St. Helena, Empress and the Holy Youth, Agapitus, Martyr
The Roman Martyrology mentions these Saints today in terms of great praise. We will therefore say a few words about each of them. St. Helena the spouse of Constantine Chlorus, and mother of Constantine the Great, is one of the most celebrated Catholic empresses. It was greatly due to her influence that her son Constantine became converted to the Christian faith, built so many churches to the honor of the Almighty, and not only fearlessly protected the Christian faith, but spread it through many countries. By divine inspiration, she went to Jerusalem, to visit the Holy places, and seek the cross on which our Saviour had died. She happily succeeded in finding the cross, though not without great hardship. She erected many magnificent temples in the Holy Land and endowed them richly.
She visited the virgins who had consecrated themselves to God; lived for some time among them, and poorly clad, she served them at table, and performed, with most edifying humility, the most menial labor. She was excited to this by the great reverence she entertained for those virgins, in each of whom she recognized a handmaid of the Most High, and a spouse of Christ. The amount of alms which the pious empress gave to the poor, not only in the Holy Land, but wherever she went, is incalculable. When she returned to Rome, she continued her saintly life, and was a model to all of Christian perfection. In the eightieth year of her life, it pleased the King of kings to call the holy empress to receive the crown of a kingdom of which there is no end, She carefully prepared, for death, and having given her last instructions to her son and to all about her, she committed her soul, with the most devout prayers, into the hands of the Almighty.
St. Agapitus was but 15 years old, when he was apprehended by the tyrant Aurelian, on account of being a Christian. As he unflinchingly proclaimed his belief in Christ, he was whipped with scourges and then cast into a dungeon, without any food, that he might thus be forced to forsake Christianity. When Antiochus, the prefect, found him, at the end of five days, more determined than before, he ordered a live coal to be put upon his head. The brave youth stood immovably under this torture, and praising God, said: “A head, which would wear an eternal crown in Heaven, must not hesitate to wear suffering and pain upon earth. Wounds and burns make my head the more worthy to be crowned with eternal glory.”
Antiochus, greatly provoked, ordered them to whip the holy youth till his body became one great wound, after which they hung him by the feet over a fire, hoping to suffocate him. But they failed; for, after a long silence, he addressed the prefect saying: “Behold, Antiochus, the people will say that all thy ingenuity, all thy wit, ends in smoke.” Enraged at this remark, the tyrant had him again cruelly whipped and ordered boiling water to be poured into the open wounds. After this, they knocked all his teeth out and broke his jaws with blows. God punished the tyrant for his cruelty; He caused him to fall from his seat and break his neck. Aurelian, hearing of this, ordered the martyr to be thrown to the wild beasts, but as they refused to touch him, he was finally beheaded. Thus ended the glorious martyrdom of the holy youth, Agapitus, in the year 275.
I. St. Helena passed her whole life in holy works, agreeable to God, as visiting the holy places, building magnificent temples, giving alms, and persuading her son, the emperor, to become a Christian and protect the Catholic faith. Oh! how great a consolation must be his, who, when dying can look back on a well spent life! How great must be the grief and fear of him who is obliged to confess: “My days have fled away and have seen no good! ” (Job, ix.) If you would act prudently, seek to obtain that which will afford you consolation in your last hour.
II. “A head which would wear an eternal crown in heaven, must not hesitate to wear pain and suffering on earth.” Thus spoke St. Agapitus, and it means, that “he who would rejoice in heaven, must be willing to suffer on earth.” The Apostles, the friends of our Lord, and other Saints walked in this path. Christ Himself went to heaven by no other way than the way of the cross. “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts, xiv.) How can you seriously hope to save your soul if you will not suffer? Shall God prepare for you a special path, strewn with roses? Ah! do not believe this. We must suffer, if we would enter the kingdom of heaven, if we would become partakers of eternal joys.