St. Helena

Died 330

Flavia Julia Helena was born in Drepanum, the daughter of an innkeeper. It was in that inn that she met and eventually married a Roman General Constantius Chlorus. They had one son, Constantine. Later, Diocletian made Constantius Caesar. Diocletian then persuaded Constantius to divorce Helena because of her lowly socioeconomic roots and marry a woman of higher social status. Fourteen years after the divorce, Constantius died. Constantius’ troops declared Constantine, his son, as Caesar. Constantine officially became Emperor 18 months later.

Because Helena suffered much public disgrace and humiliation from the divorce, Constantine expediently honored his mother by renaming her birthplace after her, calling it Helenopolis. He ordered coins to be struck in her image. He further honored her with the title “Empress of the World” and “Mistress of the Empire.”

Helena converted to the Catholic Faith at about 63 years old. Constantine, himself, was not a catechumen for long, before he died. Because Helena had much “fervor and zeal”, she swiftly advanced in the Faith. She was very kind and charitable. She humbly served the poor as well as the religious becoming what Eusebius describes as a “handmaid of Christ.” She prayed the Divine Office and made pilgrimages to the Holy Land. She was nearly 80 years old when she helped build a church in Bethlehem near the Grotto of the Nativity and a church near Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives. She helped build other churches before that and supplied them with valuable vessels and ornaments. St. Ambrose credits St. Helena for finding the True Cross and the three nails from Jesus’ crucifixion.