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Archbishop Durocher hopes to make Psalms accessible

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News


OTTAWA (CCN) — Archbishop Paul-André Durocher hopes his new three-volume The Psalms for Our Lives will help people gain a deeper appreciation for the Psalms.

At a book launch March 24 at Saint Paul University hosted by Novalis, the Archbishop of Gatineau said he hoped the books would help people connect the Psalms to their Christian faith,” to their personal lives and to their prayer life.

The idea for the volumes came out of columns he began writing 15 years ago in French and in English for local papers while he was Bishop of Alexandria-Cornwall. He knew he had both Catholic and Protestant readers as well as those with little or no faith at all.

Writing once a week, it took him three years to get through all 150 Psalms, he said.

Durocher would usually write on Saturday mornings. Though his academic specialty had been sacramental theology, he had always loved studying Scripture, and preaching was important to him, he said.

Consequently, he had a collection of commentaries he could consult: a Catholic commentary; a Protestant commentary; a feminist commentary; and commentaries by the Church Fathers.

If he was writing about Psalm 15, for example, he would read what the various commentaries had to say, and then sit for a while in prayer to discover the focus he would take for the newspaper.

He examined the origins of the Psalm and the “sense of the text”; he would connect the Psalm to the Gospel message in the New Testament; and connect the Psalm to his life. Then he would look at the broader relevance of the Psalms.

Novalis publishing director Joe Sinasac said he had met Durocher at a reception and, after learning about the columns, suggested this “labour of love” would make good books, accessible to readers.

“He brings his inspiring wisdom and passion for the Psalms not only to a new generation, but also the entire Canadian community,” Sinasac said.

Carol Kuzmochka, a specialist in faith education and director of Saint Paul University’s School for Ministry Formation, described The Psalms for Our Lives as “150 gifts” that can “nourish and deepen our faith” and that of others.

The fathers of the Second Vatican Council in their Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes identified the “disconnect between faith and life” as one of the problems facing the modern world, Kuzmochka said.

Fifty years later, their “thinking endures,” she said. Durocher’s book can help heal that disconnect between faith and life and “help us to be better evangelizers.”

Durocher “lifts up the Psalms for us as a place to fully and authentically be a human being,” she said.

The Psalms present “real human beings” who are fearful, angry, sorrowful, even “demanding vengeance,” she said. “There is no aspect of the human condition absent from the Book of Psalms.”

They give voice to “joys, sorrows and anxieties,” she said.

During her fifth pregnancy, Kuzmochka said she experienced health difficulties. “When I tried to pray, the words were like straw in my mouth, until I found the words of Psalm 57,” she said. “Have mercy on me, God, have mercy on me. In you I seek refuge.”

Rev. Ivan Mathieu, the Dean of the Faculty of Theology at Saint Paul University, spoke about Durocher’s book from the perspective of a homilist. Every Sunday comes the challenge, “What can I say?”

While the archbishop’s book does not create short cuts by doing the work of the homilist for him, it teaches that God “wishes to speak to me and wishes to speak to us,” Mathieu said in French.

“That opening can help all who must prepare homilies to come before God in prayer.”

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