Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Vision of Saint Helena

August 18 is the feast of St. Helena.  She is my patron saint and so I would like to pay her tribute even though she is not liturgically mentioned in the current Roman Catholic calendar. There are many versions of St. Helena's story especially her origins. I love her story, her total dedication to Christianity and her legendary reputation of finding the True Cross of Crucifixion. I was delighted to know the significance of this name in my religious life. I had no idea that St. Helena had a lot more connection with the Carmelites than I originally thought. Tradition affirms that the Empress Helena constructed a monastery in honor of Elijah on Mount Carmel. The site which it arose seems to be that of the present lighthouse, on the terrace of the Head of Carmel, as might be attested by some archaeological finds held to be from the Late Empire, after Justinian. St. Helena also established the Holy Sepulcher Rite used by the Carmelites during their stay in the Holy Land. It was also pointed out to me by a Carmelite Nun that "Helena" in Greek means "light." Therefore, my religious name means "Light of Mary" (Helena of Mary). I wrote this reflection when I was still a Novice and it expresses my sentiments to my Patron Saint.

Saint Helena of the Cross,
Your story's seldom told.
The wonders you accomplished
Telling signs of God's goodness.
Burning love for Christ you founded,
Wondrous churches to be marveled.
Proofs of love and burning zeal
Of a woman so enamored.
You found your throne of royalty
In your ardent soul of charity.

Inn-keeper's daughter of station low
Did not hide the beauty of a soul aglow.
Roman officer's gaze on you bestowed
Took you in marriage of a moment's bliss,
Only to leave you in utter brokenness.

But Providence declared you be Queen,
Anointing your son, the Great Constantine.
Defending your land from enemies around,
Vision of the Cross displayed on the clouds!
"By this you shall conquer" the promise rang out.
Marching to the banner, full of courage, a crusader,
Opened up the gates for Christianity to enter.

In the silence of your royal chamber,
resting content in your slumber.
It came to you as in a vision.......
Wooden cross of Christ's redemption.
This vision set you off on a mission,
to find the Cross of crucifixion.
Scoured the earth with earnest passion,
Until one day such revelation,
went beyond your expectation.
Lo behold before your eyes
the Cross of Jesus Crucified!

Saint Helena of the Cross,
Grant me share of your passion rare.
Fill my heart with ardent zeal,
to find Lord Jesus who is always near.
Obtain the grace the cross embrace,
I rise and fall to its transforming weight.
Armed with faith and love for him,
be always ready, always willing to begin .
To give him proofs of faith, hope,charity,
Guiding my way to eternity.

When work is done and evening's here,
I'll lay my arms,in confidence steer.
Lo, behold before my eyes,
The eternal triumph of the Christ!
Who long ago was crucified!


  1. Oh, happy feast day on Tuesday, Sr. Helena!
    And thank you for posting your wonderful reflection on her- a fascinating and courageous woman.

  2. This would appear to be a crossover commonality or point of unity between East and West. I looked it up, and St. Helena died around 330 AD, long before the schism. The Eastern Orthodox, of course, regard St. Helena and St. Constantine (or King Constantine) as very important saints to their Orthodox identity and the pair are celebrated together. It is fascinating that the Carmelites can also trace their ancestry to St. Helena. These common roots give deeper meaning to what it really means to follow Christ and take up one's cross--because the Church was more universal geographically (if I may say that without doctrinally detracting from either Catholicism or Orthodoxy as they exist today). Yes, by this shall we conquer--spiritually and prayerfully, and loving our neighbors east, west, north, south.

    I also recently read that St. Veronica--who gave a towel to Christ to wipe His face as He carried the Cross on which He was to be crucified--had a statue built (and right now I forget if it was a statue of Christ or a saint or some other person). Anyway, the Orthodox accept Veronica as a saint, which means this is the only incident of a statue being erected in Orthodoxy (who do not accept statues but do accept icons and stained glass windows). Just another pre-schism point of possible unity or commonality that generally goes unrecognized.

    By the way, my name, "Melanie" or "Melania," means "black" or "dark" in Greek. I like to interpret that as meaning "hidden" with Christ--it helps to keep me humble and to stay focused on working out my salvation.