Helena (246-327) is probably most famous for being the mother of Constantine I, who would come to be known as Constantine the Great. Soon after her son’s birth, Constantius, her husband, divorced her, and she, with Constantine, was sent to Nicomedia. While Constantine grew into the court society, Helena chose to remain in obscurity, only staying close to her son. She returned to imperial court only after Constantius’ death, when Constantine was named Augustus of the Roman Empire. She received the title of Augusta, but died soon after. In her lifetime, she made many pilgrimages, to Palestine and other eastern provinces. She is the patron saint of new discoveries, mainly due to the many relics she found on her journeys. The most well-known of her discoveries is that of the True Cross. Reportedly, she ordered the tearing down of a pagan temple which had been built over the site of Jesus’ tomb. The excavation of the site resulted in the recovery of three crosses. Helena refused to accept the relics without them first being tested, so she had a woman who was near death touch each of the crosses. With the first two, there was no change, but, when she touched the third, she was healed completely. This Helena declared to be the True Cross, and Constantine ordered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to be built there.
Questions for Reflection:
- Helena dealt with her alienation from others by finding a closer connection to God, through charitable works and piety. How do you deal with isolation and alienation?
- Discovery doesn’t just refer to tangible objects. Discoveries can be thoughts, feelings, and more. How can you use your discoveries to benefit others?