Among the great Bishops of the Church, St Ambrose ranks as one of the most prominent. As a preacher, he was lauded for his style and catechetical genius, as an administrator, he was efficient and human, and as a defender of the faith, he was mighty and strong. The Holy Spirit possessed this humble bishop and formed a powerful disciple of Christ, a loving father, a wise soul and a heroic man. He is the model, par excellence, for all bishops.
He had to face the tyranny of the secular state and did so without fear. He was compassionate and understanding, but he was a servant of the Truth, and so he was fearless when he had to proclaim that truth even to an emperor. Remember when we Catholics speak of Truth, we do so not only as objective reality as opposed to relativism, but we also speak of a person - Jesus Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Many of you will know of St Ambrose's struggle with the Emperor Theodosius. There was a tense relationship anyway between the saintly bishop of Milan and the Imperial Court: politicians and rulers tend to feel very uncomfortable when they hear of a man of holy principles. Such a man tends not to compromise for the sake of the state, but rather, inconveniently for the seculars, holds fast to the rules of God. Such holy people are too "rigid" to be pliable and manipulated.
When the emperor, Theodosius II massacred 7,000 people in Thessalonica in 390 in revenge for the murder of the governor, Ambrose excommunicated him and imposed several months of severe penance on the emperor to atone for his sin before he was readmitted to communion with the Church. Ambrose did not give in, he stood steadfast even in face of the considerable pressure imposed by the Imperial Court. Despite this Theodosius did his time, saw the error of his ways, and he was readmitted. He and Ambrose developed a good relationship, one which so good that at Ambrose's funeral Theodosius was gushing in his praise; embarrassingly so, some thought. Ultimately, despite a violent nature, Theodosius was a good man, and Ambrose had to help him break that flaw in his character which made aspects of his rule tyrannical.
Ambrose was not a hard man, he was gentle and understanding, but there were times when he had to use his power and faculties for the good of the Church and her members, and, as in the case of the massacre of the people of Thessalonica, he had to defend the dignity of human life. It seems another Ambrose has arisen, this time in the US: Archbishop, soon to be Cardinal, Timothy Dolan, has been forthright in meeting the challenge Barack Obama has created for the Church.
In meeting this challenge, Cardinal-designate Dolan must be supported, and I hope the Church in the United States will fall in behind him and face down this secular ruler who seeks to impose his will on Catholic citizens and make them conform to his anti-life agenda. In other words, it is time to break that tyrannical streak which is in Obama and the pro-abortion brigade in the US. After all, that very streak has left a body count of 54 million children in the last 40 years.
As for those of you in Ireland who may be asking the question, "Such issues do not concern us" - well, they do, because we now have a government in Ireland which has a similar tyrannical streak. Given the developments with this commission examining the European Court of Human Rights's decision on abortion in Ireland, we may soon see infanticide legally established in Ireland. Three members of that commission are in fact die-hard advocates for abortion on demand, so we need to learn from our brothers and sisters in the US.
O Lord, we pray, send us an Ambrose!