A Catholic reads the Bible, Week 28: Hearing the music of Psalms

This is Week 28 of a yearlong series: A Catholic Reads the Bible. Read Week 1, Week 2 and Week 3. Laura Bernardini is director of coverage in CNN's Washington Bureau. The views expressed in this column belong to Bernardini.

Laura Bernardini

(CNN)Psalms reminds me that I will never be one of those people who can effortlessly quote Bible verses. There is just too much to remember. I wish I could, but it's never going to happen.

But I did enjoy reading all 150 of the psalms. I could see why many people quote these little chunks of wisdom and praise of God, even embroider a few words on their pillows or hang them on their walls.
Thousands of years later, we are still reading them, and they are still relevant. Heck, most people may not even realize that you sing them each week between the first and second reading in Mass. (It's the "responsorial psalm.")
    How many writings can say they remain that relevant after thousands of years?
    Psalms is a book divided into five parts that were intended to be sung in Jewish Temple. In my Bible, each has a title, and some are attributed to King David. They are devotional.
    This also explains why the messages of Psalms have permeated so many parts of the Catholic Mass. As I read through them, I could actually hear music in my head. The language was just that beautiful.
    For example, rather than saying "Forgive me for sinning," Psalm 51 says: "Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me." It sounds so much nicer.
    Or how about this meditation on faith from Psalm 62? "Only in God is my soul at rest; from him comes my salvation."
    And I want to return the use of "smite" to regular language as the best way to describe getting rid of your enemies.
    While reading Psalm 98, I could hear a song often sung at Mass that starts: "Sing to the Lord a new song."
    Another riddle was solved by Psalm 34. After singing "Taste and See" all the way through Catholic school -- "Taste and see, taste and see the goodness of the Lord" -- I had no idea what that meant. The Eucharist, when Catholics receive the body and blood of Christ? That seems a bit -- literal. Fortunately my Bible had a footnote to Pslam 34: Taste and see isn't literal. It means knowing the Lord "by experience." That's a lovely explanation.
    There was a minor disappointment in my psalm-reading, though.
    I kept waiting for the famous line: "As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death" because that is the only psalm I can quote. Thank you, Coolio and "Gangsta's Paradise"!
    I didn't know the psalm number, but I kept waiting. Sadly, my Bible had a different translation: "Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil." I almost missed it, and "dark valley" seems to miss some of the profound poetry of "valley of the shadow of death."
    Still, Psalm 23 begins with probably my favorite line in the whole book: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want."
    I can see myself going back to the Psalms later and rereading them. It's the first time in my exercise where I didn't feel like one reading and done. I wanted to read more and more.