The “Te Deum” is an ancient Catholic hymn, originally written in Latin. One tradition reports that it was first sung on the occasion of St. Augustine’s baptism by St. Ambrose. The story goes that the two saints composed it spontaneously, alternately singing the verses of the hymn in thanksgiving for God’s grace. For many years, the Church even referred to it as the “Hymn of Sts. Ambrose and Augustine” in the Divine Office.
Many scholars now attribute the hymn to some other author: St. Hilary of Poitiers, or more likely Nicetas of Ramesiana. It’s still called the “Ambrosian Hymn,” probably in reference to the importance of St. Ambrose in introducing the use of hymns into the Church of the Western Roman Empire. And it’s still prayed in the Divine Office, usually at the end of the Office of Readings on Sundays.
The “Te Deum” has also been used as a hymn of thanksgiving on special occasions, such as the election of a pope, the canonization of a saint, or a royal coronation.
It’s mentioned in Shakespeare’s Henry V, when the king orders, “Let there be sung Non nobis and Te Deum,” in thanksgiving for his victory in the Battle of Agincourt (Act 4, scene 8).
Many American Catholics are more familiar with its popular rendition in the hymn “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name.”
The Church grants an indulgence to those who pray it in thanksgiving to God—and a plenary indulgence when offered up for this purpose on the last day of the year.
Check out this video of last year’s papal celebration of Vespers for December 31 to hear the “Te Deum” sung in St. Peter’s Basilica (the “Te Deum” begins at about 53 minutes).
Why not use the Church’s own special hymn of thanksgiving as we join as a nation to thank the Lord?
The “Te Deum” (English)
O God, we praise Thee, and acknowledge Thee to be the supreme Lord.
Everlasting Father, all the earth worships Thee.
All the Angels, the heavens and all angelic powers,
All the Cherubim and Seraphim, continuously cry to Thee:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts!
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of Thy glory.
The glorious choir of the Apostles,
The wonderful company of Prophets,
The white-robed army of Martyrs, praise Thee.
Holy Church throughout the world acknowledges Thee:
The Father of infinite Majesty;
Thy adorable, true and only Son;
Also the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.
O Christ, Thou art the King of glory!
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
When Thou tookest it upon Thyself to deliver man,
Thou didst not disdain the Virgin’s womb.
Having overcome the sting of death, Thou opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all
Thou sitest at the right hand of God in the glory of the Father.
We believe that Thou willst come to be our Judge.
We, therefore, beg Thee to help Thy servants whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy
Let them be numbered with Thy Saints in everlasting glory.
V. Save Thy people, O Lord, and bless Thy inheritance!
R. Govern them, and raise them up forever.
V. Every day we thank Thee.
R. And we praise Thy Name forever, yes, forever and ever.
V. O Lord, deign to keep us from sin this day.
R. Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.
V. Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, for we have hoped in Thee.
R. O Lord, in Thee I have put my trust; let me never be put to shame.
The “Te Deum” (Latin)
Te Deum laudamus: te Dominum confitemur.
Te aeternum Patrem omnis terra veneratur.
Tibi omnes Angeli; tibi caeli et universae Potestates;
Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim incessabili voce proclamant:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra maiestatis gloriae tuae.
Te gloriosus Apostolorum chorus,
Te Prophetarum laudabilis numerus,
Te Martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus.
Te per orbem terrarum sancta confitetur Ecclesia,
Patrem immensae maiestatis:
Venerandum tuum verum et unicum Filium;
Sanctum quoque Paraclitum Spiritum.
Tu Rex gloriae, Christe.
Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius.
Tu ad liberandum suscepturus hominem, non horruisti Virginis uterum.
Tu, devicto mortis aculeo, aperuisti credentibus regna caelorum.
Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes, in gloria Patris.
Iudex crederis esse venturus.
Te ergo quaesumus, tuis famulis subveni: quos pretioso sanguine redemisti.
Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari.
Salvum fac populum tuum, Domine, et benedic hereditati tuae.
Et rege eos, et extolle illos usque in aeternum.
Per singulos dies benedicimus te.
Et laudamus nomen tuum in saeculum, et in saeculum saeculi.
Dignare, Domine, die isto sine peccato nos custodire.
Miserere nostri, Domine, miserere nostri.
Fiat misericordia tua, Domine, super nos, quemadmodum speravimus in te.
In te, Domine, speravi: non confundar in aeternum.