Ambrose was born when his father was Prefect of Gaul, about the year 340. He received a liberal education at Rome, and was afterwards made governour of the province of which Milan was the capital. Now when Auxentius died,(who was the Arian who had been intruded into the Bishoprick of Milan,) the most violent of disputes arose about the choice of successor, and Ambrose urged upon the factions the necessity of keeping the public ; whereupon a child suddenly cried out : Ambrose, Bishop : and the whole assembly took it up, and unanimously called for his election.
Ambrose refused the office, but when the will of the Emperor was added to the desire of the people, he yielded, and received Baptism,(for hitherto he was only a Catechumen,) Confirmation, and Communion, and then the several Orders on successive days, till on the eighth day, which was the seventh of December, in the year 374, the weight of the Episcopate was laid upon his shoulders. Therein he ever shewed himself a stout upholder of Catholic faith and discipline, and turned to the truth great numbers of Arians and other hereticks. Among them, he begat in Christ Jesus that burning and shining light of the Church, the holy Doctor Augustine.
After the massacre which the Emperor Theodosius had commanded at Thessalonica, in 390, he refused to permit that prince to enter a church. The Emperor pleaded that he was no worse than David, who had been guilty of adultery and murder, to which Ambrose answered : As thou hast followed him in sin, follow him also in repentance : whereupon Theodosius humbly did public penance. At length, worn out with his continual labours, this holy bishop knew that death was near. After he had received the Body and Blood of Christ, and with his hands stretched out the form of a cross, he gave his spirit to God, namely, on April 4th in the year of Christ 397, but his feast is kept in most places on December 7th, which is the anniversary of his consecration. He was the author of many hymns for the liturgy, and many homilies and treatises. He is regarded as one of the best-beloved bishops of all time, and is honored as one of the first four western Doctors of the Church.
Collect:O God, by whose providence Saint Ambrose was sent to guide thy people in the way of everlasting salvation, grant, we beseech thee, that as we have learned of him the doctrine of life on earth, so we may be found worthy to have him for our advocate in heaven, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.