The USCCB has now published the Abbey Psalms and Canticles, which includes the Revised Grail Psalms and new translations of the biblical canticles. Have any of you purchased a copy? If so, I’m interested to hear how you like it.

31 thoughts on “Seeking Reader Reports on Abbey Psalms and Canticles”

  1. I am waiting until it is available on Amazon before I purchase a copy, as Amazon offers cheaper shipping rates than the USCCB store. If you do not have a review on your blog after I purchase a copy, I can send you some pictures of the psalter, as well as a review, if you’re interested in posting a guest review.

    Have a blessed Holy Week,


    1. Definitely, I would welcome a guest review of it when you receive a copy. It looks like this is a nice-quality edition.

  2. I have purchased a copy. It is nice. Doesn’t lie flat but it appears sturdy, minimal ghosting and white pages that are easy to read. It is very portable, not jean pocket portable, but coat, purse or book bag portable. I haven’t compared the translation with the original Grail Psalms or the RGP yet but the psalms appear to pretty much flow the same way.

    The old testament and new testament the back are interesting as these will be incorporated into the final liturgical bible. I am not sure how I will incorporate these into private prayer. Some of the texts seem to lack context such as those from Deuteronomy. Guessing that the prior prose verses contained the needed contextual information.

    I was just looking at the Ephesians canticle (1:3-10). It has the following verse ” a plan for the fullness of times, to recapitulate all things in him…”. Recapitulate sticks out. I tend to favor Anglo Saxon’s words and Norman French words with Germanic origins in my poetry and prose, but it works.

    If you or any reader’s have any questions, ask a way. Probably won’t respond till after the Triduum. A Blissful Pascha to all.

    1. Hi Devin,

      I just received my copy, but I noticed the end sheets are inserted between pages 404 and 405. I was wondering if it was a unique misprint on mine or if it was present in all copies. Please check and let me know if your copy has the same.

  3. Devin and others,

    The canticles in the back of “The Abbey Psalms and Canticles” might not be incorporated into the final liturgical NABRE Bible. They are for the upcoming revision of the Liturgy of the Hours more than anything else.

    For instance, you mentioned Deuteronomy. The first canticle that appears on page 339, Deut 32:1-12, is the canticle used for Morning Prayer on Saturday of the 2nd Week in the Psalter cycle. (An Old Testament canticle is used for every morning prayer as the 2nd of 3 psalms prayed each morning.)

    This is an example of how thorough this new translation is. The current translation uses the 1970 NAB for Old Testament canticles. The older do not lend themselves to chanting or singing as well as these new versions do. For instance:

    Saturday Morning Prayer Week II- Current Liturgy of the Hours
    Canticle-Deuteronomy 32:3-4 from NAB 1970

    For I will sing the Lord’s renoun.
    Oh, proclaim the greatness of our God!
    The Rock–how faultless are his deeds,
    how right all his ways!
    A faithful God, without deceit,
    how just and upright he is!

    A basic translation from the Hebrew text:
    כִּי שֵׁם יְהוָה, אֶקְרָא:–For the name of the Lord I call
    הָבוּ גֹדֶל, לֵאלֹהֵינוּ.–Give glory to our God
    הַצּוּר תָּמִים פָּעֳלוֹ–The Rock his deeds are perfect
    כִּי כָל-דְּרָכָיו מִשְׁפָּט:–Yes all his ways are just
    אֵל אֱמוּנָה וְאֵין עָוֶל–A faithful God never false
    צַדִּיק וְיָשָׁר הוּא–True and upright is He

    “The Abbey Psalms and Canticles”:
    For the name of the Lord I will invoke;
    acknowledge the greatness of our God!
    The Rock, how perfect his deeds,
    for all his ways are just;
    a faithful God without deceit:
    he is just and upright.

    More than just a new translation that offers ease for the cantor. The Abbey Psalms and Canticles offers one step above the Revised Grail Psalm version in that it provides a translation that is good for serious study.

    You see, Hebrew verse or poetry doesn’t rhyme. But it does keep a beat of sorts, like a marching cadence. Every poem and psalm has a different one. You lose this, of course, in most modern Bible translations of the Psalms. You get precision, yes, but no meter or cadence.

    When the original Grail was developed, it brought this back. And it’s translation was based somewhat on the principles of the Jerusalem Bible–albeit leaning somewhat on paraphrase in order to get some of the meaning across while preserving the “beat,” so to speak, of some of the psalms.

    While never inaccurate, as a result, the Grail could not be used for serious word-for-word study. In order for such a thing to occur would involve a revision with many scholars that would take years. That is what the Abbey Psalms and Canticles are. The story of how we got the new translation is described in detail in the Foreword of the new version.

    For those familiar with both the Grail and Revised Grail, one will note several changes. The word “just” (as in “someone is just”) is often replaced with “upright.” Also gone is the spelling “Sion” from the Revised Grail, replaced with the more familiar “Zion.” The use of “forebears” from the Revised Grail is no longer universal. Sometimes it becomes “ancestors” and other times “fathers” in the new Abbey Psalms. But the improvement of the use of the Hebrew “Sheol” instead of “netherworld” is kept from the Revised Grail, as is “blest” and “blessed” to help readers and cantors know when to use the single syllable reading over the double.

    Some might be wondering if the issue of “gender-inclusive” language is an issue or principle followed in the Abbey Psalms and Canticles. The answer is that the issue is dead to this version. What is found instead is a translation that far more true to the original language and more honest with the target tongue than anything else. For instance, remember that at times the word “ancestors” will sometimes be rendered as “fathers” or “forebears,” depending on the original language and demands of the target language. You always will note that the translators are far more balanced in providing an end product today:

    The International Consultation on English Texts (Current Liturgy of the Hours)–
    Evening Prayer, Gospel Canticle, from Luke 1:44-55:

    My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
    my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
    for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

    The Abbey Psalms and Canticles–
    from Luke 1:44-55, Magnificat

    My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
    for he has looked upon his handmaid in her lowliness;

    The first translation tends to make the prayer something everyone can make their own. But the original liturgical desire was to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary in God’s grand purpose of things at the Evening Hour of prayer. This needed to be changed. In the original Greek the word is “handmaid” or “maiden,” and so this was made explicit in the new Abbey version.

    Will the canticles be incorporated into the NABRE itself in the final version? Or will there be no need for the canticles themselves to be changed, especially the Old Testament ones that have already been translated in the NABRE? This might be the reason we have a separate volume with the canticles set aside. But who is to say? We may have to wait to see what happens.

    When do we start using the Abbey Psalms and Canticles? Here is the very interesting part.

    The Abbey Psalms and Canticles have neither an imprimatur nor a rescript. Instead, they have two pages, one with approval from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Disciple of the Sacraments to the United States, stating that the volume may be used for all “future” liturgical books as printed.

    Next (and this is the most interesting), a page from the USCCB, stating that “The Abbey Psalms and Canticles may be used in the Sacred Liturgy in the diocese of the United States upon publication.”

    As a demonstration to show how much they mean business, there is “an appendix that lays out the four-week psalter of the Liturgy of the Hours.” The book itself is the same size as the regular edition of the approved United States breviary. And while at first the book is so stiff that it seems to resist use, it eventually gives way after just a couple of weeks of employing it alongside your copy of the Liturgy of the Hours (I have noticed myself by employing it throughout Lent).

    It generally reads familiar, though at times some of the renderings are different. There are welcome improvements/corrections in precision mostly, for instance:

    Psalm 8:5:
    Grail Psalms–“What is man that you should keep him in mind,/mortal man that you care for him?”

    Abbey Psalms–“What is man that you should keep him in mind,/ the son of man that you care for him?”

    Psalm 130:6, 7a:
    Grail Psalms–“My soul is longing for the Lord/more than watchman for daybreak.
    Let the watchman count on daybreak and Israel on the Lord.”

    Abbey Psalms–“My soul awaits the Lord/more than watchmen for daybreak.
    More than watchmen for daybreak,/let Isreal hope for the Lord.”

    And lastly, why is “recapitulate” is the canticle at Ephesians 1:3-10? For meter, mostly–and precision.

    Remember, these canticles at the back of the book are mainly for the Liturgy of the Hours. Ephesians 1:3-10 is used for Evening Prayer on Monday nights. If you read through the prayer tapping your foot or clapping your hand and try to get a rhythm, you will see that “recapitulate” fills up the needed amount of syllables for the chant (the canticles are usually sung or chanted for prayer).

    And, in the Greek, it is actually one word: anakephalaiōsasthai. The Greek word means to “recapitulate, to sum up, to bring together.” The translators of the Abbey Psalms and Canticles were very precise in their choice of words. Not only did they choose a word that gave precision in meter, they used a word that represented the Greek with precision too. (For more information, see BIBLE HUB:

    1. Nice to hear from you Carl!

      Is there anything concrete about a future liturgical NABRE other than the promise that it will be a bible that will be meant for liturgy, prayer and study once the New Testament is included?

    2. This comment is a tour de force, Carl. Thanks so much! Your detailed examples give a good flavor of the revisions with respect to the current Liturgy of the Hours. I’m also very interested to hear that the USCCB explicitly intends for the psalms to be used immediately in liturgy. I’m tempted to purchase a copy to use for the Liturgy of the Hours. How easy is it to navigate the book for daily prayer? Does it require a lot of searching to find the right psalms and canticles?

      1. Hi Carl, thank you for posting the detailed comments. I am confused about something you said, though. Do the new Abbey Psalms use the word “Sheol” or “netherworld?”

        Speaking of using multiple resources for praying LOTH, I actually use the RSV-2CE. I am not a fan of the 1970 NAB and original Grail and only use these for group prayer. My hardcover RSV-2CE is marked up with Micron pens to divide the psalms and readings as they appear in the LOTH, and I mark these places ahead of time with the 4 ribbon markers I added. When praying along with iBreviary, it is pretty easy to use. I am looking forward to seeing what will hopefully be a “long-term” all around GOOD liturgical translation for the NABLE and LOTH, and spend some time with that for a while!

        1. The Abbey Psalms uses “Sheol” instead of “netherworld” wherever this world appears in the original Hebrew.

          This coincides with the revision of the Old Testament NABRE, which has replaced “netherworld” with “Sheol” or ” Hades” (some of the Deuterocanonicals are written in Greek and use the Greek equivalent of Hades for Sheol in their text). It would be safe to assume that “Hades” will be replacing “netherworld” in the upcoming revision of the NAB New Testament.

          As far as I know there is no Greek in any of the Abbey Psalms and Canticles in which the word “Hades” appears.

        2. I too use the RSV2CE for the Scripture readings. But use “The Psalter-Contemporary” for the Invitatories and Psalms from “The Book of Divine Worship.” I’ve gotten used to the “shuffle” of texts when praying LOTH.

    3. Thank you for your thorough excellent review. I learned a lot! The newer translations restore the poetry of liturgy that were lost in the 1970 NAB translation.

  4. Post script:

    Just to explain what I am talking about in regard to the upcoming New American Bible Liturgical Edition (NABLE) — while I would like to see (and do not doubt the possibility ) the incorporation of the Abbey canticles directly into the new Biblical text, since the Abbey canticles do not cover all the canticles that occur throughout the Old and New Testaments, I am suggesting the possibility of the inclusion of the Abbey canticles as a separate addition to the NABLE, much like an appendix but to the Psalms.

    This is just a theory. I haven’t a clue how the NABLE will work or pan out in the end.

  5. Thanks Marc.

    As for using The Abbey Psalms and Canticles for private prayer, as in cooperation with your daily recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, in my experience it is cumbersome.

    The book is well-made. While the same size of the average breviary, it is far from being flexible and does not cooperate by refusing to stay open even with repeated daily usage. This would be welcome with some books, but not a psalter–and I found this odd. (But this is proof that USCCB makes sturdy Bibles. It just isn’t what you need for this book.)

    I don’t think the USCCB has the average layperson or even priest in mind when the appendix has the four-week psalter ready for employment, and the second page explains that the book is approved for immediate use in the Liturgy. My guess is that they are directing this towards composers and certain religious orders which regularly print out their Divine Office every week or so based on their specific ordo.

    The reason I say this is because just a few months ago, in November of 2019, while The Abbey Psalms was being prepared for publication, the USCCB released “Night Prayer, Second Edition.”

    This is an update of the stand-along Night Prayer book containing the Night Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours approved for the United States. The main difference in the Second Edition is the communal penitential rite for group Night Prayer which includes the option from the current revised Mass. Otherwise, there is no change to the Liturgy of the Hours in the Night Prayer. The psalter used is still the original Grail Psalms and the Bible translation remains the 1970 NAB. If there was an intention for people to use the new Psalter, I think they would have held off a couple of months. That was all they had to do. But they didn’t. This can’t be a stupid mistake.

    So while a Catholic can definitely use the new Psalter (and is encouraged to do so) in a variety of ways (and I would recommend that a LOTH user go through at least one four-week cycle to familiarize themselves with the changes), that unless they belong to an order that demands they employ the new Psalter or they prefer to use to Abbey Pslams, that they take the publication of the Night Prayer, Second Edition as a keystroke of direction: the current LOTH is still the preferred LOTH for use. And while the Abbey Psalms can be used, until the new addition is released, the current LOTH remains the approved version.

    But I say do use it all the time if you can. I couldn’t however. It was just too hard after so many weeks. And the changes were not so great as to take away the amount of peace that the difficulty in employing the little book was causing. It is easy, however, to just employ the new Magnificat, Benedictus, etc. So familiarize yourself with it when and how you can. Do, however, use it with Mass readings and as a replacement for your NABRE psalter.

    Again, as for the NABLE, we just have to wait and see what it will be like. Since the CDW has to be included in its production, we just can’t know what it will look like or even guess. I bet that is why the USCCB can’t even tell us much either. They don’t have the final word entirely either.

    1. Agreed it isn’t the easiest to use. It would be easier with more ribbons so you could at least preset locations before starting prayer.

      For me, when at my regular home prayer space, it is still simple enough to use Abbey during prayer. I don’t travel with it so when I’m not at home, I just use the Grail printer in the Brievery.

      My main intent when I started was to start training my brain before the new LOTH comes out since the Grail version just rolls off the tongue after using them so long. After a few weeks, though, I do prefer the Abbey translation and look forward to them being incorporated into more liturgical books.

  6. Just focusing on the translation itself: it is the best combination of beauty and fidelity to the original text I have ever found. It is so gorgeous to read, rhythmic, and I haven’t run into a single quibble with a choice of words or phrasing.

    Couldn’t recommend this translation enough and I cannot wait until we have more things featuring this translation of psalms and canticles (a liturgical NAB maybe)!?

  7. I wanted to order this as our Cantor started using it (I believe – I didn’t know what he was singing at first) at the beginning of Mass. We weren’t given the words to sing yet tho at regular masses. On Corpus Christi and on the service for Sts. Joachim & Anne we had paper programs and it had the Psalms we could sing which I thought was beautiful.

    The Cantor sang one line, the congregation sang the next, and we alternated the lines of the Psalm. This was for Psalm 113 (112) and Psalm 32 (31) – I think the difference in Psalms is if written in Hebrew or something?

    Anyway – the 2nd to last word of each line is italicized and the last word of each line is bold. (This means to sing up or down a note).

    Psalm 113 (112):

    Praise, O servants of the LORD, (the is in italics, LORD is in bold)
    praise the name of the LORD! (the is in italics, LORD is in bold)
    May the name of the LORD be blest (be is in italics, blest is in bold)
    both now and forevermore! (part of forever is italics, and part of it is bold)
    From the rising of the sun to its setting, (its is italics, and setting is bold)
    praised be the name of the LORD! (the is italics, LORD is bold)

    You get the picture – then alternating for the rest. I really loved it. He started singing at the beginning of church a song and now we don’t have a beginning song to sing – (which I miss). I am thinking this is what he is singing but we didn’t have the words unless it was on these 2 programs we had all of us at church to sing along.

    Is this changing for Mass or is it just our Cantor do you think?

    If this will start at the beginning of church when we have the words it will be a great beginning. If we don’t have the words then it is not so nice.

    Also is the Mass changing to have more Latin? The choir started singing more Latin and something I read online sounded like the Pope is encouraging inserting Latin into part of the Masses as that is universal no matter which country you are in. Anyway – just wondering if it shows any inflection with the italics or bold and if it shows if the Cantor or ALL are singing them.

    I may have to ask a priest or the Cantor on some of the above about what our parish is starting.

  8. Is this already out of print? The USCCB store is gone, and I don’t see it for sale anywhere else. Maybe I’ll just wait for the NABLE (or NABRRE… NABREue… whatever it will be called).

    1. … Looks like it is out of print. Seems like a misstep given these are the psalms/canticles the USCCB has said they are moving forward with in the liturgy. Why wouldn’t they want to ensure these get into as many hands as possible as early as possible?

        1. Good to see these are back, so I can finally get a copy. I guess the USCCB concluded they were better off letting a dedicated publisher handle it, though I wish we didn’t get the uncertainty of it being there one day and gone the next without notice.

  9. After over 50 years of singing the grail psalter I am finding the new psalter difficult. Yes I have it and I will probably use it when the new LOTH comes out. But I do not feel comfortable with it. I dont have either memorized but for me the grail flows and when I hear one line the next few lines flow and I know the words…it is almost like having memorized but not quite.

  10. I do have some quibbles with it, however, its version of Ps. 23 is wonderful. Verse 6a is an exact repetition of the King James which, for English speakers and for this psalm, still matters.
    One quibble (as with the NABRE): the insistence on using “holy ones” instead of “saints.” What gives???

    1. The expression holy ones fits better than saints. Remember that the psalms were Hebrew in origin and therefore we translate accordingly.

  11. I just got the latest Ignatius Press catalog, and among their new books is the Abbey Psalms and Canticles in a softcover.

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