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A reluctant bishop

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A reluctant bishop
Among the many canonised bishops who showed a great reluctance in ascending to the Episcopacy is today’s saint,  Ambrose who became Bishop of Milan in 374.  Although most weren’t as ill-prepared as Ambrose (when he was nominated he was yet to be baptised, let alone ordained!) once they become bishops, these saints threw themselves into their new lives with true apostolic zeal (see St Cuthbert and St Anselm for two examples closer to home).
Among those impressed by St Ambrose was one Augustine of Hippo and it seems that – at that point – Augustine knew a good deal of theology, but was yet to link the knowledge in his head with the love in his heart and unite both with the will of God.  The combination of intellect and faith in Ambrose made for an authentically holy life which attracted Augustine in a way he’d not experienced before (cf Confessions bk.6 ch.3).
Of course St Augustine was himself to become a bishop and one can imagine him reflecting on the following words of advice from Ambrose:
You have entered upon the office of bishop. Sitting at the helm of the Church, you pilot the ship against the waves. Take firm hold of the rudder of faith so that the severe storms of this world cannot disturb you. The sea is mighty and vast, but do not be afraid, for as Scripture says: he has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters.
They hold true for today just as they did in the fourth century.  Like those reluctant bishops, today’s bishops are men who are chosen to sit ‘at the helm of the Church and pilot the ship against the waves‘.  St Ambrose continues:
The Church of the Lord is built upon the rock of the apostles among so many dangers in the world; it therefore remains unmoved.  The Church’s foundation is unshakeable and firm against the assaults of the raging sea.  Waves lash at the Church but do not shatter it.  Although the elements of this world constantly beat upon the Church with crashing sounds, the Church possesses the safest harbour of salvation for all in distress.  Although the Church is tossed about on the sea, it rides easily on rivers, especially those rivers that Scripture speaks of: The rivers have lifted up their voice.
Our bishops have no easy task: ‘waves lash at the Church door’ on a daily basis and of course, they didn’t ask to be bishops but accepted through obedience, trusting that the God who had led them thus far would lead them on.  Let us pray for our bishops, then, that they may
Proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it; refute falsehood, correct error, call to obedience, but do all with the patience that the work of teaching requires’.
St Ambrose of Milan, pray for our bishops and pray for us.

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