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The Bees' Saint Praised


February 2011 | by Susan Flansburg

St. Ambrose students know that the university's Fighting Bee mascot is an homage to the legend of honeybees swarming around the infant Ambrogio, which sparked the prediction of this 4th century Roman bishop's eventual "honey-tongued" eloquence. But St. Ambrose of Milan is otherwise not well-known in America. And according to Rev. Robert "Bud" Grant '80, PhD, associate professor of theology, that's unacceptable.

Grant, long a student of Ambrose the saint, has taken his pursuits to a whole new level in the past few years-all with the intent of stimulating greater interest and renown for St. Ambrose University's patron saint who, he says, was "possibly the most important man of his age."

The Ambrose community is already benefiting from Grant's work: he taught the first-ever course on Saint Ambrose at the university last fall, led an alumni travel tour through "Ambrose's Italy" over winter break 2009, and brought noted Ambrosian scholar Marcia Colish to campus to speak on how the modern world can make the most of the saint's legacy.

That legacy, according to Grant, is the bishop's laying the foundation for such precepts as church and state relations, Orthodox Christology, liturgical music, social justice, and Catholic moral theology. Moreover, Grant credits Ambrose with helping create what is now called "Roman" Catholicism by integrating classical culture and scholarship into Christian theology and spirituality.

Ambrose is interesting for his foibles, as well. Indeed, he racked up such a slate of sins as a statesman before becoming a bishop that he had to "experience God's forgiveness before he could even preach," Grant says. "Ambrose is a saint because he dared to seek forgiveness, paid the price, and was led to achieve more than anyone would ever have imagined."

Grant is continuing his work with periodic trips to Milan, Italy, and collaborating with the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart and Biblioteca
Ambrosiana, one of Europe's foremost research libraries. He is translating into English the definitive book "Ambrose of Milan: Actions and Thoughts of a Bishop" by Msgr. Cesare Pasini, Prefect of the Vatican Library.

Going forward, Grant hopes to focus greater study of Saint Ambrose through a center here on campus, where the academic fields can be explored through the prism of the university's patron saint, who was "a Renaissance man before the Renaissance."

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