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They say politics and religion don’t mix, but Saint Ambrose of Milan had a life that led him right from one into the other – and (thankfully) not in a way that led to heresy. In fact, this “sweet-tongued saint” (stay tuned to find out why we call him that) turned out to be a great defender of truth against the heresy of Arianism.
Ambrose was the son of a Roman senator, and as a young man he became the governor of Milan. He was a good governor, but that was pretty much it – the guy wasn’t even baptized, let alone a saint. The job of governor was fine until the Bishop of Milan died; then things got sticky. See, the Arian heresy (it’s the one that says Jesus wasn’t divine) was rampant in Milan in the fourth century. The Bishop of Milan himself was actually a believer in Arianism – obviously “no bueno” (or is that “no buono” if it’s in Milan?) for the “upholding the truth in the Church” department.
Either way, the Bishop’s death caused a large uproar in the city as the faithful members of the Church argued with the heretics about who the next bishop should be. Ambrose, being an upstanding governor, headed into the fray. His pleas for peace and civility so won over the crowds that they demanded that Ambrose be their new bishop.
Well, good old Ambrose knew that a life as a bishop would be far more dangerous than being a governor would be, so he did the ol’ “Jonah shuffle” and ran away from his calling (Jonah 1:3).
When people finally tracked him down, he told them he wasn’t even a baptized Catholic and that there was no way he could be a bishop. His protests fell on deaf ears, and he was baptized and ordained all at the same time – talk about a two-for-one!
Now, the story could turn out like any other at this point. Ambrose could have lived like a politician and priest, following in the footsteps of some bad examples in Church history. Instead, he completely embraced the life of the Church, sold all that he had and devoted himself to the study of theology and philosophy. He became the Arians’ worst nightmare: a passionate, eloquent bishop who was determined to stamp out heresy.
If you find yourself under attack for your faith, Saint Ambrose is a great intercessor to have in your corner. When you stand for truth, not only do you defend the faith, but you will also help others to abandon the world’s lies in favor of the freedom only found in Jesus Christ. Ambrose brought many souls to Christ, and he baptized one person you’ll probably recognize: a certain guy by the name of Augustine. Wherever he went, Ambrose preached the truth – something it seems he had been born to do.
When he was a baby, the story goes, a swarm of bees came out of the sky and started crawling around his mouth. None of the bees stung infant Ambrose; instead, they left honey on his lips – a foreshadowing of what his words would be like later in life.
Now all can agree that’s a pretty sweet story.