The basilica of St. Ambrose isn’t the only thing you will find in Milan; you will also find books. In particular, a biography of St. Ambrose written by Msgr. Cesare Pasini, which Father Bud Grant read and knew had to be translated into English.
Teaching at St. Ambrose University is not all that inspired Grant to learn more about the patron saint of Milan, St. Ambrose. The period of history and the way that history informs theology are both things he finds interesting about St. Ambrose and his teachings.
“I think the unique thing I like about Ambrose specifically is the way he is doing theology on the fly,” Grant said. “He’s not sitting back in an ivory tower thinking deep thoughts and writing.”
Prior to teaching at St. Ambrose, Grant spent four years living and studying in Rome, Italy. While in Rome, Grant was immersed in an English-speaking environment and found it difficult to learn Italian well. Rather, Grant jokes that during his time in Rome he learned to listen to theological Italian.
These listening skills would eventually be useful to Grant, who found an intriguing biography on St. Ambrose in a book store in Milan. After reading the book he looked up the author, the Prefect of the Vatican Library, Msgr. Cesare Pasini. Msgr. Pasini invited Grant to his office, and after a few face-to-face encounters he gave Grant a test. After successfully passing this test, a translation of an article Pasini authored, Grant was granted permission to translate the book.
Through the translating process Grant worked with an editor, a polished American priest. Between the two, the book was sent back and forth, and even if there was a disagreement, they would come to a compromise.
“It took three years to finish the book, but half that time was with the editor,” Grant said. “My process was one very intensive year, one less intensive year and two extremely intensive weeks.”
In April 2014, Grant will head back to Italy for an official ceremony where he will symbolically hand Msgr. Pasini a copy of his own book. Grant will also deliver a 15 minute talk – his first public-address in Italian.
One of the many responsibilities held by the Academy for the study of St. Ambrose of Milan, which was started at SAU a few years ago, is translating works about St. Ambrose.
The Academy recently received approval for a semester abroad program called Ambrose in Milan, set to take place fall 2014. Short-term student study abroad opportunities and an alumni tour are also done abroad.
On campus, students can learn more about St. Ambrose by participating in the St. Ambrose of Milan course or by attending Academy events that welcome world-class Ambrose scholars to campus.
The work by the Academy has not gone unnoticed. An internationally recognized, elite group of scholars, Academia Ambrosiana in Milan, is recognizing the work.
“In April, when I go to give my talk they will enroll us in the Academy,” Grant said. “It is a huge deal for us to be a university in the Academia.”
The biography Ambrose of Milan, which is authored by Msgr. Pasini and translated by Grant, is available for purchase in the St. Ambrose University bookstore.