Helena by Evelyn Waugh.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I have had a soft spot for St. Helena, ever since my pilgrimage to Rome in 2002. We ran into so many things that our guide would say, "Brought from the Holy Land by St. Helena.....". It made me laugh to think of a regal old lady, steaming around the Holy Land: "Yes, I'll take those stairs. Mmm Hmm, load up that pillar. Thorns? Yep, put 'em in the box...."
This book, while fiction, gives you such a sense of a life changed by being a Christian. And she became a saint, not by being martyred or by living a cloistered life, but by doing the next thing God asked her to do. And by absolutely clinging to the incarnational reality of Christ.
The last three paragraphs are priceless:
Helena's many prayers seem to have received unequal answers. Constantine was at long last baptized and died in the expectation of an immediate, triumphal entry to paradise. Britain for a time became Christian, and 136 parish churches, a great part of them in the old lands of the Trinovantes, were dedicated to Helena. The holy places have been alternately honored and desecrated, lost and won, bought and bargained for, throughout the centuries. But the wood has endured. In the splinters and shavings gorgeously encased it has traveled the world over and found a jouous welcome among every race. For it states a fact.
Hounds are checked, hunting wild. A horn calls clear through the covert. Helena casts them back on the scent.
Above all the babble of her age and ours, she makes one blunt assertion. And there alone is hope.
Two MamaT Thumbs Up on this one.