St. Ambrose, Doctor, on Discerning Charity


stomer ambrose.2

Prescription of the Day (split in two)

St. Ambrose, who’s Memorial we celebrate on December 7, was a student of Church teaching during his 23 years as bishop.  He had to be…he was chosen to be bishop of Milan by popular acclaim while a catechumen preparing for his own baptism!  He applied what he learned in very practical ways and taught so.  Respective to our social obligation he was clear:

“It is not from your own goods that you give largesses to the beggar; it is a portion of his own which you are restoring to him.” The earth belongs to all, not to the rich only. You are consequently paying a debt; do not go away and think you are making a gift to which you are not bound.”

St. Ambrose was also not naive.  He taught to be discerning concerning those who come looking for an unjust handout. He writes:

“Never were there so many beggars as today.  We see coming to us strong, hearty fellows, who have no other title but their vagrancy, and who claim the right to despoil the poor of what they earn and empty their purses. There must be a limit. Let them not go away empty-handed, but let not him who helps the needy to live become the prey of the schemers.  Let us not be inhumane but let us not deprive extreme indigence of all support.”

Applying the prescription:

  • One of the most vexing questions is, “How do I serve the poor humbly and effectively while avoiding becoming prey to the schemer?  It takes much prayerful discernment.
  • Are you OK with being “schemed” from time to time?

St. Ambrose, pray for us!


Deacon Tom Gotschall, The Deacon Dad at





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