Ambrose of Milan vs. Andrew the Fisherman

The Elate Eight continues with reckless saintly abandon as Ambrose of Milan faces Andrew the Fisherman. To get this far, Ambrose defeated William Byrd and Gertrude the Great. While Andrew took down Polycarp and Hyacinth. 

Yesterday, Albert Schweitzer became the first saint to make the Faithful Four, as he defeated Cornelius the Centurion 69% to 31%.

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Ambrose of Milan

This is fire. As one 1990s cartoon creation reminds us, Fire is cool. Fire is very cool. Heh heh. Heh heh. Fire. While it might not seem relevant to this whole affair of convincing you to vote for Ambrose of Milan, fire is, in fact, used in a unique way in the Milanese Liturgy, which is known as the Ambrosian Rite after the saintly bishop. On days of the church calendar when the feast of a martyr is observed, a large cotton globe (called a faro) is suspended in the air and set on fire, perhaps from illuminating martyrs’ tomb in the catacombs. Fire, like Ambrose, is cool – even if the rite that bears his name doesn’t give him pyrotechnics on his own feast day.

Perhaps, your heart enflamed, you’ve decided you’d like to make a pilgrimage to Ambrose’s tomb at the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio in Milan. You’re looking to go to your local travel agent to book a flight, and the time comes to pay the fare, and, alas, all your cash and credit cards scatter everywhere as your wallet falls to shreds. You’ll want to do many things, but one thing you WON’T want to do is buy this wallet that features Ambrose of Milan. After all, as Ambrose was quite clear, “you must not usurp for yourself alone what was given for the common use of all” – so make your pledge, give to the poor, and yes, go on that pilgrimage… but keep the saintly bishop off your wallet!

Yet perhaps you need some token of devotion to embiggen your prayer life, inspired by Ambrose’s saying that “prayer is the wing to heaven and the eye to see God." Yes, you could get a resin statue of Ambrose to tuck away in a corner of your home. Sure, you could get a pendant necklace with a traditional “Saint Ambrose, Pray for Us” inscription. Yes, you could buy any of his countless writings on prayer. Or, you could… get a keychain. That makes Ambrose look like a character from a cartoon. While putting his words in a typeface that screams elementary school bulletin board. I’m not telling you how exactly, beloved, you should express your devotion to Ambrose. But I’m also not not telling you there are choices you need to make.

Maybe you’ve decided that, ok, given the market, maybe buying something isn’t the brightest idea. Wouldn’t it be great if you could use left over candles from last year’s Easter Vigil? Too hard you say, then perhaps you need your very own candle mold, in which you can melt down old candles and make a new one – into the visage of Ambrose of Milan. You can be sure that his fire burns bright. Because, as was previously stated… fire, like Ambrose, is cool.

David Sibley




Andrew the Fisherman

Saint Andrew's tale is an epic one: Deep faith meets Divine adventure. From humble beginnings of casting nets on the Sea of Galilee to an essential figure in Christian history, globe-trotting Andrew's résumé reads like the spiritual equivalent of Taylor Swift's concert tour itinerary.

(Yes, Andrew is the patron saint of fisherman, but he’s also patron saint of singers -- and sore throats! -- and unmarried women. I’m not saying that Andrew would be a Swiftie, but…maybe I am?)

Much like Taylor, Andrew traveled the world (with decidedly less carbon footprint): His apostolic world tour spread the good news so far that he's patron saint of Ukraine, Romania, Russia, Barbados, three cities in Italy, and one each in Portugal, Malta, the Philippines, and Greece – and Scotland, of course. Sounds exhausting! (Grab this pillow?)

Then, there’s branding. Insisting on an X-shaped saltire because you don't feel worthy of the standard cross model? That takes personal branding to a whole new level. Andrew's final act of martyrdom was one of humility and strength. This powerful symbol of sacrifice became an emblem of faith – permanently emblazoned as Scotland’s flag -- deeply revered and recognized around the world, and there’s no shortage of swag that celebrates it.

While Saint Andrew's mission reads like an ancient travelogue – and because I can’t carry the Taylor Swift parallel much farther – there’s also the matter of his relics. Each location that claims a piece of his legacy becomes a thread in the larger narrative of Christian history and devotion.

Still, it’s in Scotland (golf!) and fishing that Andrew's deepest legacy lives, giving you two recreational ways to celebrate St. Andrew (Three, if you want to join me in keeping T. Swift and her music compatriots in it.).

Saint Andrew's story is a reminder that faith is a journey, sometimes solemn, often joyous, and always worth sharing. You don't have to wait until November 30 to honor Andrew the Fisherman -- get your tickets today.

— Anon E. Muss

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65 comments on “Ambrose of Milan vs. Andrew the Fisherman”

  1. Smoked salmon over pasta today,
    Andrew’s casting for votes not filet,
    Let’s bring out some plaid
    And toast the dear lad
    With a halo so golden I pray!

  2. Andrew gets my vote, for all the Andrews in my family, as well as the kitsch today.
    So glad that Albert Schweitzer is the first in the Faithful Four this year, and hope he wins the Golden Halo!

  3. Prayer is the wing to Heaven won out for me over Taylor Swift. Had to vote for the underdog this time.

  4. I spent my junior year of college at the University of St Andrew’s, and feel real affection for the patron Saint of Scotland.

    But at the end of it, I’m increasingly drawn to Ambrose, the patron saint of the volun-told.

    1. Good point, although I think Peter and Andrew could also be counted among those who were commanded to take their places in the history of Christianity. "Follow me."

  5. I vote for Ambrose today because of his placing God above people in power, to his own risk, and in honor of my uncle's dog Ambrose who was named after him.

  6. Even though I Love St. Andrew,when compared to Taylor Swift I had to go with Ambrose. Iam not a swiftie fan.

  7. Andrew's travels continue. At our parish of St Andrew, we send the rector off on sabbatical with a Flat Andrew, a paper doll inspired by the Flat Stanley book. (But... is Andrew the Fisherman the inspiration for the travels of Flat Stanley ? ) Everyone gets the opportunity to make their own Flat Andrew and keep him with us during sabbatical time. We post our photos from near (local breakfast spots, soccer games, etc) and far (my Flat Andrew visited 19 states, although some visits were after the rector returned) I even made eclipse viewing glasses for my Flat Andrew.

  8. Ambrose of Milan vs. Andrew of Scotland. Ossobuco Milanese vs. Haggis. Taste buds tell me to vote for Ambrose. Not a tough choice.

    1. I hear you on the haggis. But sticky toffee pudding gets my vote every time. And the restaurant on the wharf in Oban has the BEST!

      1. Mmmmm….. haggis. Try it the American way - smoked for 10 hours over cherry wood in an aluminum pan, then topped with homemade gravy. A side dish of roasted veg of the traditional neeps (turnips), tatties (potatoes), and carrots all tossed with clarified butter and rosemary. Best dinner ever and beating out lutefisk by miles and miles.

  9. Had to go with Andrew as a single woman and a singer. Plus in honor of my uncle the golfer who lived on St. Andrews Way. Plus the blogger’s signature cracked me up.

    1. I liked the blogger's signature too. I enjoyed reading both of the Saintly Kitsch columns. I voted for Saint Andrew though, because he is the patron saint of singers and I had to do some singing yesterday.

  10. Ha! Underdog vote again, and despite my love of Scotland, David Sibley's saintly kitsch swayed my vote. Well done, David Sibley!

  11. I am shocked to see that Andrew is charging ahead. Ambrose was my choice, but I accept defeat my with a graciousness worthy of both great saints.

  12. For me, a hard choice. I liked both and felt very comfortable with Ambrose. I liked his style and his organization of talents and his use of them for hymns, poetry, public speaking, and his humility in getting himself a spiritual tutor to make sure he was on the right path. I especially loved his keychain to carry his call to prayer as the "wing to heaven and the eye to see God' But... Then there is the fisherman who followed the call of Christ and traveled the known and unknown world and became a beacon, like a lighthouse, to those in darkness in a world ruled by Roman iron fists. His martyrdom a crucible of faith many of us will, please God, never have to face. I think I'll go sailing with Andrew today.

  13. Somehow this morning, I am still struggling with the choice of Ambrose over William Byrd — WILLIAM BYRD!!! — and the rejection of Thomas Cranmer — THOMAS CRANMER!!! — in round one. However, as always, I find that the kitsch items themselves bear witness to the dearness and sturdy everyday-ness with which we each carry the saints most endeared to us in our hearts and long to have God near, moment to moment. Great religious art has its purpose, don't get me wrong — and I have traveled far and wide to gaze up at the stained glass at Sainte-Chapelle or the inspiring mozaics of Ravenna, etc — but fancy people with fancy money in fancy places were likely needed to patronize it. Kitsch, on the other hand, says, Hey, I want to spend a few bucks to have you near, as I go about my life day to day, be with me now . . . as I wash the dishes, worry about my kids, pay my bills, grouse about work, try to hang in there . . . etc. Thank you, as always, bloggers!

  14. My husband is a Scot and a golfer so in the interests of marital harmony I voted for St. Andrew. But - and assuming this is the privacy of the confessional - I found the Ambrose coin purse on Amazon and it will arrive at my house in a few days. I think this round is getting to me!!
    PS. I love me some Taylor Swift! She is extremely charitable!!!

  15. Golf -- meh.
    Relics -- ick. (and mostly fraudulent, no doubt, given all the pieces of Andrew strewn about)

    Fire is cool. So was Ambrose, so I voted for him for the third time.

  16. No contest from here. St Ambrose Day, (December 7) is not only also Pearl Harbor day... but more importantly it's my son's birthday!

    So gotta be Ambrose.

  17. Having recently viewed my DNA with lots of Scottish, being a parishioner at St. Andrew's Cathedral, and having visited St. Andrew's, Amalfi, I was moved to vote for Andrew. Go, Saints!

  18. Despite my laughingly horrible bracket performance this year, I locked on to both Ambrose & Andrew out of the gates. My pained vote for Andrew today is driven by Scottish ancestry with apologies to David Sibly; the Ambrose kitsch was just great.

  19. My Scottish heritage, the first church I remember (St. Andrew’s in Albany NY), and my admiration for the man who ushered his brother to Jesus and then stepped out of the spotlight—had to be the Fisherman! Plus I’m single and a singer. Sorry, Ambrose.