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Vatican Library Prefect Presents Lecture on Saint Ambrose of Milan

The Most. Rev. Martin Amos, DD, bishop of the Diocese of Davenport (l) and Joan Lescinski, CSJ, PhD, president of St. Ambrose (r) present an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to Msgr. Cesare Pasini, prefect of the Vatican Library, during the Dec. 2 Feast of Saint Ambrose celebration.

December 2012 | by Barb Arland-Fye

This story appeared in The Catholic Messenger on Dec.6

DAVENPORT - St. Ambrose University celebrated its patron saint's feast day a few days early with a lecture by the Vatican Library's prefect, considered a top scholar on the fourth-century Doctor of the Church.

Msgr. Cesare Pasini, a priest of Milan, Italy, has also been a resource and partner in the creation and development of the Academy for the Study of Saint Ambrose of Milan at St. Ambrose University. Father Bud Grant, a theology professor at St. Ambrose, led efforts to create this academy, which he also directs, and is translating Msgr. Pasini's biography of St. Ambrose into English. The saint's feast day is Dec. 7, but St. Ambrose University celebrated it on the first Sunday in Advent, Dec. 2.

Ambrose of Milan had been a political leader before converting to Catholicism. In short order he was ordained a deacon, priest and bishop be­cause the people of Milan wanted him as their bishop. A senator named Symmachus, a tireless advocate of Roman and pagan traditions, ques­tioned Ambrose about whether he could be both Roman and Christian.

During his lecture, Msgr. Pasini identified five points Ambrose makes in affirming Christianity: It is never a shame to change and go onto better things; abandoning a mistake is not a sign of weakness, but of power; every wise man is free and every fool is a slave; power is an illusion, humiliation never deceives; and he loses what is his, but acquires what is eternal.

Regarding the first point, about change, "Ambrose acknowledges a universal law: that everything progresses, changing into something better," Msgr. Pasini said. Ambrose "sees this law as applicable to the evolution of creation, to the progress of human labor, to the growth of a child in becoming an adult. This is the ‘better' that can happen to old Rome, in welcoming the Christian faith!"

In his point about abandoning mistakes, Ambrose, citing Paul's letter to the Colossians, notes that "with baptism the Christian follower must continue to grow towards a perfect practical and theoretical knowledge of the mystery of Christ: one must experience Him to understand that He is all and in all."

Addressing freedom, Ambrose observes that "he who chooses what is good, just and true remains free in his choices, more so, his choices make him free." Conversely, "He who chooses injustice and dishonesty and all things similar, is taken in their grip, and loses his own freedom: more so, those choices enslave him!"

Ambrose raises a rhetorical question concerning humility: How does one find Christ - who is all in all - in moments which seem without hope or comfort, in the most difficult and adverse situations? "According to Ambrose, it is in these times that Christ reveals his divine power to us, in his humility. Therefore, to find Christ who is all in all, we must find our way towards humility," Msgr. Pasini said. Again, quoting Ambrose, "The Lord took upon himself all those conditions that we despise ... what we had lost with the disobedience of one, Adam, we could regain with the obedience of one, Lord Jesus ..."

Regarding the fifth point, about acquiring what is eternal, Ambrose says "the decisive step is to knowingly adopt this ‘humiliation of God,' that gives meaning to our perceived weakness of power and, on the other hand, that reveals the unexpected and moving side of a humble and humiliated Lord."

Adds Msgr. Pasini: "This is humility: being able to recognize that you are a creature who does not fear ‘losing oneself' in order to receive the fullness of God."

During the question and answer period, Mary Schechinger, a student in Fr. Grant's class on St. Ambrose, asked Msgr. Pasini "How can we glorify humility and fight for justice at the same time?"

The priest noted that both humility and injustice are realities in the world; Christians must always fight against injustice, he said. Furthermore, those who are humiliated must receive our compassion; we are all humiliated at one time or another; we shouldn't try to get humiliated; when we are humiliated, we are in an "abyss" in which Jesus joins us; and no one should think that they are doing God's work by humiliating others!

St. Ambrose had a deep spirituality

The Vatican Library's prefect, Msgr. Cesare Pasini, doesn't like to travel everywhere, but when the subject is St. Ambrose, a fourth-century Doctor of the Church, "I go," said the Ambrosian scholar.

Having developed a relationship with St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Msgr. Pasini didn't hesitate to accept an invitation to speak at the university on Dec. 2. "In this case, it really was St. Ambrose who called me to speak about him and to meet Ambrosian people here."

St. Ambrose the saint had a deep spirituality, great knowledge of Scripture and a joy of the sacraments. He wanted all Christians to have the same experience. Msgr. Pasini said he is heartened by the enthusiasm with which St. Ambrose University students view the school's patron saint.

MORE LIKE THIS:Academy for Saint Ambrose, AmbroseZine, Campus Ministry, Peace & Social Justice, SAU in the News

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