St. Ambrose, Doctor of the Church, became the Bishop of Milan when he was 33 in the year 374. At the time of his appointment, he was a civil leader and lawyer in Milan who happened to be charged with keeping order in the election of a new bishop between the Catholics and the Arians (who disputed the divinity of Christ). As fate would dictate, someone yelled ‘Ambrose for Bishop’ and both sides agreed on this seemingly neutral choice for Bishop. Eight days later, on December 7th, Ambrose was baptized, ordained, and consecrated as Bishop of Milan.
He would become known for his writings and sermons and his staunch yet peaceful defense against heretical church teachings. His preaching become widely popular and he became known as the honey tongued doctor for his words on Christ’s divinity, the Incarnation, treatment of the poor, and living humbly. He was unafraid of liturgical reform to deepen the spirituality of the people, and his love of music greatly influenced chant and the popularity of hymns within the Church’s liturgical life. His life would be remembered as one of constant growth both scholastically and spiritually.
St. Ambrose rejected worldly possessions and subscribed to a life of poverty not only for himself, giving away his possessions upon appointment, but also the Church itself, to the point of melting down golden vessels and using the money for the poor. He would truly be remembered as a bishop of the people, a bishop, I believe, would, as our own Pope Francis suggests, smell of his sheep.
Enjoy these five quotes that capture St. Ambrose’s episcopate, and how relevant his life and the embodiment of Christian values can still be for us today:
- “In some causes silence is dangerous.”
- “Would not the Lord say to us: ‘Why have you let so many needy perish of hunger? Since you had gold, you should provide for their needs’…Could we say: ‘I feared to leave the temple of God without ornament.’ But that which can’t be bought with gold does not take its value from gold. The best way to use the gold of the Redeemer is for the redemption of those in peril.”
- “My only arms are my tears. I will never depart willingly but I won’t resist by force.”
- “God created the universe in such a manner that all in common might derive their food from it, and that the earth should also be a property common to all.”
- “If you have two shirts in your closet, one belongs to you and the other to the man with no shirt.”