The Penitential Psalms of Lent


"In the Latin Rite, Pss. vi, xxxi, xxxvii, l, ci, cxxix, cxlii (Douai) have long been recited, in the above order, as prayers of sorrow for sin; they are lyric cries of the sorrowing soul and have hence been called the Penitential Psalms. Their recitation during Lent was ordered by Innocent III (1198-1216). Pius V (1566-72) established the custom, now no longer of general obligation, whereby these psalms became a part of the Friday ferial Office of Lent."

The Penitential Psalms could be found in the Book of Hours, or Primer as it was called in England, during the medieval period from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century. The Primer was the common English name for a book of devotions which was the ordinary prayer-book used by the laity. In these psalms, the author, King David, beseeches God's forgiveness for the sin he has committed. They represent each of the Seven Deadly Sins. This section of the Book of Hours or Primer concludes with the Litany of Saints.

The Psalms according to the Douay-Rheims Bible are as follows:


Psalm 6: O Lord, rebuke me not in thy indignation, nor chastise me in thy wrath. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak: heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled. And my soul is troubled exceedingly: but thou, O Lord, how long? Turn to me, O Lord, and deliver my soul: O save me for thy mercy's sake. For there is no one in death, that is mindful of thee: and who shall confess to thee in hell? I have laboured in my groanings, every night I will wash my bed: I will water my couch with my tears. My eye is troubled through indignation: I have grown old amongst all my enemies. Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity: for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping. The Lord hath heard my supplication: the Lord hath received my prayer. Let all my enemies be ashamed, and be very much troubled: let them be turned back, and be ashamed very speedily.


Psalm 31: Blessed is the man to whom the Lord hath not imputed sin, and in whose spirit there is no guile. Because I was silent my bones grew old; whilst I cried out all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: I am turned in my anguish, whilst the thorn is fastened. I have acknowledged my sin to thee, and my injustice I have not concealed. I said, I will confess against myself my injustice to the Lord: and thou hast forgiven the wickedness of my sin. For this shall every one that is holy pray to thee in a seasonable time. And yet in a flood of many waters, they shall not come nigh unto him. Thou art my refuge from the trouble which hath encompassed me: my joy, deliver me from them that surround me. I will give thee understanding, and I will instruct thee in this way, in which thou shalt go: I will fix my eyes upon thee. Do not become like the horse and the mule, who have no understanding. With bit and bridle bind fast their jaws, who come not near unto thee. Many are the scourges of the sinner, but mercy shall encompass him that hopeth in the Lord. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye just, and glory, all ye right of heart.


Psalm 37: Rebuke me not, O Lord, in thy indignation; nor chastise me in thy wrath. For thy arrows are fastened in me: and thy hand hath been strong upon me. There is no health in my flesh, because of thy wrath: there is no peace for my bones, because of my sins. For my iniquities are gone over my head: and as a heavy burden are become heavy upon me. My sores are putrified and corrupted, because of my foolishness. I am become miserable, and am bowed down even to the end: I walked sorrowful all the day long. For my loins are filled with illusions; and there is no health in my flesh. I am afflicted and humbled exceedingly: I roared with the groaning of my heart.. Lord, all my desire is before thee, and my groaning is not hidden from thee. My heart is troubled, my strength hath left me, and the light of my eyes itself is not with me. My friends and my neighbours have drawn near, and stood against me. And they that were near me stood afar off: And they that sought my soul used violence. And they that sought evils to me spoke vain things, and studied deceits all the day long. But I, as a deaf man, heard not: and as a dumb man not opening his mouth. And I became as a man that heareth not: and that hath no reproofs in his mouth. For in thee, O Lord, have I hoped: thou wilt hear me, O Lord my God. For I said: Lest at any time my enemies rejoice over me: and whilst my feet are moved, they speak great things against me. For I am ready for scourges: and my sorrow is continually before me. For I will declare my inequity: and I will think for my sin. But my enemies live, and are stronger that I: and they hate me wrongfully are multiplied. They that render evil for good, have detracted me, because I followed goodness. Forsake me not, O Lord my God: do not thou depart from me. Attend unto my help, O Lord, the God of my salvation.


Psalm 50: Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy. And according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my iniquity. Wash me yet more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my iniquity, and my sin is always before me. To thee only have I sinned, and have done evil before thee: that thou mayst be justified in thy words and mayst overcome when thou art judged. For behold I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother conceive me. For behold thou hast loved truth: the uncertain and hidden things of thy wisdom thou hast made manifest to me.Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow. To my hearing thou shalt give joy and gladness: and the bones that have been humbled shall rejoice. Turn away thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create a clean heart in me, O God: and renew a right spirit within my bowels. Cast me not away from thy face; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and strengthen me with a perfect spirit. I will teach the unjust thy ways: and the wicked shall be converted to thee. Deliver me from blood, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall extol thy justice. O Lord, thou wilt open my lips: and my mouth shall declare thy praise. For if thou hadst desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it: with burnt-offerings thou wilt not be delighted. A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Deal favourably, O Lord, in thy good-will with Sion; that the walls of Jerusalem may be built up. Then shalt thou accept the sacrifice of justice, oblations and whole burnt-offerings: then shall they lay calves upon thy altar.


Psalm 101: Hear, O Lord, my prayer: and let my cry come to thee. Turn not away thy face from me: in the day when I am in trouble, incline thy ear to me. In what day soever I shall call upon thee, hear me speedily. For my days are vanished like smoke: and my bones are grown dry like fuel for the fire. I am smitten as grass, and my heart is withered: because I forgot to eat my bread. Through the voice of my groaning, my bone hath cleaved to my flesh. I am become like to a pelican of the wilderness: I am like a night-raven in the house. I have watched, and am become as a sparrow all alone on the house-top. All the day long my enemies reproached me: and they that praised me did swear against me. For I did eat ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping. Because of thy anger and indignation: for having lifted me up thou hast thrown me down. My days have declined like a shadow, and I am withered like grass. But thou, O Lord, endurest for ever: and thy memorial to all generations. Thou shalt arise and have mercy on Sion: for it is time to have mercy on it, for the time is come. For the stones thereof have pleased thy servants: and they shall have pity on the earth thereof. And the Gentiles shall fear thy name, O Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy glory. For the Lord hath built up Sion: and he shall be seen in his glory. He hath had regard to the prayer of the humble: and he hath not despised their petition. Let these things be written unto another generation: and the people that shall be created shall praise the Lord: Because he hath looked forth from his high sanctuary: from heaven the Lord hath looked upon the earth. That he might hear the groans of them that are in fetters: that he might release the children of the slain: That they may declare the name of the Lord in Sion: and his praise in Jerusalem; When the people assemble together, and kings, to serve the Lord. He answered him in the way of his strength: Declare unto me the fewness of my days. Call me not away in the midst of my days: thy years are unto generation and generation. In the beginning, O Lord, thou foundedst the earth: end the heavens are the works of thy hands. They shall perish but thou remainest: and all of them shall grow old like a garment: And as a vesture thou shalt change them, and they shall be changed. But thou art always the self-same, and thy years shall not fail. The children of thy servants shall continue: and their seed shall be directed for ever.


Psalm 129: Out of the depths I have cried to thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice. Let thy ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication. If thou, O Lord, wilt mark iniquities: Lord, who shall stand it. For with thee there is merciful forgiveness: and by reason of thy law, I have waited for thee, O Lord. My soul hath relied on his word: my soul hath hoped in the Lord. From the morning watch even until night, let Israel hope in the Lord. Because with the Lord there is mercy: and with him plentiful redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.


Psalm 142: Hear, O Lord, my prayer: give ear to my supplication in thy truth: hear me in thy justice. And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight no man living shall be justified. For the enemy hath persecuted my soul: he hath brought down my life to the earth. He hath made me to dwell in darkness as those that have been dead of old: and my spirit is in anguish within me: my heart within me is troubled. I remembered the days of old, I meditated on all thy works: I meditated upon the works of thy hands. I stretched forth my hands to thee: my soul is as earth without water unto thee. Hear me speedily, O Lord: my spirit hath fainted away. Turn not away thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit. Cause me to hear thy mercy in the morning; for in thee have I hoped. Make the way known to me, wherein I should walk: for I have lifted up my soul to thee. Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord, to thee have I fled: teach me to do thy will, for thou art my God. Thy good spirit shall lead me into the right land: for thy name's sake, O Lord, thou wilt quicken me in thy justice. Thou wilt bring my soul out of trouble: and in thy mercy thou wilt destroy my enemies. And thou wilt cut off all them that afflict my soul: for I am thy servant.


The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI: Psalms, Copyright 1911 by Robert Appleton Company, Online Edition Copyright 1999 by Kevin Knight, Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor, Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York


Taken from Salve Regina Catholic Books