Wednesday’s People: Sts. Helena and Constantine

by Melanie on August 23, 2017

in Catholicism, Nonfiction, Saints, Sisterhood of Saints, Spirituality, Wednesday's Woman

Note: I’m currently featuring women saints who had notable relationships with male saints–their sons, husbands, fathers, or colleagues in faith.

The Basics: Helena, born circa 250 in Turkey; died circa 330 in Italy; canonized pre-congregation; feast day, August 18. Mother, empress. Constantine, born circa 272 in Serbia; died 337, in Turkey; canonized pre-congregation; feast day, May 21. Ruler.

The Story: It is one of those stories whose facts have been lost to time, a story that appears to involve self-directed senses of the need for penance and reconciliation. Constantine’s father left Helena for another woman, possibly to advance his own political career. Helena for the most part withdrew from public life, but cared deeply for her son. By the time Constantine was about thirty, he had emerged as the Holy Roman Empire ruler, with his mother as empress.

While Constantine in general worked to end Christian persecution–and in 325, presided over the First Council of Nicaea–harmony did not rule within his own family. In 326, he had his son and likely successor Crispus, executed, followed in short order by Constantine’s second wife, Fausta. The second execution had been supported by Helena. Was it a coincidence she left shortly thereafter for a two-year pilgrimage to the Holy Land, a pilgrimage that was variously said to include the discovery of the True Cross, nails from the crucifixion, Jesus’s robe, and the tomb where Jesus lay after his earthly death? Was it religious zeal or the hope of redemption that led to the construction or improvement of churches in the Holy Land? Some things simply have to be taken on faith.

About the time of his mother’s death (shortly after her return), Constantine moved the Roman Empire’s capital from Rome to what was then known as Byzantium and that became known as Constantinople (today’s Istanbul). Constantine’s. Some sources say he was not baptized as a Christian until he was on his deathbed. The timing of Helena’s conversion also is unclear.

What We Can Learn from Helena and Constantine: We all are flawed. But our sins need not stand in the way of doing good in the Lord’s name as we seek His help in reforming ourselves.

To Learn More About Helena and Constantine: Check out the Catholic Education Resource Center entry on Helena.

To Learn More About Other Women Saints and Blesseds: Come back next week, or consider buying my book, Sisterhood of Saints: Daily Guidance and Inspiration.

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