Electric Prayer

The Liturgy of the Hours, the Mass, and other things.

Psalm translations for Mass

Posted by universalis on 22 October 2008

I have a question that I’d like to ask the users of Universalis.

Everyone will have noticed that in the Readings at Mass page of Universalis, the scripture readings are shown but the responsorial psalm isn’t. This is for copyright reasons. The owners of the copyright in the psalms used in churches in most of the English-speaking world (the Grail translation) do not allow their copyright material to be reproduced on the Web.

It’s not impossible that attitudes will change one day, but meanwhile there are two things that we might do:

  1. Reproduce our own translation of the relevant psalm (the same version that you see in the Liturgy of the Hours), with a warning that this is for reference only and is not the version that you will hear in church.
  2. Reproduce the Jerusalem Bible translation of the relevant psalm, with the same warning.

The question is: would either of these courses of action be useful to you (“any psalm translation is better than none at all”), or would they be irritating (“better have nothing than have the wrong translation”)? If they would be useful, do you have any preference?

If you are in the USA, please do not respond: the issues are different there, and I hope to write a post about them soon.

Update: Thank you all for your comments. They have been very useful indeed and will help with our future planning.

40 Responses to “Psalm translations for Mass”

  1. David said

    Hello Universalis,

    I would like to see one of the two suggested possibilities! “Any psalm translation is better than none at all”!

    Keep up the great work,


  2. Ken said

    I would love to see the proper translation, as used in mass. How long will we have to wait to get these on your website?


  3. Abel Chiaro said

    Hi there, Universalis team!

    I agree to David — not because “any psalm translation is better than none at all,” but simply because that’s the Psalm of the day. If that isn’t the version sung in the Church, okay by me: the choruses aren’t usually that hard to learn, and — come on — I don’t mind following the lyrics in a sheet of paper now and then. But when I’m doing the readings, especially “in the dark of my room,” then I miss the Psalm translation in Universalis.

    Of course, I should also echo David’s words: keep up your awesome work!


  4. Eddie said

    As David says, “Any translation is better than none.” Why not use yours? It is available and we read it often. Some of the regular stuff sticks in the mind anyway: “For forty years they wearied me, that generation …” It is a bit of a bother to go and find it in a book when the whole point is to get all the readings together on Universalis itself.


  5. Cowpoke said

    I echo the other posters’ sentiments. I have read/heard different translations of psalms and readings in Mass from time to time. I can follow along whether the words are identical or close (enough).


  6. Ken, the trouble is that the owners of the Grail psalms simply do not permit any of them to appear on the Web, at all, ever.

  7. Jacqueline said

    I would find it irritating. I thought I could use Universalis to print out the readings and responsorial psalm for a friend who likes to practice the readings a number of days before he goes to Mass, he has poor eyesight and needs them in a large font from Universalis I am able to copy and paste the text into word processor software and adjust the font as necessary.

    However, I don’t quite know what’s going on as the wording for the readings in his Sunday Missal (pub. 1979) is different to the wording published on the program Universalis which I have downloaded and run on my computer. I haven’t yet discovered whether the wording in his Missal is different to the Missal at church.

    I was warned that the psalm was omitted when I registered the program. However, to have the psalm in a different wording to what’s read out at Sunday Mass is of little use to me.

    Thanks all the same and thanks for Universalis, I often use it to cross check that I have the correct page of the Missal when I’m photocopying the readings for my friend.

  8. Jean said

    I don’t know who could consider himself proprietary of any of the “Word of God” even a translation since our good God speaks in every language and is the Owner of His Word… Thus if one is greedy enough to consider himself “proprietary”, any other honest translation will be fine. “Any translation is better than none.”

  9. John Joseph Rodriguez said

    I better have nothing than have the wrong translation.
    Notwithstanding, keep up your excellent work!

  10. Don said

    Can not believe that any liturgical writings are copy righted. However, since they appear to be – I would like to have something than nothing. You all do a great job you web site ha been a big help in my prayer life.

  11. Frank said

    I agree.
    The details of the translation don’t matter all that much. Any addition would be an improvement over an already fine contribution to our spiritual life.
    And while we’re on the subject, why not include the antiphons with the psalms in the Office Prayers and, let’s just go for broke here, the daytime prayers, even just one weeks’ worth would be great.

  12. dinesh said

    any translation is better than none at all
    since it is the jerusalem bible version it is quite ok

  13. Michael said

    Yes, I quite agree with the consensus – if users are relying on the web for the office, then any translation is preferable to none at all.

  14. stel said

    I use your fantastic site for preparation of Morning Prayer and Sunday Mass with a group of men. It’s a shame The Grail won’t allow you use of the psalms. Any point in lobbying the organisation?!

  15. Dave said

    I agree. These publishers can’t be the only people in the whole world that can do translations. Anyone out there who can do the translations for Universalis?

  16. Richard said

    Definitely include – it would make sense to use the same translation as used for the readings.

    In any case, I prefer the whole psalm to the extract they use for the responsorial psalm.


  17. Tina said

    I think that having whichever one is closer to the original would be best, but I agree that having something is better than nothing until (if ever) permission is granted.

  18. Stiubhart said

    I have to agree with the majority of the other responsees – the glaring hole left by having no psalm at all needs to be filled. As long as the translation used is a good one, does it really matter if it is word-for-word the same as that used in church?

  19. Doug said

    I agree with Frank (#11) completely.

    And my thanks for Universalis

  20. Daniel said

    My preference would be to get the Jerusalem in there. I personally like it better than the grail anyhow.


    PS: I don’t mind scanning in and proof reading any readings you might need (I have the four volume set and the daughters of St. Paul one volume edition). I just look forward to the day when universalis is complete.

  21. Elizabeth said

    I prefer some responsorial to none at all. Thank you for your service. I also second response #11. The more complete we can make the online version, the better.

    God Bless.

  22. Tim said

    Yes, any recognised translation would be good. You may need to warn users that they may not be getting what they expect.
    Grateful thanks for all you do.

  23. jimmyboi2 said

    I’d like to see SOMETHING as close to the originals as possible.

    And the BIG issue here is: why were these allowed to be copyrighted? This is outrageous.

  24. fr Ives said

    As a foreigner I don’t bother at all about the translation.
    I understand though that the translation used, ‘gets into the ears’ when used regularly.
    But people who also read the bible outside Mass, already are used to hear/read different translations.

    This gives me the opportunity to thank Universalis as I use it quite intensively.

    God bless you all users of Universalis.

  25. Please don’t rage about the iniquity of copyright! People have spent a long time working hard to make these translations, and I don’t see why they should receive nothing for their labours just because it was the Bible that they were translating. It’s even possible to make a reasonable case for preventing the copyright material from appearing on the Web. There are arguments on both sides, but I don’t intend to discuss the subject further here, because that isn’t the place for it.

    Please, let’s just stick to the question I asked.

  26. Anonymous said

    I’m with the majority-give us something.

  27. Bob Alger said

    I prefer you first option. Your translation is better in my opinion. I appreciate the work you do to make this all available so many ways. It would be good to see the mass readings completed even if not with the “official” translation. Also there is a free translation on the web that you could use. It’s called the World English Bible. See


  28. Clare said

    I’d like your translation. The more I use Universalis for the Office the more familiar those words are becoming to me. I don’t expect either the readings or the psalm I hear at church to use the same translations as the Universalis Mass page.

  29. Mina said

    I would prefer the Jerusalem Bible translation, as its simpler English; easier to understand. I wish the whole Bible was available in Good News Translation, Large Print Catholic Edition, but it isn’t yet.

  30. Julio said

    Hi Universalis Staff:

    Another option is to move to the RSVCE (The Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition), in which case there would be no problems.


  31. paulinespirit said

    To Jacqueline: There was liturgy software designed specifically for people with vision problems. They could magnify the fonts and (I believe) print those versions out. The program was called “Magnify the Word.” I don’t remember if it was only the lectionary, only the sacramentary or what (it seems to me there was some limitation in the content). Maybe copies are still available out there; it might help your friend.

  32. Frank Green said

    I agree with the majoirty with one caveat, ANY translation is not acceptable, some translations may be just plain wrong. But other ‘approved’ English translations will work.
    The word of God is for all and copyrighting seems canon-wise criminal, but the word of God must be guarded from misinterpretation and mistranslation. God’s word is the layman’s ready access to The Word.

  33. Ann said

    Looking forward to the day when responsorial psalms will be included,like those in the Liturgy of the Hours; or the Jerusalem Bible translation if need be, with relevant warning.

  34. Francis Paul said

    I agree with everyone and more so with Frank Green regarding the transalations.

    Each translation of Scriptures lends itself to different “interpretations”. True, our Lord speaks through different tongues. However, as apracticing and devout Catholic, I would “prefer” (and I use that term quite loosely) the translation that closely “approximates” that which will be appearing in the Holy Mass.

    Although my personal preference is the Jerusalem Bible, the Catholic NAB or the NSRV would be much better.

    However, I will agree with the chorus of those above: if all else, any translation is better than nothing.

    More power to you and my our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ continue to bless your work.

  35. Jorge Simoes said

    Thanks to Universalis for all its work.
    I have used the site basically for the hours when taking my breviary with me is not so practical, and to anticipate what the readings will be on Sunday, or to read them during the week days. I am a portuguese speaking catholic, and I suppose many of the christians that visit and use this “site” may not speak english as their first language. That is to say that what seems essential to me is: the psalms should be present…pity if the version read at mass in english countries is not available, that would be the best choice. But things being what they are, I would favour the “Jerusalem Bible” version, since it is acknowleged by the official church, and the purpose of its presence here is that they should be used (read) in prayer by a community of believers, even if a virtual one!
    By the way, the same applies to the antiphons for the Hours…God knows I miss them badly, and that, if I may say is a bigger problem to me (sorry for bringing in this subject)
    Anyway…please accept my gratitude for your work and service.

  36. Anonymous said

    Thankyou Universlis for the wonderful service that you provide. I would be happy with either option and am just so grateful that Universalis is there God Bless
    Sheila Dodd

  37. George said

    I agree with poster #11 completely!

  38. Anonymous said

    I find translations that are very similar in wording, but not quite the same, very irritating!

    A translation that scans well (is that the word?), one that falls off the tongue easily, that is what matters.

    David in UK

  39. Joan said

    Have you considered asking for permission to use the copyrighted texts? If they aren’t being used for profit, exceptions are often given.

  40. Jim said

    I agree with the many comments that say something is better than nothing. My personal choice would be The Jerusalem Bible, for the same reasons already given by others. I join with everyone in commending your wonderful, and I have no doubt, blessed, work and looking forward to the day when it is complete.


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