Dozing Off to Sleep and the Power of the Cross
The date was August 18, 2011, and I was tucked away on the fourth floor in a little room in Christ Church, Oxford, England. After successfully defending my dissertation, I sat down to write my forward to the work. Upon doing so, I was made to consider the relevance of August 18, if any, to my dissertation topic on poverty and the new evangelization in the writings of Saint John Paul II. What I discovered about August 18th was a most fascinating connection to my topic.
On August 18th [today], we celebrate the Memorial of Saint Helena. [See Editor’s Notes below]. While some of us know her as the mother of Emperor Constantine who lifted the persecution of the Christians with the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, she is more widely known as the courageous woman who traveled to Jerusalem to find the relics of the crucifixion, most notably the Cross…and this she did. Saint Helena will always be tied to the Cross, the icon of Christ’s poverty here on earth.
Keeping that in mind, it was on a hot summer day in Mogila, Poland when Saint John Paul II, while reflecting upon the meaning of the cross in Polish history, stated:
“Where the cross is raised, there is the sign that evangelization has begun… A new evangelization has begun as if it were a new proclamation, even if in reality it is the same as ever. The Cross stands high over the revolving world.”
Essentially, for Saint John Paul II the cross and the new evangelization go hand in hand.
As this link between Saint Helena and my dissertation topic was washing over me, I could not stop thinking about the relevance of the Cross in the life of the Church.
Over the centuries, and through the years, humanity bears testimony to that one beguiling truth: the power of the Cross. The life of each saint is one testimony after another to the power of the cross. Two thousand years later we must rediscover the power of the Cross in our own lives. We must rekindle…
- The power of cognitively recognizing that Jesus’ excruciation will always be far worse than anything we have to endure…HE will always understand our misery.
- The power of suffering (physical, emotional, relational) when conformed to the cross!
- The power of forgiveness when united to our Lord’s words on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
- The power of unselfish love when contemplating the Via Dolorosa (“Way of Grief”).
During Holy Week we are encouraged to keep our eyes fixed on the Cross and the Corpus of Christ that is nailed to the cross, that, in the words of Saint John Paul II in Mogila, Poland, “each human being may be aware of the strength that Christ has given him…” Strength to suffer, forgive, and live unselfishly.
As I think back to that night in Oxford, England, I remember so vividly my last few thoughts as I dozed off to sleep: the saving power of “the Cross stands high over the revolving world.”
**The Memorial of Saint Helena is not celebrated in the United States. However, it is still celebrated on this day in some parts of the world.
Art: Partial restoration of modified Invention de la sainte Croix par l’impératrice sainte Hélène (“Invention” [Finding] of the Holy Cross by the Empress Saint Helena), Winter de Saverne, 1839, Ralph Hammann photographer 2012 own work, CCA-SA 3.0 unported, PD-US author’s life plus 70 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.
- According to the US Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), this memorial is not currently celebrated in the United States. It is, however, celebrated elsewhere. Different locations and different religious orders may have different memorials than those here. Dr. Hollcraft was in England when he reflected on this.
- Dr. Hollcraft is the author of the new book A Heart for Evangelizing. You can read about it and find a link for ordering it, from his post here: Intimacy and Evangelizing – A Heart for Evangelizing.