Miraculous Milan

Posted on Posted in Theology

St. Augustine’s Confessions is a book long loved by Catholics and Lutherans alike—and he himself is a saint and theologian we both claim as essential to our heritage. Therefore on the day of our arrival in Milan it seems appropriate to excerpt here a couple of his own comments on this city from the Confessions, where he finally let go of his dabblings in Manicheism and heresy under the influence of Bp. Ambrose and became a true Catholic Christian at last.

From Book 5, ch. 13:
“When therefore they of Milan had sent to Rome to the prefect of the city, to furnish them with a rhetoric reader for their city, and sent him at the public expense, I made application… To Milan I came, to Ambrose the Bishop, known to the whole world as among the best of men, Thy devout servant… To him was I unknowing led by Thee, that by him I might knowingly be led to Thee… Thenceforth I began to love him, at first indeed not as a teacher of the truth (which I utterly despaired of in Thy Church), but as a person kind towards myself.”

From Book 9, ch. 7:
“Not long had the Church of Milan begun to use this kind of consolation and exhortation, the brethren zealously joining with harmony of voice and hearts. For it was a year, or not much more, that Justina, mother to the Emperor Valentinian, a child, persecuted Thy servant Ambrose, in favour of her heresy, to which she was seduced by the Arians. The devout people kept watch in the Church, ready to die with their Bishop Thy servant. There my mother Thy handmaid, bearing a chief part of those anxieties and watchings, lived for prayer. We, yet unwarmed by the heat of Thy Spirit, still were stirred up by the sight of the amazed and disquieted city. Then it was first instituted that after the manner of the Eastern Churches, Hymns and Psalms should be sung, lest the people should wax faint through the tediousness of sorrow: and from that day to this the custom is retained, divers (yea, almost all) Thy congregations, throughout other parts of the world following herein.

“Then didst Thou by a vision discover to Thy forenamed Bishop where the bodies of Gervasius and Protasius the martyrs lay hid (whom Thou hadst in Thy secret treasury stored uncorrupted so many years), whence Thou mightest seasonably produce them to repress the fury of a woman, but an Empress. For when they were discovered and dug up, and with due honour translated to the Ambrosian Basilica, not only they who were vexed with unclean spirits (the devils confessing themselves) were cured, but a certain man who had for many years been blind, a citizen, and well known to the city, asking and hearing the reason of the people’s confused joy, sprang forth desiring his guide to lead him thither. Led thither, he begged to be allowed to touch with his handkerchief the bier of Thy saints, whose death is precious in Thy sight. Which when he had done, and put to his eyes, they were forthwith opened.”

Not only the discovery of wonderworking relics in the face of a hostile empress, but bringing long-time skeptic Augustine to faith—miraculous Milan indeed!

2 thoughts on “Miraculous Milan

  1. What do you think about the fact that, as Luther got older, his opinion of St. Augustine (and other Church Fathers like Jerome and Ambrose) diminished greatly: “Behold what great darkness is in the books of the Fathers concerning faith…Augustine wrote nothing to the purpose concerning faith” said Luther later in life. In earlier years he also gave his opinion that the Church Fathers like Augustine fell into error on many topics but that he had found the true doctrine. Thoughts?

  2. It is great to have a saint loved by Lutherans and Catholics. That was the case in Wittenberg. The church leaders came together to begin an ecumenical outreach ministry to the mentally handicapped — called the Augustinus Werk. Every year, there was a celebration with the RC priest and the Wittenberg Superintendent in attendance at the Stadtkirche on Augustine’s Day (Aug 29). A few years ago, they dedicated a wonderful statue (Denkmal) of Augustine sculpted by Michale Weihe. It is worth a look (http://www.augustinuswerk.de/) on the Augustinus Werk website. Glad you got to visit Milan where Augustine’s Mom, Monica, apparently still had some “child-raising” to do. by the way, I love reading your daily travel advent-tures, but love the pictures. You would certainly be able to fill a coffee table book (in your spare time, when you return …) Steve Godsall-Myers

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