Saint of the Day – 19March – Blessed Ambrose Sansedoni of Siena OP (1220-1287) Priest and Friar of the Order of Preachers, Confessor, Mystic, a powerful and convincing Preacher employed by various Popes as a Diplomatic Peacemaker and that which seems opposed, as a Preacher of the Crusades, Peacemaker, . A fellow student with St Thomas Aquinas under St Albert Magnus. Born on 16 April 1220 at Siena, Italy and died on 20 March 1287 at Siena, Italy of natural causes. Patronages – of engaged couples, of Siena, Italy. Also known as – Ambrogio Sansedoni, Ambrose Sansedone.
The Roman Martyrology reads: “At Siena, in Tuscany, Blessed Ambrose (Sansedoni) of the Order of Friars Preachers. He was remarkable for his sanctity, preaching and miracles. Clement VIII ordered his name to be inscribed in the Roman Martyrology.”
Ambrose was born of noble parents at Siena, in Tuscany, on 16 April 1220. His mother, who had experienced extraordinary interior consolation whilst expecting his birth, was filled with bitter grief on finding the infant deformed and hideous. Unable to bear the painful sight, she sent him away to be brought up by strangers. One day, as his nurse was holding him in her arms at her cottage door, a venerable pilgrim passed by and gazed fixedly upon him, whereupon she veiled his face to conceal his ugliness. But the stranger, obeying a divine inspiration, said to her, “Woman, hide not the face of that child;,he will one day be the light and glory of this City.” So the nurse took courage and everyday, when she went to pray in the Church of the newly founded Friars Preachers, she took the child with her, his face still veiled.
Baby Ambrose always testified extreme reluctance to leave a certain Altar in this Church, on which some precious Relics were preserved. One day, when the cries and tears of the infant had induced his nurse to carry him back to his favourite Altar before returning home, he suddenly stretched out his little arms and legs which until now, had been distorted and motionless, raised his hands to Heaven and pronounced, three times in a loud and distinct tone, the Holy Name of Jesus. The blackened and disfigured countenance was now found to be radiant with beauty, every trace of deformity was gone forever!
The very young childhood of Ambrose was distinguished by a holiness beyond his years. Everyday he recited the Office of our Blessed Lady and would rise by night to meditate, when only seven years old. As he grew older, he was accustomed to visit and relieve the sick in the hospitals and prisoners in their dungeons. His love for the poor was very great and he obtained his father’s permission to bring home and lodge, five needy pilgrims every Saturday. This act of charity was rewarded even in this life, for five Angels appeared to the boy one night, singing sweet harmonies and said to him, “Ambrose, we are the five pilgrims whom thou hast been wont to entertain for the love of God.”
In spite of the allurements of the world, the earnest entreaties of his family and the open assaults of Satan, he very early resolved to embrace the religious life and received the Dominican Habit on his seventeenth Birthday, humbly kissing the feet of all the Brethren, before being admitted into their number.
Sometime after his profession, Ambrose was sent to Paris to study under St Albert the Great and here he had St Thomas Aquinas as a fellow disciple. When St Albert returned to Cologne in the year 1248, he took his two holy pupils back with him to teach under his supervision. Although Blessed Ambrose, from motives of humility, never took his Doctor’s Degree, yet he was a renowned Lector and taught with great edification, during thirty years in various Convents of his Order.
At the same time he did not neglect the duty of preaching, especially in vacation-time and his powerful eloquence converted many sinners and contributed not a little to re-establish peace in Italy, then torn by interior quarrels and the factions of the Guelphs and Ghibellines.
He was held in great esteem by successive Popes, who repeatedly employed him in important missions of peace, in reconciling heretics to the Church and in preaching the Crusade in various parts of Europe. They were anxious to signify their appreciation of his singular services by raising him to the Episcopate but humility was ever his most characteristic virtue and he steadily refused every offer of promotion. His example gave weight to his words. It was his inviolable custom never to go to the Altar to offer the Holy Sacrifice, until he had first asked pardon of any whom he believed to be irritated against him and his perfect sweetness and humility, under trying circumstances, had power to soften the hardest hearts.
One of his special devotions was to pray for those who were about to enter the married state that God would bless their union and grant them all the graces needful for their salvation. Hence, after his death, it became a custom for the maidens of Siena to offer a wax candle at his tomb to obtain a blessing on their marriage.
His interior life was one of almost uninterrupted prayer. Many a time were the Angels seen present when he celebrated Mas, which he seldom did without ecstasies. Often, when he preached, his body was miraculously raised from the ground and his head was seen surrounded by a circle, not of glory but of birds of various and brilliant plumage and in the midst of this new and beautiful nimbus, a face of wondrous majesty would sometimes appear, looking down upon Ambrose with a glance of unutterable love and a hand which seemed to hold the universe in its grasp, would be outstretched in benediction over his head.
We are indebted for these particulars to a holy penitent of his, Nera Tolomei, to whom Our Lord also revealed that He appeared to Blessed Ambrose shortly before his death and said to him, “If thou desirest to remain in this life, thou shalt send many souls to Heaven by thy preaching; if, on the other hand, thou wouldst rather come to Me now, I will, in consideration of thy merits, release five thousand souls from Purgatory and admit them to glory, together with thee.” The holy man resigned himself entirely to the Divine Will, adding, however, the words, “Nevertheless, I would willingly quit this world.” Then the Divine Master bade the Saints, in whose honour Blessed Ambrose had so often preached, to go forth to meet his happy soul and Nera beheld him, clothed in the Pontifical robes which his humility had led him, persistently to refuse on earth and placed in the ranks of the Apostles, whose labours for souls he had striven to emulate.
His happy death took place in the year 1287. Both in life and after death he was illustrious for miracles. In 1597, his name was enrolled in the Roman Martyrology and in the following Century, Pope Gregory XV gave leave for his Feast to be celebrated throughout the Dominican Order.
May this glad Festival of Blessed Ambrose,
Thy Confessor, give joy to Thy Church, O God
and may it ever be defended
by all spiritual helps
and made worthy to be blessed
with everlasting joys.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ,
in the unity of the Holy Ghost,
One God world without end,