Today is the feast day of St. Helena, the mother of Constantine. You may or may not remember that Constantine was the Roman ruler from 306-337. Yes, that's a long time ago, and you may wonder why a theological blog would be interested in him, or his mother, at all. Constantine gets credit for being the first Christian Roman ruler (although some historians would point out that he was not solely Christian) and for making the spread of Christianity possible.
Even if he was not personally responsible for the spread of Christianity (we'll let historians debate that, while we move on towards our discussion of Helena), he helped foster the spread of the faith by bringing an end to religious persecution. The Edict of Milan, which set Christians free to worship as they chose, also gave freedom from persecution to other religions too; everyone was set free to worship whichever god(s) they wished.
Today we celebrate his mother, St. Helena (although if you're Catholic, you'll have to wait until August 18). Did she bring up Constantine in the faith? We simply do not know.
St. Helena has come to be associated with holy relics, and perhaps we might find the roots of the Reformation with her. If she had not so vigorously asserted the power of these relics (if indeed, she did; I realize that we're talking about legend here, not history that's been written down), would their power have continued into the medieval time period? If there had been no relics, no selling of indulgences, would Martin Luther have felt strongly enough to write his 95 theses and post them on the Wittenberg door?
If this stretch is too much for you, let's just celebrate St. Helena as the mother of Constantine, and one of his influences. Under Constantine's rule, Christianity came to many of our ancestors, and for that, we can be grateful.
It's important to remember how much influence we may have on future generations as parents, as relatives, as concerned adults. You may have days where you despair, where you wonder what your life means as you endure useless meetings, bullying colleagues, pointless work. But God can use it all. In the life of someone like Helena, we see that we don't all have to be a Constantine.
feeling the feelings…
5 months ago