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Jim Hendrick wrote:

Hi, guys —

One of our recent Popes recommended the Book of Psalms as a rich source of material for helping our prayer life. Yet, I find many of the Psalms, with their violent themes and negative language, anything but helpful in this regard.

I have been using the Grail translation; the one used in our Catholic liturgy.

  • Can anyone help me get around this difficulty?

Jim Hendrick

  { How can I enjoy reading the Psalms, in spite of their violent themes and negative language? }

Eric replied:

Hi Jim!

  • Are you following the Liturgy of the Hours, or your own sequence?

There are some psalms, called the imprecatory psalms, that are exceedingly violent but, if I recall correctly, there are not many of them. I'm not certain, but I think the Liturgy of the Hours skips many of these.

The psalms are meant to express the full panoply of human emotions, which are not always warm and fuzzy. The psalms show us that we need to bring the nitty-gritty of our lives and our problems to God and not whitewash how we feel. I'm not 100% sure whether by negative you are just referring to the imprecatory psalms (which have troubled people throughout the ages) or also psalms that express extreme emotions (e.g., "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?")

If it's also the low emotions you're turned off by, again, the psalms are realistic and earthy. They aren't pious plaster platitudes. It's worth considering whether our faith is such that we treat God like an acquaintance, keeping everything superficial and nice and polite, or whether we have a deep, intimate relationship with God where we can feel the freedom to be brutally honest with Him, even to the extent of getting angry with Him or expressing negative feelings. We have to be real — and intimate — with God, like the psalmist. I've noticed myself that often God works most dramatically in my life when I confront him in raw anger.

It may also help to spiritualize the violent aspects and ascribe the violence to spiritual forces (demons) instead of human beings. I.e., consider the enemy being fought as demonic power and not as a man.

Hope this helps!


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