March 19, 2023  – The Seven Penitential Psalms

In there Book of Psalms in the Bible, there are Seven Psalms that have been considered as the traditional Penitential Psalms; that is where the psalmists recognize their sins, shortcomings, and failures (whether personally or as a collective people), and cries out to God for His Compassion, Forgiveness, Mercy, and Healing.  These are Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143.  As we move through this Penitential season of Lent, a good prayer practice would be to pray these Seven Psalms.  Certainly they can be offered as prayers for ourselves as individuals as we continue to strive to reform our lives and repent from our personal sins, habits, and vices.

But also, part of our duty as Christians is to pray and intercede for others and for the world.  So you could pray these psalms as intercession for:

  • Those with addictions: someone you know who is struggling with an addiction (substance or otherwise), or caught in their own vices
  • Those who persist in destructive decisions: someone you know who are making bad decisions that are harmful and destructive to themselves or others,
  • Culture and Society: for an end to social injustices and systemic forms of oppression, and for a change to those messages in the culture that are antithetical or opposed to the Gospel (especially those opposed to the protection of all human life, from conception until natural death).  For our laws and government to be more according to the Gospel and the Kingdom of Heaven; and also for healing of resentment and hatred in our nation
  • The Church – as you know in the Catholic Church, there have been mishandled cases and cover ups by people and leaders in the Church; both in regards to abuse of young people and minors, but also financially.  While there have certainly been great strides to ensure a Safe Environment for minors in the Church (most of the recent scandals have been about cases from 30 or more years ago); there is still the ongoing purifying process of working for greater accountability and transparency.  And, of course, we need to pray for healing for all those who have been victims.  (If you want to learn more about the healing process, there is a great organization called Spirit Fire, a ministry that seeks “Christ-centered healing” for victims of abuse)

Now, of course, when we intercede on behalf of others, we must remember that we do not do so to merely focus on the sins and wrongdoings of others, that we are not, as Jesus says, to judge or condemn.  But we are to always be motivated by love for the sinner, and invoking God’s mercy on their behalf, that there may be healing for all those involved (This is what we mean when we talk about praying for “reparation from sin.”)  And so out of love for them we invoke God’s Gracious Mercy, which we ourselves have experienced in our lives knowing that we ourselves are humble fellow sinners who have hurt ourselves and sinners by our own sins, both in “what we have done and what we have failed to do.


-Fr. Kevin