Parishes | Schools | Priests | Masses |
More in this section MAIN MENU

St. Ambrose: power of the Word

Saint who forced an emperor to publicly repent honored at namesake Deerfield Beach church

DEERFIELD BEACH | People like St. Ambrose seem to be born leaders. He was chosen bishop by acclaim. He defended the faith against heresy. He led a public protest to save a church for Christian use. He even forced an emperor to repent in public.

A crucifixion window casts a multicolored shadow at St. Ambrose Church. The window is part of the church's Pietá Chapel, for private devotions.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

A crucifixion window casts a multicolored shadow at St. Ambrose Church. The window is part of the church's Pietá Chapel, for private devotions.

All this by a man who didn’t even study for the priesthood.

Ambrose, the namesake of a parish in Deerfield Beach, served as bishop of Milan in the fourth century. Serving as both a churchman and statesman, he was renowned for his sermons, scholarship, and for taking action when needed.

Born around 339 in what is now Germany, Ambrose grew up in Rome under the care of his widowed mother and his older sister, a nun. He studied law, literature and rhetoric, then was appointed as a governor residing in Milan.

But his civil service was cut short in 374 during a contested election for the next bishop of Milan. Abruptly, a crowd demanded Ambrose for the bishop's chair. This even though he hadn't even been baptized, let alone trained clerically. He literally fled and hid, but later gave in — baptized, ordained and consecrated within eight days.

Ambrose's first act was divestment: his money to the poor, his land to the Church. He threw himself into study of the Bible and the Church Fathers, as well as Greek and Latin classics. He used Eastern melodies in his hymns. And he developed allegorical teachings about the Bible, especially the Old Testament.

He is honored as one of the four original Doctors of the Church — along with saints Augustine, Jerome and Gregory the Great — as among the greatest teachers of the faith.

Statue of St. Ambrose stands in front of his namesake church in Deerfield Beach. A bas-relief of the saint can be seen on the church as well.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

Statue of St. Ambrose stands in front of his namesake church in Deerfield Beach. A bas-relief of the saint can be seen on the church as well.

Somehow, he managed to maintain an open-door policy, counseling parishioners and government officials alike. His Sunday sermons were so compelling that listeners took notes, which still exist. He even mentored St. Augustine, who said Ambrose's sermons persuaded him to be baptized.

His talents often returned him to the public square, especially in opposing the then-popular Arian heresy. When Arians tried to seize a basilica for public worship, Ambrose and his congregation barricaded themselves inside until the effort was rescinded.

So great was his influence that when Theodosius, emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, massacred 7,000 during a rebellion, Ambrose ordered him excommunicated. Theodosius had to do public penance — weeping in church without his royal robes — before being reinstated.

Despite the run-in, the two grew close in later years. On the emperor's death, Ambrose said he loved and prayed for him. And Theodosius had famously said, "I know no bishop worthy of the name except Ambrose."

He was so loved that on April 5, 397, the day after he died, five bishops found it hard to serve the many who asked for baptism. The feast of Ambrose falls on Dec. 7, the day in 374 when he became bishop of Milan.

In Deerfield Beach, the story of the church that bears his name is a story of growth. Founded in 1962, the church celebrated its first Mass at a junior high school auditorium. The congregation soon grew to 450, then renovated two storefronts for worship.

Crowds still swelled, and church and school buildings were built and dedicated a mere two years after the church's birth. A second school building and a covered walkway were added in 1967.

The real estate was needed for the parish's many activities. They include a food pantry for the needy, a St. Vincent De Paul Society, and outreaches to the elderly, disabled and bereaved.

Statues of Mary, St. Ambrose and Joseph stand in front of a fountain in front of St. Ambrose Church in Deerfield Beach.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

Statues of Mary, St. Ambrose and Joseph stand in front of a fountain in front of St. Ambrose Church in Deerfield Beach.


Click here to post your comments about this article.

Latest News

Feature News

Parish News

School News

Sports