the Responsorial Psalm? There has been much discussion here at CAF about illicit musical settings that alter the words. I am more talking about switching the verses. A few examples:

  1. The psalm number is the same one listed in the missalette but the cantor sings completely different verses

  2. The cantor sings the verses in the missalette but leaves out lines or whole sets. She often does this when the sets have differing numbers of lines. She trims them down to the same size.

  3. The psalm is the same but the congregation is directed to sing a different verse than indicated in the missalette as the response

Are these changes allowed?

Note: I know about the common psalms that can be substituted. I checked those first. This is different.

yes, yes and yes
there are seasonal psalms that can be substituted for the psalm of the day
there are several responses to choose from
and the cantor, usually in consultation with the priest, can shorten the psalm if necessary
what they cannot do, if this is the responsorial psalm, is use one of those contemporary song versions that uses some words or based on a theme of a psalm, but does not stick to the actual words in the approved translation.

there are also times when a psalm from another readings cycle can be used, esp. if one of the other readings is changed. there are also (very limited) times 1st or 2d reading or psalm can be used from the feast of the day if it falls on a Sunday in ordinary time.

Like I said, I know about the seasonal psalms (our missalette calls them common psalms). That is not what is used.

When there are legitimate options for the psalms, why aren’t they listed in the missalette (or on the USCCB site) as they are when there are options for the readings and Gospel?

I love to sing at Mass and when this is done, especially changing the response, it means the cantor sings the whole psalm alone or the accompianist is the only responder. That kind of defeats the purpose of “responsorial” psalm, doesn’t it? :smiley:

I’ve been cantoring about a year now, and I am wondering if there are different versions or something, because I have never encountered this.

First note – in the summer Father and I will agree to only do two verses of the responsorial due to the heat. But – we always go by the book as it were

That said – what you describe in your post is something that really annoys me. As a cantor I am in a privileged position to lead the people in song. It is not my moment in the spotlight to come up with something better and make it my own, treating the congregation like someone who came for the show. My job is to coax out any vocalisation no matter how timid the person may be. It is to encourage the people and let them know that they too can join in praising the Lord in song. If a cantor does his/ her own thing and not afforded you the ability to join in, keeping the music to themselves as if it were a secret, they have usurped the your right to participate in the Mass.

God bless

Tony

This is a pet-peeve of mine. I don’t like being relegated to the role of “Greek choir”. :slight_smile: For example, and even though I know it’s allowed, I dislike versions of the Gloria and the Our Father that are sung mostly by the choir/cantor with the congregation invited to sing only a refrain. She sings her own words sometimes, too (like a descant). I don’t want to sound like a malcontent. I don’t see abuses around every corner, really. :slight_smile:

as I said there are sometimes other options, and if they were all in the missalette it would weigh a few pounds. Probably only those trained in this area and the priest know what they are. Since many churches don’t use missalettes or have the words published in any way, all that is necessary is that the cantor sing the words clearly and give the people a chance to repeat them, this could be practiced before Mass

but if you have a question about the Mass you attended the person to ask is the pastor, and do it in a spirit of humble inquiry, not confrontationally.

If you’re singing the Mass in Gregorian Chant you can also replace the responsorial psalm with the Gradual Hymn.

Here is what the GIRM says about the Responsorial Psalm:

  1. After the first reading comes the responsorial Psalm, which is an integral part of the Liturgy of the Word and holds great liturgical and pastoral importance, because it fosters meditation on the word of God.

The responsorial Psalm should correspond to each reading and should, as a rule, be taken from the Lectionary.

It is preferable that the responsorial Psalm be sung, at least as far as the people’s response is concerned. Hence, the psalmist, or the cantor of the Psalm, sings the verses of the Psalm from the ambo or another suitable place. The entire congregation remains seated and listens but, as a rule, takes part by singing the response, except when the Psalm is sung straight through without a response. In order, however, that the people may be able to sing the Psalm response more readily, texts of some responses and Psalms have been chosen for the various seasons of the year or for the various categories of Saints. These may be used in place of the text corresponding to the reading whenever the Psalm is sung. If the Psalm cannot be sung, then it should be recited in such a way that it is particularly suited to fostering meditation on the word of God.

In the dioceses of the United States of America, the following may also be sung in place of the Psalm assigned in the Lectionary for Mass: either the proper or seasonal antiphon and Psalm from the Lectionary, as found either in the Roman Gradual or Simple Gradual or in another musical setting; or an antiphon and Psalm from another collection of the psalms and antiphons, including psalms arranged in metrical form, providing that they have been approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop. Songs or hymns may not be used in place of the responsorial Psalm.

Note, that it does not say that you can chop off the psalm. Here what the General Introduction to the Lectionary says:

b) The Responsorial Psalm

  1. 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

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

  1. As a rule the responsorial psalm should be sung. There are two established ways of singing the psalm after the first reading: responsorially and directly. In responsorial singing, which, as far as possible, is to be given preference, the psalmist, or cantor of the psalm, sings the psalm verse and the whole congregation joins in by singing the response. In direct singing of the psalm there is no intervening response by the community; either the psalmist, or cantor of the psalm, sings the psalm alone as the community listens or else all sing it together.
  1. The singing of the psalm, or even of the response alone, is a great help toward understanding and meditating on the psalm’s spiritual meaning.

To foster the congregation’s singing, every means available in each individual culture is to be employed. In particular, use is to be made of all the relevant options provided in the Order of Readings for Mass38 regarding responses corresponding to the different liturgical seasons.

  1. When not sung, the psalm after the reading is to be recited in a manner conducive to meditation on the word of God.39 The responsorial psalm is sung or recited by the psalmist or cantor at the ambo.40

It does not say that the psalm can be edited at will.

In the dioceses of the United States of America, the following may also be sung in place of the Psalm assigned in the Lectionary for Mass: either the proper or seasonal antiphon and Psalm from the Lectionary, as found either in the Roman Gradual or Simple Gradual or in another musical setting; or an antiphon and Psalm from another collection of the psalms and antiphons, including psalms arranged in metrical form, providing that they have been approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop. Songs or hymns may not be used in place of the responsorial Psalm.

However according to the GIRM adapted for the United States there is some freedom to chose a psalm from a collection of psalms other than the usual psalm of the day or the seasonal psalm. Many (if not most) of the responsorial psalms in the Lectionary are not full psalms. There are specific verses picked for particular days. Sometimes the responsorial psalm will consist of a certain set of verses for one day and another set of verses for another day.

What is muddy to me is whether a psalm setting for one day can be substituted for a setting of the same psalm for a different day. Both would be from an approved collection.

But, the OP said that:

  1. The cantor sings the verses in the missalette but leaves out lines or whole sets. She often does this when the sets have differing numbers of lines. She trims them down to the same size.

Another poster, agp2176, reported that:

First note – in the summer Father and I will agree to only do two verses of the responsorial due to the heat. But – we always go by the book as it were

That is what I was addressing.

Sorry Benedictgal. I wasn’t trying to contradict anything you said. You had just quoted some useful info so I “latched on” to your post.

I was thinking about these lines from the OP:

  1. The psalm number is the same one listed in the missalette but the cantor sings completely different verses
  1. The psalm is the same but the congregation is directed to sing a different verse than indicated in the missalette as the response

What I didn’t mention before is that sometimes a responsorial psalm for a particular day will use the same verses as one from a different day but the response will be different.

It could be that the edition of the Lectionary that provided the texts being sung by the cantor/choir don’t agree with the edition of the Lectionary used by the missalette publisher.

This inconsistency between the Missal and Graduale existed even before Vatican II.

If we were singing the Mass in Gregorian Chant, I would be in such an ecstacy, I wouldn’t notice any changes to the psalms. :smiley: But it’s a nice thought.

The pastor and I are friends. He lets the music leader pretty much do her own thing. She is quite tempermental, we are a small parish, and he doesn’t want her to leave. He has decided to chose his battles carefully. I understand that.

I don’t want to make a big deal (or any deal) about this. I am just wondering what the actual guidelines are.

My understanding is that we’re supposed to sing or recite the response and verses assigned for the day, occasion ,or season in the Lectionary (or another approved collection). The response and verses go together for that particular day, occasion, or season. So just because different verses and responses come from the same psalm it doesn’t mean we can just switch them around because, as Benedictgal pointed out above from the GIRM, the psalm is an “integral part of the Liturgy of the Word” and it “should correspond to each reading and should, as a rule, be taken from the Lectionary”.

The Lectionary already does the work of matching appropriate psalm verses and responses to a day’s reading so there’s no need add to it by changing or editing verses or switching responses. If you switch a verse or response that was originally chosen to highlight, reflect, of the day’s readings you run the risk of disturbing the understanding of scripture that the Lectionary is trying to achieve.

P.S. If it’s just a matter of musical settings for the responsorial psalm, that’s a little different. There’s nothing to say you have to use the same exact music for the same psalm, psalm verses, or response all the time.

The part of the GIRM I find confusing is the part I highlighted:

In the dioceses of the United States of America, the following may also be sung in place of the Psalm assigned in the Lectionary for Mass: either the proper or seasonal antiphon and Psalm from the Lectionary, as found either in the Roman Gradual or Simple Gradual or in another musical setting; or an antiphon and Psalm from another collection of the psalms and antiphons, including psalms arranged in metrical form, providing that they have been approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop. Songs or hymns may not be used in place of the responsorial Psalm.

Can this other collection include, say,a book of psalms for a different cycle year?

My guess is that another approved collection of psalms and antiphons would probably be arranged according to the litugical calendar so your choice of response and verses would still depend on the day. If it’s year C you would look for the volume for year C in that collection, and not year A.

Personally, if it’s year C and all you have is a volume for year A, I would not use that volume and go straight to the Lectionary or another approved collection.

If this “other collection” happens to be published like a regular book of psalms (Psalms 1 to 150 in numerical order ) than I assume you’d be expected to pick a psalm (or it’s verses) that match those of the day. So, for instance, if today’s responsorial psalm was Psalm 33 you would look for Psalm 33 in that collection.

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