Category Archives: Sacred Scripture

Beginnings, translations and God’s Plans

Rusty Reno tackles the question of where to begin when considering our life in God in his First Things essay, “In The Beginning.” Reno provokes me to ask a few questions. Where do we begin, when, why and for what purpose? What is our destiny, in other words? Where do our loyalties exist? Are we wedded too much to our ideas? That is, are we blinded to a particular theological lens and biblical interpretation that when truth is presented we pass it by because we are too comfortable in our belief system? If we are rigidly following what we think is right versus wrong will we ever advance in wisdom, grace and love? AND the problem is thus exposed: who’s wisdom, grace and love are living in? God’s or ours? What place does Torah and the Gospel have in our lives? Do we follow a political personality or Jesus, the Savior?

Father Julián Carrón & Carl Anderson speak about the Synod of Bishops

Last evening (19 January) two participants in the October 2008 Synod of Bishops spoke about the importance and value of knowing Christ personally and intimately. Christ is not an abstraction nor is Christianity an ethic. Merely knowing about Jesus is moralistic and inconsistent with the true experience of Christinity which says that Jesus Christ is the true, personal foundation of life and that He answers the need of heart. Father Julián Carrón, President of the Fraternity of Communion & Liberation and Mr. Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus addressed a crowd of more than 200 people, including the Most Reverend Peter A. Rosazza, an auxiliary bishop of Hartford and Vicar for New Haven, CT. The evening was moderated by Dominican Father Peter John Cameron, Editor-in-Chief of Magnificat magazine.

The discussion was built on the theme “The Word’s Face: The Word of God in the Life and Mission of Every Believer.” Saint Mary’s Church Hall (New Haven, CT) was the venue of the evening. This was the same hall that the Venerable Servant of God Michael J. McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882.

The discussion emphasized that Christians are not a people of the Book, as is commonly but wrongly asserted, but a people who follow a person, the definitive revelation of God, Jesus Christ. Moreover, it was emphasized that Catholics know Christ through sacred Scripture and Tradition. Anderson made a point in saying that he had heard a story of someone facing imprisonment who given a choice in taking one book with him and he selected the missal. The reasoning was the missal had both Scripture and the Liturgy. Both Anderson and Carrón dealt with various aspects of Dei Verbum, the revolutionary document on Divine Revelation from the Second Vatican Council.  Anderson made a point that the Church is missionary in sharing the faith with others and noted that Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have made the effective preaching of Jesus Christ a particularly important aim of the entire Church, each according to his or her place in the Body of Christ.

Father Julián Carrón was an Ordinary member of the Synod meaning that he was a full and voting participant in the Synod as the bishops who are appointed to the gathering. Father Carrón’s Synodal intervention can be read here. Mr. Anderson was an auditor at the Synod meaning that he was a partial participant at the Synod but less important as his role was to listen to the work of the Synodal Fathers, to meet experts and those participating in the Synod and to make brief intervention before the full body of the Synod. Both have participated in previous Synods of Bishops.

Father Carrón and Mr. Anderson answered questions fielded from the audience and afterwards met with anyone who presented themselves. Father Carrón met very briefly with members of the local members of the Communion & Liberation. The event was an experience of Christ among us.

The evening was sponsored by Communion & Liberation of Connecticut, the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus and Saint Mary’s Church & Priory.

A brief article and video of the panel discussion can be found here.

Scripture Study: A Catholic’s love

St Jerome.jpgSaint Jerome once said that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. Therefore it is not a stretch to say that an authentic, believing Catholic studies and prays the Bible.

But what do we believe about the Bible? Catholics hold that Scripture is the inerrant Word of God and is authoritative for understanding Christ’s teaching; it is the basis for all Church teaching. Further, it is the Holy Spirit who provides a guide to understanding Christ’s teaching which is called Tradition. In fact, it was Church who, under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration that the Scriptures were written. With Tradition assisting us, nothing can replace an intimate familiarity with the Word of God through study and prayer (personal & communal). As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council said that we are to, “[hear] the word of God with reverence and proclaiming it with faith.”

In 1965, the Church gave us a pivotal document on Scripture, Dei Verbum, which outlines its place in the life of every Christian. For many Dei Verbum is a middle way for biblical interpretation which lies between Protestant fundamentalism and secular rationalism. I recommend that you consider each word of this document. If you think Catholics find Scripture irrelevant you will find the following astonishing :

Therefore, all the clergy must hold fast to the Sacred Scriptures through diligent sacred reading and careful study, especially the priests of Christ and others, such as deacons and catechists who are legitimately active in the ministry of the word. This is to be done so that none of them will become “an empty preacher of the word of God outwardly, who is not a listener to it inwardly” since they must share the abundant wealth of the divine word with the faithful committed to them, especially in the sacred liturgy. The sacred synod also earnestly and especially urges all the Christian faithful, especially Religious, to learn by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures the “excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:8). “For ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”

Therefore, they should gladly put themselves in touch with the sacred text itself, whether it be through the liturgy, rich in the divine word, or through devotional reading, or through instructions suitable for the purpose and other aids which, in our time, with approval and active support of the shepherds of the Church, are commendably spread everywhere. And let them remember that prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that God and man may talk together; for “we speak to Him when we pray; we hear Him when we read the divine saying.”

It devolves on sacred bishops “who have the apostolic teaching” to give the faithful entrusted to them suitable instruction in the right use of the divine books, especially the New Testament and above all the Gospels. This can be done through translations of the sacred texts, which are to be provided with the necessary and really adequate explanations so that the children of the Church may safely and profitably become conversant with the Sacred Scriptures and be penetrated with their spirit.

If you are looking for a fine review of what Dei Verbum has meant to us 35 years later I tend to think this essay of Archbishop Charles Chaput of 2000 as helpful. Additionally, you will find a wealth of information for biblical study at St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology directed by Scott Hahn. Hahn’s section on biblical studies is found in this internet library.

You may be short of time so I have drawn together a set of booklets on some aspects of Scripture published by the Catholic Information Service that are quite fine. Here are 8 online resources about sacred Scripture and the faith that will help know the fundamentals which will assist your personal study and prayer life:

About the Bible

God’s Story of Creation

Some Lessons from Genesis

The Ten Commandments

Revelation: A Divine Message of Hope

Q& A about the Catholic Faith

An underestimated chain of scripture is the gift of the Rosary. I would venture to say that no serious Catholic can resist the Rosary as form of prayer especially if he or she wants to know the Lord and to decapitate the head of sin. The Scriptural Rosary for Peace makes it clear the intimate connection between Scripture and the rosary

If you are looking for a primer on the Faith, then I would recommend reading and/or listening to the 30 booklets that address the various elements of our salvation in Jesus Christ in the Hart series. This series carries the reader through a systematic study of what Catholics believe and how Catholics worship and live.

One last point: pray the Divine Office. The sacred Liturgy of the Church comprises the praying the Divine Office (at the hinge hours of Morning and Evening Prayer) and praying the Sacrifice of the Mass. In a real sense one can’t divorce the Divine Office from the Mass as they form a unit. So if one conceives of the Liturgy as merely the Mass and makes no connection to the Divine Office, then that person has deficient view of the sacrifice of praise the Church continually offers to God. And what is the Divine Office and Mass? Pure Scripture; pure praise of the Blessed Trinity. Once you discover that the Liturgy (the Office & Mass) is the Church’s prayer speaking the Word of God and God speaking to us, or say it another way, the Mass is the face of the Word of God today and into eternity.

The Revised Grail Psalter & Conception Abbey


psalms.jpgThe Revised Grail Psalter


The life of a Benedictine monk hinges upon the motto ora et labora, which is Latin for “pray and work”. Specifically, St. Benedict intended his followers to be deeply rooted in the psalms, drawing upon their richness in writing his holy Rule and expounding at length upon how they should be prayed. For nearly 1,500 years now, Benedictines have carried on the tradition of their founder, and the Order is well known for its dedication to the liturgy. It should come as no surprise, then, that when the U.S. Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy wanted a new translation of the psalms for use in the liturgy, they approached Conception Abbey‘s own Abbot Gregory Polan to undertake a revision of the 1963 Grail Psalter.


What are the Grail Psalms?


In the years leading up to Vatican II, when the liturgy was still in Latin but moving toward
Joseph Gelineau.jpggreater lay participation, the psalm responses of the Mass were permitted to be sung in the vernacular. A French Jesuit by the name of Joseph Gelineau prepared a French translation of the psalms which was very rhythmic and worked well with a particular set of psalm tones. In response to his work, a community of lay women formed a secular institute called The Grail (of England) and undertook an English translation of Fr. Gelineau’s work. They employed scholars and musicians to work on the project and they began to release the fruits of their work in a series of books, each containing a few psalms, throughout the 1950s. The full version with all 150 psalms was released in 1963.


Just like the French Gelineau psalm tones, the 1963 Grail Psalter proved to be very well-suited for choral recitation, singing and chanting. It was soon incorporated into the Liturgy of the Hours.  While the lectionary in the United States used the psalms of the New American Bible and the Revised Standard Version, the 1963 Grail Psalms were also permitted for use as the Responsorial Psalm at Mass.  GIA Publications of Chicago featured these Responsorial Psalms in their Worship III Hymnal.


Why was a new translation needed?


The 1963 Grail Psalms made a wonderful transition from Latin into English because they were so easily understood, they had a clear poetic rhythm and they could be recited and sung with ease. All of these things were important objectives when the Ladies of the Grail set about their work. And while the 1963 Grail Psalter was very successful in this regard, there are places where the adherence to a set rhythm necessitated a paraphrase of the original Hebrew as opposed to a more authentic translation, taking into consideration the sometimes irregular rhythm of the Hebrew Psalms. Since Vatican II, however, we have seen a move to preserve sacred texts’ fidelity to their original sources.


Secondly, since the 1950s when most of these psalms were composed, “Much has happened in the area of biblical scholarship to enable us to understand better both the structure of Hebrew poetry and some of the more problematic texts,” Abbot Gregory said. He continued, “This scholarship will make a more accurate translation possible.”


Additionally, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments’ 2001 document Liturgiam Authenticam insists that a consistent translation be used in all the texts of the liturgy, which is currently not the case as far as the psalms are concerned. The Revised Grail Psalter will be the official translation used in the Lectionary, the Liturgy of the Hours, the texts for all books of the Sacraments, etc.


Conception Abbey.jpgWhy Conception?


Obviously, a project of this scope is quite the undertaking. But why were monks of Conception chosen to bring this work to fruition? As mentioned above, the mere fact that Conception Abbey is a Benedictine monastery is already a tally mark under the “pros” column. However, it is the combination of the scholarly pursuits of Abbot Gregory Polan that made the initial request from the U.S. Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy in June of 1998 the first and obvious choice.

Abbot Gregory would tell anyone (and he told the Bishop’s Committee) that he is first and foremost an abbot. Next on the list, though, you’ll find “Scripture Scholar” and “Musician”. After working on a translation of a section of the book of Isaiah in the Revised New American Bible, the staff at the Bishops’ Conference–knowing also his musical background–rightly assessed that his combination of abilities especially suited him to the task of revising the Grail Psalter which, like the 1963 Grail Psalter, needed to be suitable for choral recitation, singing and chanting. When Abbot Gregory agreed then, mentioning that he was first an abbot though, the bishops were happy to communicate that they just wanted it done right.


So, Abbot Gregory began the project, enlisting the help of other monks of Conception
Abbot Gregory Polan.jpgAbbey, and after four years an initial draft was completed. This draft was then brought before a November meeting of the Bishop’s Committee on Divine Worship where it was approved to undergo the rigorous process to deem it an acceptable translation. And acceptable it was as the USCCB approved its widespread use in a 203-5 vote at their meeting of November 11, 2008. It is now awaiting approval from the Vatican.


What does this mean for the Church?


For the Faithful who attend any liturgy in English, the Revised Grail Psalter means consistency in what they’ll hear across the board. For musicians and those who use the psalms for choral recitation or chanting, it means a translation which is well suited to these uses without sacrificing the integrity of the translation. All in all, the consistency and fidelity to the ancient texts of the psalms means that the Revised Grail Psalter will help promote a more effective, unified catechesis.


For Conception Abbey, the Revised Grail Psalter is another way that they, in their 135 years since their founding, have been able to respond to the needs of the Church.


Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus



The copyright for The Revised Grail Psalms is held jointly by Conception Abbey and The Grail (England).  GIA Publications serves as the international literary agent for this new version of The Grail Psalms.


Copies of the Revised Grail Psalter will not be released until the recognitio is received from Rome. For more information you may contact:


Jarrod Thome
Director of Communications
Conception Abbey

Why the tetragrammaton (YHWH) is not allowed in the Liturgy

On August 10th I posted an article on the Pope’s prohibition of the use of tetragrammaton in the sacred Liturgy. You can read the original posting here.


A recent reflection on the restoration of this practice follows.


Why “Yahweh” Isn’t Used in Catholic Liturgy

Biblical Expert Says It Reflects Jewish Tradition

JERUSALEM, NOV. 21, 2008 ( – To understand the Vatican directive reiterating that the name of God revealed in the tetragrammaton YHWH is not to be pronounced in Catholic liturgy, it helps to know the history behind the Jewish tradition, says a biblical expert.

Father Michel Remaud, director of the Albert Decourtray Institute, a Christian institute of Jewish studies and Hebrew literature, explained to ZENIT that the message published in June by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments reflects current Jewish practice.

The Vatican note explained: “The venerable biblical tradition of sacred Scripture, known as the Old Testament, displays a series of divine appellations, among which is the sacred name of God revealed in a tetragrammaton YHWH — hwhw.

YHWH.jpg“As an expression of the infinite greatness and majesty of God, it was held to be unpronounceable and hence was replaced during the reading of sacred Scripture by means of the use of an alternate name: ‘Adonai,’ which means ‘Lord.'”

Father Remaud said that “until almost the year 200 B.C., the divine name was pronounced every morning in the temple in the priestly blessing: ‘The Lord bless and keep you: The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you'” (Numbers 6:24-26).

He said this blessing originated out of the context of the next verse in Numbers: “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”

Left unsaid

Furthermore, the priest said that the Mishna, the Jewish law codified toward the end of the second century, “specifies that the name was pronounced in the temple ‘as it is written,’ while another denomination (Kinuy) was used in the rest of the country. After a certain period, the divine name was no longer pronounced in the temple’s daily liturgy.

“The Talmud leads one to understand that the decision was taken to avoid a magic use of the name by some.”


According to Father Remaud’s sources, ever “since the death of the high priest Simon the Righteous, about 195 B.C., the divine name was no longer pronounced in the daily liturgy.”

The expert compared the Talmud’s testimony with the Book of Sirach, which mentions Simon the Righteous in Chapter 50. Chapters 44-50 remember all “godly men” since Enoch, including Abraham, Moses and David.


Father Remaud said the seven-chapter passage ends with the high priest Simon pronouncing the divine name: “Then Simon came down, and lifted up his hands over the whole congregation of the sons of Israel, to pronounce the blessing of the Lord with his mouth, and to glory in his name; and they bowed down in worship a second time, to receive the blessing of the Most High” (Sirach 50:20-21).

Yom Kippur.jpgFrom the time of Simon the Righteous until the temple’s ruin, the name was only heard “as it is written” during the Yom Kippur liturgy at the temple of Jerusalem, where the high priest pronounced it 10 times, continued Father Remaud.


“On hearing the explicit name from the mouth of the high priest, the ‘cohanim’ [Aaron’s descendants] and the people present in the atrium knelt down, prostrated themselves with their face on the ground saying: ‘Blessed be the glorious name of his Kingdom forever.'”

The Mishna does not say that the high priest pronounced the divine name, but that the name “came out of his mouth,” he clarified.

A whisper


Moreover, continued Father Remaud, it seems that toward the end of the period of the second temple — 70 A.D. — the high priest now only pronounced the word in a whisper. This was explained in a childhood memory of Rabbi Tarphon (1st-2nd centuries), who recalls that even straining to hear, he could not hear the name.


The biblical scholar also noted that the formula of Exodus — “This is my name forever” (Exodus 3:15) — through a play of words in Hebrew is interpreted by the Talmud of Jerusalem as “This is my name to remain hidden.”


“Today, the divine name is never pronounced,” continued Father Remaud. “In the Yom Kippur office of the synagogue, which replaces the temple’s liturgy by the recitation of what took place when the temple existed, the people prostrated themselves in the synagogue when recalling — though not pronouncing — that the high priest pronounced the divine name.”


The Catholic priest noted that the first Christians called “Jesus by the term ‘Lord’ (Kyrios),” by which they “deliberately applied the term used in Greek to translate the divine name.”


“In Judaism’s liturgical tradition, this divine name was only pronounced in the liturgy of forgiveness of sins, on the day of Kippur,” he continued. “One might see an allusion to this tradition and to the purifying power of the Name, in this verse of the First Letter of St. John: ‘Your sins are forgiven for his names’ sake’ (1 John 2, 12).”

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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