When the founding families of St. Ambrose Academy first came together, choosing a patron saint was an important and much-discussed topic. Owing to his passion for and defense of the Catholic faith, eloquence in sharing the Gospel, and dedication to teaching, St. Ambrose of Milan was an inspired choice for a patron of a Catholic classical 6-12 school.
Though he became associated with the city of Milan later in life, Ambrose’s life began in modern-day Germany, the son of the Prefect of Gaul (modern-day France, Belgium and parts of Italy, the Netherlands and Germany). Educated in the classics, Greek and philosophy, Ambrose became known as a poet, orator, and later as a lawyer and the consular governor of Liguria and Emilia (modern-day Italy) with his residence in Milan.
A convert to Christianity, Ambrose was an unbaptized catechumen when the Bishop of Milan died. Divisions arose over his replacement and Ambrose intervened, calling for calm and reason to prevail in the election for a new bishop. Inspired by his eloquence and faith, Ambrose was called upon to fill the vacant see. In humility, Ambrose declined this call.
But to prevent further violence, he eventually agreed and was baptized, ordained a priest, and consecrated a bishop on December 7, 374. Upon taking the office of bishop, Ambrose gave his wealth to the Church and the poor, both for the good it did and as an example to the people of Milan.
Rooted in his studies of Scripture and the Church Fathers, Ambrose was a well-known and popular preacher. He became a powerful voice defending the Faith against the heretical Arian and secular voices prevalent at the time. He also had a powerful impact on secular matters, including convincing the Emperor Theodosius to do public penance after the emperor ordered a massacre of thousands of citizens at Thessalonica.
In particular, Ambrose is remembered for the powerful role he played in the life of Saint Augustine of Hippo, who was so moved by Ambrose’s preaching, he sought catechesis and baptism from Ambrose, and became a powerful convert and evangelist in his own right. In many ways, Ambrose was the answer to the prayers of Augustine’s mother, Saint Monica, who ceaselessly prayed for her wayward son’s conversion.
Saint Ambrose was a prolific writer, leaving works on Scripture, priesthood, virginity, and doctrinal subjects, and a composer of some of the earliest Christian hymns. Because of the ways he followed Christ and gave his life in service of the Church, Saint Ambrose of Milan became known as ‘The Honey-Tongued Doctor’, in honor of his speaking and preaching abilities, leading to the use of a beehive and bees in his iconography, symbols that also indicate wisdom.
This imagery, such as the hexagons mimicking the shapes in a beehive, is incorporated in our school’s website and branding, as an homage to our beloved patron. We ask for Saint Ambrose’s prayers for the students and alumni of St. Ambrose Academy, that they will be filled with wisdom and the gifts of the Holy Spirit as they follow in the footsteps of the Lord. Saint Ambrose, pray for us!
The Honey-Tongued Doctor
Patron Saint of bees, beekeepers, bishops, students, learning
b. 340 AD in Trier, Germany
d. Holy Saturday, April 4, 397 AD
Bishop of Milan
Doctor of the Church
Defender of the Faith