Q: I have a question. I and another Deacon had two Ash Wednesday services to handle the overflow of our people who come for ashes on Ash Wednesday. We have 3 masses and 3 services at our parish. We try to use what is found in the book is prayers at the services where there is no mass. However our music director changed the psalm to a different one than is at the Mass found in the Roman Missal and the book of prayers. As there were no worship aids and a bad speaker system I could not understand what the cantor was singing. Not even the refrain. I don’t think the people could either. My question is can another psalm be used at the Ash Wednesday mass/services, and if so what could be a good reason to change the psalm?
A: I’ve treated this in my book Let Us Pray, but there is more precise information in GIRM 61. There are two ways in which the psalm may be replaced. One is drawing from the seasonal psalms, which, in the case of Lent, are found at Lectionary number 174, beginning at number 5. These are located after the weekday readings and gospel acclamations of Ordinary Time.
In the United States, there is another option: “an antiphon and Psalm from another collection of Psalms and antiphons, including Psalms arranged in metrical form, providing that they have been approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop.”
Your musician’s choice may well have been permitted. Nonetheless, the psalms in the lectionary were chosen with exception care. They are best rendered with exactly the verses recommended for each day.