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St. Ambrose of MilanAmbrose was born into a Christian family. His father was a Prefect of Gaul and his mother a pious lady. Both his brother, Satyrus, and his sister, Marcellina, are canonized saints.

By the age of thirty-three, Ambrose was an accomplished lawyer, the Governor of Milan and owner of a large estate. Though confessedly of Christian persuasion, he was not as yet baptized.

In the last quarter of the fourth century, many heresies harassed the Church. Perhaps, one of the most virulent was that of Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ. When the bishop of Milan, an Arian, died in 374, party strife broke out in the city. Some citizens demanded an Arian bishop be appointed to succeed him, others an orthodox Catholic one.

Walking into an angry assembly which had convened in a church, Governor Ambrose began to appeal that they settle things more peaceably. Suddenly a voice shouted, “Ambrose for bishop!” and the cry was taken up by the crowd.

Ambrose ran and hid in the house of a senator friend. The Emperor, however, insisted that the governor accept the responsibility and he ultimately submitted. Many expected him to rule as an Arian, but the same stubbornness with which he had resisted the ecclesiastical appointment, he now employed in serving the Truth.

He began by assiduously applying himself to the study of Holy Scriptures and theology, his knowledge of Greek greatly facilitating his studies.

Eventually, he who had begun as a jurist succeeded as a theologian. A great orator, he influenced the conversion of St. Augustine of Hippo, who was impressed with his erudition on sacred themes, and mentions the illustrious bishop in his Confessions.

Adopting a personal life of simplicity and hard work, Ambrose devoted himself entirely to the service of his flock. Throughout his episcopate he was loving and strong, protecting his flock against Arianism, paganism, and the demands of rulers who gave their allegiance to the Arian heresy. Several times he heroically refused to hand over the churches to the Arian Empress Justina, regent for her young son, Valentinian II. He prevailed every time.

Despite his differences with the empress, as a statesman, he was called twice to advocate the cause of Justina with Magnus Maximus, a former military man, who had usurped the power in Gaul and who wished to take the reins of government in Italy as well. The first time Ambrose prevailed, the second time Maximus went ahead with the take-over. When he invaded Milan, Ambrose melted Church gold plate to relieve the sufferers.

Theodosius I, Emperor of the East came to the aid of Italy, and regained power from Maximus. Though St. Ambrose confronted him severely on some issues, they had a good relationship.

Ambrose ruled not only with great administrative ability, but also ranks with Sts. Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great as one of the greatest theologians and Doctors of the Church.

He died on April 4, 397 and his body is venerated in the Church of Sant'Ambrogio in his city of Milan.

 


 

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for November 20, 2019

The devotion to the Eucharist is the most noble, because it...

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November 20

 

The devotion to the Eucharist is the most noble, because
it has God as its object; it is the most profitable for salvation,
because It gives us the Author of Grace;
it is the sweetest, because the Lord is Sweetness Itself.

Pope St. Pius X


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Edmund the Martyr

The barbarian leader, Ingvar, offered to let the King live o...

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St. Edmund the Martyr

Though only about fifteen years old when crowned in 855, Edmund showed himself a model ruler from the first, anxious to treat all with equal justice, and closing his ears to flatterers and untrustworthy informers. In his eagerness for prayer he retired for a year to his royal tower at Hunstanton and learned the whole Psalter by heart, in order that he might afterwards recite it regularly.

In 870 Edmund bravely repulsed the two Danish chiefs, Hinguar and Hubba, who had invaded his dominions. However, they soon returned with overwhelming numbers, and pressed terms upon him which as a Christian he felt bound to refuse. In his desire to avert a fruitless massacre, he disbanded his troops and himself retired towards Framlingham; on the way he fell into the hands of the invaders. Having loaded the king with chains, his captors conducted him to Hinguar, whose impious demands he again rejected, declaring his religion dearer to him than his very life.

His martyrdom took place in 870 at Hoxne in Suffolk. After beating him with cudgels, the Danes tied him to a tree, and cruelly tore his flesh with whips. Throughout these tortures Edmund continued to call upon the name of Jesus, until at last, exasperated by his constancy, his enemies began to discharge arrows at him. This cruel sport was continued until his body had the appearance of a porcupine, when Hinguar commanded his head to be struck off.

From his first burial-place at Hoxne his relics were removed in the tenth century to Beodricsworth, since called Bury St. Edmunds, where arose the famous abbey of that name. His feast is observed November 20, and he is represented in Christian art with sword and arrow, the instruments of his torture.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared stan...

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The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.

While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières.

Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.

On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture.

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Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.

During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.

A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.

When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping.  Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”

When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle. 

Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.

The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.  

By Armando Santos  

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In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar"

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