Latin Reading: Life of St. Ambrose by Paulinus

If you are looking for a bit of not too difficult Latin to read…, I would recommend the life of St. Ambrose by Paulinus, his secretary. It is done in an easy and delightful style…

–E. K. Rand, professor of Latin at Harvard University, in Founders of the Middle Ages (1928)
Links to the Vita Sancti Ambrosii (Life of St. Ambrose) by Paulinus

An 11-page PDF of a scan from an antique book can be found here.

And here is a link to scans of a 1470s (!!!) edition of St. Ambrose’s writings, but the first 32 pages of this book are the Vita Sancti Ambrosii (Life of St. Ambrose) by Paulinus. So interesting to see!

About St. Ambrose

St. Ambrose is one of the Doctors of the Church. He was bishop of Milan the late 300s. His family was Christian, and powerful: his father had been commander of the Emperor’s body guard in Gallia. After his studies, Ambrose soon became the governor of Aemilia-Liguria. At this point he still was an unbaptized catechumen: in those days parents often did not have their children baptized, so the children became professed and baptized Christians only as adults.

During the difficult times of the 4th century, the poison of Arianism was infecting the Church, and bishops, clergy, and layfolk were wary and suspicious of each other. Because he was known to be a good man and a strong leader, Ambrose, the unbaptized governor, was acclaimed by the masses and selected to be the new Bishop for Milan. He went from catechumen to Bishop in a week and a day!

A good and wise man, he was an advisor to Emperors (rebuked one, too–see picture above!), and a tutor to their sons, a preacher and scholar, the writer of many beautiful hymns, and he is notable for helping convert St. Augustine, being the prelate who received him into the Church. It was St. Augustine who asked Paulinus, the deacon who was secretary to St. Ambrose, to write his biography for him and for posterity.

(Who Was E. K. Rand?)

The quote this post begins with is a recommendation from this scholar’s most popular book. I am absolutely in awe of him. Edward Kennard Rand was an early 20th century American Classicist-Medievalist-philologist, a Harvard professor. In his career he followed his love of all things both ancient and medieval: he loved Virgil and Boethius (writing his Doctoral Dissertation about Boethius after studying in Europe, writing and publishing it in German). He taught Classics and was first president of the Medieval Academy of America. His excellent books, then, naturally cover topics ranging from Classical Rome to early Christian Europe.

The well-loved volume I quoted above was compiled from a series of fascinating lectures he gave on the overlap between the Classical world and the medieval era. This book is so respectful of Catholicism that I thought the author might have been a Catholic before I researched his biography (Rand was a practicing Episcopalian).

In addition to his research and writing, he taught college students in his classroom for 50 years! He was well-loved by generations of students. One of his protegees was Frederick M. Wheelock, who wrote the famous American Latin textbook.

All of this adds up to reasons for my endorsement of his suggestion to read the Vita Sancti Ambrosii; and of course I also recommend that you read his Founders of the Middle Ages, too! But that is another post, I suppose, for another blog…

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