“A pure heart create for me, O God, put a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51).
Fridays are penitential days for Catholics. Just as we celebrate His Resurrection each Sunday, we recall that it was on a Friday that our Lord suffered His crucifixion, dying on the Cross for each of us.
On Fridays, we perform some act of self-denial to make reparation for sin and to honor our Lord by turning from sin. We should also perform added corporal or spiritual acts of mercy. During Lent in the United States, we abstain from meat; we could choose to do so on all Fridays of the year as our act of self-denial.
Is there a particular prayer that can be said with the Church that is especially suited to penitential Fridays? There certainly is. If you are looking for an additional prayer for Fridays, join the Church in praying the Miserere.
Each of us is a sinner in need of mercy. In this day and age, we sometimes forget that sad fact. We struggle with the effects of original sin and commit our own personal sins.
Those of you who pray the Liturgy of the Hours already know that during each Friday’s Lauds (morning prayer), we hear an example of this struggle as we pray Psalm 51(50), the 4th Penitential Psalm—the Miserere. King David pleads with God for forgiveness and asks God to create in him a new heart. He makes this prayer following his adultery with Bathsheba and arranging the murder of her husband Uriah on the field of battle in an effort to hide his sin.
Psalm 51(50)—Miserere (4th Penitential Psalm)
Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.
My offenses truly I know them;
my sin is always before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
what is evil in your sight I have done.
That you may be justified when you give sentence
and be without reproach when you judge.
O see, in guilt I was born,
a sinner was I conceived.
Indeed you love truth in the heart;
then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.
O purify me, then I shall be clean;
O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me hear rejoicing and gladness,
that the bones you have crushed may revive.
From my sins turn away your face
and blot out all my guilt.
A pure heart create for me, O God,
put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
nor deprive me of your holy spirit.
Give me again the joy of your help;
with a spirit of ferver sustain me,
that I may teach transgressors your ways
and sinners may return to you.
O rescue me, God, my helper,
and my tongue shall ring out your goodness.
O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall declare your praise.
For in sacrifice you take no delight,
burnt offering from me you would refuse,
my sacrifice, a contrite spirit.
A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.
In your goodness, show favor to Zion:
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will be pleased with lawful sacrifice,
holocausts offered on your altar.
Do we not often feel the same need to go to the Father? To ask his forgiveness? To ask our God to create in us a new heart? Surely we do. And when we do, let us be open to His mercy and also to His direction.
Remember, you are dust, and to dust you will return. Repent and believe in the Gospel.