Ambrose of Milan

University Patron Saint

Our university namesake, Saint Ambrose, was the humble bishop of Milan-not even a baptized Catholic when the citizens drafted him to lead the Church there in 374 AD. He became celebrated for his scholarship, service to the unfortunate, oratory skills, leadership of the people and defense of the Church. A Renaissance man before the Renaissance, he is viewed as a founding force of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition. In modern times, St. Ambrose University is the only known U.S. college named for the saint.

"When in Rome..."

This famous phrase is rooted in conflict about Church fasting practices. The actual quote by St. Ambrose? "When you are in Rome, live in the Roman style; When you are elsewhere, live as they live elsewhere." When you're in Italy, visit the Sant' Ambrogio church in Milan, where the body of the saint is interred.

Fighting Bees

Our athletic teams were nicknamed the Saints until 1937, when students pressed for a change. Warren Lage '40 suggested the Bees for their tie to St. Ambrose and his "honey-tongued" speaking. Further, Lage stated "the qualities of a bee, such as its industriousness and its ability to sting" exemplified the hoped-for characteristics of the team.

Friend of Justice

Upon ordination, St. Ambrose gave away his fortune to the Church. He counseled wealthy residents, the government, military, and others to have love, hope, faith and mercy. Another familiar phrase from the Bible represents the saint's philosophy about power and charity: "To God the things that are God's; to Caesar the things that are Caesar's."

Governor, Bishop, Doctor

St. Ambrose was a committed intellectual. He said, "In all people there lies ... a desire to search out the truth which leads us on to have a longing for knowledge and learning and infuses into us a wish to seek after it. To excel in this seems a noble thing." The Pope designated him the first Doctor of the Church, a nod to his deep knowledge of Scripture.

Someone to Watch Over You

Outside Ambrose Hall stands a statue of our patron saint of learning, carrying a book to represent scholarship and scroll for oratory. Over the years, the statue endured yearly green St. Patrick's Day paint. He even lost a hand in 1936. Official reason? Freak storm. Conventional wisdom: Overzealous student contact. Thankfully, the statue is now restored.

Articles on Ambrose

Scholars from St. Ambrose University and around the world have written a number of articles, books, and essays about Ambrose of Milan.

  • A first encounter with Ambrose of Milan by don Pasin and translated by Rev. Robert "Bud" Grant
  • Article on Dr. Marcia Colish's lecture at St. Ambrose by Rev. Robert "Bud" Grant

So, what's next?

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