A daily study of the Network’s diverse faiths
Hagia Helene (St Helena, Ἁγία Ἑλένη, Flavia Iulia Helena Augusta, Santa Elena de la Cruz) (c246-330). Roman Catholic Feast Day for the poor Nicodemian commoner and good stable-maid (bona stabularia) who became Empress of the Roman Empire. She was the mother of Constantine the Great, from 308 the first Christian Emperor of Rome who gave his mother the title of Augusta Imperatrix. Helena embraced Nicene Christianity and in 327 travelled to Syria Palaestina and Jerusalem on an official visit for her son to locate Christian relics. She discovered the True Cross on which Jesus was crucified and had it encased in silver. She also found a tunic worn by Jesus before His Crucifixion that was taken to Cyprus, the crosses of the two thieves and nails from the Crucifixion that she took back to Constantinople with her. Helena had the Roman temple in Jerusalem where the True Cross was found demolished and replaced by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. She also ordered the building of a church at the location identified as that of Moses’ burning bush. Her palace in Rome was converted into the Basilica of the Holy Cross Jerusalem, one of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome, to house relics of the Passion of Jesus Christ that Helena brought from Jerusalem. At that time, the Basilica’s floor was covered with soil from Jerusalem, thus acquiring for it the dedication of in Hierusalem. When Helena died, her remains were translated to Rome and buried in a mausoleum near the Fourth-Century first church of Santi Marcellino e Pietro al Laterano, built on land granted to Helena before Constantine was Emperor. Some of her bones were sent as relics to other locations. St Helena was a popular saint in medieval Europe, with many legends told about her life, and she was considered a model for a generous Christian woman ruler. An incorrect medieval tradition that she was the Old King Cole led to the dedication to her of Yorkshire churches leading to a Twentieth-Century reference in Evelyn Waugh novels. The Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches, Catholic Church and Anglican Communion revere her as a saint and the Lutheran Church commemorates her. Eastern Orthodox Feast Day and Lutheran Commemoration 21 May. Image: ancientresource.com.
Prayer Holy and blessed St Helena, with the anguish and devotion with which you sought the Cross of Christ, we plead that you give us God’s grace to suffer in patience the labours of this life, so that through Your intercession, we will be able to seek and carry the Cross that God has placed on us. Amen
San Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga (Luis Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga SJ, Padre Hurtado) (1901-52). Feast Day commemorating the death of the poor aristocratic Chilean Jesuit priest, a deeply spiritual lawyer, social worker and writer of Basque (Vasco, Vascongado, Euskaldunak) ancestry, born in Viña del Mar, Chile. Hurtado entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1923 and in 1925 went to Córdoba, Argentina to study humanities. In 1927 he was sent to Barcelona, Spain, to study philosophy and theology and, when the Jesuits were suppressed in Spain in 1931, he continued his studies in theology at Louvain, Belgium, where he was ordained a priest in 1933, obtaining his doctorate in pedagogy and psychology in 1935. Hurtado visited social and educational centres in Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands before returning to Chile in 1936 to take up a post as professor of Religion at the Colegio San Ignacio and of Pedagogy at the Catholic University of Santiago. He was entrusted with the Sodality of Our Lady for the students and he involved them in teaching catechism to the poor. Conservative Catholics in Chile had difficulty accepting the church’s social teachings and in 1936 Hurtado wrote an article entitled The Priesthood Crisis In Chile, addressing the problem of the shortage of priests. In 1940, Hurtado was appointed diocesan director of the Catholic Action youth movement and served as national director from 1941 to 1944. In 1941, Hurtado wrote Is Chile a Catholic Country? as some parishes had one priest for 10,000 people spread across huge geographic areas and almost half of Chile’s clergy were foreigners, including missionaries from the USA and Canada. Most Chileans regarded devotion to the Virgin and the saints as more important than attending Mass or receiving the Eucharist, which they could not do regularly, only 9% of Chilean women and 3.5% of Chilean men regularly attending Mass. The book was heavily criticised by more conservative Catholics, who accused Hurtado of being a Communist. His active social involvement led in 1944 to the founding of an organisation similar to Boys Town in the USA, with shelters called Hogar de Cristo (Home of Christ) and an old green van that took in all children in need of food and shelter, abandoned or not, the movement being a huge success. The shelters multiplied throughout Chile and between 1945 and 1951 more than 850,000 children received some help from the movement. In 1947, Hurtado founded the Chilean Trade Union Association to train leaders and instil Christian values in the labour unions and he wrote three books: Social Humanism (1947), The Christian Social Order (1947) and Trade Unions (1950). He served as a confessor to the Falange Nacional, the precursor to the modern Christian Democratic Party. To disseminate the social teaching of the church and help Christians reflect and act on the serious social problems faced in Chile, he founded in 1951 the periodical Mensaje (Message) and published numerous articles and books on labour issues in relation to the Catholic faith. In 1952, Hurtado was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and, after a brief battle with the illness, he died in Santiago, having become before his death a national hero. Hurtado was elevated to sainthood as the second Chilean saint after Teresa of Los Andes and one of the most popular and cherished saints in his country, his Facebook page having more than 50,000 followers. The Hogar de Cristo still exists and is one of the biggest charities in Chile. Patron of Chile, poor people, street children, social workers. Image: manresa-sj.org.
Sant’Agapito martire (St Agapitus of Palestrina) (dc274). Feast Day for the member of the noble Anicia family of Palestrina who at 16 was condemned to death for being a Christian. After being captured and tortured, he was taken to the local arena in Palestrina and thrown to the wild beasts. When the beasts refused to touch him, he was martyred by beheading. Around the Fifth Century, the Pope built a Basilica in his honour at the site of his martyrdom and his relics were kept in the Basilica, around which a cemetery grew. At a later date, his relics were translated to the present Cattedrale di S Agapito 45 km east of Rome and some of them were translated to Besançon in France. Venerated in Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox Churches. Major shrine Cathedral of San Agapito, Palestrina. St Agapitus is honoured in the Tridentine Calendar by a commemoration added to the Mass and canonical hours in the liturgy of the day within the Octave of the Assumption but all octaves apart from those of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost were abolished and in the General Roman Calendar of 1960 the celebration of Saint Agapitus appears as a commemoration in the ordinary weekday Mass on 18 April and 18 August. Patron of Palestrina; invoked against colic. Image: wga.hu.