Introducing the Common Psalms

The Roman Catholic lectionary is a book which lists the assigned scripture readings for Roman Catholic liturgy.   For each Mass, these include:
  • And Old Testament reading, 
  • A psalm and response (usually from the Book of Psalms), 
  • A New Testament reading (for Sundays and feasts), 
  • A Gospel reading (ie from the book of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John)

Some days may have other readings too, eg sequences, or antiphons for use at certain times.   But the readings listed about are the main pieces of scripture that are to be used in each liturgy.

However the English-language lectionary also includes a set of "Common Psalms".

This is a few psalms for each of the seasons in the church year, ie Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Ordinary Time - and a few for specific feast days.   Each set includes one response and several (usually 2-3) psalms.

What are the Common Psalms used for

One of the Common Psalms may be used instead of the regular psalm at any Mass.

So, you could choose that on every Sunday during a season (eg Lent), you will use one of the common psalms for that season, instead of the psalm that's in the lectionary for that day.    Or you could use the psalm-verses from the lectionary but use the common-psalm response for the season instead of the response in the lectionary.

This sounds boring to musicians and choirs.   But congregations often really like it:  Repeating something for a few weeks gives them the chance to learn it properly.   And that is exactly the aim of the Common Psalms, which is to give communities a core repertoire of psalms that are well-known and can be used at any occasion, confident that people will know them well.

The Common Psalms also provide a good starting point for parishes that want to introduce or improve psalm-singing.  Because they can be repeated regularly, people can get to know them.  And it's easier to motivate a new choir to learn a psalm which they will use regularly, than one which won't be seen again for three years.


Where to find more information

Read more about the Common Psalms here - complements of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales.   Another resource with more detail about the psalms is this article on the (Catholic website.

Free-use settings of the Common Psalms

Lists of public-domain and other free-to-use settings of the Common Psalms are being compiled.   Ideally these would all be direct settings of the text.  But because such settings may be in short supply, ones that use paraphrases, or include more of the overall Psalm than just the Common Psalm are also included.

Click to see ...

This is a work-in-progress: Common Psalms for other seasons seasons (including Ordinary Time) will be added soon.

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