Empress (ca. 250-ca.328)
+ According to some traditions, Helen was born in England around 250.
+ The mother of the man who would become emperor Constantine “the Great,” she became a Christian in 312, when she was already more than sixty years old.
+ Known for her simplicity and concern for the poor, she endowed many churches.
+ Helen is best known for her pilgrimages to the Holy Land where she devoted herself to building churches on the Mount of Olives, in Bethlehem, and other holy sites. She is especially honored for recovering the relics of the Holy Cross and other relics associated with the lives of Jesus and Mary.
+ Saint Helen died around 328 and was buried in the Church of Ss. Marcellinus and Peter in Rome. She is especially honored in the Eastern Church where she shares a feast with her son Constantine (who is also honored as a saint) on May 21.
For prayer and reflection
“[Saint Helen] worshipped not the wood, but the King, Him who hung on the wood.”—Saint Ambrose of Milan
On this day, the Church also honors the memory of the martyr Saint Agapitus. According to the early legends surrounding his martyrdom, he was still a teenager when he was murdered for his faith in the year 274. The ruins of an ancient basilica near Palestrina, Italy, serve as testimony to the devotion that early Christians had for this holy martyr.
O God, the exaltation of the lowly, who willed that blessed Helen should excel in the beauty of her charity and patience, grant, through her merits and intercession, that, carrying our cross each day, we may always persevere in love for you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal: Common of Holy Men and Women—For a Holy Woman)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.