A Bishop’s Bishop

Today is the feast of St. Ambrose, a remarkable fourth-century bishop and saint, who is considered a “doctor of the Church” because of his excellence as a teacher of timeless Catholic truth.

Many saints have their feast day on or at least near the day of their death, which is understood as the day they entered eternal life in heaven. Interestingly, St. Ambrose’s feast day is the day he became Bishop of Milan in 374. In a real way, that was the day of his death to self, as he committed the remainder of his life on this earth to serving the Church in Milan as its courageous shepherd.

St. Ambrose certainly is an important figure in Catholic apologetics. He was, after all, the Catholic bishop who received the great Augustine into the Church. Here’s a sampling of his writings, from today’s Office of Readings:

“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 the 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.”

He also wrote beautifully on Our Lady: “For her part, Mary did not fail to live up to her station as the Mother of Christ. When the Apostles fled, she stood before the Cross and gazed tenderly on the wounds of her Son, because she was waiting, not for her Son’s death, but for the salvation of the world.”

 St. Ambrose is considered one of the great Fathers of the Church in the West, during the crucial era between the Council of Nicea (325) and the Council of Chalcedon (451). In recent posts on this blog there has been some discussion of the need for bishops to courageously speak out when the faithful’s spiritual welfare is on the line, whether the topic is contraception, homosexuality, or even The Golden Compass. Perhaps in making our own the opening prayer for today’s liturgy, we could especially intercede, with St. Ambrose, for our bishops:

Lord, you made Saint Ambrose an outstanding teacher of the Catholic faith and gave him the courage of an apostle. Raise up in Your Church more leaders after Your own heart, to guide us with courage and wisdom.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Ambrose, pray for us!

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