A Little Boy

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7 December 2017

This is a true story. Ambrose was a prominent public, civic figure in the town of Milan, Italy. He was born around about 340 and died 397.

In 374 the bishopric of Milan fell vacant and Ambrose with his civic mind and heart went down to try and sort out the tension between the Catholics and the Arians. The latter group had gained prominence with their belief that Christ was human, a son of God, but not divine. Catholics maintain, of course, that Jesus is fully human and fully divine.

He stood up in the Cathedral to appeal for calm and peace in the selection of the new bishop. A little boy shouted, “Ambrose for bishop.” The crowd joined in and that was that. Ambrose was elected as bishop on the 7th December 374. At the time, Ambrose was a Catechumen – someone interested in the faith, yet not baptised. Thus within a week he was duly baptised and ordained as priest and bishop.

For the Mass today, there is an entrance antiphon that curiously suits our fascinating story. It is based on the Book of Sirach 15:5:

In the midst of the Church he opened his mouth,
And the Lord filled him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding
And clothed him in a robe of glory.

Using a bit of poetic licence might we affirm that the Holy Spirit did open that little boy’s mouth and Ambrose was consequently filled with wisdom and understanding and glory. Ambrose went on to become one of the truly great public and ecclesial figures in the Church’s history. And it all started with the voice of that little boy.

How might God be communicating with us this day?

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