Wednesday 24 November 2010
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These days I was wondering if St. Helen had anything to do with the Rosary, and I started thinking!
Surely, St. Helen has nothing to do with the Rosary as such, less still with the Rosary as we know it today. Be assured that I will not state that this holy prayer knows its origins to our patron saint, because I accept the tradition that says that it was Our Lady who gave the holy Rosary to Saint Dominic of Guzman. In nearly all the paintings and statues of Our Lady of the Rosary the artists always depicted Mary holding her Child in her arms while both of them give the Rosary beads, the Mother gives it to Saint Dominic while the Child gives it to St. Catherine of Siena. We see both these Dominican saints receiving the Rosary beads although they lived centuries apart.
Art shows the Mother and Child giving the Rosary beads made of five groups of ten beads each on which to count the Hail Maries separated by a bead on which to count the “Glory be to the Father”. I believe that that was not the way Mary gave the Rosary to Dominic and Catherine. She did not give each one a pair of Rosary beads. Somebody would have found one of them and kept it as a precious relic given by our dear Holy Mother. I believe that this heavenly mother, together with her Son and our brother Jesus, inspired Dominic and also Catherine to take up and preach a simple way through which one could remember, meditate and pray inspired by the mysteries of the Incarnation of the Son of God and those of our redemption, which also include the promise of our sharing in Christ’s glory in heaven. This inspiration was an answer to the needs of the people and the Church from Dominic’s times to ours, times during which many false doctrines were spreading and a vigorous preaching of God’s Word was lacking.
Let us now go to the era in which St. Helen lived. The needs of people and of the Church at that time were different from ours, and so they asked for a different answer. The Christian faithful were slowly being freed from harsh persecutions which made it difficult for them to live the Christian way of life, and they could not profess their faith and publicly worship Our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, during the times when our patron saint lived Christians did not need Rosary beads, but the freedom to profess their faith in public, and they needed places in which to meet in order to rejoice and celebrate together their faith in their own salvation.
I imagine and believe that this was the intuition God put in Helen’s mind and heart when He inspired her and she accepted to start her journey to the Holy Land, in spite of her old age. She wanted to visit the land in which our Saviour was born, lived, suffered and was killed, and resurrected. Saint Helen searched for those important places made holy by our Redeemer. She searched for His birthplace in Bethlehem. She searched for the hill top on which He was crucified and the place of His burial from which he rose again to life. She surely took great care to be as sure as possible that these were the places in which the mysteries of our salvation took place. Helen did not want to make a mistake and expose to ridicule the religion she had embraced, by presenting as true the wrong places. She searched for these places because she wanted to meet in a mystical way the Lord she had learned to love.
She did not want only to discover where these holy places were. When she was sure of her discovery and saw that pagan temples had been built on these holy places to make it difficult for Christ’s followers to worship there, this holy empress Helen, with the authority bestowed on her by her son the emperor Constantine, promptly ordered these temples to be pulled down and thus made it possible for Christians to make their pilgrimage to and pray on the places where the mysteries of our salvation took place. Se also ordered that churches be built to protect these holy places and offer them as places of pilgrimage in which prayers were said, meditation could be engaged in and celebrations held so that those who were aware that they were God’s children could delight themselves walking on the land made holy by the Lord. This happens every day in our times. In this manner, God made Saint Helen an instrument for the Church to gain her freedom, and for the people to be able visit the places where redemption took place in time and space. She also offered Christians the facilities they needed to worship and to announce the mysteries of the birth, passion and death, and the resurrection of Our Lord. These mysteries remind us that we are called to participate in Christ’s glory.
I feel that I can say that the same fire that burned in Dominic’s and Catherine’s heart to announce the mysteries of Christ to all people through the Rosary, was also burning in Helen’s heart to search for and make accessible to the Christian faithful the places that saw these same mysteries happen.
I do not think that I am exaggerating if I say that there is a certain link between St. Helen and the Holy Rosary. Near the beginning of the first millennium of the Christian era Helen did all her best to make it easier for Christians to worship the mystery of the Holy Cross. Near the beginning of the second millennium Dominic of Guzman and later Catherine of Siena offered a method for praying and meditating the same mystery that surrounded the Holy Cross. At the beginning of the third millennium we are invited to commit ourselves to renew and spread the message of our salvation and to encourage with our prayers veneration towards the Son of God who became human like us, and who became Teacher and Saviour in order for us to become truly free people, having a clearer vision of where we want to be when our life on earth comes to its end.
As in the past, in our days too we find people who do whatever they could to make it difficult for Christians to live as true disciples of the Christ. So we ask our patron saint, Helen, to help us to strengthen and expand this freedom for the Church and for us.
In our days, as in the past, we find people who spread false and damaging messages and doctrines in the guise of false holiness. We then ask Dominic and Catherine, apostles of the Rosary, to teach us how to always speak truthfully and with wisdom about God or to God, as they used to do.
The author of this article