Helena vs. Constance

Welcome to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen. Sixteen saints in Lent Madness 2016 have been sent packing and sixteen more remain as the struggleBundesstraße_16_de_number for the coveted Golden Halo continues. Get ready for some high stakes, thrilling saintly action over the coming days. Click the Bracket tab to view the updated tournament bracket and see all the upcoming matchups (you do know it's updated daily by our unsung Bracket Czar Adam Thomas, right?).

Round One consisted of basic biographical information about the saints. Since there’s no need to rehash previously covered ground, the Round of the Saintly Sixteen is made up of what we call Quirks & Quotes. Prepare for some little known facts or legends accompanied by quotes either by or about the saint in question. As you make your decision, you can always review the previous rounds by again clicking on the Bracket tab and scrolling down. Simply click the link to the previous battle and voila! All the earlier information is at your fingertips.

Yesterday saw the conclusion of the first round as Barnabas defeated Elmo 72% to 28%. Apparently Barnabas did not include Elmo as he sang the irritating song about being "a happy family." Who knew?

Today it's two women, separated by 1,600 years or so, squaring off to make it to the Elate Eight. To get to this point, Helena defeated Monnica in the Matronly Meltdown (the very first matchup of Lent Madness 2016) while Constance defeated Dominic. Ladies and gentlemen, start your Saintly Sixteen engines!


unnamed-2Helena, mother of Constantine, church-builder and relic-hunter extraordinaire, had an early life shrouded in mystery. St. Ambrose says she was a stable-maid; others just hypothesize she was poor. And it is also not clear where she met Constantine’s father.

One story posits that the Roman emperor was on a military campaign through Asia Minor, when he chanced upon Helena who was wearing matching silver bracelets to his own. Constantius took this as a sign from God that they were meant to be. Aw.

Sadly, this bracelet-magic-feeling didn’t last. He either divorced her, sent her away, or just broke up with her in 289, after Constantine was born, because the emperor wanted a wife of noble birth. Helena and the baby Constantine stayed with the former emperor Diocletian during their exile, which couldn’t have been a pleasant experience, given his penchant for executing lots of people. It is for this reason that Helena is the patron saint of divorced people, and people in difficult marriages.

After Constantine’s ascension to power, Helena came into her own in the second act of her life. She went to Palestine and built churches, searched out relics, and used the imperial treasury for the relief of the poor.

She had the Roman temple Hadrian had constructed over Golgotha torn down. Underneath the temple, she and her team found the shards of many crosses. (This is not surprising--according to modern archeology, that site was used extensively as a crucifixion ground.)

Determined to figure out which was the cross of Christ, Helena had a dying woman brought to the site, and presented her with various pieces of wood. When she was miraculously cured by one piece in particular, Helena declared that they had found the True Cross. It was here that she had the Church of the Holy Sepulchre built.

On her way back to Rome, Helena had several other saintly adventures. As she passed through Cyprus, a local monastery asked for her help in ridding the place of snakes. Accordingly, she imported several dozen cats, which have since multiplied in that place, and to this day, the monastery is known as St. Nicholas of the Cats.

It should also be noted that in classic British fashion, England also lays claim to Helena.
One story of her origins holds that Helena was actually the daughter of the English king, and she met Constantius when her father formed a strategic alliance. Further legends hold that she would frequently turn up back in her homeland. Over 25 wells and springs of water throughout Great Britain are named for her, and according to legend, she is credited with establishing several churches around Colchester.

No matter where she turned up, Helena spread generosity and strength to all she encountered.

— Megan Castellan



constance-and-her-companionsThe Hawaiians have a saying that "Eddie Would Go." You see, during the course of his life, Eddie saved over 500 people as a lifeguard. "Eddie Would Go" is plastered on cars throughout the Hawaiian Islands and is a universal response to questions of what someone should do in a situation. Long before Eddie was born, the people of Memphis could have coined the term "Constance Would Go." Imagine the horse and buggy crowd of the 1800s with bumper stickers declaring, "Constance Would Go." Eddie and Constance are heroic witnesses to the lives of those around them and those in need. Constance Would Go.

Think about this: Mosquitoes transmit yellow fever by biting their victims. Think of the Mississippi River as a grand breeding ground for these miniature vampires on the banks of the town of Memphis. In the first stages, symptoms are much like the flu: fatigue, malaise, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, and loss of appetite. If the body does not fight the infection, the patient enters into a toxic phase that causes organ damage, yellowing skin, bleeding from the nose, mouth and eyes, liver and kidney failure, and brain dysfunction. Remember, it is 1878 and modern medicine is not available to Constance and her companions. All they have is their love and care to give to the people of Memphis. Constance Would Go.

With thousands of people dying in Memphis, despite the ministrations of the sisters, a new problem arose: the growing orphan population. It is said that Constance and her Companions would go through the city searching for the orphans to place them in an asylum to care for them as their parents had passed. At one point, a mob of adults confronted Constance and her Companions out of fear that these orphans would spread the yellow fever to families who were living near the asylum. Wrapping her faith in God around her like armor, and brandishing her faith like a sword, she called out to the mob saying, "Sirs, is it possible that you would have us refuse to these children the very protection you have obtained for your own? We do not propose to make a hospital of the Asylum; if any of the children are taken ill with the fever, they shall be carried immediately to our Infirmary at the Church Home." The mob would bow before her resoluteness and allow the children to pass to the safety of their new home. Constance Would Go.

Constance and her companions held firm five goals during the Yellow Fever Epidemic:
To feed the hungry,
To care for the sick,
To minister the dying,
To bury the dead,
And to care for the orphans.

On September 5th, 1878, the yellow fever would claim new victims: Constance and several of her sisters. It is said that while she lay dying, she would pray: "O God, make speed to save; O Lord make haste to help us."

Constance Would Go.

PS from Anna: We fully expect the SEC to add bumper stickers with "Constance Would Go" to the Lentorium following this year's bracket.

--  Anna Courie

Helena vs. Constance

  • Constance (68%, 4,322 Votes)
  • Helena (32%, 1,992 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,314

Loading ... Loading ...

Helena: by Lucas Cranaach the Elder, Google Art Project.
Constance: Icon by Br. Tobias Stanislas Haller, BSG (1999).


* indicates required

Recent Posts



185 comments on “Helena vs. Constance”

  1. "Constance would go!" What else could possibly matter? (And, yes, I would love to have that bumper sticker on my car!)

      1. Me too. And then we could explain it. I like a saint who followed her conscience. I have to like a woman who made the second part of her life valuable, so Helena is not without admiration. But "Constance would GO!"

    1. Bumper sticker or decal? Yes, please.
      Much better to support "going" than a political candidate.

    2. Me too! I love that Helena is the patron saint of divorced people and loved cats, but Constance and her Companions showed incredible bravery in the face of horror we today can only imagine. Constance Would Go!

    3. Now that the Supremes 🙂 have approved the idea, I expect the bumper stickers to appear in the Lenten Madness gift shop.

    4. I voted for Constance❤️
      Yet, again I find myself voting for the candidate that did the most to help people.
      This is my first year, and I'm trying to figure out what I can learn from 'pitting' unlike saints against each other.
      One so mystical and one more practical.

  2. Helena is pretty cool and I do like both cats and basil, but I had to go with Constance. Her fearlessness in caring for weak and infirm the face of deadly disease, mob hysteria, and prejudice is a shining example to the modern church.

    1. completely agree! Constance today and always! what a hero and role model for us all

  3. I love "Eddie would go". Thank you, Anna Courie, for that inspiration of the day and hopefully lots more than a day. I voted for "Constance would go." And for maybe living a a little bit more of "Pat would go."

  4. Today exemplifies the power of a well written blog entry - I favored Constance before I read Anna's stirring entry. Now I have the stirring phrase ringing in my mind -- "Constance would go" and it's full speed ahead! Two strong, determined woman today, but I stand with Constance - except she isn't standing still!

  5. If you won the power ball how much good work could you do. Helena's good works all came from the money her son gave her. Constance gave of herself day after day.

    1. Of course. I missed the point. It's about material wealth! Helena could have done nothing. She would have been comfortable.

      In no way do I want to diminish Constance. She's amazing and I am in awe of her selfless acts; however, with privilege comes responsibility and Helena was not a slacker either.

      My metric is the scope. Helena impacted more lives and generations than Constance and was historically more significant.

      I just can't predicate my vote based on gender, skin color, or wealth.

  6. First time the writing of the celebrity bloggers was the turning point for me - loved Constance Would Go!

  7. I just wanted to say how much I am enjoying--and learning from--the posts about each saint. Today's were particularly wonderful and made the choice between the two difficult for me. "Constance would go" or Helena's gutsy second act: both present models for choosing a life of faith that draws upon the talents (wisdom, common-sense, rhetoric) God gave them.

    1. I agree, Catherine. Two well-written posts. Two saints who served God faithfully and well. Hard choice!

  8. Im not sure that I can say, "Wither goes Constance so go i" but her selfless example gives me reason to try.

    1. Collects are in the first round. The post above explains how to revisit those descriptions.

  9. What an inspiring and beautiful and appropriately quirky blog for Constance! Glad to know her and to meet Eddie, and hoping like others to bear them in mind when it's go time.

  10. Constance protected the children. Helena dragged a dying person in to perform an experiment on her: would one of these shards of wood enact a miracle? I thought that was a bit distasteful. It was an easy choice today: Constance.

  11. I love cats and basil and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but I had to vote for Constance and her demonstration of God's love through her works. Constance would go!

    1. I agree junebuggin with you thoughts about cats, basil, and the Holy Sepulchre, and while I will be proud to vote for Constance in future rounds--"Constance Will Go"--as an associate of the Order of St. Helena, whose incredible sisters have inspired me for years, I cannot desert Helena!

  12. Constance has my vote. In 2013, after much searching I found my gg grandfather's grave at Elmwood. The caretaker there was so helpful. My ancestor died and was buried just before the epidemic hit. Go Constance!

    1. Me Too! We lived in Cyprus for 5 years and we still have lots of feral cats and no snakes, but Constance gets my vote for her brave work!

  13. Constance born the same years as my Grandmother who lost her Mother at 3daysold . I want a Constance will GO ! also for my car ! A good Mayflower name also,

    Constance Hopkins.

  14. Although I wanted to vote for Helena, too much of her story seems bound in myth. Constance's story is more concrete and timely with so much worry today about apocalyptic plagues. She shows that not everyone will lose their head during the plague; a good role model for us.

    1. I too love to read about people who cared for others in terrible and frightening circumstances and would ordinarily chose Constance would go BUT in this case Helena is my patron saint -- my name is Eileen ---
      Again two great women who went beyond the expectations of their times and culture.

  15. Helena got my vote. She converted to Christianity as an adult. She was a woman builder in a man's world. She used her power and wealth to help the poor. She is responsible for the restoration and preservation of many Christian sites in Jerusalem and the Middle East. And she did all these things in the second act of her life, after having been divorced from a powerful man. All of Christianity owes a debt of gratitude to Helena for using her influence as she did. Constance would go? Well, so did Helena, to great lengths!

    1. I agree 100%. And let's applaud Helena also for using the imperial treasury to help the poor. No small taks in her day and age.

    2. I agree. I am also biased as Helena is my Patron Saint. My first name is Jill (no named Saint Jill's - yet!) but my middle is Ellen, which is derived from Helena. I always have admired Helena's courage to do things at a time when women did not have much power, especially divorced women. I admire Constance, but Helena has my vote!

  16. If Constance had bestirred herself to snatch a relic she could have cured all of Memphis; my bumper sticker and vote is Helena Handbasket - full of relics!

  17. Both bloggers did an excellent job today. I'm not discounting Helena's ministry just because it was funded by the Roman treasury. After all, just because someone has access to a lot of money it doesn't mean that they do good with it. But I've loved Constance since I first heard of her and today's blog made me love her more.