Saint Ambrose

Saint Ambrose

Today is a public holiday in Milan. We celebrate Saint Ambrose who was consecrated Bishop of Milan December 7th, 374.

It is quite remarkable that you can see him in a glass coffin in Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio in Milan! It is a beautiful yet simple medieval basilica. It was rebuild in the 11th century and became a model for all Lombard Romanesque churches.

Here is some of what is written about Saint Ambrose on Wikipedia:

Ambrose was born into a Roman Christian family between about 337 and 340 and was raised in Trier. His father was Ambrosius Aurelius, the praetorian prefect of Gaul; his mother was a woman of intellect and piety. Ambrose’s siblings, Satyrus (who is the subject of Ambrose’s De excessu fratris Satyri) and Marcellina, are also venerated as saints. There is a legend that as an infant, a swarm of bees settled on his face while he lay in his cradle, leaving behind a drop of honey.
His father considered this a sign of his future eloquence and honeyed tongue. For this reason, bees and beehives often appear in the saint’s zymology.

After the early death of his father, Ambrose followed his father’s career. He was educated in Rome, studying literature, law, and rhetoric. Praetor Anicius Probus first gave him a place in the council and then in about 372 made him consular prefect or “Governor” of Liguria and Emilia, with headquarters at Milan, which was then (beside Rome) the second capital in Italy.

Ambrose was the Governor of Aemilia-Liguria in northern Italy until 374 when he became the Bishop of Milan. He was a very popular political figure, and since he was the Governor in the effective capital in the Roman West, he was a recognizable figure in the court of the Emperor Valentinian I. Ambrose never married

The body of Ambrose (with white vestments) in the crypt of Sant’Ambrogio basilica.

In the late 4th century there was a deep conflict in the diocese of Milan between the Catholics and Arians. In 374 the bishop of Milan, Auxentius, an Arian, died, and the Arians challenged the succession. Ambrose went to the church where the election was to take place, to prevent uproar, which was probable in this crisis.
His address was interrupted by a call “Ambrose, bishop!” which was taken up by the whole assembly.

Ambrose was known to be Catholic in belief, but also acceptable to Arians due to the charity shown in theological matters in this regard. At first he energetically refused the office, for which he was in no way prepared: Ambrose was neither baptized nor formally trained in theology. Upon his appointment, St. Ambrose fled to a colleague’s home seeking to hide. Upon receiving a letter from the Emperor Gratian praising the appropriateness of Rome appointing individuals evidently worthy of holy positions, St. Ambrose’s host gave Ambrose up. Within a week, Ambrose was baptized, ordained and duly consecrated bishop of Milan.

As bishop, he immediately adopted an ascetic lifestyle, apportioned his money to the poor, donating all of his land, making only provision for his sister Marcellina (who later became a nun), and committed the care of his family to his brother.
Ambrose also wrote a treatise by the name of “The Goodness of Death”.