It is generally agreed that the most influential non-biblical figure on Western Christianity is St. Augustine. It is impossible to overestimate his impact on Christian thought in the West during the Middle Ages and beyond. Thus, he is often called the “Father of the Western Church”.
But what if there was no St. Augustine? What if he remained a Manichean or simply a pagan? How would the Church be different? One thing is for sure, it would be a lot poorer. But Augustine did become a Christian, primarily through the influence of two people: his faithful mother St. Monica and St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan, spiritual father to St. Augustine, and the saint whose feast we celebrate today.
Augustine moved to Milan at the same time he was struggling with his Manichean faith, and the preaching of Ambrose had a profound impact on his life. A primary way in which Ambrose impacted Augustine was in his approach to Sacred Scripture. Augustine had a very condescending view of the Bible; to his brilliant mind he believed the Scriptures to be poorly written literature which no intellectual like himself could take seriously (sound familiar?). But when he saw how Ambrose interpreted the Scriptures symbolically, understanding that often the literal sense of a passage doesn’t mean the same as literalism, Augustine’s eyes were opened to the Bible’s beauty and power. When Augustine realized that a brilliant mind like Ambrose’s could embrace Christianity, he soon did the same.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of your witness in spreading the Christian Faith – for all you know you might be influencing the next Augustine!
St. Ambrose, pray for us!