A True Shepherd

Saint Ambrose

Feast Day: 7th December

Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Ambrose, one of the Doctors of the Church because he was a great theologian and teacher.

Ambrose was born in 340 and educated at Rome, becoming an outstanding orator and advocate. He quickly rose to prominence as a civil servant in the imperial administration – and was even appointed a provincial governor.

It was a time of unrest throughout the empire, with local quarrels, rebellions, power struggles and disputes, both civil and religious. Ambrose gained a reputation for fair judgement, and it was his diplomatic skill which led him to be chosen as Bishop of Milan: two rival factions were in dispute and he was attempting to mediate when suddenly he found himself being selected. At first he was reluctant to take this office, but having been persuaded he took the role very seriously, renouncing all his world possessions and putting all his learning and wisdom at the service of the Church. He was courageous enough to challenge even princes and emperors in defence of the faith.

The Church was threatened at this time by the Arian heresy. In 325 the Council of Nicaea had defined the doctrine of the three coequal persons in the Trinity. The Arians, however, refused to accept that Jesus was divine, the Son of God. Ambrose used his skills in preaching and reasoned argument with great success, attacking and destroying the heresy.

Nevertheless, Bishop Ambrose was well aware that his flock was in constant danger from false teaching and even persecution. It was his lifelong concern to protect his people by building up their faith, and he laid great emphasis on the frequent reception of the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. He knew that these sacraments were an unfailing source of strength against all evils as they continue to be for us.