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Month of September

'We adore Thee, O Christ and we praise Thee' because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.’
St Francis of Assisi

Month of September

Month of September

The Emperor Constantine seized power in the year 312, and in the following year, legalized Christianity with the Edict of Milan. About this time, Constantine’s mother, St. Helena, converted to Christianity. (She died in the year 330 at about the age of 80.) According to the early great Church historian Eusebius, she was about 63 at the time of her conversion. With the authority of her son, St. Helena went to Palestine in search of the sacred sites about the year 324. In the following years, St. Helena would build churches marking the place of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and the site of the Ascension.
True Christian zeal motivated St. Helena. Eusebius described her as follows: "Especially abundant were the gifts she bestowed on the naked and unprotected poor. To some she gave money, to others an ample supply of clothing; she liberated some from imprisonment, or from the bitter servitude of the mines; others she delivered from unjust oppression, and others again, she restored from exile. While, however, her character derived luster from such deeds, she was far from neglecting personal piety toward God. She might be seen continually frequenting His Church, while at the same time she adorned the houses of prayer with splendid offerings, not overlooking the churches of the smallest cities. In short, this admirable woman was to be seen, in simple and modest attire, mingling with the crowd of worshipers, and testifying her devotion to God by a uniform course of pious conduct" (The Life of Constantine, XLIV, XLV).
About the year 326, the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus was demolished, and the workers began to excavate the area. They discovered the remains of the tomb that was reported to be that of our Lord Jesus. They built a new shrine over the tomb, which has been modified over the centuries, but today stands in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
The temple of Venus was also demolished, thereby exposing the site where Christ was crucified. The Emperor Constantine himself wrote to St. Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem, ordering him to make a search for the cross on Mount Calvary. A learned Jew named Judas seemed to have some knowledge of the whereabouts, and was pressed into service. Just east of the site, three crosses were found in a rock-cistern as well as the titulus (the wood plaque inscribed with Jesus Nazaranus Rex Iudaeorum). (With the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the Chapel of the Finding of the True Cross, marking the cistern.) The question then arose, "Which was the cross of Christ?"
While the details provided by St. John Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, Rufinus, and Socrates (not the philosopher) are lacking and sometimes contradictory, the essence of the story follows: The three crosses and the titulus were removed from the cistern. A woman, dying from a terminal disease, was brought to the spot. She touched the crosses, one by one. After she touched the third cross, she was cured, thereby identifying the true cross. Other sources also relate the later finding of other instruments of the Passion. Most importantly, St. Ambrose preached that when St. Helena found the true cross, "she worshiped not the wood, but the King, Him who hung on the wood. She burned with an earnest desire of touching the guarantee of immortality."
(Catholic Education Resource Centre: Fr William Saunders)
St Helena split the cross into three; One piece was given to the new Church being built in Jerusalem, one was sent to the new Capital of the Roman Empire in Constantinople and one piece was sent to the Pope in Rome. Here in St Patrick’s, we are fortunate to have a piece of the cross that was sent to Rome.
Let us remember the words of St Francis of Assisi: We adore Thee, O Christ and we praise Thee, because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.’