Tuesday, December 7, 2010

St. Ambrose of Milan, Priest & Doctor of the Church - New President of Ottawa's Dominican University College

O God, who made the Bishop Saint Ambrose a teacher of the Catholic faith and a model of apostolic courage, raise up in your Church men after your own heart to govern her with courage and wisdom. Through our Lord.

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St Ambrose (340-397), Pastoral Doctor of the Church. St Ambrose is the first Doctor of the Church and called the Pastoral Doctor. He placed the church first with each member as his highest priority. Service to each member and defending that honor was his daily and continual aim throughout his lifetime.

Ambrose is also called the "Patron of the Veneration of Mary". He firmly maintained that population increases in direct proportion to the esteem virginity is held. He laid the foundation for Marian thinking in the West.

Nearly everyone knows that it was due to St Monica's prayers and St Ambrose's support that Monica's son found God and was bapized by Ambrose. That person later became a bishop for many years in Africa and later a great pastor himself, and a Doctor of the Church. He is Saint Augustine.

St Ambrose started his career as a young politican and became the people's choice to become Bishop of Milan when the Arian bishop died. He had great presence and was one of the most influential men of the fourth century. His great speaking ability, tact, and decisiveness brought the emperor to do penance for crimes committed.

"It was but natural that a prelate so high-minded, so affable, so kind to the poor, so completely devoting his great gifts to the service of Christ and of humanity, should soon win the enthusiastic love of his people. Rarely, if ever, has a Christian bishop been so universally popular, in the best sense of that much abused term, as Ambrose of Milan. This popularity, conjoined with his intrepidity, was the secret of his success in routing enthroned iniquity."

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Wise leaders will benefit enormously by reading about Ambrose and following his example and practices. Those with religious, political, or civic leadership roles might want to reflect and study this exceptional saint and leader. When you want to lead others and demonstrate transforming leadership, Ambrose is a masterful model.

This extraordinary Doctor of the Church was an outsider. He had little to do with institutional religion at first. However, his charitable fires within himself asked for accountability, service and goodwill. It has been said that joy is the unmistakable sign of God’s presence and Ambrose had powerful presence. Decisiveness, solid experience, wisdom, and a noble heart reveal great leaders. Ambrose had these qualities in a high degree.

To start, he was not a religious person or in organized religion. He was a politician. He possessed powerful presence by his words, actions and godly virtues. Once God called him, through the voice of the people, his commitment was irrevocable and irreversible. If one is open to truth, that powerful force will find, shape, and lead you even if one is living a dissolute life on earth, because truth will eventually triumph. Grace is transforming and it is given and offered to us non-stop when we are willing to accept it. It is offered to us increasingly until our last breath. God never gives up on any of his creatures and pursues them relentlessly.

However, if you go too far, and mock God, you may not get another chance because God knows exactly your limitation and his mercy will not exceed his divine justice. The most amazing attribute about God is the Creator's infinite perfection, beauty and generosity in helping all with tender, loving care.

Ambrose will guide you to place service to God and neighbor as the first choice no matter your calling when you seek his counsel. Better yet, pray to Ambrose to assist you in the decision-making process.

Pastors, parents and those who have to lead others and make decisions, have him as an excellent role model. It is sometimes difficult to choose between two choices that are both correct. We want to make the very best decisions to guide and assist others.

Leadership isn’t easy because we have to make continual choices. We need guidance and wisdom to choose the best. It would be impossible to choose the best all the time without supernatural assistance. God and the saints are ever ready to guide, move and direct us with our earnest supplications.

One portrait of Ambrose is depicted standing holding a miniature church in his left hand and a bishop's crosier in his right. There is a beehive at the base of the picture with bees buzzing around it. This picture reveals his dominant profile: caring and protecting the church with wise leadership. The beehive and bees are symbols of wisdom.

In other sketches of him, his face is thin with big eyes set deep within a long, gaunt face. This image belongs to the very first doctor of the Western Roman World according to the official roster of the Catholic Church (http://www.doctorsofthecatholicchurch.com/).

Another Treatment of Ambrose from the Catholic Herald's Saint of the Week

Ambrose (c 340-97) is regarded, along with St Jerome, St Augustine and St Gregory the Great, as one of the four leading Doctors of the Church. Yet his early endeavours were directed entirely towards secular success.

He was born in Trier, where his father held sway as prefect of Gaul. On the death of this powerful parent, Ambrose returned with his mother and sister to Rome, where he became a formidable Greek scholar.

He also proved a highly successful advocate, whose talents were rewarded when Emperor Valentinian established him in Milan as governor of Liguria and Aemilia.

Ambrose’s life, however, changed dramatically in 374, after the death of Auxentius, the bishop of Milan. Auxentius had been sympathetic to the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ; and now there was fierce strife in the town about whether an Arian or an orthodox bishop should be appointed as his successor.

Ambrose, as governor, strove to keep the peace between the warring factions. He spoke so eloquently that, to his consternation, the mob began to cry that he should be appointed the new bishop.

Though nominally a Christian, Ambrose had not at that stage even been baptised. Yet when he appealed to the emperor to take heed of his unsuitability for ecclesiastical office, Valentinian coolly returned that he was flattered to have chosen a governor who was also qualified to be a bishop.

Ambrose embraced his destiny, and as bishop immediately signalled his new way of life by giving away his personal effects to the poor and his estates to the Church. He applied himself to theology, becoming an implacable opponent of the Arians.

The young St Augustine, when he visited the bishop in 384, found him overwhelmed with work and callers. Yet Ambrose, through his sermons, and through his resolutely metaphysical approach to religion – he dismissed the body as a “tattered garment” – helped to deliver Augustine from Manichaeism.

In line with this contempt for the purely physical, Ambrose developed an exalted view of virginity, “the one thing that separates us from the beasts”. Some mothers became so alarmed by this view that they forbade their daughters to listen to him. You are wrong, Ambrose shrewdly riposted: the more virginity is honoured, the more the population will increase.

In church, Ambrose popularised the chanting of psalms, introducing exciting new eastern melodies.

The extraordinary force of his personality meant that he became one of the first ecclesiastics to exercise influence in high politics, as when he persuaded the usurper Maximus not to invade Italy.

Yet he never compromised his principles, as the dowager Empress Justina discovered when she urged the Arian cause. Indeed, even the Eastern Emperor Theodosius, the most powerful man in the world, deemed it wise to submit to Ambrose’s chastisements.

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Frère Maxime Allard, o.p. new president of DUC

Recently, I was visited by Brother Maxime Allard of the Dominican University College.  On the departure of President Dr. Gabor Csepregi to assume new duties in Manitoba, he was elected to serve out the remaining two years of the former president's term.

We shared views on the programs at the college, collaboration in the educational field, service to the local and wider Church, etc.  Following our discussions we posed outside my visitor's room, where there is a representation of his fellow Dominican, the Angelic Doctor St. Thomas Aquinas, the great synthesizer of faith and reason.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on your post Father Maxime!

    Rick Lorenz and Gerard Plant.