At 33 Ambrose had it all — a successful career as a lawyer, an important position as governor of Milan, the approval and friendship of the emperor, and a large estate.
Then the bishop of Milan died. At this time, about 374, heresies threatened to destroy the Church. The bishop had supported the Arian heresy that argued against the divinity of Christ. Who would take his place — an Arian or a Catholic? Both sides met in the cathedral and a riot broke out.
Public order was Ambrose's responsibility as governor so he hurried to the church and made a passionate speech not in favour of either side, but in favour of peace. He begged the people to make their choice without fighting, using restraint and moderation.
Suddenly, while he was speaking, a voice called out, "Ambrose for bishop!" Soon everyone was shouting, "Ambrose for bishop!" The other bishops of the province were only too glad to have this controversial decision taken out of their hands. But Ambrose was not about to give up a successful career for the dangerous position of bishop — a life-threatening occupation in these heretical times. So Ambrose ran away. When he appealed to the emperor to overturn the decision on the basis that he hadn't even been baptised yet, the emperor answered that he was happy that he chose governors fit for the episcopal office. Ambrose hid in a senator's house but the senator surrendered Ambrose when he heard about the emperor's decision.
With nowhere else to run, Ambrose gave in. Since he'd been forced to take the position, no one would have been surprised if he'd decided to keep on living the way that he had before ordination. Instead, Ambrose immediately gave his property to the poor and put himself under the instruction of St Simplician to learn Scripture and theology.
The Arians thought Ambrose would be "their" bishop because Ambrose had been a member of court and many in government were Arians. But Ambrose used his skills as a lawyer and orator to fight the Arians in church, court, senate, and even the emperor'