7 Penitential Psalms to meditate on during Lent

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“Have pity on me, Lord, for I am weak; heal me, Lord, for my bones are shuddering.”

An ancient tradition of the Church involves the meditation on seven Psalms, called the “Penitential Psalms” because of their spiritual themes of penance and conversion. It is believed that the designation of these Psalms as “penitential” began way back in the 7th century and has persisted ever since.

The USCCB has a handy guide to these Psalms, along with a mediation for each Psalm.

Below is the beginning of each Psalm, expressing the sorrow within a person’s heart for sins against God’s goodness.

Psalm 6

Do not reprove me in your anger, Lord,
nor punish me in your wrath.

Have pity on me, Lord, for I am weak;
Heal me, Lord, for my bones are shuddering.

My soul too is shuddering greatly—
and you, Lord, how long …?

Turn back, Lord, rescue my soul;
save me because of your mercy.

For in death there is no remembrance of you.
Who praises you in Sheol?

Psalm 32

Blessed is the one whose fault is removed,
whose sin is forgiven.
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no guilt,
in whose spirit is no deceit.

Because I kept silent, my bones wasted away;
I groaned all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength withered as in dry summer heat.

Psalm 38

Lord, do not punish me in your anger;
in your wrath do not chastise me!

Your arrows have sunk deep in me;
your hand has come down upon me.

There is no wholesomeness in my flesh because of your anger;
there is no health in my bones because of my sin.

My iniquities overwhelm me,
a burden too heavy for me.

Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, God, in accord with your merciful love;
in your abundant compassion blot out my transgressions.

Thoroughly wash away my guilt;
and from my sin cleanse me.

For I know my transgressions;
my sin is always before me.

Against you, you alone have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in your eyes

Psalm 102

Lord, hear my prayer;
let my cry come to you.

Do not hide your face from me
in the day of my distress.

Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.

For my days vanish like smoke;
my bones burn away as in a furnace.

Psalm 130

Out of the depths I call to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my cry!

May your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.

If you, Lord, keep account of sins,
Lord, who can stand?

But with you is forgiveness
and so you are revered.

Psalm 143

Lord, hear my prayer;
in your faithfulness listen to my pleading;
answer me in your righteousness.

Do not enter into judgment with your servant;
before you no one can be just.
The enemy has pursued my soul;
he has crushed my life to the ground.

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