St. Helen was born in the middle of the third century, in what is now Great Britain; she was a good wife and mother. Life was pretty good. And then she was dumped by her ambitious husband for another woman in order to advance in rank (she was definitely done wrong!), and vanishes from history. Things look bad for Helen, UNTIL her son becomes emperor of Rome. Constantine, her son (yes, THE Constantine), brings her to Rome and sits her at his right hand, naming her ”Augusta”, which means essentially, empress of all Rome (take that husband). What a good son he was! He made up to his mom what bad dad did to her!
OK, so far the story has gotten much better for our saint don’t you think, but wait it gets even better.
Her faith becomes so fervent that we are told by one of the Fathers of the Church, Eusebius, that her son the emperor finances a complete pilgrimage for Helen to the Holy Land (what a good son). Now remember this IS the early 300′s and you can’t just hop on a plane or train. No sir, if you’re now traveling royality, you have to have soldiers, priests, and whole lot of others to help you on your way. Helen, because she is the “Augusta”, establishes countless churches all along that way. She also finds the places where Jesus lived and preached, and she establishes churches in those places too. In her travels she finds the True Cross and brings that, along with the steps of Pontius Pilates’ Staircase (which you can climb today in a building just outside St. John Lateran’s in Rome, but do it on your knees and make sure, ladies, your shirts have sleeves,otherwise you will get yelled at by this little old guy in a suit, but I digress…)
OK, now where was I… oh yes, St. Helen brings all those things (along with a huge boat load of Holy Land dirt) back to Rome. So thanks to the pilgrimage of St. Helen, when you and I go to Rome, we too can venerate the True Cross in the Church of the Holy Cross, which is just down the street from St. John Lateran (this is to say nothing of all the little pieces of the Cross that have been given away and are now all over the world). We can also visit the Holy Land in Rome, because of the “holy” dirt she brought back.
It’s all kind of neat when you think of it. Just when life seemed to hit rock bottom for Helen, it all turned around in an extraordinary way. An abandoned wife in England, becomes the empress of the known world of her time. So try to remember when you think you have hit rock bottom and can’t possibly get back up, ask St. Helen…all things are possible with God.
What ever happened to St. Helen after her wonderous pilgrimage? She died a devout and pious woman, the mother of the emperor, living into her 80″s, embracing the cross literally and figuratively. Wow, what a life. She is considered by many the patron saint for those divorced or divorcing!
Bruce and I talk with Thomas about Helen, along with a host of other marvelous members of the Cloud of Witnesses who become patron saints for us as we journey on our pilgrimage to heaven.
This entry was posted on Thursday, August 18th, 2011 at 8:54 am
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