WASHINGTON, D.C.—On July 1, 2019 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) purchased the copyrights to the Revised Grail Psalter and the Old and New Testament Canticles translated by the monks of Conception Abbey in Missouri. The two texts will now together be titled Abbey Psalms and Canticles and will gradually be incorporated into the Church’s official liturgical books. These sacred texts play an important role in the public prayer of the Church, especially in the Liturgy of the Hours and in the readings for Mass.
For over two decades, the bishops have sought a translation of the psalms and canticles that would be more accurate and more conducive to singing and recitation. Since at least 1998 the monks of Conception Abbey have been working to prepare translations that would meet these goals. The USCCB first approved the monks’ translation of the psalter in 2008, and the Holy See then approved that text in 2010.
In June 2015 the USCCB approved Conception Abbey’s translation of the canticles, hymn-like passages from the Bible, such as the Song of Songs in the Old Testament and the Canticle of Mary or Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) in the New Testament, that are used on certain occasions in the liturgy. The bishops subsequently approved a revised version of the psalter in 2016. In May 2018 the Holy See approved both the psalter and the canticles in what should now be their definitive form.
Since 2010 many composers have prepared their own settings of these Psalms for use in the liturgy, and some of the more recently-published liturgical books have already begun incorporating material from the new translations.
In purchasing these copyrights, the bishops are following the guidelines of the Holy See’s Instruction Liturgiam authenticam, which requires that a conference of bishops possess all the rights necessary to promote and safeguard the accurate and appropriate use of the texts of the sacred liturgy.