Is Love all you Need? Psalms say No.

So we’re getting a new set of psalms in our breviary in   three years    five years   some time or another within the next decade.       But anyone interested in getting a look a the text of the Revised Grail Psalms only has to click here to check them out.    At first glance, they don’t seem all that different. Often entire strophes are the same in both versions. But if you read through say, a dozen of them, comparing both versions,   a few things jump out at you, and these things appear (to me) to be improvements. I’ll just mention just  one of them today.

Love has Become Mercy

Back in the late sixties and seventies, grouchy traditionalists such as my parents and their friends would  complain that “Love, Love, Love is all you ever hear about these days! Every song on the radio, every sermon at mass, it’s nothing but love.”  Now I’m certain that my parents had nothing against love, either of God or neighbor. Their complaint meant that love was, in their opinion, being cheapened by the incessant verbal harping on it. Also, I think they felt that we couldn’t really understand or appreciate God’s love if it was the only topic  that was every preached about. All the other divine attributes, all the doctrines of the faith that were neglected in the false spirit of Vatican II were precisely the things that helped us understand what an amazing thing the love of God really is.

Memories of this old complaint of  leaped   into my mind as I noticed  that psalms currently in our breviary use “love” in an awful lot of places where  the Revised Grail Psalms now substitutes  “mercy” or “merciful love”.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, His mercy endures forever. (Ps.136) O Lord you are good and forgiving, full of mercy to all who call. (Ps 86)

O praise the Lord, all you nations; acclaim him, all you peoples! For his merciful love has prevailed over us; and the Lord’s faithfulness endures forever. (Psalm 117) Besides being (as I’m told and have no reason to doubt) a more accurate translation of what appears in the original Hebrew and Greek septuagint texts, the word Mercy tells us more about God than the word Love. It tells us what kind of love is his: merciful love. Love that we don’t deserve, but receive just the same. Mercy reminds us that we are miserable sinners, the wretches saved from hell  by amazing grace. Mercy reminds us of what Jesus reminded the world through St. Faustina.

Next time: Helper or Savior?

Daria Sockey


Daria Sockey is a freelance writer from western Pennsylvania. Her articles have appeared in many Catholic publications. She authored several of the original Ignatius Press Faith and Life catechisms in the 1980s, and more recently wrote five study guides for saints' lives DVDs distributed by Ignatius Press. She now writes regularly for the newly revamped Catholic Digest. Her newest book, The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, will be published by Servant Books this spring. Feel Free to email her at

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  • I grew up reading the Douay-Rheims Bible that my parents had at home; I was already quite familiar with many of the Psalms when the modern-language editions of the Bible started coming out, and I immediately noticed the substitution of “love” where the word in the older edition was “mercy.” There were also many places where the word “charity” was replaced by “love,” although, considering the fact that the element of love that is supposed to be the root of all almsgiving seems to have been lost from the meaning of the word, I suppose that substitution makes sense.

    You say next time you will be discussing “heper” vs “savior.” That’s a substitution I never understood at the time, though now, there’s a little bit of the conspiracy theorist that wonders if it wasn’t the modernists’ attempt to wipe the concept of “sin” out of the mind of modern man. Given the fact that today, the Catholic Church is about the only institution left that even calls sin, “sin,” I have to admit that they were at least partially successful, especially considering the fact that I can’t even remember the last time I heard anything about God’s justice in a sermon.

  • I think there were many streams of thought that brought about these mediocre translations. One was, as you say, a wish to downplay sin. And if there is no sin, there is no need for salvation. Another notion was perhaps to be literally faithful to the Hebrew and to pay less attention to the Latin texts,so perhaps that is another area where the help vs. salvation situation came in. One more notion was to put everything in more modern, simple language, so perhaps people thought salvation was too complex compared to help. Sounds silly, but the 60s were a silly time.