Fr Gerard invited me to contribute a few words about our latest Redemptorist Pastoral Publication: THE PRAYER BOOK OF JESUS. All our publications try to address significant issues in an attractive style and in harmony with the best of our Catholic tradition.
This new book runs to 68 pages and can therefore only be a basic introduction to the Psalms. The book of Psalms itself is a collection of 150 hymns which took 600 years to be finalized and some of the hymns are actually 3000 years old. Used by Jews and Christians, the Psalms are considered by both religions as part of the inspired Word of God.
The Psalms provide the structure for the daily prayer of Jews from time immemorial. Prayed by the Holy Family and by all the first Christians, they passed seamlessly into the structure of Christian prayer. They constitute part of the official Prayer of the Church and are prayed by Clergy and Religious every day.
Every weekday before the 8 30 Mass the Redemptorist community here at Holy Redeemer celebrate Morning Prayer of the Church from the Book of Psalms (called the ‘Psalter’) and each evening at 18 00, Evening Prayer of the Church.
Every Bible includes the Book of the Psalms and even a nodding acquaintance with the Psalms shows that they address every human emotion -even anger, rage and cursing! In these sacred prayers, which Jesus used every day, individuals and communities are given God’s own Word to speak to the Father, to express all our hopes and fears, our joys and sorrows, our pain and our happiness.
My motive in writing this little book is to share my enthusiasm for this treasure house of prayer and growth in the Spirit. I have found the Psalms an unfailing source of inspiration and hope, a delight and a grace.
In an introductory section I try to summarize the best of modern insights into the Book of Psalms: questions of style and presentation, and some of the challenges facing a 21st century person using such an ancient text. The heart of the book deals with some of the different kinds of psalms (psalms of praise, penitential psalms, pilgrimage psalms etc). For those wishing to go further I list some larger books which I have found helpful in appreciating the Psalms.
The book is laid out in a way that encourages a reflective style of reading, indeed of actually praying the psalms which are being discussed. Using the book with a copy of Bible at hand to see the complete text, would enhance the experience.
I am greatly indebted to Stephen Docherty (of Reproductive Images) for his lay- out and imaginative use of photographs which greatly enrich the text.
Fr. Sean Wales, C.Ss.R.