Today, the Church celebrates the feast Saint Ambrose of Milan, who offers us a model of public Christian witness, and he is one of the Church’s great doctors. You know most of the salient points of the person of Ambrose: In A.D. 374 Ambrose became archbishop of Milan, a city taken over by the Arian heresy. Milan was also the residence of one of the Roman co-emperors; this new vocation was forced upon him. The saint quickly embraced an ascetical life, was charitable toward the poor, and reformed the Liturgy of his mammoth diocese; endured hardships, including an assassination attempt ordered by the Western empress herself. Ambrose’s mission was to convert the heretics of his diocese back to belief in the divinity of Christ. What got him elected as the bishop was his fine reputation as an eloquent speaker; later he revealed the talent of being author on Christian doctrine and composer. Many will always credit him for his role in the conversion of Saint Augustine, whom Ambrose baptized in A.D. 387.
One of the things that sticks out about Saint Ambrose today is his insistence on being a good churchman, one who doesn’t coddle the people. This quote gives you a sense of what I mean:
For there is this difference between good and bad rulers, that the good love freedom, the bad slavery. And there is nothing in a Bishop so offensive in God’s sight, or so base before men, as not freely to declare his opinions… I prefer then, to have fellowship with your Majesty in good rather than in evil; and therefore the silence of a Bishop ought to be displeasing to your Clemency, and his freedom pleasing. For you will be implicated in the danger of my silence, you will share in the benefits of my outspokenness. I am not then an officious meddler in matters beyond my province, an intruder in the concerns of others, but I comply with my duty, I obey the commandment of our God. This I do chiefly from love and regard to you, and from a wish to preserve your well-being. But if I am not believed, or am forbidden to act on this motive, then in truth I speak from fear of offending God. (Ambrose, Epist. XL.2-3, trans. H. Walford, 1881)
Today, I am praying through the intercession of the holy bishop and doctor of the Church Ambrose for all my friends of Milan.