Monasteries of the Heart

Monks in Our Midst: Mary Ellen Plumb on Walking with the Psalms 

Mary Ellen Plumb, OSB is a member of the staff of Monasteries of the Heart. This reflection was published on the Religion page of the Erie-Times News on September 4, 2021.

The psalms of Scripture have a long history in both the Jewish and Christian traditions. For my Benedictine community and me, they are fundamental to our daily Liturgy of Hours, our communal prayer.

When I was young, I asked a spiritual mentor whether she ever got bored praying the same psalms over and over again. Instead of a direct answer, she suggested a simple spiritual practice: Every morning, at Morning Praise, select one verse of one psalm, “tuck it into my heart” and carry it around with me all day. Then at Evening Praise, do the same and take that selected verse to sleep with me.

I didn’t understand exactly but I did as she suggested – and slowly something changed – I began walking with the psalms.

A few nights before my mother died, she whispered to me, “At nightfall weeping enters in." I thought she believed that she was going to die that evening. But slowly it dawned on me that her words were an incomplete verse from Psalm 30 – a verse I had “tucked into my heart:” “At nightfall, weeping enters in but with the dawn, rejoicing.” I understand, Mom – I understand.

I have collected a lifetime of psalm verses. The psalm verse I prayed as I waited endlessly while a friend was in surgery. The psalm verse that upheld me when my community closed the doors of our beloved Saint Benedict Academy. The psalm verse a dear friend asked me to pray with her moments before she walked down the aisle at her wedding.

Each psalm verse a reminder that God skillfully weaves our longing and pleading, our nastiness and kindness, our gratitude and wonder into a single seeking heart and an honest soul.

Try it, maybe – choose a psalm verse and walk around with it for a few days, and then choose another and then another. Trust your own feelings, your own laments, your own praise as psalms come to life within you, by you, for you.

When I began, I hoped that walking with the psalms would make me holy. I was wrong. Walking with the psalms has made me human. And nothing is more sacred than that.


  1. What idea or insight touches home for you in this reflection? Explain.
  2. Does the idea of "walking with the psalms" appeal to you? If so, why and how might you integrate it into your own spiritual journey?

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