It is generally believed by ecclesiastical historians of England that St. Helena was born in that country, and according to Leland, she was the daughter of Coel, a British King who lived in friendship with the Romans. Constantius, at that time officer in the Roman army in Britain, married her. Constantine, his eldest son, received his education under her eyes.
In 293, Constantius was honored by the Empire with the title of Ceasar, obtaining the government of Gaul and Britain. In return for this honor he was obliged to divorce St. Helena and marry Theodora, the daughter-in-law of the Emperor Maximian. St. Helena was not at that time a Christian, but after the accession of her son Constantine and his miraculous victory, she embraced the Christian faith and the most heroic practiced of Christian perfection. Her dutiful son proclaimed her Empress and struck medals in her honor.
In spite of this new dignity St. Helena assisted with the people at the Divine Office in modest attire, and employed her wealth in charity to the poor and the building of churches. When the Emperor determined to erect a church on Mount Calvary, St. Helena, although eighty years of age, undertook to see the work executed, and started for Jerusalem hoping to find the Holy Cross. Excavations were made and three crosses were discovered. The title that lay near one of the crosses, and perhaps the marks of the nails by which it had been attached, seemed to indicate which was the Cross of our Savior.
St. Helena built two magnificent churches, one on Mount Calvary, the other on Mount Olivet. After traveling through the East, where she beautified the city of Drepanum in honor of St. Lucian, so that Constantine afterward gave it the name of Helenopolis, she returned to Rome. Her journey had been marked by the most illustrious deeds of virtue and by innumerable charities. She died at Rome in August, 329. Constantine caused her obsequies to be performed with the utmost magnificence, and erected a statue to her memory.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, You willed to enrich Your Church through St. Helena with a treasure beyond price and so revealed to her the hiding place of Your Cross. Through her intercession, grant that the ransom paid on that life-giving wood may win the rewards of everlasting life for us. Amen.