St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor: Brief Biography, Quotes, and Prayers
By Jean M. Heimann
Today is the memorial of St. Ambrose, one of the most illustrious Fathers and Doctors of the Church.
Ambrose was born into Roman nobility around 340 in Trier, Germany.
Following his father’s death, Ambrose went to Rome and began a career in law and politics. He later became the Imperial governor of Northern Italy.
When the bishop of Milan died in 374, a violent dispute broke out between the Catholics and the Arians over his replacement. Ambrose intervened and the people were so impressed with the way he handled the situation that they demanded that be made their bishop, although he was only a catechumen at the time. He resisted, claiming that he was not worthy, but to prevent further violence, he finally agreed. He was baptized, ordained a priest, and consecrated a bishop all within a brief period of time.
Aware of his lack of preparation for this great responsibility, Ambrose immediately changed his life and began studying prayer, Scripture and theology. He gave away all his money and possessions to the poor. His spirituality deepened and he became known as a brilliant preacher, Biblical scholar, and a writer of liturgical hymns. Ambrose was a courageous warrior against paganism and the Arians. St. Ambrose was a friend of St. Augustine and was influential in his conversion. In 387, St. Ambrose baptized St. Augustine, who went on to become bishop of Hippo in North Africa.
St. Ambrose is one of four original Doctors of the Latin Church. He 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.
Patron: bee keepers; bees; candlemakers; chandlers; domestic animals; French Commissariat; learning; Milan, Italy; schoolchildren; students; wax melters; wax refiners.
Quotes of St. Ambrose:
“There is no time of life past learning something.”
“No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.Neither angel, nor archangel, not yet even the Lord Himself (who alone can say ‘I am with you’), can, when we have sinned, release us, unless we bring repentance with us”.
“The Church of the Lord is built upon the rock of the apostles among so many dangers in the world; it therefore remains unmoved. The Church’s foundation is unshakable and firm against assaults of the raging sea. Waves lash at the Church but do not shatter it. Although the elements of this world constantly beat upon the Church with crashing sounds, the Church possesses the safest harbor of salvation for all in distress. There is a stream which flows down on God’s saints like a torrent. There is also a rushing river giving joy to the heart that is at peace and makes for peace.”
Contemplating the wounds of Christ, by which we have been saved, St. Ambrose said, “I can revel in none of my deeds, I have nothing to boast about; therefore, I will glory in Christ. I will not glory because I am just, but I will glory because I have been redeemed. I will not glory because I am exempt from sins, but I will glory because my sins have been forgiven. I will not glory because I have been a help nor because someone has helped me, but because Christ is my advocate with the Father, and Christ’s blood was poured out on me. My sin has become for me the price of the Redemption through which Christ came to me. For my sake, Christ tasted death. Sin is more profitable than innocence. Innocence had made me arrogant, sin made me humble.”
Prayer That We May Seek God and Find Him
Lord, teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me when I seek you. For I cannot seek you unless you first teach me, nor find you unless you first reveal yourself to me. Let me seek you in longing and long for you in seeking. Let me find you in love, and love you in finding.
~ St Ambrose of Milan, Bishop, Writer, Doctor
Prayer of St. Ambrose to Imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary
May the life of Blessed Mary be ever-present to our awareness. In her, as in a mirror the form of virtue, and beauty of chastity shine forth. She was a virgin, not only in body, but in mind and spirit. She never sullied the pure affection of her heart by unworthy feelings. She was humble of heart. She was serious in her conversations. She was prudent in her counsels. She preferred to pray rather than to speak. She united in her heart the prayers of the poor. And avoided the uncertainty of worldly riches. She was ever-faithful to her daily duties, Reserved in her conversations, and always accustomed to recognize God as the Witness of her thoughts. Blessed be the name of Jesus! Amen.