A Mother’s Influence?

Oghenovo Obrimah, PhD
5 min readJun 15, 2018
St. Helena, Mother of Constantine the Great. Copyright: Cincinnati Museum of Arts

Constantine the Great, Emperor of the Roman Empire from about 312 BC, converted to Christianity supposedly after his mother, a woman who came to be known for her acts of charity, became a Christian. The picture above is of Constantine’s mother, St. Helena, available for viewing at the Cincinnati Museum of Art.

Consequent on his conversion to Christianity, Constantine took upon himself the fight against persecutors of Christians, resulting in defeat and execution of the persecuting Emperor about 327 AD. Christianity subsequently became official religion of the Roman Empire, with caveat people who chose not to be Christians were, by edict of Constantine Himself, not to be persecuted. Christians chose the high road of accommodation, tolerance for people’s right to choose what to believe, a principle deeply embedded in teachings of Jesus Christ. Note tolerance was not for immorality, but for right to choose a god in whom to believe. In presence of some resistance to living of Christian lives by leading citizens of Rome, Constantine went on to found Constantinople, a city which would become seat of the Eastern Roman Empire, wonder of the world for about a thousand years, a civilization founded on principles of Christian morality.

Is it possible Constantine could have become a Christian if he did not witness any reality of same conversion in his mother? Is it possible Constantine’s conversion cannot be dissociated from reality of character change he witnessed in his mother subsequent to her conversion? St. Helena supposedly discovered remnants of the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified (I do not say I believe or do not believe this, I simply state the attestation, not my conviction). Constantine the Great had images of the cross of Jesus Christ tattooed on his soldier’s shields in preparation for battle. Seems more than a coincidence.

Much like St. Helena, Christians walk a line. When people claim to be Christians, under assumption of correct understanding of what it means to love, society sometimes becomes overly and wrongly critical of actions of Christians. Non-Christians sometimes expect Christians to be absolutely perfect. Christians, however, are not called to be absolutely perfect in sense of never making any mistakes. Christians on the contrary are called to be perfect in love — that is, are called never to depart from love as…

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Oghenovo Obrimah, PhD

Educator and Researcher, Believer in Spirituality, Life is serious business, but we all are pilgrims so I write about important stuff with empathy and ethos