St. Helen

Saint Helen (250-330) You Are Never Too Old

As I look in my dictionary of saints, there are four different saints of that name to choose from: Helen of Caernarfon, Helen of Cornwall, Helen of Skvode and one simply known as Helen, but which one is associated with our Church?

Helen of Caernarfon and Helen of Cornwall are both extremely obscure saints, and Helen of Skvode is associated with Sweden, and so we are left with the saint known simply as Helen.

Helen was born in Bithynia and as a young girl she married the Roman general Constantius Chlorus but, when he became Emperor he divorced, her probably because she was an innkeeper's daughter and her status did not suit his political ambitions. Years later however, when her son Constantine became Emperor, she received the honour that her husband had not given her. Constantine was the Emperor who famously became a Christian and had his army fight under the "chi-rho" symbol when he fought to take control of the Empire.

It would be nice to say that Helen was a Christian and that it was she who influenced her son, but that was not the case. Helen did not come to faith until 312 AD, when she was 62 years old. There is a great deal of debate as to whether Constantine's conversion was genuine, or simply a result of political expediency, but no such argument can me made against Helen. Her conversion reached the depths of her heart, to the extent that many who met her believed that she had followed Jesus for the whole of her life. She gave generously to Churches, which were made legal by her son, and she helped the poor and those locked in prison. Finally, she decided to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land where she died.

So where does her connection to England come from? Partly from Geoffrey of Monmouth who, in the twelfth century claimed that she was actually English, and partly because of her son's connection with York. Helen is an unusual choice of Saint for Churches, Streets, a Town and even a Rugby Club, but the fact that she is remembered in England in so many ways is testimony to two simple facts: firstly, you are never too old to find a real faith in Jesus, and second, when you give yourself to doing God's will there is no limit to the influence you can have.

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