Monday, December 7, 2009

Memorial of St Ambrose

The life of St Ambrose of Milan, (Sant'Ambroggio de Milano in Italian) is a particularly fascinating story. He was born around 339 in what is now France, the son of the Roman prefect of Gaul. Following his his father's footsteps, Ambrose embarked upon a career in law and politics and by 370 AD, he had become the Imperial governor of Northern Italy. When the episcopal see of Milan became vacant in 374, the people demanded that Saint Ambrose be made their bishop. The neighboring bishops and the Emperor convinced him to accept this call as the will of God, and so the catechumen Ambrose was baptized and ordained first deacon, then priest, then bishop, all in a single week!

This politician-turned churchman was profoundly aware of his lack of preparation for this great responsibility and so set himself immediately to prayer and the study of Scripture. His deep spirituality and love of God's Word married together with the oratorical skill acquired in law and politics made St. Ambrose one of the greatest preachers of the early church.
St Ambrose proved to be a fierce opponent of heresy, paganism, and hypocrisy. He battled to preserve the independence of the Church from the state and courageously excommunicated the powerful Catholic Emperor Theodosius I for a massacre of innocent civilians in Thessalonica. St Ambrose also had a significant impact on sacred music through the composition of hymns and psalm tones that are known to this day as Ambrosian chant. Besides numerous sermons and treatises on the spiritual life, Saint Ambrose is responsible for two of the first great theological works written in Latin, De Sacramentis on the Sacraments and De Spiritu Sancto on the Holy Spirit.

Around 385, an ambitious professor of public speaking named Augustine came to hear Saint Ambrose preach in order to study his technique, and in the process, was attracted to the Catholic faith. In 386 Augustine was baptized by St Ambrose and went on to become bishop of Hippo in North Africa. Ambrose and his pupil, Augustine, together with St Jerome and St Gregory the Great, make up the four original Doctors of the Latin Church. Saint Ambrose, the great bishop of Milan, died on Holy Saturday (April 4) in the year 397 AD. His feastday in the Roman calendar is December 7, the day he was ordained bishop.

-- Biography by Marcellino D'Ambrosio, PhD


"Dear brethren, God's love is calling us to the joys of eternal happiness for the salvation of our souls. You have just listened to the reading from the Apostle in which he says: Rejoice in the Lord always. The joys of this world lead to eternal misery, but the joys that are according to the Lord's will, bring those who persevere in them to joys that are enduring and everlasting. The Apostle therefore says: Again I say: rejoice.

He urges us to find ever increasing joy in God and in keeping his commandments. The more we try in this world to give ourselves completely to God our Lord by obeying his commands, the greater will be our happiness in the life to come, and the greater the glory tat will be ours in the presence of God.

Let your moderation be known to all men. That is to say, your holiness of life must be evident, not only in the sight of God, but also in the sight of men. It must give an example of moderation and self-control to all your contemporaries on earth and serve also as a memorial of goodness before God and men.

The Lord is near; have no anxiety. The Lord is always near to all who call upon his help with sincerity, true faith, sure hope, and perfect love. He knows what you need, even before you ask him. He is always ready to come to the aid of all his faithful servants in every need. There is no reason for us to be in a state of great anxiety when evils threaten; we must remember that God is very near us as our protector. The Lord is at hand for those who are troubled in heart, and he will save those who are downcast in spirit. The tribulations of the just are many, and the Lord will rescue them from them all. If we do our best to obey and keep his commandments, he does not delay in giving us what he has promised.

But in every prayer and entreaty let your petitions be made known to God, with thanksgiving. In time of trouble we must not grumble or be downhearted; God forbid! We must rather be patient and cheerful, giving thanks to God always in everything."
-- From the Liturgy of the Hours

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