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December 7

St Ambrose of Milan - December 7

Saint Ambrose of Milan

Bishop, Doctor of the Church

(Around 340 – 397)

“When I am at Rome, I fast on a Saturday; when I am at Milan, I do not. Follow the custom of the church where you are.

Saint Ambrose of Milan

Saint’s Life Story

His Early Life 

Ambrose was born in Trier, Germany around 340 to a noble Roman family.  He was the son of a Roman imperial prefect of Gaul (France), Ambrosius. His brother was Saint Satyrus and his sister was Saint Marcellina. Ambrose went to Rome, Italy with his mother after his father’s death. He was educated there in the classics, Greek, and philosophy. Ambrose became a lawyer known for his oratory and learning.  By 370, he was made consular general of Liguria and Aemilia, Italy by Emperor Valentinian. 

From Baptized to Bishop

In 374, Bishop Auxentius of Milan died causing turmoil. He as an Arian. With his death, the Arians and Catholics fought to have their candidate made bishop. In his position as consular general, Ambrose went to the cathedral in Milan to try to sooth both passionate parties. Much to Ambrose’s surprise, he was unanimously elected bishop by both parties. Ambrose was not baptized and tried to refuse to accept the position. However, Ambrose was forced to accept the position when the Emperor confirmed the election.

On December 7, 374, at the age 35, Ambrose was baptized, ordained a priest and consecrated bishop.

Bishop of Milan

Ambrose began as bishop by giving away all his worldly goods. Then he began to educate himself on the Bible and the writings of the Fathers of the Church. Ambrose lived a life of great austerity. Ambrose used his oratory skills to become one of the most eloquent preacher of his day opposing Arianism in the West. He maintained a vigorous schedule of prayer, including night vigils. Ambrose also kept his door open to the poor and the needy.

Preacher and Teacher

Ambrose was noted as a preacher, teacher and writer of liturgical hymns. He wrote many different works from moral and ascetical commentary and exegesis to sermons, letters and dogmatic writings. His best known work is probably De officiis ministrorum (On the Duties of Ministers). While the Exameron (The Six Days of Creation) and De obitu Theodosii (On the Death of Theodosius) are among his most noted works. 

Baptized Saint Augustine of Hippo

He stood firm against paganism and Arians. His preaching helped convert Saint Augustine of Hippo, whom Ambrose baptized and brought into the Church.  Ambrose called and chaired several theological councils during his time as bishop, many devoted to fighting heresy. He welcomed Saint Ursus and Saint Alban of Mainz when they fled Naxos to escape Arian persecution, and then sent them on to evangelize in Gaul and Germany.

Advised Emperors

Ambrose became an advisor to Emperor Gratian who took over when Valentinian died in 375. He persuaded Gratian to outlaw Arianism in the West. In 383, Gratian was killed in battle by Maximus who took over as Emperor.  Ambrose talked Maximus not to attempt to extend his domain into Italy against the new young Emperor Valentinian II. However, Valentinian, the son of Emperess Justina, did eventually defeat Maximus and had him executed.

The new Emperor Valentinian II opposed the Arians. After Justina, his mother died Valentinian sided with Ambrose against Theodosius I who ruled the West. In 390, Ambrose and Theodosius clashed when Theodosius’ troops killed 7,000 in Thessalonica. Ambrose denounced Theodosius for his actions and refused him the sacraments until he performed a severe public penance. Theodosius did perform a public penance and stated “I know of no bishop worthy of the name except Ambrose.”

In May 393, Valentinian II was murdered in Gaul (France) while Ambrose was travelling to meet and baptize him. His killer, Eugenius, embraced paganism opened up the old Roman temples. Then, Theodosius led his armies into the region and slew Eugenius. Theodosius died a year later with Ambrose at his side. Ambrose preached his funeral eulogy.

His Death

Ambrose died on April 4, 397 in Milan, Italy. The title “Honey Tongued Doctor” was initially bestowed on Ambrose because of his speaking and preaching ability. This led to the use of a beehive and bees in his iconography. These symbols also indicate wisdom. This led to his association with bees, beekeepers and wax refiners.

Beatified:           Pre-Congregation

Canonized:        Pre-Congregation

Feast Day:          December 7 (anniversary of his ordination), April 4 (Old Catholics), December 20 (Orthodox)

Patron Saint:     Beekeepers; Bees; Wax Refiners



Saint Ambrose of Milan, you went from an unbaptized catechumen to reluctantly accepting the position as bishop. You took on this role first educating yourself on the Bible and writings of the Fathers of the Church. Then you used your education and courage defending the Church while providing my works still noted today. So if you have a role that is maybe out of your comfort zone, trust God, as Saint Ambrose did. God will support you on your new journey where ever it may lead you.

Do you have a new “job” that you think Our Father wants you to do in support of “thy will be done”? Pray to receive the grace, wisdom and strength to do his will today.


Lord, teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me when I seek you. For I cannot seek you unless you first teach me, nor find you unless you first reveal yourself to me. Let me seek you in longing and long for you in seeking. Let me find you in love, and love you in finding.
~ St Ambrose of Milan, Bishop, Writer, Doctor

Saint Ambrose of Milan, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

Aleteia – Musing on the teeth of Saint Ambrose

All Saints & Martyrs – Saint Ambrose

Anastpaul – Saint of the Day – 7 December – St Ambrose (c 340-397) – Father and Doctor of the Church

Angelus – Saint of the day: Ambrose – Rev. Alban Butler. Volume XII: December. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. December 7 St. Ambrose, Bishop and Confessor, Doctor of the Church

Catholic Culture  – St. Ambrose’s impact on St. Augustine: Excerpts from The Confessions

Catholic Exchange – St. Ambrose

Catholic Fire – St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor: Brief Bio, Quotes, and Prayers

Catholic Ireland – Dec 7 – Saint Ambrose, 340-97 bishop and doctor of the Church

Catholic News Agency – St. Ambrose Feast Day: Dec 07

Catholic Online – St. Ambrose

CatholicSaints.Info – Saint Ambrose of Milan

CatholicSaints.Info – On the Mysteries by Saint Ambrose of Milan

Franciscan Media – Saint Ambrose

Loyola Press – Saint Ambrose (c. 340-397) Feast Day December 7

My Catholic Life – Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor

New Advent – Loughlin, J. (1907). St. Ambrose. In The Catholic Encyclopedia

Newman Ministry – Saint Ambrose

Saints, Feast, Family – Saint Martin of Tours’ Story

Saint Mary’s Press – Saint Ambrose (c.340-397)

uCatholic – St. Ambrose, Doctor of the Church

Wikipedia – Ambrose

Video Links

– YouTube Video (Catholic Online)

– YouTube Video (Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network – USA)