Saints and Sinners. A tale about names


When I was a small child, I went to my mother very upset and demanded that she should change my name at once. A girl I knew had this beautiful name, and when people pronounced it, it was like a melody. It was long and full of vowels and you could “cut it” in any way and get a very cute nickname. I remember thinking that she would go places due to such a beautiful name. In comparison, mine was very short and abrupt, and you could not “cut it” at all. At 6-7 years, I stood there in front of my mother asking that she should do the necessary and change my name immediately.

She sat and listen to my pleading until the end and then, with a gentle voice, started to tell me the great stories about Helen of Troy, which in the Romanian language you would pronounce the same as my name (RO: Elena din Troia); about the queen mother, Elena, the mother of King Michael, about Elena Cuza, wife of Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza and so on about women who remained in history and carried the same name as mine. She managed somehow to give me some peace of mind so I could turn to my playing. As my conscience developed and I started asking questions, I began to learn the stories of the remarkable women I share my name with, as well as the story of Elena Ceaușescu, wife of dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, which was not so remarkable. Having concluded that a name has no bearing on one’s destiny, I couldn’t care less about it going further.


But growing up, I soon discovered the need for spiritual care and carrying the name of a saint, I started to look more into that correlation. As part of Romanian culture, we celebrate Saint Constantin and Elena on May 21, the latter of which I bear the name.

Actually, the holiday evokes the emperor Constantine the Great and his mother, Elena Augusta. If you look up the meaning of the verb ‘to evoke’, you’ll find the following: to bring to mind facts, events, circumstances, etc. from the past; to paint in words the image of something known but long ago.


To be sanctified is to be set apart, or as the definition states: to set apart to a sacred purpose or to religious use CONSECRATE. But how does one become a saint? Well, here are the steps, in few words:

  1. Die. Unfortunately, one must die to become a saint.
  2. After 5 years or so, depending on cases, your case can be evaluated. The duration, or how it’s called, waiting period, is meant to calm down emotions corelated with your death and dealing with other issues.
  3. The evaluation means an investigation into your life to see whether you lived your live with sufficient holiness and virtue to be considered for sainthood. If there is sufficient evidence, recommendations to the Pope on saints are sent, for permission to open the case. Once the case is accepted for consideration, you can be called a servant of God.
  4. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints scrutinizes the evidence of your holiness. If the Congregation approves your case, it is passed to the Pope. If the Pope decides that you lived a life of “heroic virtue”, you can then be called venerable.
  5. Now, we need a miracle. To reach the next stage, beatification, a miracle needs to be attributed to prayers made to you after your death. The prayers being granted are seen as proof that you are already in heaven, and hence able to intercede with God on others’ behalf.
  6. The final step in declaring a deceased person a saint is the Canonization. To reach this stage, a second miracle normally needs to be attributed to prayers made to the candidate after they have been beatified. Martyrs, however, only need one verified miracle to become a saint.

So what did these people do that led them to become saints?

Saints Constantin and Elena

Constantine I was born around 272-274 and died in May 337. His full name is Gaius Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus and he was known as Constantine the Great. He was a Roman emperor between 306 and 337, becoming ruler of the entire Roman Empire after the defeat of Maxentius and of Licinius.

Legend has it that in the autumn of 312, on the eve of the battle with Maxentius, Constantine saw in the sky, in broad daylight, a shining cross, above the sun, with the inscription: “in hoc signo vinces” – “by this sign you will overcome”; and during the night Jesus Christ himself appeared to him in a dream, with the sign of the cross, asking him to put this holy sign on the flags of his soldiers. Constantine followed exactly as told and won the battle.

Flavia Iulia Elena lived between 248 – 329. She was married to the Roman general Constantinius Chlorus, being the mother of the Emperor Constantine the Great. She was a very faithful woman and known for her piety. She was a pilgrim in Palestine and eastern provinces, being assigned to find the relics of the Holy Cross of Christ. It is said that while on a pilgrimage, she saw three people carrying a dead man on a hill. On this hill there were three crosses. They brought the dead closer to each of the crosses. Reaching the last cone, when the dead man touched the cross, he rose again. This is how the cross on which Christ was crucified was revealed.

There are many to be said about saints. And saints are only people who managed to go beyond their egos and devote their life to something greater than themselves.

Sinner MADmoiselle Elena

This I cannot say about myself. While I do my best to go through life being a good person, every now and then, life reminds me that I am at the feet of my desires. Jealousy, lust, laziness.. I work hard to not let the devil get into my mind. But how does one define sin? Is the sin subjective? Of who’s morals is sin based on?

Ioan, Maria, Ana, or Andrei are just some of the most popular names of saints with whom Romanians baptize their children. It is, say the people of the Church, proof that our people have an ancient Christian tradition. The name of a saint given to the newborn makes him the disciple of that saint who will help and protect the child in life. Also, the saint whose name is carried by a person, say the people of the Church, prays for the good of that person.

What can a sinner say about being the disciple of a saint? What can one do to repent from all wrong doings with or especially without intent? What is to be evoked after I’m long gone? For the good and the bad, I can be thankful to my protector, since the good was plentiful and the bad could’ve always been worse. But while I sleep with God in my mind, during the day, the devil invites me to play. Faith is good and should never be lost. But I did, and for many times. And I’ll do it again. And I’ll find it again in the most forgotten places. As this is the cycle of life. No matter how you’re called.

Name is something you are given, faith is something you learn, and destiny is something you build.

Can you think of something bigger than yourself?


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