ONE Magazine

The official publication of
Catholic Near East Welfare Association

Celebrating 50 years | God • World • Human Family • Church

Saint of the East: Saint Helena

The mother of Constantine leads others to the True Cross of Christ.

There is much argument among historians about the nationality and social rank of Saint Helena. Some say that she was a princess – the daughter of King Cole of nursery rhyme fame – while others claim she was the daughter of an innkeeper.

It is generally now believed that Helena was born in the year 255 A.D. in Eastern Europe, and few would dispute that she was noble in character and bearing.

After her husband, Constantius Chlorus, repudiated her for political reasons, Helena found in Christianity the strength to “carry her cross.” From her first brush with this “strange new” religion, she was at once fascinated and baffled by the idea of the True Cross of Christ, which had been lost for many years.

According to tradition, Helena’s formal conversion to Christianity took place in 313 A.D. In 324 A.D. she finally set out for Jerusalem, to find the site of Mount Calvary.

With the blessings of her son, Constantine, who was by that time the Roman Emperor, Helena spent months in the search. The only clue she possessed was that, according to Roman law, both a man executed and the implements by which he was killed were buried at the place of execution.

After many fruitless excavations, Helena stopped one day on the site of the ruins of a pagan temple. With eyes open wide, lips trembling, she ordered 200 workmen to the spot immediately. After much digging, the True Cross was brought up from the ground.

Helena’s piety and zeal for the propagation of Christianity made her a saint in the Roman calendar. Her feast day has traditionally been celebrated on August 18.

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