By Alexandra Fulton
The basilica of St. Ambrose isn’t the only thing you will find in Milan; you will also find books, in particular a biography on 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 in Davenport is not all that inspired Fr. 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,” Fr. Grant said. “He’s not sitting back in an ivory tower thinking deep thoughts and writing.”
Prior to teaching at St. Ambrose, Fr. Grant spent four years living and studying in Rome, Italy. While in Rome, Fr. Grant was immersed in an English-speaking environment and found it difficult to learn Italian well since he was not living in an Italian-speaking situation. Rather, Fr. Grant jokes that during his time in Rome he learned to listen to theological Italian.
These listening skills would eventually be useful to Fr. 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. Pasini. Msgr. Pasini invited Fr. Grant to his office, and after a few face-to-face encounters he gave Fr. Grant a test. After successfully passing this test, a translation of an article Msgr. Pasini authored, Fr. Grant was granted permission to translate the book.
Through the translating process Fr. 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,” Fr. Grant said. “My process was one very intensive year, one less intensive year and two extremely intensive weeks.”
In April 2014, Fr. Grant will fly to Italy for an official ceremony where he will symbolically hand Msgr. Pasini a copy of his own book. Fr. 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 that started at SAU a few years ago is translating works about St. Ambrose. The academy recently received approval for a semester abroad program, Ambrose in Milan, set to take place in 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 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 me in the Academy,” Fr. Grant said. “It is a huge deal for us to be a university in the Academia.”
“Ambrose of Milan,” which is authored by Msgr. Pasini and translated by Fr. Grant, is available for purchase in the St. Ambrose University bookstore.
(Fulton is features editor for The Buzz, student newspaper at St. Ambrose.)