Today is the both the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the feast day of Saint Ambrose (c. 340-397 A.D.). Saint Ambrose’s life testifies to the fact that everything can change in a moment’s notice, and that God has greater plans for us than we could ever fathom for ourselves.
St. Ambrose was born into the Roman nobility and received an excellent education. By the age of thirty-three Ambrose was living the life every Roman noble dreamed of; he was a successful lawyer and the governor of Milan, Italy. Suddenly, and without warning, everything would change.
In about 374 A.D. the bishop of Milan died. This was a major problem because at this time Milan was full of both Catholics and Arians. Arians believed that Christ was not divine, and the former bishop of Milan was an Arian heretic. After the bishop’s death, a huge riot commenced in the Milan cathedral over whether the next bishop would be Catholic or Arian, and it seemed that bloodshed was imminent.
Ambrose came on the scene and gave a powerful speech for peace which resulted in the crowd’s unanimous decision that Ambrose, a catechumen who was yet to be baptized, ought to be the new bishop. St. Ambrose resisted as much as he could, but he eventually gave up because he knew that he had to accept the bishopric in order to keep the peace. St. Ambrose was quickly baptized and ordained, and became bishop a week later.
St. Ambrose began his career as a bishop, preacher, teacher, and negotiator. He sold all of his possessions and gave them to the poor, and gave his lands to the Church. He preached passionately against the Arian heresy and was educated in theology by St. Simplician. As a negotiator he was commissioned by the Roman Emperor to convince the General Maximus and his armies to forsake their planned invasion of Italy.
Here is a great St. Ambrose quote which certainly points to the kind of man he was: “If you have two shirts in your closet, one belongs to you and the other to the man with no shirt.”
Saint Ambrose was willing to sell the gold vessels of the Church in order to tend to the needs of the poor, and to free the captives of the neighboring barbarians hordes. He is also the bishop who converted and baptized the famous St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the greatest theologians in the history of the Church.
St. Ambrose is one of the Church’s great bishops and preachers, and one of the most celebrated Doctors of the Church. He is the patron saint of students, learning, police officers, and bishops. St. Ambrose, pray for us!
Prayer to St. Ambrose of Milan
O God, You give blessed Ambrose to Your people
as a minister of eternal salvation;
grant, we pray You, that as on earth
he was a teacher of supernatural life,
so we may deserve to have him
as our intercessor in heaven. Amen.
This article has been updated and was originally published in December 2012. © The Catholic Company. All rights reserved.