Te Deum

Saturday, October 5, AD 2013

Something for the weekend.  Te Deum.  When in worry or in doubt over the contemporary Church, I take great comfort in viewing the great arc of her history over 2000 years.  When I do that, a Te Deum seems very appropriate, no matter the problems that Mother Church faces today.

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5 Responses to Te Deum

  • It has been mighty rough for Catholicism in the last few decades. Speaking of which, in terms of the many debates within Catholicism at the moment, I would like to pose a question and would love to hear your/other commentators take on it….

    What do you think of the theological position that a few humans go straight to heaven, a few go to hell, but that most of humanity will spend at least some time in purgatory? And that the best way to try and lessen ones time there is to follow the Catholic way?

  • I think we shall all have first hand knowledge soon enough that speculation on that topic has never interested me. I do think we tend to give short shrift today to some fairly dire statements from Christ on the subject of the number of the damned.

  • Well my 2 year old daughter found it comforting enough during her afternoon nap. The Wikipedia entry has a convenient few minutes of the chant.

  • Donald, the Church’s way is the way of Christ, the Paschal Mystery-throughout her history. There never has been some idyllic Golden Age, just as the various announcements throughout history of her demise proved false. Just as what seemed to be great was crumbling to the ground a new Church (nonetheless the very same that was founded by Christ and filled with the Spirit) emerges. We are precisely in one of thos transitional eras, in the midst of the Paschal Mystery being lived out as we live. The Te Deum is an expression a nd confession of the whole Church rejoicing in this way of Christ

  • For historical reasons, this is not my favourite hymn. It is played whenever a country has won a war or a major battle, and you can’t say that all those wars were just and all those battles honourable. In August 1849, as the last defenders of the last free outpost in Italy were slipping out of Venice after the surrender, Field-Marshal Radetzky took his troops to St.Mark’s Basilica and had the Te Deum sung. Now don’t get me wrong, the Field-Marshal was a good man and an honourable enemy, but his cause was bad, and to have the Te Deum sung in the church that had always stood for a free Venice was to pile insult on top of injury. And then there is the Te Deum sung in Naples in October 1860 to celebrate Garibaldi’s victory. Garibaldi was a hero and a man of great personal integrity, but he was a fierce enemy of the Church, and was already at daggers drawn with the local Archbishop when they presided together at this spectacularly hypocritical ceremony. The end of the story was war between the Italian State and the Church that lasted, hot and then cold, for decades. I don’t know what I want, really, but I wish some of those Te Deums had been left unsung.

Te Deum, Triumphalism and History

Saturday, August 27, AD 2011

Something for the weekend.  Te Deum (To God) sung by the Benedictine monks of Saint Maurice and Saint Maur.  A song sung by Catholics in moments of triumph and thanksgiving, it was probably written by Saint Nicetas in the late Fourth century or early Fifth century.

One of the swear words common since Vatican II in the Catholic Church is triumphalism.  We are to avoid it at all costs, and it is a bad, bad thing.  In a small way this makes sense.  The Church is both a divine and a human institution.  As a divine institution the Church is always victorious and triumphant as result of the Triumph of the Cross, and proceeds serenely through time and eternity.  As  a human institution the Church consists of we sinful individuals here on Earth, and meets with victories and defeats as she seeks to spread the message of Christ, often on very stony fields indeed.  To view the Church here on Earth through rose colored glasses and to assume that simply because the ultimate victory will be claimed by the Church against the Gates of Hell that all is well within the Church is to mistake the Church Triumphant for the Church Militant.

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3 Responses to Te Deum, Triumphalism and History

  • Te Deum laudamus . . .

    By the blessings and graces of Almighty God, we got through the storm. Prayers answered.


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  • Macaulay was a Whig historian who believed the Church of Rome to be in error, and wrote a famous put-down of Gladstone, then a High Church Tory, in what must be one of the best polemics in the English language. In the article you quote he shows an understanding of Catholicism which would have evaded most of his contemporaries, stressing the Roman Church’s inclusivity in contrast to Anglicanism (for example, he says John Wesley would have founded a religious order and been canonized had he been a Catholic). He was too good an historian to let his prejudices cloud his judgement, and should stand as a corrective to those (many of whom claim to be Catholic) who see fit to criticize the Church while at the same time being woefully ignorant of history.