St Helen Mother of Constantine | Saint of the Day | August 18

Prayers to St. Helena of Constantinople 

Prayer of Intercession to St. Helena of Constantinople

O Lord Jesus Christ, you revealed the hiding place of your cross to blessed Helena, in order to enrich the Church with this priceless treasure. Crank that the ransom you paid on the tree of life may win for us the reward of everlasting happiness, through the intercession of this saint, who lives and rules with God the Father. (From the Mass of St. Helena, August 18, Daily Missal of the Mystical Body.) 

Daily Prayer to St. Helena of Constantinople

Pray for us as we give thanks to Jesus for giving his life on a Cross so that we could be saved. Have mercy on us, O Lord.

St. Helena Prayer of Thanksgiving

Most Merciful God, who blessed your servant Helena with such grace and devotion to you that she venerated the very footsteps of our Savior; Grant unto us the same grace that, aided by her prayers and example, we also may always behold your glory in the cross of your Son. Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Helena of Constantinople – Patron Saint of Archeologists and Divorced Couples

Saint Helena was born at Drepanum, a small town on the shore of the Black Sea in Bithynia, now Turkey, in the year 248 A.D.  We know little about her early life, except that she worked at an inn, or a post-stable, on one of the imperial trunk roads. Early accounts of her life refer to her as a “stabularia”, which is interpreted as “barmaid”. This meant, generally, that she had to serve food and liquor to the travelers, as well as care for their horses, and perform other domestic tasks common to such hostels. These places, according to the accounts of antiquity, filled with brusque men, occasional murderous brigands, immorality and foul language sort. It was in such a place that St. Helena spent her youth.

When Saint Helena was about twenty-seven years of every were of age, a young Roman officer on his way to wage battle with Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, passed through Bithynia, stopped at the inn and met Helena. They fell in love. The officer, whose name was Constantius Chlorus, the nickname “Chlorus” meaning “Pale-Face”, married her, if the term “marriage” can be properly applied to their union. A soldier at this time could effect only a semi-marriage, that is, he could live quite honorably with one partner, but must dismiss her if he wished afterwards to marry.

At any rate, in this type of alliance, the young barmaid followed Chlorus on his military missions, and in 284 they had a son named Constantine. Marital happiness, however, was not to be the lot of Helena, as the events of the Empire later dictated. Chlorus, her husband was a brilliant soldier, who had won great victories Germany and Britain. Diocletian, who was Roman Emperor at the time, made him Governor in northern France. The Christians were still a forbidden sect, and although increasing in great numbers, they were still under persecution. History tells us that Chlorus in his area applied the edicts against them very mildly. In fact, it is related that whenever he told members of his staff to apostatize, he deliberately retained those who had refused, saying: “How could one expect fidelity from a man who has betrayed his god?  

In the year 286, the Emperor Diocletian had begun to see that the vast expanse of the Empire was too much for one man to supervise, and so he elected a colleague, Maximian Hercules, to act as “Co-Augustus” or “Co-Emperor”. Even this proved to be inadequate, and in 293, the two “Co-Emperors” associated with themselves two “Caesars”, as they called them. One was Galerius and the other was Chlorus, Helena’s husband, who was then delegated to rule Spain, Gaul and Britain. Marriage was to tie this group more closely together, and so Chlorus was ordered to marry Theodora, the daughter of the “Co-Emperor”, Maximian Hercules.

Helena, accordingly, was divorced by her husband and sent away. She was about forty-five years of age, when this tragedy in her life occurred, and apparently for the next twenty years or so, she lived in exile, very probably at Trier, now Treves. During this period she saw practically nothing of her son, Constantine, and one can imagine her great loneliness for him and for the husband whom she really loved.

Saint Helena – Patron Saint of Difficult Marriages

During this time of exile for Helena, when from all accounts she lived in fairly comfortable surroundings, Constantine, her son, married and had a son, Crispus, for whom Helena eventually developed an adamant devotion. As far as the affairs of the Empire were concerned, Diocletian had grown quite old, and together with Maximian Hercules, he finally abdicated. Accordingly, the two “Caesars”, Galerius and Chlorus, Helena’s divorced husband, became “Co- Emperors”. Galerius, who had always hated Chlorus, had persuaded Diocletian to no two debauchees as “Caesars”, which action heightened the bad feeling between the two Co-Emper ors. Constantius Chlorus was in Britain at this time and Galerius managed to keep Constantine at Rome as sort of a “prisoner-guest”.

Constantine, however, managed to flee to Britain, where he was present at his father’s death bed at York, in 306. There, after Chlorus’ death, the Roman troops instantly proclaimed Constantine as “Emperor”. In addition to the trouble already brewing at Rome, this caused great confusion in the Empire, and at one time there were six men calling themselves Emperor. One of these, Maxentius, gave his daughter, Fausta, as wife for Constantine, thus eliminating his first wife and son. Helena, still in exile, seeing her own history repeated, developed even a more fierce affection for her grandson.

Constantine resolved to march on him, but to attack Rome seemed almost sacrilegious. He consulted the Roman gods but their apparent answers were ambiguous. Then he dreamt one night that if he took the cross of the Christian God for his standard, he would conquer. This was done, as history attests, and he conquered Rome, becoming the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. Although the records are somewhat confused, it is fairly certain that Constantine believed that the Christian God had given him victory. Constantine was tolerant of the Christians, as his edict of 313 indicates, but he, himself, was by no means a devout Christian. In fact, Constantine was not baptized until the very end of his life and then by an unconventional bishop.

At this particular time, many discussions began to arise in the early Church about doctrinal questions. At the same time, dangerous heresies began to rear their ugly heads, and the stark, simple fact that Jesus of Nazareth had died upon a cross for all mankind was being placed somewhat in the back ground by certain so-called intellectuals at Athens, Carthage, Alexandria, and Ephesus, who made every effort to reduce and even eliminate this central fact of Christianity from their new elite beliefs.