May 20, 2002
volume 13, no. 92

Saint Ambrose

"Converter of Saints"

    This week's Doctor of the Church, the seventh in a chronological line of the 33 honored Doctors of the Roman Catholic Church is Saint Ambrose, who was one born in Trier, Germany in 340. It was the first circumstance where the Rhine flowed into the Tiber. In this case, unlike the same current that ebbed from the Rhineland at Vatican II and gushed into the Church turning the clear doctrines into the sewage of ecumenism, humanism, pluralism and modernism, Ambrose brought the clear waters of truth to Italy.

    Though he was not Christian when born to the praetorian prefect of Gaul, upon his father's death he was taken to Rome where, after impressing the praetorian prefect of Italy he was named the successor of the praetorian by the Emperor Valentinian and later appointed governor of Milan in 372. There he ruled wisely and with great charity and was praised greatly for his justice.

    It was during his time as governor that God touched his soul. The Arian heresy was rampant in Milan and in 374 the Arian bishop Auxentius died and the city was in an uproar. Seeking to instill peace Ambrose made a personal trip to the cathedral of Milan to calm the masses. Though he had been leaning toward Christianity, he was not baptized. His appearance at the cathedral not only quelled the uproar, but he was unanimously elected by the people as the bishop. He refused, feeling not worthy, but when the emperor insisted he accepted. On December 3, 374 after being baptized and ordained, he was consecrated the Bishop of Milan.

    That appointment would come back to haunt the emperor and elevate the Truths and Traditions of Holy Mother Church. Immediately Ambrose embraced his new position, disposing of all his worldly goods and burying himself in study of Theology, Sacred Scripture and the writings of Saint Athanasius, Origen, Saint Ephrem, Saint Gregory of Nazianzen and Saint Basil among others. Holiness was his goal and God used him as a formidable tool in combatting the Arian heresy. He became known as a great orator who moved many to repentance and a return to the True Faith. He wrote a treatise on Christian ethics called De officiis ministrorum that could very well be applied today to the terrible crisis in the Church over the sex abuse scandals. He was an adamant defender of all that is pure and chaste. He wrote a special treatise for his sister Saint Marcellina entitled De virginibus which covered the ways of keeping the temple of the Holy Ghost uncontaminated.

    His influence was so great that he was made an advisor to new emperor Gratian in 379. Ambrose convinced Gratian to forbid Arianism in the Empire, specifically through his masterful treatise de fide. This was going along smoothly until Gratian was slain on the battlefield by Maximus. Ambrose met with the latter trying to persuade him not to invade Italy or oppose the new Roman Emperor Valentinian II. Ambrose's persuasive powers even turned away Quintus Aurelius Symmachus's attempts to reinstate pagan practices such as the cult of the goddess of victory in Rome.

    In 385 more problems surfaced when Valentinian II tried to convert several churches in Milan to the care of the Empress Justina who was a closet Arian. A year later Ambrose stood in holy defiance against the Emperor's edict and issued his own command that no Catholic could participate in anything remotely involved with Arianism. Maximus played on this split between Christendom and Arianism to invade Italy. The emperor and empress both fled to the east and begged the Emperor of Constantinople Theodosius I to stop the invasion of Maximus. When he did, Theodosius I publicly put Maximus to death in Pannonia and gained the upper hand over the weakened Valentinian II for Theodosius was now in control of both the Western and Eastern Roman Empire.

    Though on the surface Theodosius seemed favorable to Ambrose by decreeing that Valentinian and Justina renounce Arianism and give total loyalty to Ambrose, the latter could not bide by the the emperor's command to the bishop in Mesopotamia that the bishop had to reconstruct a synogogue that had been destroyed by Christians. Ambrose knew from his studies that unless the Jews accepted Christ there would be no peace and to aid the enemy was simply wrong. The emperor reluctantly agreed. A far cry from today when post-conciliar Rome is bending over backward to compromise with the Jews and publish a heretical document that denies the truths of the Faith.

    Ambrose was a stickler for adhering to the commandments and when he discovered that Theodosius I had ordered the death of over 7,000, he denounced the emperor and insisted the ruler make public reparation and penance. Again the emperor, fearful of Ambrose's influence, complied.

    Valentinian II was surreptiously killed in Gaul by one who had failed in many attempts to restore paganism in that region. Again Ambrose denounced the vile act and sought the execution of Valentinian's murderer Arbogastes at Aquileia. This act in 393 summarily ended paganism in Europe for several centuries. Theodosius died in 395 with Ambrose at his side administering the sacraments. At his funeral mass, Ambrose gave the euology for the emperor.

    Always a defender of orthodoxy, Ambrose fought for the sovereignty of the Church against secular interference and wrote innumerable pieces on the Faith. His sermons alone serve as a great treatise of Catholicism. Whether he was preaching to the masses, or celebrating a quiet Mass, or consoling and encouraging sinners he was always Christ-like. One he consoled was Saint Monica and one he encouraged was the great Saint Augustine whom Ambrose brought back to the True Faith in 387 and tutored. The strict Doctor of the Church Saint Ambrose laid the foundations for the blossoming of one of the greatest Doctors of the Church. This role model of the future author of City of God baptized Augustine in 387. For ten years Augustine worked closely with Ambrose, learning and soaking in the aura of holiness which Ambrose exuded.

    A true motivator of souls and a great influence on the growth of the Faith in the west, Ambrose, suffering from ill health most of his life, passed to his Heavenly reward at the age of 58 on April 4, 397 in Milan, Italy. He was declared a Doctor of the Church along with Augustine, Saint Jerome and Pope Saint Gregory the Great by Pope Boniface VIII in 1298.

    In this day and age when novelty has taken over the Faith, priests would do well to heed holy Ambrose's advice, "Do not seek your own popularity but the good of others" and especially his chaste message to remember their wonderful vow of chastity for "the flesh which was cast out of paradise was again reunited to God through a Virgin."

Note: [editor's bold, brackets and italicized for emphasis]

May 20, 2002
volume 13, no. 92
33 Doctors of the Church