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Bishop of Milan (northern Italy) and Doctor of the Church (entered heaven in 397)
Has it ever occurred to you that we may be on the cusp of one of those massive historical upheavals? Lately, I have been thinking something very big is brewing. It reminds me of the end-of-the-Roman-Empire-days. No one realized it at the time, but human civilization was about to be seriously rocked as the world teetered on the edge of the fifth century. God certainly knew it. Maybe that’s why he flooded the late fourth century with such a shining constellation of super saints, like today’s saint. Ambrose was brought up professedly a Christian (though he wasn’t baptized until much later) and received his education in Rome’s best schools. Consequently, his natural talents enabled him to begin climbing the ladder of socio-political prestige at quite a young age. He combined acumen and eloquence, organization and personal magnetism, such that he was made governor of northern Italy (one of the highest offices in the Empire at the time) before he was forty. It was then, while residing in the western imperial city of Milan that he found his vocation.
The episcopal see in Milan had for two decades been occupied by an Arian (the Arian heresy denied Christ’s divinity and was extremely widespread). When he died, the discussion about whether an Arian or a Catholic would succeed him swelled into a violent uproar. During an assembly held to resolve the conflict, Ambrose stepped in to address the seething crowds, hoping to forestall too outrageous a disorder. While he was speaking, someone yelled, “Ambrose for bishop!” The entire throng erupted in enthusiastic agreement, and the other bishops eagerly ratified the choice. Ambrose was shocked (he was not even baptized at this point), and tried to escape from the city. When that failed, he went into hiding. They found him. He was baptized and a week later made a bishop.
From then on he became an anchor and a beacon for the entire Church of the western empire, boldly gathering the Arians back into Christ’s one flock, and brilliantly parrying attempts by secular powers to manipulate the Church for political ends. He single-handedly upset a shrewd plan to restore pagan worship in Rome, and successfully called the Emperor Theodosius to public penance after he had committed a heinous and unjust massacre of innocent citizens. He was such a positive influence in the lives of rulers and citizens throughout the empire that as he lay dying (he was about 57), the Guardian of the Emperor’s household remarked, “The day that this man dies, destruction hangs over Italy.” Indeed, just a few years later the barbarians ransacked the Eternal City. But Ambrose had already laid a foundation for a Christian society that would weather the storm.
If, as I suspect, we are on the verge of another cataclysmic transition in the course of human civilization, would it be wishful thinking to expect God to raise up another constellation of super saints to invigorate the Church in the face of it? I think not. And I further think that you would be a prime candidate for such a role. Very similar to Ambrose in so many ways – your natural talents, your elite education, your deep and mature faith… Stick close to the Lord, my beloved niece; I am sure he has wonderful plans for you.
Your affectionate uncle, Eddy