About Saint Helen
ST.HELEN - PATRON SAINT OF THE CROSS
(Intercessor for: Converts, Difficult Marriages;
Much of what we know about St. Helen (Helena) comes from legend - stories passed from person to person and generation to generation.
St. Helen, known to her contemporaries as Flavia Julia Helena, was born in 250 AD at Drepanum, Bithynia (now part of modern-day Turkey), and was the daughter of an impoverished British innkeeper. Born to pagan parents, she knew nothing of Christianity for the first 60 years of her life. Helena had one son, Constantine the Great, who ruled the Roman Empire until 337 AD. During Constantine’s reign, with the aid of his mother, Christianity flourished. In addition to many other Christian works, Helena is credited with finding the Cross, which hung the Savior of the world.
Around 270 AD, Helena married a Roman general by the name of Constantius Chlorus. Their marriage bore one son, Constantine, between 274 and 288. As Constantius became more powerful in Roman affairs, he was advised to divorce Helena to better his position. So, after 21 years of marriage, Constantius abandoned his wife and son. He then married Theodora, a woman of higher nobility, who was the stepdaughter of the Emperor Maximian. Constantius was named Caesar under Maximian (293). Constantius died in 306 AD.
By the early 300’s, Constantine the Great had become the most powerful military figure in Rome and, after his battle at the Milvian Bridge, was declared Roman Emperor. Knowing how deeply his mother had been hurt, he wanted the entire world to acknowledge her gentleness and integrity. So, as Emperor, he accorded Helena the title of “Augusta”, the most honored woman of the Empire.
According to Church historian Eusebius (260-340), Helena converted to Catholicism at age 63. This was approximately the same time her son issued the famous Edict of Milan, which not only allowed but encouraged Christians to preach and practice their faith in peace.
Helena was inspired to go to the Holy Land and search for the Cross of Jesus; the same cross that appeared in the sky over the battlefield and converted her son around 312. Underneath it, in Greek characters, were the words “In hoc signo vinces” – “Through this sign thou shalt conquer.”
Helena’s workmen excavated a rock cistern just to the east of Calvery, and there she discovered three crosses, one of which was proven to be the Cross on which Jesus was crucified. Confirmation of the True Cross was made when wood was taken from each of the three to the home of a woman near death. The woman was touched with the wood from each cross. When touched with the first two, there was no change in her health, but when touched with the third, her strength and health were fully restored. Over the site where the True Cross was found, Helena immediately took charge of erecting the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.
Throughout her Christian life, Helena converted thousands through her promotion of the faith. She saw herself as the mother of the poor, sick and homeless. Helena was known for her work in aiding those in need as well as for building numerous churches, hospitals and hostels. She traveled throughout Palestine, recognized for her kindness in helping the soldiers and tending to the poor and impoverished.
Tireless in her love of the Lord, during the final four years of Helena’s life, she built two more churches: the Eleona on the Mount of Olives, and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
In the year 330, Helena died in the arms of her son upon her return to Rome.